Bringing the Good Stuff

Hannah Dehradunwala moved with her family from New Jersey to Pakistan when she was 11. “Almost nothing here goes to waste,” she thought.
At her grandmother’s house in Karachi, every item had an alternate purpose. Furniture, electronics and clothes were re-used or given away. Throwing out prepared food was unheard of, says Dehradunwala, now 24. “It wasn’t difficult to find someone who wanted your extra.”
When Dehradunwala moved back to the U.S. to attend New York University, she took that mentality with her. Seeing homeless people eating from trash cans shocked her. Compared to what she’d seen in Pakistan, throwing away excess edible food seemed “an insult to people who can’t afford to eat,” she says.
In 2013, Samir Goel, a classmate, asked Dehradunwala to help pitch a business idea for a school competition. Almost immediately, she thought of her time in Pakistan and knew the question she wanted to answer: How could people with extra food share with others who needed it?
“I thought, ‘What if I could pick it up for you? What if I could take it to a shelter for you? Would that incentivize you not to throw it away?’ Hunger isn’t a food problem, it’s a logistics problem,” says Dehradunwala, “and logistics can be solved for.”
Dehradunwala solved for the logistics issue by creating Transfernation (think Uber for food.) She and Goel didn’t win the contest, but kept pitching the idea at different competitions. A year later, they finally won their first round of funding from the Resolution Project (disclosure: The Resolution Project is a paid partner of NationSwell).
From there, Dehradunwala and Goel created an app that allows corporate cafeterias and caterers to schedule a pickup of leftover, unused food. Within an hour, a driver transfers the leftover food (Wagyu beef steak! Wedding cake!) to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
“The same food a corporate executive was eating less than an hour earlier is now being eaten by someone from a drastically different walk of life,” Dehradunwala says. “When the food reaches the shelter, it’s usually still hot.”
Transfernation first relied on volunteers. Now, they’re a fee-based service. Clients pay a small monthly or one-time cost per pickup. That’s used to compensate delivery people, who aren’t always behind the wheel of a car. They ride bikes. Sometimes, they walk.
“We’re looking to change the way that people view acts of ‘charity’ and attempting to create a model that benefits the people doing the actual transporting of the food instead of relying solely on their goodwill,” says Dehradunwala. “Volunteering is a privilege that many people can’t afford to partake in. With our model, the pickup becomes more than just an opportunity to do good, it becomes an opportunity for part-time employment.”
And yet, “it costs us under 20 cents to redistribute a pound of food and less than 25 cents to make a meal,” says Dehradunwala.
Since October 2016, Transfernation’s rescued over 210,000 pounds of food. It serves nine shelters in the NYC area, and its donations fill the bellies of 4,000 people each week. Three of these food programs rely completely on Transfernation’s deliveries.
While dropping off food at a shelter on a recent day, a woman waiting for the doors to open recognized Dehradunwala – and the Transfernation bounty in her arms. “You’re the people who bring the good stuff!” she exclaimed.
“It’s one of my favorite moments,” Dehradunwala admits.
The entrepreneur (who only graduated college in 2016) will have many more moments to come. Next up: Expanding Transfernation to communities outside the New York City area. “The way people view their extra food,” says Dehradunwala, “is changing.”

Highland Park Takes Power Back

Soulardarity is a nonprofit organization that puts energy control in the hands of the community.
After a utility company repossessed more than 1,000 streetlights in Highland Park, the Michigan-based group began raising money to install solar-powered streetlights on the town’s dark streets.
Soulardarity envisions a future where energy is cooperatively owned and the wealth it generates is used to make communities stronger together.

Entrepreneurship Takes a Village

Entrepreneurship is not just about starting companies. It’s about giving individuals the means to take charge of their economic destinies.
The makers, doers and dreamers must be empowered to grow our economy sustainably and to improve the lives of millions of Americans. Communities must work together to eliminate barriers to entrepreneurship and instead, create and nurture entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Recent research demonstrates that the creation of more startups leads to higher productivity, wage growth and quality of life. New businesses not only support individual entrepreneurs, but lift surrounding communities, contributing to a new model of economic development that infuses more entrepreneurship into the economy.
For this to happen, ecosystem builders and community leaders should consider the following design principles when constructing entrepreneurial communities:

  1. Put entrepreneurs front and center: Innovators must be the most active participants.
  2. Foster conversations: Peer-to-peer interactions increase the vibrancy of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  3. Enlist collaborators: Inclusion is a core value of community.
  4. Live the values: The right behaviors shape the right ideals.
  5. Connect people bottom-up, top-down, outside-in: Overcoming parochial differences and collaborating across traditional hierarchies creates diverse networks of mutually advantageous relationships.
  6. Tell the community’s authentic story: Focus on its unique strengths instead of trying to be the next Silicon Valley.
  7. Start, then be patient: Ecosystem building is a long process and real change occurs well before statistics ever show it.

Visit the Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Playbook to learn more about these principles, and leave your stories and feedback in the comments.
Your thoughts will help shape future iterations of the playbook — and help grow a more inclusive economy.
This content was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which works in entrepreneurship and education to create opportunities and connect people to the tools they need to achieve success, change their futures and give back to their communities. In 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Summit, convening 435 leaders fighting to help break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.

Generating Coding Fever in Tech-Loving Minority Teens

Alongside the glinting waves and pristine beachfront property, a surge of talent is transforming Miami into a tech hub.
The Kauffman Index rated the metropolitan area of Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach as the number one entrepreneurial area in America, and international tech startups are using the city for its geographic proximity to Latin America.
But in Broward County, just north of the white sands of Miami Beach, there’s a stark reality for the youth of color: They don’t have access to technology or entrepreneurial leaders the same way that some of their well-to-do peers do.
“In areas of high growth in the tech and entrepreneurial or small business sector, [minority] populations are completely left out of that activity,” says Felecia Hatcher-Pearson, co-founder of Code Fever Miami. “If you have an idea, oftentimes you have to leave your neighborhood in order to execute on that idea or get the right resources in order to make that happen. And that’s a problem.”
Hatcher-Pearson’s organization is bridging that digital divide — which she refers to as an “innovation desert” — by providing opportunities to young teens of color in coding lessons and pitching business startup ideas.
Since 2013, Code Fever has introduced more than 3,000 youth and adults to the tech ecosystem. It’s also served as host to more than 100 tech events, including boot camps and hack-a-thons.
This isn’t Hatcher-Pearson’s first attempt at bringing entrepreneurship to youth. After losing her marketing job at Nintendo in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, she moved back into her parent’s Florida home and opened an ice cream and popsicle stand in Broward County. She noticed that the kids in the community looked up to moneymakers: those selling drugs.
“Sometimes the first way [these kids] get introduced to entrepreneurship in their neighborhoods when they live in impoverished neighborhoods, it’s the guy that’s selling on the block, right? And if he’s successful, he’s getting a mentor, like someone showing him how to do it,” she says.
Hatcher-Pearson began pairing teens with entrepreneurs to learn how to market and sell sweets using extra stands she had laying around.
“We know what happens when young people can’t get their first jobs or don’t learn the basic skills on how to be self-sustainable, the entire cycle of poverty continues,” she says.
As Miami’s tech scene started taking off in 2010, Hatcher-Pearson recognized a similar lack of entrepreneurial mentorship.
“It wasn’t inclusive,” says Hatcher-Pearson, referring to the tech scene in Miami. “It didn’t include the black community or the Caribbean community in any of the activity, the resources, the programming or any of the spaces.”
With the help of her husband, Derek, the two started Code Fever.
The organization’s reputation is built on its ability to foster African American tech talent through its Black Tech Week. The summit provides multiple pitch opportunities to help finance burgeoning startups, class intensives geared toward making older generations more digitally native and education for teachers on how to bring in more technology into the classroom — a massive hindrance for students, Hatcher says.
“Oftentimes, their teachers don’t have the right tech training or tech confidence, and they’re the ones that are not doing a good job of allowing technology to be in the classroom,” Hatcher-Pearson says.
Ryan Hall, who heads the curriculum for Code Fever and Black Tech Week, says that based on his own personal experience, the role the organization plays in students’ lives is essential.
“I personally found that I was in a lot of these tech spaces, and I didn’t see a lot of people who look like me,” Hall says. “We care about taking people who are minorities and bringing them into the technology economy, because it has the ability to raise people out of their socioeconomic situation.”
Both Hatcher-Pearson and Hall attribute the program’s success to its ability to allow kids of color to integrate their own personal lifestyles and interests into coding. Code Fever accomplishes this by bringing in local black celebrities and creating hybrid projects that merge music and tech or sports and tech.
“Culture plays a major role in introducing students to [science, technology, engineering or math] fields,” says Hatcher-Pearson. “We have to introduce them to computer programming because… the current narrative is that the black and brown community doesn’t exist in tech, and we are pioneers in tech and innovation.”
The 2017 AllStars program is produced in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal and celebrates social entrepreneurs who are powering solutions with innovative technology. Visit from Oct. 2 to Nov. 2 to vote for your favorite AllStar. The winner will receive the AllStar Award, a $10,000 grant to help further his or her work advocating for change.
Correction: A previous version of this video stated that Miami is the birthplace of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He was born in Albuquerque, N.M. NationSwell apologizes for this error.
[button url=”” ]Vote for Felecia Now![/button]

For the Global Good, Mayors Move to the Spotlight

City leaders are thinking globally, even as they act locally. More than 300 mayors brought local government to the international stage in June when they promised to uphold the Paris climate accord. “We can’t wait for governments to act on climate change. For solutions, look to cities,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Twitter.
This is part of a larger trend of cities embracing their power to change the world by activating their residents. Set against a backdrop of population growth that predicts that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030, cities are seeding interest in civic engagement and local government with citizens who are eager to create more inclusive communities. “Inequality — in access and quality of services, and therefore, opportunity — is one of the single largest threats our society faces today,” says Jeff Senne, corporate responsibility operations leader and senior director at PwC. “Cities possess the highest levels of inequality and consequently provide the greater opportunity to address the root drivers of this issue.”
Global players appear to be taking notice. At this year’s Social Innovation Summit in Chicago, representatives from city offices around the globe met with business and philanthropy leaders to discuss insights and innovations related to local and global issues.  
Unlike their larger counterparts, local initiatives benefit from their scale and speed. City governments are smaller and more nimble than state and national governments. “At the city level, we can quickly impact and change residents’ lives,” says summit speaker Sharone April, director of the Jerusalem Innovation Team.
Technology also plays a role in a city’s ability to act quickly and agilely while serving its public. New online platforms, aimed at information exchanges between residents and local governments, have allowed cities to promote two-way conversations and civic engagement. In Philadelphia, a mobile lab called PHL Participatory Design Lab travels around town to give residents a chance to voice their thoughts on ways to improve their city. The city of Charlotte, N.C., plans to start a weekly podcast called Your Move, featuring city officials conversing with Millennials.
Members of the Minneapolis Innovation Team, one of about 20 innovation teams funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, discussed their web portal for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The portal offers resources to fledgling entrepreneurs, such as starter guides for common business types and information on how to navigate regulatory processes.
“It’s all in response to what communities said they want,” says Brian K. Smith, director of the Minneapolis Innovation Team. “When we make it easier for small businesses and minority and immigrant entrepreneurs to access the knowledge, financial and social capital they need to be successful, we not only help the business owners at the margins. We also make everybody’s lives easier.”
A similar online platform has gained popularity in Los Angeles. In September 2016, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Innovation Team introduced a program that helps small business owners cut through red tape. The open-source platform offers step-by-step guidance to overcome hurdles such as finding a location, negotiating a lease and getting a business loan. “We worked with city leaders and residents to design and test the portal and are consistently sharing the process and tools we used with other cities so that they can start with what we did and hopefully launch something even better that we can take from in the future,” says Amanda Daflos, director of the Innovation Team in the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation.
That spirit of collaboration could be felt in another city, halfway around the world: An app called Coming Soon, based in Jerusalem, Israel, allows locals to name the types of businesses their neighborhoods lack. Coming Soon shares that information with entrepreneurs to help them target, refine and optimize their new ventures. “It provides powerful data for business owners so that they can open the right business in the right location,” April says. That data is especially powerful in a city where half of new businesses shutter within five years.
“Residents will be able to influence what is happening in their neighborhoods,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “This will impact the city through enhanced quality of life for residents and advance the business sector—a win-win for all involved.”
The focus is specific, but the ambition is broad. By creating hyper-local initiatives that encourage an engaged public, city and industry leaders hope to affect quality of life across diverse sectors, including climate, economy, technology and opportunity. Local mayors to the world: Perhaps there’s also room to act globally, but think locally.  
Presented by Social Innovation Summit. NationSwell and PwC are Social Innovation Summit partners.
Social Innovation Summit is an annual global convening of black swans and wayward thinkers. In June 2017, more than 1,400 Fortune 500 corporate executives, venture capitalists, CSR and foundation heads, government leaders, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, activists, emerging market investors and nonprofit heads convened in Chicago to investigate solutions and catalyze inspired partnerships that are disrupting history.

Powered by Ad Dollars, Nonprofits Get a Boost

The work of charities relies on government grants, foundations and a limited pool of individual dollars. At EcoMedia, his in-house organization at CBS, NationSwell Council member Paul Polizzotto tapped into an alternate stream: corporate advertising budgets. With EcoMedia, CBS redirects some $80 million in profits to nonprofit programs, helping 30 million Americans affected by the most urgent social issues of our time: the environment, health and education, and better lives for veterans. NationSwell met with Polizzotto at CBS’s headquarters in New York City to talk about a better way for business and charities to work together for social change.

What first attracted you to social entrepreneurship?
I wonder if there was some sociological survey conducted, if it would show the growth in social entrepreneurship comes from people raised by hippies. My parents were products of the ’60s, raising kids in the ’70s. I grew up in Manhattan Beach, Calif. My parents were entrepreneurs themselves, with a swim school open half the year. My parents were incredibly compassionate and generous people. Over time, we took in people who had run away: Eventually, we had 22 people living in our apartment. And we didn’t have any means. Essentially, I kind of turned my parents’ way of life into a business model.

How did that happen?
I grew up surfing every day in the very polluted Santa Monica Bay, and we were sick all the time; the bay’s gotten a lot better, but back then, it was pretty bad. I noticed that the contract cleaning industry was washing pollutants and detergents right into the storm-drain system, which goes into the bay. I said, “Whoa, I am surfing in that!” And besides, it’s illegal. It’s a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. At 25, I set out to come up with a way to work on the issue and protect the environment. My zero-discharge business grew, and, essentially, we legalized and legitimized an industry and set a new standard: Either get legal or get out.

After that, how did EcoMedia get its start?
Around the same time, I started to learn about a lot of nonprofits doing remarkable work on environmental regulations. I knew there were a lot of great projects that needed a little bit of gap financing to get off the shelf. I created EcoMedia originally as a nonprofit, in the late 1990s, to fill those gaps by winning grants. But what I found was that we were winning money, and other deserving nonprofits weren’t. It was a zero-sum game. I was competing against nonprofits I thought were doing very important work. I looked for ways to keep doing what I was doing and accidentally stumbled on the advertising world. I thought, “Hey, maybe there’s a way to create an ad model to fund nonprofits, a way to create this entirely new revenue stream coming from ad spends.” I got involved with CBS in a joint venture, and in 2010, we were acquired. We’ve since become the fastest-growing division at CBS.

Where do you see yourself in the media landscape?
I have a very different view, because I’m not from media, advertising or technology. But all of what I’m doing now is squarely in that space. I remember having a conversation with CBS, and they said they thought their ability to improve communities came from content. I said, “I don’t think so: I think it’s your distribution.” I think content’s largely overrated. Look at health: Never before in history has more information been available to more people about what’s good and bad for you. Yet we’re not as healthy as we were 30 years ago, as it relates to health conditions like obesity and diabetes. You think you’re doing your job as a media company by getting the word out, but we’re not seeing the desired impact.

What’s an example of a campaign you thought was particularly effective?
A dear friend of mine, who has since passed, created a surf school to help kids with disabilities and military-service men and women suffering from PTSD, called the Jimmy Miller Foundation. To see how the sport of surfing, which gave so much to me, is being used as therapy is pretty remarkable. We do quite a lot to fund their work. Others that matter to me are putting solar panels on Miami City Hall, the first big city hall in the United States to be powered by them, and in my own hometown of Los Angeles, in the port, there’s a marine terminal controlling all the ships coming in and out of the port that we made energy-neutral. And we send kids with subsidized breakfasts and lunches home on a Friday afternoon with backpacks full of meals for the weekend. There are so many projects, it’s innumerable.

Feminist Writers Break the Glass Ceiling, the Push to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline and More

How Feminists Took On the Mainstream Media and Won, Quartz
Women’s magazines have come a long way from publishing the sex and beauty tips of decades past. Likewise, feminist writing has moved from the hidden corners of the blogosphere. What’s given rise to strong female voices in mainstream media? As Quartz notes, “Only in the internet age have feminist voices finally been able to break the stranglehold that straight, white men have historically had on the media.”
The Virginia Democrat Keeping Your Kids Out of Jail, OZY
Recently elected Virginia state senator Jenn McClellan is on a mission to do away with the school-to-prison pipeline. Her unique ability to draw bipartisan support is making her particularly effective in passing legislation, and she’s using her influence to push for limits on student suspension and police presence in schools.
Inside the Schools That Want to Create the Next Mark Zuckerberg — Starting at Age 5, Inc.
Youth entrepreneurship programs are on the rise in schools across the globe, with students pitching, launching and even profiting off of their own businesses. “It’s your neighborhood lemonade stand on steroids,” says Inc. As the nature of work evolves, educators are rethinking the system to prioritize 21st-century skills like innovation, persistence and networking.
MORE: How Digital Tools Are Helping in the Fight for Gender Equality

How Do You Make a Good Idea Even Better?

Digital technology is unleashing potential across the global economy. As CEO of the Gramercy Fund, NationSwell Council member T. Trent Gegax is trying to identify which early-stage companies in web services, social media, biotech and education technology software are poised to harness that energy. NationSwell spoke to Gegax recently about how he’s picking investments at the outset of a third industrial revolution.

I’ve heard some venture capital firms say they have a thesis they play out in their portfolio. In those terms, what’s Gramercy Fund’s “thesis” for what you choose to back?
It comes down to a strong personality, an individual who’s both extremely confident and extremely coachable, someone who knows what they don’t know and is assured in what they do. Investing in people — a real solid founder that we trust — is first and foremost what we look for. Second, it’s marketplaces that are compelling or interesting. Timing is the third element, and probably the hardest. If you’re too early, you’re Friendster or MySpace, not Facebook. Knowing the market sometimes that requires a crystal ball. I said no to Kickstarter because I wasn’t sure if the timing was right for crowdfunding projects. I still kick myself on that one.

Besides confidence, what other qualities do you look for in founders that indicate they’ll be successful?
A single-minded obsession with the problem they’re trying to solve. Basically, having the passion for the business that a baseball player has for the game, who gets to wear funny uniforms and play for a living. We look for founders that pinch themselves because they can’t imagine getting paid to do something they love so much.

How do you coach these founders?
I learned early on, being a board member on companies, that when I said, “You should do this or that,” the CEOs never took my advice. They really shut down. I quickly learned that recommending ideas and options was more effective, couching statements as, “This worked for others,” or “Have you thought about this?” It’s also important to be an ear that listens and doesn’t automatically try to solve the problem that the founder is talking about. Sometimes, founders want to talk to a shrink, and they don’t really want to hear answers. They just want to have an ear to spill into. And finally, always tell them they’re not alone, because a founder in trouble is one of the loneliest people. I can give them context, that these are the problems that everyone’s had and gets through. It’s the Churchill line, “When you go through hell, keep going.”

Founders can be extremely lonely in those dark moments, but if they’re successful, it can also be extremely glamorous. Why do you choose to work behind the scenes, supporting these other ventures?
I’m a former reporter, and I covered the early days of the Internet, war and presidential elections back in the ’90s. I love having a front row seat in history, being the first to see things and investigating whatever I’m seeing. It’s not a big jump between being a reporter and investing. I probably take five to seven calls a week looking at new businesses. It’s hard for me to say no, just because I never know when the next Kickstarter’s going to come. I’m terminally curious. This moment in time — the third Industrial Revolution, from analog to digital — is a transformation. There’s more opportunities than meets the eye. I tell you, it’s exciting. The big risk is if I bet on a bunch of bad ideas and the fund goes to zero, but so far, we’ve had some decent exits and nice markups.

What book would you recommend to someone who wanted to understand your work?
The book that really taught me how startups work and how difficult it is to succeed in this area is Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.”

What innovations are you eyeing as opportunities for growth?
This isn’t breaking news: the combination of artificial intelligence and sensors of all sorts capturing data everywhere around us is creating the opportunities for automation that we can’t even begin to understand yet. (That’s why you have so much talk of the impending domination of our robot overlords.) Also, in transportation, transforming how we relate to vehicles will transform cities. I’m a bit of an urban planning geek, and you can imagine automated vehicles in the future literally changing the cityscape: street parking, off-ramps, the opportunity to bike and get around.

What do you wish someone had told you when you first started this job?
There’s an old saying in journalism, “If your mother says she loves you, get a second source on it.” I didn’t take that to heart with some of the very initial investments. I was new and didn’t know much, so I erred on the side of being a little too trusting. That didn’t last long: my journalism expertise kicked in after I made a few mistakes in my first few investments. You always fall in love with an idea the first time you hear it. Now, I always sleep on it.

To learn more about the NationSwell Council, click here.

This article has been edited and condensed for length.

The Woman That’s Using Big Data to Solve Fertility Problems

Before Piraye Beim began collecting and analyzing big data on women’s fertility, doctors had little concrete direction to give to the 7 million American women who have trouble getting pregnant. But her company Celmatix, which she founded in 2009 after earning a doctorate in molecular biology from New York’s Cornell University, uses a woman’s medical history to identify the treatment most likely to lead to conception. Since launching last year, it’s served 20,000 patients. NationSwell spoke to Beim about the challenges of starting a company as a female academic during a time when male college dropouts dominate Silicon Valley’s narrative.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given on leadership?
I’ve been given advice that there are different ways to be a leader and that recognizing what kind of leader I’m good at being would be helpful. Imagine a general who’s barking out commands and helping people get up on the hill. That’s really good in that situation, but maybe not a good leadership style or strategy for other situations.
What’s on your nightstand?
I’m reading “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl,” an autobiography by Carrie Brownstein, an actress on the TV show “Portlandia.” I knew her as one of the three members of the indie band Sleater-Kinney, and their music really got me through grad school. It’s this kind of girl power rock band that broke through a lot of the stereotypes in rock and roll. Their songs address things that are relevant to women and to world events. It’s been fun to read this story. It transports me from these songs that were so influential to me to where they came from.
What innovations in your field are you most excited about right now?
I think girls are in right now. I watched the Democratic National Convention, and it’s just girl power. It’s a great time to be building a women’s health product and a women’s health company. One of the challenges of entrepreneurship is that, by definition, disruptive technologies mean that you see something before other people see it. When I founded Celmatix seven and a half years ago, to me, it was such a no-brainer that women’s health was being underserved, that if we could decode the genetic basis of reproductive conditions and reproductive function in women, we could unlock so much and impact lives so profoundly by enabling women to be proactive in managing their health.
But what’s been interesting about the arc of the company is it feels like not only is the industry catching up to the fact that women’s health really matters and that women are an important demographic from a market standpoint, but that the zeitgeist of the world feels like it’s catching up too. Sometimes you feel in your little piece of the fishbowl that there’s a phenomenon happening in women’s health, but what I realized is that it’s part of the overall women’s empowerment, whether it’s Malala [Yousafzai] being outspoken about educating women and becoming a household name and now Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination. It’s been very interesting to feel that these confluences are stitched into the overall fabric of the world at the moment, that women have so much potential and the world would benefit so much from unleashing that. For us, where we stay grounded in our piece of the puzzle is that women can’t ever fully unleash that potential if they aren’t fully able to manage their health.
What inspires you?
One analogy that I’ve made is I feel like a knight that goes into battle and he’ll put the handkerchief from his sweetheart into his armor, tucked away. Since I’ve founded Celmatix, I have not been to a single dinner party or networking event where someone did not, probably with tears in their eyes, share a story about their miscarriage or how they’re struggling or their failed IVF [in vitro fertilization] cycle. It’s one of those things that’s so pervasive. For most people who are going through fertility struggles or for women who are struggling with the decision to freeze their eggs, they don’t have anyone to talk to about it. There’s not an outlet or forum. I feel like a knight going into battle, and I feel like all of those people I’ve met, I just keep shoving those handkerchiefs into my armor until it’s bursting. In those moments where I don’t feel strong, I’m bolstered by knowing I can’t give up now.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
The moments that are poignant and really moments of strength for me are when we’ve had employees go through a life event like a death in the family or maternity leave. We’ve been able to build this product in a way that people felt supported along the way. That nuance is very important for me. When a mother comes back from maternity leave and says, “This time with my child was such a gift,” or when we give somebody flexibility to work part-time and that allows them to flourish.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started this job?
I wish they had told me that I had it in me to do it. People have written about how women tend to be a bit more cautious in whether they’re qualified to do something. When you first get started and you’re coming from my position where I had no business background, coming into this as an academic scientific researcher, I assumed that I didn’t have the DNA and that I’d need to make up for my decisions along the way. To some extent, you do that. You hire experts and people with MBAs. But three years in, I realized, wait a minute, I am an entrepreneur. I totally have entrepreneur DNA. It took me a little while to get that self-confidence, but the company did a lot better once I owned it and said, I’ve got this. I can totally do this.
To learn more about the NationSwell Council, click here.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Homepage photograph courtesy of Celmatix.
MORE: 4 Out of 5 Black Women Are Overweight. This Group Has the Solution — and They Are on the March

3 Smart, Forward-Thinking Strategies to House the Homeless

Solutions to SF’s Homeless Problem Starts with Supportive Housing, San Francisco Chronicle
Ten years ago, the City by the Bay set out to end chronic homelessness by placing people in units where they have access to therapists, job assistance and rehab services. The strategy has proven successful, but to put roofs over the heads of the most deep-rooted street people, can San Francisco take the next step and expand the program?
Could This Silicon Valley Algorithm Pick Which Homeless People Get Housing? Mother Jones
In the tech capital of the world, those without homes live on the same streets that house companies worth billions of dollars. Inspired by nearby geniuses and their computing, Santa Clara County created the Silicon Valley Triage Tool, an algorithm that uses data to identify which of the area’s homeless should be housed the fastest.
Why Businesses Don’t Need to Be Helpless About Homelessness, Inc.
Can business owners create a customer-friendly shopping environment and be sensitive to area residents without homes? Brian Kolb, a principal at Paramount Contractors & Developers, says yes, believing that these six moves by private enterprises can help the homeless get the assistance they so desperately need.
MORE: Ever Wondered What to Say to a Homeless Person? Here Are 5 Things to Say and 5 Things Not to Say