America Resurgent: Winston-Salem

For nearly a century, Winston-Salem, N.C. was a major hub of tobacco manufacturing. It was home to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which employed nearly 30,000 of the city’s residents at the height of its operations in the late 1950s. But as the decades wore on, Winston-Salem’s economy began to falter. Years of medical research about the dangers of smoking had taken its toll on the tobacco industry, and the city’s traditional manufacturing base began to dissipate. By the end of the 1980s, Winston-Salem had lost close to 10,000 jobs across multiple sectors, while R.J. Reynolds downsized the majority of its local workforce by 1989.
“Everything had been going so well,” says Gayle Anderson, former president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. “We really didn’t feel the need to import any businesses or import talent.”
But they don’t call Winston-Salem the City of Arts and Innovation for nothing.
Since the late ’80s, Winston-Salem has revolutionized its stagnant economy with support from local business, educational institutions and emerging artists. In 1992, the Chamber of Commerce teamed up with nearby Wake Forest University to begin renovating the abandoned R.J. Reynolds factories in its downtown district, now a thriving research and business park. Dubbed the Innovation Quarter, it is a 330-acre space that employs 3,700 people and houses 170 companies and five academic institutions.
There’s been a rebirth of the city’s arts community, too. Spearheaded by local developers like John Bryan, the city’s once-vacant downtown transformed into a cornucopia of artisan shops, restaurants, breweries and even a Muay Thai studio.  
Despite these positive developments, Winston-Salem isn’t without its troubles. A 2017 study by Winston-Salem State University found the city and surrounding Forsyth County ranked third-to-last out of a total of 2,478 U.S. counties in terms of economic mobility, and many of the residents most directly impacted by a lack of economic opportunity are African-American. This inspired Goler Community Development Corporation, a local urban real-estate nonprofit, to get involved, helping ensure all residents enjoy a share of the city’s recent success.
“When you concentrate poverty on a particular part of town, you’re not going to have great outcomes,” says Michael Suggs, president of Goler CDC. “In order to have a sustainable community, you need these different incomes together.”
Watch the full documentary above to see how Winston-Salem rallied its citizens to shape the future of its economy.

How Next-Gen Leaders Are Turning Passions Into Progress

It’s hard to imagine Ari Afsar ever losing her tune. But the “Hamilton: An American Musical” actor, who plays Eliza Schuyler in the Chicago production, spent several years as a tween, then teen, perfecting her craft at a senior living center. Those long afternoons practicing were filled with lost tunes, forgotten words and cracked notes, but “they wouldn’t care at all,” she laughs, describing them as “the best people to perform in front of.”
Those performances sprang from a troubling insight: “When I would visit my grandma, it seemed like I was the only visitor,” she told a packed audience at the Social Innovation Summit in Chicago. “We’re afraid of getting older, so we put older people in the back of our minds.” A young Afsar decided to change that, and at the age of 13, she started Adopt a Grandfriend, a social club that brings theatrical performances to nearby senior centers. After the curtain closed on productions, the performers would spend time with residents. According to Afsar, the results extended beyond the stage, and several long-term friendships resulted from their work.
In a social media landscape that encourages young people to scroll through endless cause posts and calls-to-action every day, it’s easy to wonder if online exposure translates to actual action. But according to CEO Aria Finger, the next generation isn’t just engaged — they’re highly engaged: 62 percent of Gen Z and millennial respondents have volunteered in the past 12 months, and roughly half volunteer every single month. And, despite the volume of cause-related content presented to young people, tomorrow’s leaders appear to have a knack for targeting the opportunities that are most relevant to them.
That was true for Afsar, who combined her passion for performance with her desire to improve the quality of life for local senior citizens. It also was true for summit speaker Marley Dias, a diehard bookworm who discussed her frustration at her library’s limited selection of books about “white boys and their dogs.” Dias, then 11, reacted by creating a book drive called #1000BlackGirlsBooks, and turned her passion into social action. The hashtag — and initiative, which focuses on books that feature black girls as protagonists — went viral. Since the launch in 2015, the New Jersey tween has collected more than 10,000 books and landed her own book deal. “I want to raise awareness and consciousness,” she says, about her mission to bring inclusivity to bookshelves. “It’s not about just knowing the problem exists, but having the consciousness to want to make a difference.”
Despite stereotypes that Millennials are lazy, self-involved, digital addicts, there is equal — or more — evidence that positions them as nascent innovators. Millennials are more inclined to launch their own initiatives that align their passions with social, economic and civic good, rather than join older organizations aimed at solving the world’s broadest problems.
For a generation that grew up with technology and access, it makes sense that their ventures are often responding to trending or topical issues. Maria Yuan, a NationSwell Council member, was managing a political campaign in Iowa when she realized that citizens also wanted to engage between election cycles — when the real work that affects our lives is done — but there was no venue to support that need. Yuan launched the nonpartisan platform IssueVoter to give everyone a voice in democracy by making civic engagement accessible, efficient and impactful.
“The focus on issues makes sense because 40 percent of voters are independents and 48 percent of Millennials don’t identify with a political party, according to Pew,” says Yuan. IssueVoter also helps turn slacktivism into activism: Users can read legislation in layman’s terms, check out what both sides are saying, look at a personalized scorecard and also send their opinions to representatives in one click.
The Millennial generation’s proclivity for independence and solution-driven work shows no sign of slowing. Market research firm Millennial Branding found that 72 percent of high school students want to run their own initiative one day. Researchers at Northeastern University dubbed Gen Z the most entrepreneurial generation alive.  
“I’ve realized life is long,” says Hamilton’s Afsar. “Yes, I want to accomplish things in my career in the arts, but I also see other areas that I can be involved in. There’s a connection between being an artist and being an activist, and we have to open our eyes to all opportunities.”
Presented by Social Innovation Summit. NationSwell is a Social Innovation Summit partner.
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.

Supporting Startups in Montana’s Wide-Open Spaces

When your husband works for the U.S. Forest Service, you’ll find yourself frequently moving to places “where there are a lot of trees and not a lot of people,” says Christina Henderson, a marketing executive who knows firsthand. She and her family would often land in rural communities where the local economy had been based on natural resource extraction and was now declining — communities like Missoula, Mont., where she moved in 2011.
But instead of giving up on these hard-hit areas, Henderson was more motivated than ever to help them, primarily by embracing anyone with an enterprising spirit. “I love the promise of entrepreneurship, what it can create, and what it can mean for a rural community,” Henderson says.
It wasn’t long before Henderson got onboard with a new initiative called the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. The organization’s main goal? To support local tech entrepreneurs — and tell the story of their unlikely success in an unlikely place far from the bubble of Silicon Valley. In June, Henderson, who says she wants to show people that the Montana startup scene isn’t “all taxidermy and saddle shops,” attended the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural ESHIP Summit for ideas on further developing her community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

High Tech In The Rural West

The idea of a thriving startup scene out in Big Sky Country may come as a surprise to outsiders, but Henderson believes the state is benefiting from three broad trends. The first is the way that technology has eliminated geographical barriers. “It’s been a real equalizer for rural communities,” she notes.
The second trend boosting Montana’s local ecosystem is the creative class’s increasing focus on quality of life. “The kinds of people who come to Montana value other things besides climbing [the corporate] ladder,” Henderson says. “They’re still hardworking and ambitious, but we also value things like work-life balance.”
Henderson credits the $1.8 billion sale of RightNow Technologies to software giant Oracle in 2012 as the third prong sparking Montana’s startup ecosystem. “It’s essentially a unicorn in the middle of Bozeman,” Henderson says. “It changed the minds of Montana entrepreneurs in terms of how big you can scale a company in Montana.” RightNow helped create a pool of high-quality talent in the state — people who had experience growing a startup to scale. More than a dozen former RightNow employees have spun off or created new companies, and the headline-grabbing sale also helped draw the interest of venture capitalists. “It’s hard to underestimate the impact of that one success story,” she says.

Overcoming Barriers

Of course, the state still has plenty of challenges, namely access to talent and capital, Henderson says. “For decades, the story you get told when you graduate from college in Montana is that you have to leave the state to get a job.” And changing that notion will take time. While investors’ perceptions of the state are also changing, that shift is fairly recent.
Political divides — and a heightened partisan climate nationally — can also be a difficult bridge to cross in this purple state. “We have people on all sides of the political spectrum,” Henderson says. “One of my challenges is to maintain a nonpartisan association that brings people together around this common goal.” It’s crucial that political differences don’t ever block an entrepreneur from making an important connection or accessing the resources they need.
In a state that’s almost 90 percent white, building a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s welcoming to all is also a barrier. “We have candidates come to Montana who are of color, and they get off the plane and look around and go, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” says Henderson, adding that the ESHIP Summit helped her connect with other people around the country facing the same issue. “I really value underrepresented groups being included in entrepreneurship,” Henderson says. “I deeply care about that, and it’s not easy, and the people who have been trying to do it are really frustrated.”

That Small-Town Feel

As the executive director of the High Tech Business Alliance, Henderson’s main job is to support networking among entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs. “Folks who are launching a company need access to mentors, legal and financial help, and information about exporting,” she says. Companies with fewer than five employees can join the organization for free, attend events, and meet established entrepreneurs who can offer advice and practical help.
Montana’s small-town atmosphere makes this networking easier. It’s the fourth-largest state geographically, but with roughly the same population as Delaware. Entrepreneurs and investors are increasingly willing to travel relatively long distances to help each other, and elected officials are personally cultivating relationships with local entrepreneurs.
The rugged wilderness of Montana attracts people seeking adventure and risk rather than a comfortable existence. One local entrepreneur put it this way, Henderson says: “‘I’ll go backcountry camping for weeks at a time — I’m already willing to endure hard things to do what I love.’” That spirit of adventure matches up well with entrepreneurship, Henderson says. “It’s a bit of a harder life. There are bears in the wilderness. It attracts a heartier person, and I think that lends itself to entrepreneurship.
“You have to be a little entrepreneurial if you’re willing to live in Montana,” she adds.


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 June 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Summit, convening 435 leaders fighting to help break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that companies with fewer than 500 employees could join High Tech Business Alliance for free. NationSwell apologizes for this error.

How One New Jersey City Is Boosting Minority Entrepreneurship

Newark, N.J., is an urban renewal success story — but only for some of its 280,000 residents.
As more and more people move into sleek new lofts downtown, and amenities like a new pedestrian bridge and urban park draw hordes more, a disparity has become abundantly clear: Newark’s minority entrepreneurs are being left out of all this development.
Lyneir Richardson, executive director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CUEED) at Rutgers University, recalls a flood of people knocking on the doors of the business school, asking for help accessing resources. “‘We’re not getting accepted to the local accelerators,’” Richardson says the school kept hearing — particularly from minorities and women looking to launch businesses.
Underrepresented entrepreneurs like the ones Richardson works with often have trouble breaking into the formal and informal networks that support startups. If you know someone who’s opened a small business you’re likely to get recommendations of lawyers and accountants who can help you. But the would-be business owners CUEED works with — about 70 percent of whom are black or Latino, and 60 percent of whom are women — don’t have that advantage, says Richardson.
They also tend to have more trouble accessing capital in the form of investments or loans, and they may need education on what their financing options are, he adds.

Rich in Resources

In many ways, Richardson is the perfect person to serve as a champion for these marginalized entrepreneurs. He was raised as the son of business owners in Chicago, where his parents owned a bar, a restaurant, and two specialty popcorn stores, and he grew up hearing about the bread-and-butter issues of running small operations.
Later, when Richardson was 27 and a lawyer for a large bank, he was assigned pro bono work helping identify candidates for loans in a tough area of Chicago. From the perspective of the bank, Richardson says, the neighborhood didn’t look promising. But he had a different view.
“I knew people who grew up there — I grew up there,” he says. Right then, he made a life-altering decision: “I wanted my personal mission to be seeing opportunity in people and places that others didn’t.”
From any viewpoint, Newark has a lot of potential. “This is an area that’s always been asset-rich,” Richardson says, with major air, shipping and rail hubs, several colleges and universities, and New York City right next door. The mayor, Ras Baraka, has championed local businesses and recently launched an initiative aimed at encouraging institutions like Rutgers and its employees to “live, buy and hire local.” But there remains a challenge — namely, making sure that all this opportunity is equally open to everyone.

Brainstorming Solutions

Richardson attended the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural ESHIP Summit in Kansas City, Mo., which gathered people from around the country who work to support entrepreneurs in their communities. A common goal, no matter where participants hailed from, was generating new ideas to build thriving ecosystems that connect people who want to start businesses with the resources they need to do so. For his part, Richardson came out of the summit with a couple of concrete ideas he hopes to put into action in Newark.
The first is a solution to a problem that many minority and female entrepreneurs face: They don’t know anyone who has thousands of dollars to lend them as informal seed money. At the Summit, Richardson heard about entrepreneurs using crowdfunding to raise that first round of funding. Richardson says he knows people in his community are familiar with crowdfunding, because it’s often used to raise money for funeral costs or other personal needs. “Can crowdfunding be broadly defined as a friends-and-family round for entrepreneurs of color?” Richardson wonders. He intends to find out.
After connecting with someone from Seattle who educates angel investors on how to evaluate small business investment opportunities, Richardson is thinking about launching a similar program in his city. His nascent plan: targeting people who have some history in Newark and might otherwise make a donation to an existing program, and instead trying to persuade them to invest in an entrepreneur who can create new value in the city.
“That’s something I heard that I cannot wait to try,” Richardson says.


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 June 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Summit, convening 435 leaders fighting to help break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.

There’s Always Something to Do in Brownsville

“There’s nothing to do in Brownsville.” It was a constant refrain when Eva Garcia was growing up in the midsize Texas city, situated just across the border from Mexico. After college, most of her friends moved away to Austin or other cities perceived as more dynamic and interesting. But Garcia stayed, got a job in city government, and is now part of an initiative to transform her community and neighboring cities. “I want to make Brownsville a place where people want to stay,” she says.
As an employee of the city’s department of planning and development, Garcia is taking an active role in doing just that, helping to organize programs and funding for a network of 17 miles of new multiuse trails in and around Brownsville. She’s also been lobbying to attract new businesses to open alongside these new biking, hiking and paddling trails. She recently attended the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural ESHIP Summit to connect with other people working to build thriving small business communities and get new ideas for how to improve her own.
The goals of Brownsville’s recent outdoorsy development are nothing less than ambitious: Boost the local economy, improve health outcomes, rescue precious natural resources and encourage the growth of a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. Those are big problems to solve, and Brownsville is trying to tackle them all at once. But the city is aiming to prove that all at once is the best way to take on big issues.
“There’s never enough money to do what you want,” Garcia says. “We’re leveraging resources to attack multiple problems.” For Garcia, the ESHIP Summit was a chance to better understand and imagine the end goal of the development happening in Brownsville. “What I’ve learned is the characteristics of highly functioning systems,” she says, “and how collaboration is essential.”
Turning around an entire community’s idea of itself isn’t exactly easy. Brownsville is behind the curve in developing as a tourist destination, Garcia says. “Right now the challenge seems to be changing the perception of what’s successful, or what could be successful.” Some people believe that in a relatively poor community, building nature trails is a waste of taxpayer money that could be better spent improving public transportation or other services.
But Garcia sees the potential to make her community much stronger — and healthier too. The progress happening today is a steep departure from her experience growing up in Brownsville, which as recently as 2012 was the poorest city in America, with a median income of less than $30,000 a year. The majority of residents are Hispanic, and a CDC study found that the rates of obesity and diabetes were among the highest in the country. Almost 40 percent of residents lack health insurance, according to the most recent census data available. Growing up, Garcia says she had no idea that the health disparities and poverty levels were so severe.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Brownsville (now the University of Texas Rio Grande) with a degree in environmental science, Garcia got an internship with the city and started to learn more about her own community. “I felt like my eyes were opened,” she says. “I started becoming aware of what the issues really were here, and why there were challenges to development.” The city had already started to work on some initiatives to reduce poverty and improve health outcomes, and Garcia decided she wanted to be involved.
Today, Garcia’s department is partnering with Rails to Trails Conservancy to connect 10 local communities with new pathways. The UT School of Public Health in Brownsville has provided grant funding to help promote the new trails and healthy living in general. And the city is taking advantage of a local utility program to dredge and restore tributaries of the Rio Grande that have filled with sediment, organizing new trails around these resacas. The university’s architecture program is designing birding blinds (small shelters that help observers watch birds without startling them) to line the new trails. “Everyone has a role to play,” Garcia says.
That includes entrepreneurs, who are key to making the “active tourism” initiative a success. The city is looking for ways to incentivize small businesses to take advantage of the new walking and biking pathways. “You cannot be active without the [proper] gear,” Garcia says. “Even to go fishing, you need poles and lines, and people to take you out on boats to show you where things are.”
More businesses are needed, she says, to showcase the city’s assets — new companies like outdoor tour operators or kayak and paddleboard rental shops will help market the community as a fun, dynamic place.
“There are constantly things to do now,” Garcia says.


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 June 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Sumit, convening 435 leaders fighting to help break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.

When Entrepreneurship Is the Only Option

It was a childhood lie that sparked the entrepreneurial fire in Geraud Staton and set him on a path that would eventually transform his community.
When he was 14, Staton’s older cousin bragged about how he’d been creating comic books and selling them at school for a dollar. “I thought, ‘He’s making money. I can do the same,’” recalls Staton, who now mentors other aspiring entrepreneurs in Durham, N.C. There was just one problem, though. “He told me later that he was absolutely lying — he was just trying to impress his little cousin,” Staton says. But the idea had been planted in Staton’s mind, and by the time he finished freshman year he had his first taste of entrepreneurial success: buying candy in bulk and reselling it to his classmates for a profit.
People who succeed in launching businesses typically have unfettered access to advice and support from a parent, a grandparent or an uncle who was an entrepreneur themselves, he says. “But there are people in communities, including mine, who did not have that. I wanted to be that uncle,” says Staton, whose mission to help what he calls “entrepreneurs of necessity” led him to found the Helius Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free coaching and mentoring to under-resourced small business owners in Durham who have struggled to find living-wage jobs.
“It’s incredibly hard to be an entrepreneur,” says Staton, who attended the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural ESHIP Summit in June, where NationSwell caught up with him. “But it’s even harder for this particular group of people to find dignified jobs.”

Paying It Forward

Staton credits the early support he got from adults like his teachers and principal with having an outsize impact on his future. “I assumed at the time that everyone had the same encouragement and opportunity,” Staton says of his younger self. As he matured, however, he realized that for many of his peers — Staton grew up in a predominantly lower-middle-class African-American neighborhood in Durham — that simply wasn’t true.
Many of the minorities and women Staton works with have marketable skills but lack business sense. “These are people who can’t afford to fail, starting businesses that are often the first to fail,” he says. To remedy that, the Helius Foundation provides them with free coaching and mentoring services, helps them develop a strategic plan, and teaches them marketing basics.
Though Helius has a short history, having launched in 2015, it’s already given several program participants a much-needed leg up. One mentee, Connell Green, had worked in restaurants until an I-beam fell on him, temporarily paralyzing him. After the accident, he lost his family and his home. “He used baking as a way to heal and focus his attention, and help get some of his mobility back,” Staton says. Now he’s the owner of a successful bakery.
Another mentee is Ayubi Easente, who at just 14 years old is running a thriving business refurbishing high-end sneakers. “He doesn’t know if this is what he wants to do for a living,” Staton says, but Easente is gaining skills that will serve him throughout his life no matter what he eventually pursues.

From Obstacles to Opportunity

The Helius Foundation is based in Durham’s Hayti district, an area that used to be home to a flourishing African-American community with many black-owned businesses; it was once known as the “Black Wall Street.”
But thanks in part to the construction of an interstate that divided Hayti in the early 1960s, the community suffered a serious decline. Today, 46 percent of African-Americans live at or below the poverty line, Staton says, and fewer than 18 percent of local businesses are black-owned. “Those numbers are just horrifying,” he says, adding that changing them “would be huge for our city.”
But building a local ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship is a challenge. When you ask residents what the community needs, Staton says, “jobs” is always the answer. But he doesn’t believe that a large corporation relocating to the area is the best solution to the region’s challenges. “If we can get 1,000 people to start a small business and hire one or two people, we get the same number of jobs, but more sustainability,” he points out. “That money gets to stay inside our community.”
A large part of what Staton does is simply encourage people to try entrepreneurship. “I’ve got people who come in and still believe that they can’t make it,” he says. “I’m having to do a lot more psychology than I thought I would.” In a sense, he’s passing on the gift his cousin gave him: “Someone told me I could do it, and I went out and did it,” he says. “We have a lot of entrepreneurs who just don’t know they can do it, so my job is to show them they can.”


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 June 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Summit, convening 435 leaders fighting to help break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.

10 Ways to Break Down Barriers for Entrepreneurs in Your Community

How do you build a thriving community of entrepreneurs? At a time when the doors of economic opportunity seem to be shutting out so many people, entrepreneurship is crucial to local neighborhoods. The Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural ESHIP Summit brought together more than 400 diverse entrepreneurial community leaders from all over the country to answer this question.
Below, these entrepreneurial ecosystem builders — people who build communities to support entrepreneurs — share their top tips for energizing entrepreneurship in their communities, no matter where in the world that is.

1. Find Common Ground . . .

Participants came to the ESHIP Summit from 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 10 countries, each facing their own challenges. But as attendee Alistair Brett of Rainforest Strategies in Washington, D.C., says, “What works in one place may not work in another, but the core of this kind of work is the same for everyone.”

2. . . . But Don’t Copy Silicon Valley 

Despite its huge concentration of high-tech startups and venture capitalists,the Silicon Valley model has its weaknesses, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion, says Kate Stewart, the executive director of JAXCoE, a network of entrepreneurs and supporters in Jacksonville, Fla. “The more inclusive a company or an ecosystem is, the more robust it is,” she adds. Philip Gaskin, the director of entrepreneurial communities for the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., agrees: “As the demographics in the nation are changing, you need equal representation in your businesses, in your leadership and on your boards to reach your customers and understand their needs.”

3. Unearth Potential 

“The capital of economic development is no longer businesses moving from place to place; it’s talent moving from place to place,” Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., told the Summit. Many communities also have massive untapped potential in populations that haven’t previously had access to the resources needed to start new businesses. “Women in our state are just now beginning to find their footing” and connect to the support they need, as are minority entrepreneurs, says Shannon Roberts, program manager at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

4. Get Ideas Out of the Lab

Professors and students are conducting cutting-edge research and generating innovative ideas. But the town-gown gap can be hard to bridge. The key is understanding how the motivations of academics differ from those of traditional entrepreneurs, says Lydia McClure, vice president of scientific partnerships at the Translational Research Institute in D.C. Researchers tend to be driven by the impact they can have and aren’t necessarily as interested in creating the next big startup. Everyone involved should be asking themselves, “What do I have to offer?” McClure says.

5. Challenge Stereotypes 

What does the typical entrepreneur look like? Accion, an organization that provides microloans to small business owners, often works with low-income minorities who are opening businesses to provide for their families. But no matter the scale of a business, “entrepreneurship is a source of income, job creation, asset generation, and products and services that create value for the community,” says Anne Haines Yatskowitz, Accion New Mexico’s CEO. And with their tenacity, resourcefulness and perseverance, she says, “entrepreneurs can be incredible role models.”

6. Reach More People 

Preston James, the CEO of DivInc, a startup pre-accelerator that supports entrepreneurship among people of color and women, is trying to solve a problem he sees in the otherwise thriving startup ecosystem in Austin, Texas. “What we’re doing in Austin is expanding the ecosystem by being more inclusive of a broader audience,” James says. DivInc connects underrepresented entrepreneurs with mentors, educational opportunities, domain experts and other resources that help lay the foundation for successful new companies. “Some of the other hubs that are up and coming, the sooner they can do that, the more successful they will be — faster.”

7. Consider Your Impact 

“I have a fundamental belief that business’s role on the planet is to make life better for people,’’ says Kim Coupounas, the director of B Lab, an organization with offices around the country that supports businesses aiming to be a force for good. Coupounas believes companies should think about their social impact from the beginning. “A huge source of innovation is when companies really consider how they impact their stakeholders,” she says. Ecosystem builders should be thinking about how they’re affecting the world around them too, she says. “It’s not just about creating jobs; it’s about creating good jobs.”

8. Keep It Simple

One successful company can jump-start an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem, and just one connection can help information flow more freely through it. “If one tiny connection fails in your computer, it won’t work,” says Alistair Brett. “But if you make that one tiny connection, it’s back to working.” Adds Wayne Sutton, cofounder of Change Catalyst in the Bay Area, “It’s not rocket science. We’re not talking about going to Mars; we’re basically talking about working with people. You just have to put in the work.

9. Forge Connections — and Friendships

“Entrepreneurship is a lonely experience without community,” says Scott Phillips of Civic Ninjas in Tulsa, Okla., a nonprofit whose network of coders strives to solve societal ills through technology. So is trying to support entrepreneurs, particularly underrepresented ones who are up against real economic, political and cultural barriers in their attempts to access to opportunities. “It’s very isolating sometimes to fight something that seems as big as this is,” adds Geraud Staton, founder of the Helius Foundation, which mentors and coaches entrepreneurs in Durham, N.C. The power of connecting with other people doing similar work can’t be underestimated.

10. Focus on the Future 

“Entrepreneurship, to me, signals taking responsibility for how the future develops,” says David Witzel of RASA, an organization in Oakland, Calif., devoted to regenerative agriculture. Keeping an eye on the future makes this work meaningful. “I have two young grandchildren,” says John Bost, the president of the Clemmons Community Foundation in Clemmons, N.C. “They need a future they can grow into, and it won’t be the past I’ve lived out of.”


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 June 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Summit, convening 435 leaders fighting to break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.

Profile: Hadi Partovi

As the son of a college professor who helped establish Iran’s Sharif University of Technology, Hadi Partovi has always had a deep-seated appreciation for teachers.
“Passionate teachers have been my biggest inspirations,” he says, noting that while he was always trying to pave his own path, he’s now doing something very similar to his father.
Partovi’s nonprofit,, provides computer science curriculum to tens of thousands of educators, empowering them to teach coding in their classrooms. The organization reports that more than half of all students participating in high school courses are African American or Hispanic and 37 percent are female.
Through the years, Partovi’s appreciation of the impact teachers can have on their students — and the world — has only grown. He illustrates this point with a story he recently heard about a junior high school teacher in Auburn, Wash., that he doesn’t even know.
According to Partovi, this teacher noticed that one of his students regularly missed school two or three days each week. Concerned, the teacher reached out to the child’s family to inquire about having him attend computer science classes (which were introduced into the school’s curriculum with the help of, Partovi’s organization).
The student started having regular attendance, and his father called the teacher to report that his son liked school, thanking him for recognizing the need for his son to be exposed to new subjects, like computer science.
“The student went from almost dropping out to learning code,” Partovi says. “That, to me, is the strongest example of a change in somebody’s future — because of the teacher.”
Hadi Partovi is a NationSwell Council member. In addition to co-founding, he is also a tech entrepreneur and investor.

Perspective on Poverty: A Systematized Approach to Improving Healthcare

“When you work in global health, it never feels like you’re doing enough — it’s never big enough, it’s never fast enough. People are dying for reasons they shouldn’t be for reasons that should’ve disappeared from the world 90 years ago,” says Mark Arnoldy, CEO at Possible.
As healthcare continues to be a hot topic of debate here in the United States, Arnoldy is providing an integrative system that delivers care to the poor across the globe.
Nepal is a rich environment… To try and prove that a healthcare system involving government hospitals, clinics and community health works can be successful. The country has enormous demand: 30 million people, of which 80 percent live in rural areas. After enduring a decade-long civil war [from 1996 to 2006], there’s a fair amount of political will and a lot of interest in building a system of universal health care.
Digital connectivity… Is one of the most exciting, new developments in healthcare. Five years ago, in some of these really rural, isolated areas, you couldn’t use a cell phone. Now, we’re running an integrated, electronic health system between our hospital and community health workers using an Android device.
A major, global challenge that people don’t really hear about … In a place like Nepal, there is no registration system for births or deaths. If you’re trying to understand whether some sort of intervention is effective, you don’t know who is living or who is dying. Complicating matters further is that there’s often no national identification system either.
Previously, for instance, a person would go to India for a serious operation. They would be given pamphlets and an x-ray and be expected to keep them and take them to other medical facilities as needed. When people are responsible for paper records, it’s very hard to provide quality healthcare; you can do harm to patients when you don’t have the proper history. Advancements in biometric devices — essentially machines that turn a fingerprint into a secure, digital code — enable us to rethink how we design a healthcare system. With them, we can track patients longitudinally.
It’s almost cliché at this point… But the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder had a profound effect on me. It’s about Dr. Paul Farmer, the cofounder of Partners In Health. It presents a very compelling narrative and challenges people around the question, What does it mean to live a moral life in the 21st century?
Reporting by Chris Peak

This Unconventional Method of Treating Veterans’ Trauma Is No Joke

After losing a close family member to suicide, Sam Pressler turned to sketch comedy as a means to cope, and later, to grow from the trauma and its consequences.
While in college several years later, he learned that the suicide rate among veterans at the time was 22 deaths per day.
“My mind immediately jumped to standup comedy as a solution,” he says, softly chuckling as if to acknowledge his slightly unconventional way of thinking.
Pressler created the first comedy class for veterans while still a college student. Today, as the founder of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), his organization holds comedy stand-up bootcamps and improv workshops at no cost for veterans, service members and military families.
Comedy is a salve… For the veterans and military families, but it’s also deeply impactful for the audience. Too often, the veteran and military experience is focused on tragedy and ignores all of the ridiculous things that happen while you’re serving. Comedy plays to the other side of that, but it also gives a space to process experiences and flip them on their heads. Things that used to upset soldiers now become the basis for their material. It turns anger into something positive.
Performing… Is a very deliberate movement to bring civilian and military worlds closer together. Fewer than 20 percent of ASAP participants have engaged in the arts in the previous year. Anecdotally speaking, that’s a result of the civilian-military gap creating apprehension in engaging in the broader civilian world. Performing allows civilians to connect with veterans in a military space. It also shows veterans and military families that their community cares about them and that they belong.
When you laugh… You form a connection with the people around you. Comedy is a communal art form. Laughter requires community. You lean into one another; you feed off of one another. You also form a connection with the person performing. When veterans are on stage, it gives them the feeling that they have an engaging, accessible voice in their community.
Once you’re an artist… You’re often drawn to use a unique voice to speak on behalf of others. One of our comics who has a service dog advocates on Capitol Hill for service dog organizations and has become an advocacy leader in other parts of his life. Another speaks at conferences about what life is like after three traumatic brain injuries.
To help veterans reintegrating… Communities need to boost their understanding and connection to returning service members. A very important part of the reintegration process is not feeling isolated. Veterans need to feel like they belong and that they’re respected. People should listen to their experiences and not just thank them for their service. We need to understand how their service impacted them.
Reporting by Chris Peak
MORE: This Is Why Hollywood’s Depiction of Veterans Must Change