PCSE Grant Recipient Blog Posts

Enrichment Grant Report: Carlos Eguiluz Rosas

Carlos Eguiluz Rosas was selected to receive an Enrichment Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. With this grant, he participated in an inter-faith service trip over spring break. You can read Carlos’ reflection below, read past grantee reflections here, and visit thePCSE website to learn more about all of our grant programs.


carlosFrom March 14th to March 19th, I attended the Interfaith Service Trip to Harrisburg, PA. This was my first service trip and I was excited to see what will be in store for me. On my first day, I introduced myself to a crowd of 5 students, 2 religious staff members, and a dog. All 8 of us, including the dog, became the Interfaith group. Some of us knew each other from mass and class, but a few of us were new. Despite our different religions, we all got along like family, especially during the night when we came together to reflect on our faith and what “Faith” meant to us.

On the second day, we drove to a Catholic charity for our first service project; we were going to help teach English to a class of refugees. I was really excited about our first service project because I wanted to help them with their transitions. For some students, “home” was Syria, Nepal, or Cuba, but for others “home” was wherever their family was. I spoke with a man from Cuba who informed me of his current situation and how he had hoped to learn English for employment. Hearing him talk about how he, his wife, and his daughter have trouble settling was emotional for him and me as I too know the how hard it was to leave home in search for opportunities. Once we finished our session, we all departed knowing well that we have helped a group of wonderful people settle in their future home. We then spent the rest of afternoon organizing donations for refugee families. I was amazed by how many donations there were in one storage, ranging from pots and pans to cleaning supplies. We spent about 2-3 hours clearing and organizing donations, and every hour was tiring that the one before. Everyone was helping in their own way for the good of humanity. 

Our second major service project took place in the inner city. Our group volunteered at the Brethren Housing Association where we helped renovate old buildings for single-parent families. We each broke into small groups; some of us worked on the floor while other worked on the walls. Three of us, including me, worked on removing the chimney from all three floors. Removing bricks was the easy part. Walking down three flights of shaky stairs while only holding onto a heavy bucket of red bricks (no handrail) was the hard part. After our group finished, I took some time to reflect on what just happened. I was scared and nervous of what would have happened if I fell…But because I had faith and trusted the Lord with all my heart and soul, I knew that everything was going to be alright. Sometimes I doubted myself of my strength, but the Lord reassured me that if I put my faith on him, he would guide me like the other times in my life. 

On our last work day, before we left, we all the opportunity to attend Jummah Prayer. Attending Jummah Prayer was an enriching experience because it exposed me to another religion, one that is not common back home [Miami]. Every part of the experience was enriching from listening to the sermon to praying. It was amazing to learn that my religion [Catholism] and Islam shared several commonalities. 

To conclude, I am grateful for being part of the Interfaith Service trip, and I am glad to have been surrounded by amazing people. 

Enrichment Grant Report: Trevon Gordon

Trevon Gordon was selected to receive an Enrichment Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. With this grant, he participated in a mission trip to Ghana to install a solar power business. You can read Trevor’s reflection below, read past grantee reflections here, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about all of our grant programs.


 

1The entire Saha Global experience was a pivotal point in my college career. Being a part of mission in Ghana was a tremendous learning experience. With the help of SAHA global, my team and I were able to set up a solar power business in the village of Kushini around Tamale, Ghana. Over the course of three weeks, we found an existing structure to house the solar business, restored it to suitable conditions, installed solar equipment, and distributed flashlights to the entire village.

2By the last day we could see that our time there had made a difference. That night, once every one had finally received their lanterns we could see how each compound would light up. You could look around and see that the village had come alive with this new gift of light as people waved the lanterns around in the night.

Before we had come there, the people had used kerosene to light their house which is both expensive and dangerous. What was alarming to me is how important it is to h3ave a light in these communities. Of course light is also important here in the states. Street lights and headlights keep us safe in the night, just as they do in Ghana, or anywhere else in the world. But a problem we don’t face is scorpions that live in roofing material. Furthermore, the difference between being stung in the night by a scorpions and moving about your compound without worry was having a flashlight that you could spot them with.

4This was the reality for the people of Kushini, and still is for many other villages throughout northern Ghana. Other parts of this difficult reality include no toothbrushes or toothpaste which leads to severe cavities at a young age. Or having your foot rot away from an infection but not being able to seek medical attention. But this is where my amazing team members come into play, (picture). In those three weeks that we were setting up the solar business my team continually went above and beyond for the people of Kushini. Off of the initiative of Hailey Seo, our team put together some funds to buy the children toothbrushes and toothpaste. So on the day that we were distributing lamps, Hailey and Emily took the time to teach the kids of the village how to brush their teeth.

5On the same note, we all put our funds together to have the man with the infected leg hospitalized. About a week after we returned home we got the news that his leg was finally amputated and that he was free of all that pain.

6All in all, it was an amazing trip, and the generosity was returned 10 fold by the people of the community, they gave us gift after gift, including our rooster, elvis, and a goat that I didn’t bother naming because I figured shak was going to eat him. Furthermore, the entire Saha team was amazing. Our team of over 40 people was filled with engineers, scientists, grad students, people in law school and even medical school. Over the course of a month we bonded we all became surprisingly close with each other. We shared our goals and aspirations and thought provoking conversations about the state of Ghana and the world in general. We talked about sexism and the detrimental involvement of first world countries in Ghana. Looking back, I would say the trip is one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had thus far.

A significant amount of what I learned took place before I even crossed the Atlantic. The journey had actually started a year and a half before that. I fundraised to go on this mission trip and failed. It was humiliating mainly because of all of those who donated that I let down. To those who donated I apologize but at the same time, it because I let these people down that I felt like I had to do this program again.

7But even this year’s fundraiser was no easy ride. Just like the year before I found myself in another bind. I had raised over $3,000 and and was still short another $2,000. With the nowhere to turn and no one to turn to for help, this year could of easily been a repeat of my previous blunder. But I didn’t give up. I persevered and in the last two weeks of fundraising I raised the $2,000 and went on the trip.

I was able to raise such an enormous amount of money in such a small amount of time through the help of some amazing people. To name a few, Dean Renee, Hailey Broughton-Jones, Victoria King, Joaquina Borges King, and Rod Powell.
8I share this piece of my story with you not to tell you who talk to if you want to do some social entrepreneurship. I share this because I think the biggest thing I learned from this entire experience is that you can do anything if you put your mind it.

My family doesn’t have money and I don’t know of many people from Poughkeepsie who have ever left the city, or the country for that matter. And yet I made it Half way across the world because I was passionate about getting to Africa. That being said, accomplishing this feat felt like doing the impossible.

9So what I learned is that you can do anything you want in this world if you put your mind to it. Your potential is limitless. So to my peers I would like to encourage you dedicate yourself to whatever you want to do. Even if you’re as bad at it as I am at fundraising.

Lastly, I would like to thank Wesleyan. All of my professors and mentors who build me up, and even the people in the admissions office that gave me the opportunity to attend this university. And to the all my peers who have served as an inspiration for me over the past three years, I sincerely hope this little piece of writing can be an inspiration to you as well.

Thank You

-Tré

Enrichment Grant Report: Alexandra Stovicek ’17

Birth Doula Training PhotoFrom March 4th to March 6th, I attended a Doula of North America Organization (DONA) certified birth doula training in Brooklyn, New York. The first day was a required childbirth education class. It served as a refresher to the required reading for the training, The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. Using diagrams, models, and interactive games, our trainer taught us doulas about everything from the anatomy of female reproduction and the different physiological stages of labor to the health of the newborn and breastfeeding practices. My trainer’s comprehensive approach helped me learn the ins and outs of childbirth in a way that I could not have learned from reading a book. As she joked, we covered “three years of material” during the day.

The next two days were much more doula-specific. We began to discuss labor support, which is the fundamental role of a doula. A birth doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support to a pregnant woman during her pregnancy and especially during all stages of labor. We role-played the types of emotional support that a doula gives to a pregnant mother, learning to use different empathy and interpersonal communication tactics. We discussed instances in which it is better that a mother asks her care provider for specific information, and when a doula can step in to guide her. We also practiced different types of physical support that a doula can give a pregnant woman during labor, such as massage, stretching, and guided movement.

A portion of the training was also focused on doula work as a business. To be a birth doula usually means to be an entrepreneur, to create your own business (if you are not part of a collective), marketing your skill set to potential clients. I found this information valuable as I consider how to find clients and attend as many births as possible this summer. The skills I learned in the training, such as how to develop a network and action steps to take when planning a business, are certainly transferable to any entrepreneurship endeavor, especially for small businesses with one person offering one service.

At certain moments in the training, it was uncomfortable for me to hear pregnant women called clients and to discuss how a doula decides her going rate for paid work, since I believe that all women should be able to have a doula if they want one, regardless of their ability to pay. I personally want to volunteer as a birth doula instead of starting my own business, as I am aware that only certain demographics can afford doula care, know to ask for a doula, or have learned about the benefits of doula support. However, my trainer did discuss these socioeconomic disparities and ways in which doulas can be part of the movement for Medicaid coverage of their services. I see now that it is important to learn about the business aspects of this work if being a doula is a full-time career and source of income. I can also see how a business model can help sustain a volunteer model-by charging a fee for pregnant women who can and want to pay, some of that income could be used to help other women receive services at a lower charge or for free. I see now that being a birth doula is not only about being an entrepreneur, but a social entrepreneur: you can find ways to support women and change the healthcare model in our country for births whether or not you charge for your services. This training felt very much in line with the work of the Patricelli Center, as starting a socially aware doula business can positively impact health equity in our country.

PCSE Seed Grants in Action: Report #3 from Assk

The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards annual seed grants to fund the launch or early stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Each grantee reports back with blog posts and photos. Here’s the second report from Rachel Verner ’15, founder of Assk, a company that strives to normalize sexual consent through apparel and education, thereby preventing sexual violence. You can read Rachel’s first report and a description of Assk here, her second report here, and you can read other grantee reports here.


 

Well, I set a few big goals for Assk in the last blog post. I wanted to have a team, a new name, a fashion/graphic designer, a website, and a social media presence by now. I wish I could say that all those items have been crossed off (one of) my (many) to do lists, but I’m slowly learning that’s just not how start-ups work. Here’s a look at what Assk has been up to since the last post was published:

  1. Forming a Team

For a long time, this was Assk’s biggest hurdle. It was just me trying to drive the daily operations, and that wasn’t sustainable. So, when I moved to Boston, I started chatting with friends (new and old) about what I was doing. I knew a few people were interested, and was excited to receive a couple emails from people who had read my last post and wanted to get involved. There are now 7 of us working on various aspects of Assk, and I can’t wait for you to meet them. I asked everyone to write up short bios, which you can check out here: http://www.assk.ca/aboutus

  1. Assk Brand Board

    A brand board created by the team during our first brainstorming session

    A New Company Name

No matter how hard I try, some things just take time – in this case, coming up with a new name is taking what feels like eternity. After many failed attempts at creativity, I called up my step-mother, Marilyn Barefoot, who runs a brainstorming business (Barefoot Brainstorming). She designed a workshop based on the principles of convergent and divergent thinking. In other words, we got to make collages (officially called “brand boards”, I’m told!), go on a scavenger hunt, play with Play-Doh, and eat bubble gum, all of which helped us come up with name ideas. We made some really good forwards progress, and are planning another workshop for the coming weeks. That said, if you’ve got any name ideas, I want to hear them! Just shoot me an email at rachel.verner@assk.ca.

Not having a name is incredibly frustrating. It often feels like we can’t make do anything because we don’t have a name. At the same time, though, the process of trying to come up with a new name has forced us to think critically about our brand identity. We’ve thought about our essence, our personality, our values, even what colours most accurately illustrate who we are and what we stand for. And while we may not have sold any t-shirts yet, we have a really good idea of who we are.

  1. A fashion/graphic designer
Boss of These Parts

T-shirt design in the works

 We don’t have a fashion/graphic-designer-by-training on the team, but I’m feeling really good about where we’re at with clothing design. We’ve come up with some awesome design ideas (shout out to Dara’s mom for the “I’m the boss of these parts” concept!), and can’t wait to hit the streets with them.

  1. A Website & Social Media Presence

This one is huge for me. Every time I have talked to someone about Assk over the past few years, I haven’t had anywhere to send them, or any way to collect their information. I’ve dropped so many leads, and that’s just unacceptable. Thankfully, we finally have a live website! It’s just a landing page at the moment, but that’s all it needs to be right now. Check it out, and sign up for our mailing list, at www.assk.ca.

No social media presence yet, mainly because we don’t have a name. That said, we’ve got a social media strategy meeting coming up, and have been doing lots of research on best practices.

In the coming months, we’ll have our hands full with a number of projects: developing a website (and maybe an online store!), producing our first pieces of clothing, selling our first pieces of clothing, building our social media presence, hosting events in the Boston area, and getting ready for our Kickstarter campaign. If you haven’t already, please do join our mailing list – we’d love to keep you posted on our progress!

 

PCSE Seed Grants in Action: Report #2 from Assk

The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards annual seed grants to fund the launch or early stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Each grantee reports back with blog posts and photos. Here’s the second report from Rachel Verner ’15, founder of Assk, a company that strives to normalize sexual consent through apparel and education, thereby preventing sexual violence. You can read Rachel’s first report and a description of Assk here, and you can read other grantee reports here.


Apparel samples that Assk founder and CEO Rachel Verner '15 found during pre-graduation packing. With the PCSE Seed grant, Rachel will formally launch Assk outside the Wesleyan campus, continuing her mission to "tackle sexual violence by normalizing consent."

Assk Apparel samples. With the PCSE Seed grant, Rachel will formally launch Assk (under a new name) outside the Wesleyan campus, continuing her mission to “tackle sexual violence by normalizing consent.”

Since writing the last blog post in June, I’ve embarked on an incredibly unexpected adventure. I managed to secure a job, meaning that I’m legally allowed to stay in the country for at least another 8 months. My fortune in securing that job was, in large part, due to Makaela Kingsley, the Director of Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center. My visa restricts me to work related to my major, which I interpreted to mean doing research at a hospital or university, but Makaela hooked me up with an incredible Cambridge-based start up. I’m now doing neuroscience and psychology research, and cannot imagine a better fit, or a better learning environment. Makaela helped me do what seemed impossible: pursue my love for neuropsychology and my love for entrepreneurship at the same time. Unfortunately, the process of securing that job and getting set up in a new city has completely sidelined my efforts with Assk (as evident by this month-and-a-half-late blog post). My big task now is getting back on track. It’s time for another set of “To do’s”:

 

  1. We need a new name

There’s another apparel company called ASSK. They’re based in Paris, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be an issue, but after talking to a handful of advisers and lawyers, I’ve been successfully convinced that moving forwards with the name Assk is a bad idea. I’ve been using that reality as an excuse to not work on the business. If I don’t have a name, how am I supposed to make a website? How am I supposed to sell clothing? I was so obsessed with the name Assk that I felt like we wouldn’t be able to succeed without it. Assk encapsulated the brand – it promoted sexual consent while breaking down all gender roles and stereotypes. But the reality is, particularly right now, the name doesn’t matter – and that’s not a realization I came to on my own. I received some great advice from a co-worker who didn’t even realize he was giving it to me. He told me that one of the two main reasons start-ups fail is because they take too long to make a decision. He said it didn’t matter if you made the wrong decision, so long as you made a decision and tried your way down that path. That’s what we need to do. We need to pick a name and run with it. Who cares if we change it for something better later, so long as we give ourselves a place to start. Yes, rebranding will pose its own challenges – but those aren’t challenges we’ll have the opportunity to face unless we start somewhere.

 

  1. I need a team

This has been obvious from day one.  While I was at Wesleyan, I tried to build a team around myself, but sadly, graduating has seen that team fall apart. I need to find some folks in Boston who are eager to apply creative solutions to social problems. I need to find people to help hold me accountable. I need to find people who want to shift this culture as badly as I do. I’ve been obsessed with finding the best and brightest, but the reality is, none of us have any idea what we’re doing. I just need people that are as motivated as I am, so that we can fumble our way through this together.

 

  1. I need to stop making excuses.

This is probably the hardest thing to admit, and the hardest thing to do. It’s really easy now that I’m working a full-time job to put my own projects on the backburner. But now that I have a job, an apartment, and the necessary furniture, I just need to stop making excuses. I need to get to work, because if I don’t try, I’m going to regret it.

 

It’s time to hold myself accountable. Here’s hoping that publishing an ambitious timeline will help me do that.

  • By November 1, I will hold a meeting with people in the Boston area that are interested in the project.
  • By December 1, we will pick a new company name and find a graphic designer/fashion designer.
  • By January 1, we’ll have built a website and a social media presence.

And with that, I’ve got a lot of work to do.

 

 

2015 Davis Projects for Peace recap from Claudia Kahindi ’18

In March 2015, Claudia Kahindi ’18 and Olayinka Lawal ’15 were awarded a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to implement an English language education program in Claudia’s home town of Kilifi, Kenya. The program is named Kiu for the Swahili word for “thirst,” evoking the idea of “thirst for knowledge” or “thirst for success.”

The Kiu mentors, university students from the Kilifi region, meet their students on the first day of the program.

The Kiu mentors, university students from the Kilifi region, meet their students on the first day of the program.

The Davis Projects for Peace grant, given annually at a select group of colleges including Wesleyan, funds grassroots summer projects anywhere in the world which promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties.  Applicants are encouraged to use their creativity to design projects and employ innovative techniques for engaging project participants in ways that focus on conflict resolution, reconciliation, building understanding and breaking down barriers which cause conflict, and finding solutions for resolving conflict and maintaining peace.More information about the application process and past winners is available here

Last spring, Wesleyan did a story about Kiu here, and this month, the Argus wrote about it here. Below you’ll find Claudia’s recap of her experience leading the program on the ground in Kenya. 

 

Project Goals:

The grant funded several pieces of hardware which are now being used at Kilimo Primary School. (We were especially happy to see the ENGAGE sticker in this shot!)

The grant funded several pieces of hardware which are now being used at Kilimo Primary School. (We were especially happy to see the ENGAGE sticker in this shot!)

KIU aimed to foster a strong understanding of the English language among at-risk fourth graders at Kilimo primary school in coastal Kenya. Success for young people in this region is predicated on knowing English; through mentorship and reading, we sought to elevate opportunity for our students.

Other Fundraising:
The $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant covered all of our expenses. In addition, we sourced hardware at a discounted rate from Wesleyan University, and we obtained children’s books through a donation drive in Middletown, Connecticut, in May 2015.

Project Details:
By the end of the program, I could see great improvement in the children’s attitudes towards the English language. Their command of grammar and their willingness to speak in English improved tremendously. When the project started, it was difficult to engage the kids in speaking English, but that changed as we continued to interact with them. They started speaking in English despite their grammatical errors and the inclination towards their native tongue. Some would correct each other in the middle of a conversation. The kids developed an eagerness and curiosity to learn—especially about things they weren’t aware of before. This curiosity was demonstrated by the kids’ growing participation in class. The movies we watched and the foreign storybooks stimulated their thinking. Furthermore, the whole school was in sync with our project, and students in other grades approached us with questions.

Kiu mentors taught their students English by reading stories, playing games, and conducting lessons around weekly themes.

Kiu mentors taught their students English by reading stories, playing games, and conducting lessons around weekly themes.

A main goal was to provide mentorship and serve as role models. This worked as the kids started opening up about their academic and future interests. During our fourth week, we focused on careers and this provided an opportunity for the students to start thinking about their own options and how to work towards them. At first it was not an easy concept for the kids to comprehend, but eventually most of them had an idea of the terminology and what careers they were interested in pursuing. Another positive outcome was the addition of resources to the school. When I first went to see the head teacher in his office, I was astonished to see it in a deplorable state and without a single laptop. When we were done using the project’s laptops during the six-week camp, I donated two laptops to the school. The administration was excited to work with the new hardware. I was touched when I found one teacher using one of the laptops for class work. The 100+ storybooks we donated to the school allowed these kids to travel mentally across the globe while simultaneously improving their comprehension of English.

We had a few unanticipated challenges. The bureaucracy of the Kenyan system proved difficult because I had to go through a relentless hierarchical chain before I could start implementing the project. In the middle of the project timeline, there was a teachers strike. I was shocked as the strike paralyzed our program for four days! Another challenge was in the students’ level with English prior to the program. I discovered that we had overestimated the kids’ prior knowledge of the English language, and hence we had to crawl through the execution of the syllabus, tweaking as the weeks went by.

The remaining challenges that we faced were expected. Expectedly, we had a handful of uncooperative people, from the teachers, mentors to the kids. We also had a few power shortages that led to interference with our project activities such as watching movies. Fortunately, we did not face language barriers or budget constraints.

Many people benefited from this project. The 108 grade four students who were the main focus of our program advanced their English skills, got to do exciting activities, and even their parents lauded us for having an impact on their children. The mentors and the three teachers that we hired earned a stipend, gained a new sense of relevance in the community, and felt the gratification of seeing the children’s progress in such a short time. The entire school will benefit from the resources we have provided them, from a storybook library to laptops. We gave motivational talks to the grade seven and eight students, so as to encourage them to work smarter, and I think there is a definitely a few whose trajectory we changed through our short speeches.

Overall, the project affected the entire Kilifi community, as the grant’s money circulated in its economy through the modes of transportation that we used, cybers, the hardware shops and the restaurants that we had our lunches in.

Long Term Impact:
Our initial aim was to eventually curb insecurity in Kenya by ensuring that student’s trajectories were changed through enforcing the mastery of the English language. Of course, it is impossible to achieve that goal in one summer; however, we made a noticeable step in that direction.

Our aim was very ambitious; however we commenced a process that could ultimately turn this aim to a reality. Looking back at the same kids six weeks later, I saw transformed students with a passion in their eyes to learn more and smiles full of hope. Whenever I reflect on the final photograph I took of “my kids” (as everyone calls them now), I am filled with joy because I see a generation changed due to our work.

KIU will be sustained through volunteers and organizations like Rotary Club-Kilifi. Jennifer Grimm, a Kilifi R.C. Member, is introducing an exact replica of KIU (with my permission) to a different school in another region called Takaungu, which also has a huge thirst for education. Charity Kaluki, another member, will also continue teaching the same kids that I was mentoring, but using a different program that also emphasizes on comprehension of the English subject. Rotary Club’s rotaractors based in the neighboring Pwani University will also provide mentorship to my kids to ensure continuity of what we began. Through all this support, I see a future for KIU.

Closing:
Ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi once said that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” KIU’s debut this summer is the single step towards peace for many in Kenya. The wonderful thing about peace is its ripple effect. It not only affects its intended focus area but permeates through all areas of life. KIU demonstrated just this by positively influencing its intended beneficiaries – the students – but also the school, teachers, mentors, parents, and community members. This is our greatest accomplishment, that one course of action has the ability to impact more lives and ultimately, the peace of Kenya.

What is peace to us? Peace is the opportunity to gain more from available resources, impact the mindset of many, and ultimately develop the perspective to make and live a better life through sound education.

Personal Statement:
“I learned more than I have in my 20 years of existence in 2 months. KIU ended up being an eye opener on the immense needs in my society. I was impelled to do more, but I cannot do everything. This was the most important lesson for me because I think it’s the first step towards becoming a better social entrepreneur. I cannot cure all the ills in my society, but I will give my all on whatever I focus on.”
–Claudia Kahindi, Wesleyan Class of 2018

PCSE Seed Grants in Action: Report #2 from Potlux

potlux logoThe Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards annual seed grants to fund the launch or early stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Each grantee reports back with blog posts and photos. Here’s the second report from Brent Packer ’15, founder of Potlux, the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared. Also on the Potlux team are Aaron Rosen ’15, Jared Geilich ’15, Gerard Liu ’15, Keren Reichler ’16, Cassia Patel ’16, Ellen Paik ’16, and Gabe Frankel ’15. 

You can read Potlux’s first update here and other grantee reports here.


 

Hello everyone,

A lot has happened and continues to happen in the world of Potlux.

We used part of our Seed Grant to bring our team together geographically. Marguerite and I spent 3 weeks in Providence together working in coffee shops, libraries, and living rooms. Though it may seem insignificant, working together in-person is a tremendous boon to productivity. Rather than build up a day’s worth of discussion into a 45-minute Skype call, we could have natural problem-solving discussions with many high fives afterward. Priceless.

Our biggest project has been our first outreach push. It’s a combined research project with Marguerite’s sponsored Brown University research. We can’t yet give too many details since we’re in the middle of the campaign right now. Here’s what we can share:

  1. The United Nations Environment Programme is one of our close partners.
  2. Sustainability professionals in venture capital, academia, and the social sector are generously providing their assistance.
  3. We’ve been sending a whole lotta emails. Many emails. Buckets of emails.

I wish I could give more insight, but that’ll spoil the surprises :) For now, I’ll leave you with this picture of a typical day in the Potlux Providence headquarters.

Potlux Seed Grant Update

Until next time,

Brent

PCSE Seed Grants in Action: Report #2 from the Wesleyan Doula Project

The Wesleyan Doula Project logoThe Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards annual seed grants to fund the launch or early stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Each grantee reports back with blog posts and photos. Here’s the first report from the Wesleyan Doula Project, one of the three 2015 winners. You can read WDP’s first update here and other grantee reports here.


 

This summer has been a busy and exciting one for the Wesleyan Doula Project. Even though school is not in session, we have continued our work at full steam. Our doulas have continued to work each Friday and Saturday in the West Hartford and New Haven Planned Parenthood clinics. We have also officially transitioned to new leadership. Our three coordinators for the 2015-2016 school year are Hannah Sokoloff-Rubin ‘16, Jesalyn Ortiz ‘16, and Zandy Stovicek ‘15, who will begin her coordinator role in the spring semester.

Our newest project this summer, however, was the first-ever Wesleyan Doula Project internship. Zandy had an opportunity to learn about finding funding opportunities, talk to professionals in the field of women’s reproductive health, and design a plan for grant applications for the upcoming fiscal year. This work will set the stage for drafting prioritized grant applications starting in September.

Zandy also worked with current Wesleyan Doula Project members Michele Ko ‘16 and Louisa Winchell ‘18 to formulate some more specific summer projects. Michele will be developing a website as the second summer intern, and Louisa will be conceiving of ways to make the project better known by all Wesleyan students. She will also create community building events for the doula community, such as potlucks, film screenings, and speakers.

As an intern, Zandy had the opportunity to attend “An Introduction to Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship,” hosted by one of the founding members of the Patricelli Center Advisory Board and a current Wesleyan Trustee, Muzzy Rosenblatt ‘87. At the event she was able to meet inspiring Wesleyan alumni who have devoted their careers to the spark of an idea they had in college. Those present heard about a few different endeavors, including the Wesleyan Doula Project, that the Patricelli Center has funded in the past three years.

Some highlights from her six week intern experience….

  • She utilized databases such as SPIN and the Foundation Center to cast a wide net of potential grant makers
  • Created a grant research database of over 184 potential grant makers that fund women’s health ventures and focus on access to quality healthcare
  • In July, she connected with Wesleyan alum who have an interest in the doula project, such as Lara Galinsky, Senior VP of Echoing Green and founding advisory board member of the Patricelli Center
  • Researched website design, with the purpose of creating a platform  to explain our mission and vision to potential grant makers
  • She met with development professionals from organizations such as the Abortion Conversation Project, Planned Parenthood, and the Women’s Refugee Commission
  • Brainstormed with the Wesleyan Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Grants about how to pitch funding for program development rather than general operating support.

Now that the infrastructure is in place to start writing grant applications, the Wesleyan Doula Project is excited to hit the ground running this fall. We will continue to work closely with the Patricelli Center as we collaborate on how best to pitch our innovative model of care. We hope to bring more students on board to work on website development, create campus-wide events with other reproductive justice groups, and, of course, apply to our first grant applications with deadlines in the fall. More than anything, however, we are excited to be back on campus to see the bright and smiling faces of our current doulas. While Zandy will be abroad in the fall, Hannah and new coordinator Jesalyn will begin planning the most important event of the semester: new doula training in November. We are thrilled to grow the project inch by inch and introduce the Class of 2019 to an organization that inspires us to support reproductive rights and combat health care inequity, giving us purpose on campus and beyond.

We look forward to working with our staunchest advocate, Makaela Kingsley, our new advisory board, and all Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff who help make our work possible on campus.

Onwards and upwards!

-Zandy Stovicek, Hannah Sokoloff-Rubin, and Jesalyn Ortiz

1 Year Out: Oladoyin Oladapo

1 Year Out1 Year Out is an interview series highlighting alumni from the class of 2014 who are engaged in public service, entrepreneurship, or nonprofit work in any capacity- through their employment, a volunteer position, or on the side. 

How are you involved in public service, entrepreneurship, or nonprofit work?

I am an entrepreneur working on a co-founded startup and some image003independent ventures/projects. Mainly, I am serving as COO of a co-founded startup, JooMah, and online employment platform designed to identify and cultivate talent and promote economic growth across Africa. In addition, I am also preparing to launch Idunnu Studios, a toy line that creates culturally relevant and pedagogical children’s content.

How did you get there?

I began while at Wesleyan, specifically my junior year. Anytime I had an idea, I started working on it. From research, to conferences, to pitches, and meeting after meeting, 

Describe a typical day at your position.

No such thing. In general however, we (the team) have routine team meetings and conference calls with one another and I hit the to-do list of everything that needs to get done. This is usually proposals, pitches, legal stuff, editing, emails, creative and strategic planning and more meetings.

How do your race, gender, class background, sexuality, and other identities factor into your work?

I try not to think about this or the obstacles they pose but in truth, it is sometimes hard to get a seat in front of the people you want. It’s also difficult to always have your voice heard in business settings. 

What is unexpectedly great about your job? 

The time I spend. When you are working on something you love, or something that creates an impact, you can work for hours and not know where the time has gone. This tells me I’m where I should be.

What’s the hardest thing about your position that you’re willing to share? What are some characteristics that would make your type of work hard for someone?

Without a doubt, getting funded. It’s still a struggle, day in, day out. But we keep pushing and keep doing what we need to with or without the funds. It’s definitely not for everyone, many of us have funded the projects with our own savings and gone without a salary. I always tell people my passion feeds me, not my paycheck! 

Does the compensation you receive in this field meet your financial needs? If not, how do you make ends meet?

I am fortunate to have roof and food to eat by parents who support my entrepreneurial career. I also take on many business gigs and contracts to make money on the side.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Stop caring about what people think.

Stop comparing yourself to other people.

Never get comfortable. 

Work hard. Then work harder. (I gave myself that one.)

Let the impact alone drive you, and no other motive. Not fame, not envy, not revenge, not money, but impact. (I gave myself that one too.)

Tell me about a time you felt really effective making change in the world. 

When I was still working on the prototype for my toys, I would go to a local elementary school everyday for 6 months. There I would work with kids, mostly girls, and pick their brains about the children’s content I was creating. 

The first week I was there, I saw a girl in the cafeteria crying. When I asked her why, she said some boy had made fun of her earlier in the day for her “ugly, knappy hair”. Her mom had straightened in the morning but the rain hit it before she got to school and her hair poofed up in no time (#naturalhairstruggles), making her the target of jokes for the day. I didn’t know her well enough then, but I told her her hair was beautiful but what I really wanted to do was show her. After 6 months of working with the characters I was creating (writing the books, creating the illustrations, building the toys and activities around the characters), she later told me that she wanted to be just like Akua, my Ghanaian girl character, specifically because she wears her hair in a “big, foxy, and beautifully knappy” afro. I had forgotten all about the crying incident until that point. But since then, I can never forget. On a micro scale, I had achieved the goal for my toy line, and it was an amazing thing. Many of the other 200 kids I worked with shared similar sentiments when I concluded my time there. Now, I just have to turn that 200 into 2,000,000.

What would you recommend to current students considering work like yours?

Yes! I recommend everyone to go into entrepreneurship! I think many people have what it takes but are afraid of taking a risk. I would advice those people to look at the impact they can make, rather that the things they stand to lose. 

If Wes students or recent grads have questions about working in your field, could they contact you?

Yes, they can.  I still use my wes email, ooladapo@wesleyan.edu

If you are a graduate of the Class of 2014 working in public service, entrepreneurship, or nonprofits and would like to be featured on the blog, please email me

PCSE Seed Grants in Action: Report #1 from Potlux

The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards annual seed grants to fund the launch or early stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Each grantee reports back with blog posts and photos. Here’s the first report from Brent Packer ’15, founder of Potlux, the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared. Also on the Potlux team are Aaron Rosen ’15, Jared Geilich ’15, Gerard Liu ’15, Keren Reichler ’16, Cassia Patel ’16, Ellen Paik ’16, and Gabe Frankel ’15.

Potlux aims to promote environmental sustainability by facilitating best practice movements across the college network, inspiring new ideas, building intercollegiate collaboration, and catalyzing project funding.

You can read other grantee reports here.


potlux logoSince this is my second time as a Patricelli Center Seed Grant winner, I thought it would be helpful to write this update differently than the Wishing Wells ones. Sure, it’s fantastic to read about how these grants are being used to significantly improve the impact of the winning ventures. However, I felt that these updates only loosely applied to my own interests and ventures. They should be a resource for other budding social entrepreneurs to gain the inside perspective on what it’s like to be a few months further along than their own ventures. They should allow new entrepreneurs to really feel what is it like as a new Seed Grant winner. Because I know you’re wondering, it is far from the wild Zuckerbergian life shown in The Social Network… good riddance.

Brent Packer '15

Brent Packer ’15

So, here goes:

 

Potlux is only 9 months old.

At times, it feels like we’re many times that age. We’ve presented at various events, built a team that is committed to continuing with Potlux through their full-time jobs, and began conversations with some of the most impactful players in the global sustainability scene. (We’ll let you know the details when plans and partnerships come to fruition.)

We are also fortunate to announce a phenomenal addition to the Potlux team. Marguerite Suozzo-Golé will be working full-time this summer as our Director of Strategy. In addition to her studies at Brown University, she has participated in various significant sustainability initiatives, including Rhode Island’s first climate change legislation. This summer, her main task will be discovering and implementing the best practice of growing the Potlux community. We’re incredibly excited about her future contributions.

Between this progress, it sometimes feels like Potlux is only a few weeks old with long periods of stagnation. 

It’s easy for an entrepreneur to understand that their new way of approaching a problem is an improvement on the status quo. It’s easy to envision the paths that will allow their venture to succeed. It’s easy to imagine others seeing value and incorporating this new service in their daily lives.  

But it doesn’t work like that.

Most entrepreneurs recognize this on a rational level when entering the early-stage dance. Countless people offered me encouragement with a healthy dose of realism. Of course I believed them, but it has only felt real when tasked with creating my own momentum each day away from the vibrancy of the Wesleyan community. It’s a test in endurance and grit. In some ways, it feels like Kübler-Ross’s 5 Stages of Grief:

  1. Denial — “As long as the website is made, people will find it and use it. We can become a major sustainability tool by the beginning of the school year.”
  2. Anger — “If I only put in more time during the school year we would be so much further ahead than we are now. Why did I waste my time?”
  3. Bargaining — “As long we become partners with AASHE, we’ll have the impact we hope to have.”
  4. Depression — “What is the point of all this? Maybe I’m better off working for a more established sustainability organization these next 5 months.”
  5. Acceptance — “Building a new sustainability tech non-profit is really freaking hard. We believe in our mission and our approach. We’re going to keep pushing, celebrating the little successes, and working towards long-term goals along the way.”

As always, feel free to contact me at bpacker@wesleyan.edu with any questions, comments, suggestions, pictures of baby animals, quality Donald Trump quotes, or anything else you want to send my way.

Thanks for reading. We’ll keep you updated :)

Brent Packer