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