On my last day at Shokay I finally figured out how to fix our Wordpress blog which crashed after an automatic update. I also tied up work on Shokay fact sheets for our new ABC Initiative. Since the Initiative looks heavily into sourcing goods made by underprivileged laborers and/or eco friendly fibers, I had started working on collecting data on members of the World Fair Trade Organization in Asia. After the data collection, I look forward to seeing if the project is viable and hope Shokay will be able to successfully pilot this initiative.
I really enjoyed my time in Shanghai, although it was pretty rough getting adjusted to the rapid pace of the city, eventually I did synchronize with its rhythm. I think this experience has given me insight for the first time what its like to work at a nine to five, which in reality meant getting up at 6:50AM and coming home at 7:30PM. I felt very ingrained into the white collar culture of Shanghai as I travelled by “ban che” (work bus from the apartment complex) at exactly 7:40AM every morning, to riding subways, learning how to fight for seats, giving up seats to the elderly, standing for the duration of the trip and watching the sunset on my long trips home.
On weekends I went sight seeing, scaled tall buildings and got different views of Shanghai (Pudong vs Puxi). I explored the French Concession, got yelled at by taxi drivers, made friends with motortaxis, went to a Spa on my last weekend and made friends everywhere along the way.
I got back to Penn on Friday, currently unjetlagging and frantically preparing for school/ taking care of dorm/ books/ extracurricular work. I can’t wait to see all of you soon! :)
Back in Shanghai after visiting home in Fujian over the weekend for Day of the Dead (some Chinese holidays where we burn papers for our ancestors? I have trouble understanding my village dialect so I didn’t really understand when my Grandma was explaining it to me). I think I’m actually getting good at living in the hustling city, all the motor taxi drivers recognize me and give me discounts on rides, I’ve gotten healthier and have gotten use to the assignments Carol has been giving me.
Lately, we’ve been looking into the homeline market and thinking about expanding in the Asian market on bedding. A lot of the research includes benchmarking and looking for marketing inspiration. In addition, Shokay is looking to expand as not just a materials brand but become a store much like Anthropologies (the everything type store owned by Urban Outfitters). The brand “ABC” (name and logistics still in brainstorm), will be themed around social impact either as a material brand thats eco friendly or socially influential. Working at Shokay, I’ve learned a lot about retail— everything from creating sales pitch fact sheets, to distributer search, to product composition and pricing.
Back in Philadelphia now. Trip back took almost 30 hours. It’s simultaneously amazing both how long and short of a journey that is. Long because I cannot believe I went halfway around the world for my PennSEM experience and short because I’m so grateful we have technology that can take me halfway around the world in just 30 hours.
My last week was rather busy even though it was only three days (cut short because of Singaporean Election Day and Hari Raya Puasa, or the end of Ramadan). During it, I finished up all my work with the websites (shujog.org isn’t live in its entirety yet, but check it out once it is – site looks nice) and I started and finished a business and financial overview on a social enterprise based in eastern Indonesia promoting sustainable fisheries and an impact assessment on an Indian microfinance institution. I’ve definitely learned more about fisheries in the past week than I ever expected to. Did you know that fish aggregation devices attract crowds of fish but can really be as simple as a log tied to an anchor weight? Or that many Indonesian fisherman fish for Bluefin tuna (which often weigh as much as 500 pounds) using non-motorized boats and fishing rods? Impressive.
Anyway, my time at IIX has been an extraordinary learning experience and expect a post later this week on all the valuable lessons I’ve learned and my impressions of Singapore.
I hope everyone’s all settled in and ready to start classes. I’m headed to corporate valuation in less than an hour.
It’s my last day here in Aflatoun/ChildFinance and also my last full day here in Amsterdam. School starts next week! The feeling is definitely bittersweet; I’m really going to miss all the wonderful friends I’ve made at Sarphatistraat 7. There are just so many things I’ve come to love about my internship, and it’s not just the after-work chats, many live concerts, 3am bike rides down the beautiful Amstel river, or even the awesome parties. In fact, the most rewarding part of this internship has been the in-depth level of involvement I’ve had with my projects, and being able to see my work have a real discernible impact. I had the opportunity to take the hitherto theoretical country-level expansion strategy of the organization and – through brainstorming sessions and meetings – give it a logical structure, tangible objectives, and decision-making processes. I designed the flow charts, prepared the Executive Summary, drew the illustrative diagrams, and wrote the entire 72-page Manual from a scattered assortment of proposals and strategy documents. Through writing the Manual, I learned a lot about what it takes to solve a problem in a clear, logical fashion, and I think I’ve learned a little bit about how to think more clearly, if that makes any sense at all. My second project had me working closely on an engagement with KPMG’s advisory services to create a process of certifying safe, trustworthy children’s savings products. That, too, was created pretty much from scratch – whatever work had already been done on the topic could be said in ten pages. Being able to actively participate in problem-solving meetings with actual management consultants was a truly exciting experience. In short, the entire PennSEM internship has been an absolutely fantastic experience and I would highly recommend it to every single interested undergrad that happens to be reading this post!
Lastly, I’d like to mention two very special organizations and individuals that have helped make this experience so awesome. First, of course, is everyone involved in making the PennSEM internship possible. I’m very grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me and it is an invaluable one. Second, Jeroo Billimoria. She has been like a mentor to me over the past two months and I have learned much from her invigorating leadership style, sublime vision, and quirky habits. She has been a great boss to work under. Alright, that’s it! See you later!
The past ten weeks have been among the fastest and best adventures of my life. In the space of a few months I’ve been able to experience many new things, picked up about half a dozen new skills, seen several social enterprises in action, and done so much more that recapping it all will be quite tough. Since there’s simply too much to talk about, I’ll probably limit it to a short recap on the work I’ve done, the events in the internship program and my final comments.
Work-wise, I programmed a data analysis software and drafting the report (probably my “pet project” for the summer), developed marketing materials for the company, generated sales leads, and wrote market/competitor/partner analyses, to name a few. The good people over at NFV/Emerge made sure to figure out what kinds of projects I wanted/was qualified to do and geared my assignments accordingly. What I really enjoyed about this internship is that they made sure to tell us just how our work affected the company as a whole. For example, when some of the leads I generated ended up into sales talks, the head of sales made sure to let me know. Last week, a couple of days after the internship ended, I got a few follow up questions to my data analysis program, which meant they were using it to full effect. In addition, the work I’ve done not only helped the company, but will definitely help me in my future endeavors!
Internship-wise, NFV has an amazing program in place. There’s a social entrepreneurship-related event pretty much every week. The various events we had included a tour of several social ventures, a networking event with people in the social enterprise field, a series of brown bag lunch talks with people in different fields of social enterprise (foundations, policy/advocacy, social venture incubators), and even a trip to the AT&T stadium to watch the San Francisco Giants (and a stadium-based social venture, of course)! Going in to the program I was expecting 10 weeks of all work with a networking event here and there thrown in but the number and variety of events turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
I learned a lot about social enterprise from this experience. I’ve always known that it existed in some form or another but the scope of it really astounded me. NFV itself is an amazing concept, bringing together the best of business with the best of social ventures to produce “hybrid organizations” that can really affect a lot of change. Emerge, the specific social venture I was working on, was also another great idea I was glad to be a part of. I’d always thought that the only important social enterprises were those that dealt with the more visible deprivations of basic rights: hunger, water, etc. Working with Emerge taught me that this idea of social change can really be approached at from so many different directions, none of which are truly more important than the other.
To end the summer, I’d just like to say that my time with NFV/Emerge was just absolutely brilliant and I would do it a dozen times over if given the chance. Hope to hear from everyone else soon!
Starting this blog post has made me realize that I am heading into my tenth and last week at IIX. It’s absolutely shocking how time flies.
Anyway, lots going on here at IIX:
· Durreen (our founder and CEO) gave a speech at TEDxKL (Kuala Lumpur – Capital of Malaysia) last Saturday and she took Sam and me (her speechwriters) along. This was the second major talk Sam and I had written for her this summer with the other being a closing presentation for an Australian wealth management conference for an organization called MLC. Personally, I thought the talk went very well. It was TED, so it was a good atmosphere for a part motivational, part alarming message on our planet’s social and environmental ills and a receptive audience for interesting, innovative ideas such as the social stock exchange idea we were introducing them to. It was encouraging to see many people mark down our talk as one they found particularly interesting and to see audience members approach us after the talk. Sam and I met the founders of a couple of very interesting SEs (one working in education and one in fair trade), an impact investor, and a number of generally interested individuals. The conference itself was also interesting. It was extremely different from TED Global, to say the least. TEDxKL was much less professional and I feel like the focus was less on the extraordinary ideas that people had than plain entertainment (we saw a mentalist magician at the conference). Additionally, TEDxKL was a platform for a lot of anti-government sentiment, which was completely unexpected. All in all a good learning experience.
· One of my major projects these past few weeks has been the creation of a separate website for Shujog, IIX’s non-profit affiliate, and I’m happy to announce that it is done (with the exception of a few tweaks). While I do not have much experience with website design, I am rather proud of this website and I think it actually looks pretty nice. It’s not live yet, but you can take a look at shujog.org in about a week or so.
· Finally, I managed to sign up a French asset manager interested in impact investing on Impact Partners through my investor outreach efforts, which was exciting. Hopefully the first of many to come…
Anyway, if you are wrapping up your internship like me, I wish you best of luck with the remainder of your time at social enterprise and if you are already done, I hope the PennSEM experience has been a rewarding experience. Can’t wait to see all of you at Penn in less than a week!
Hey guys! I hope everyone has enjoyed your summer up to now. Since David has already done a great job describing Emerge and what our company does in his last post I will focus more on my responsibilities thus far.
Before beginning my internship at New Foundry Ventures, I was not entirely sure what to expect. I had done my research about the company, their values and focus, operations and location, but I knew that there is only so much you can learn without being immersed in the work itself. I wasn’t sure which project I would be on and was fairly nervous to move to a brand new city where I knew no one and start this internship the next day. However, although these past eight weeks have proved to be challenging, they have also been extremely rewarding.
The New Foundry Ventures/ Emerge offices are located in SOMA (downtown San Francisco) in an area where the startup scene/life is rapidly up-and-coming. This area used to be known as unsafe, but as the warehouses and buildings undergo transformations to trendy restaurants, bars, and startup offices, SOMA’s reputation is also building. New Foundry Ventures/ Emerge’s office is part of “The Hub,” which is communal office space for startups predominantly with missions of social impact. The Hub hosts a number of different businesses and provides a communal kitchen and workspace as well as private conference room and phone booths to its members. The Hub hosts various networking events for people interested in the social enterprise world and capitalizes on SOMA’s innovative and driven scene.
As for my responsibilities with Emerge, while I have mainly been working on the marketing and development side of things, startup life never fails to present surprises and new areas of need. Thus, I have been able to experience many different areas of the company. The size of Emerge has also allowed me to be able to get a feel for other aspects of the company. My projects have included everything from editing powerpoints for webinars to researching sales leads. My main project this summer, however, has been creating and compiling a years worth of monthly newsletters on financial savings practices to be distributed to our clients (employees living paycheck to paycheck). I am working on finish these up this week.
As for San Francisco, I have really been enjoying it as a city. I thought that the fact that it is so small and compact would feel claustrophobic, but I absolutely love it. It is unlike any place I’ve ever been and I could definitely see myself living here after college.
Finally I would like to apologize for my lack of blog postings.. Honestly, the world of blogging thoroughly intimidated me at first and every time I would sit down to write something it didn’t feel quite complete. Regardless, I have loved reading about everyone’s internships and I can’t wait to hear more about all of your summer experiences!! See you in a few short weeks.
Hi everyone! Sorry for the uber late posts… you’ll be getting quite a few from me in this last week of work… anyway here we go!
Featured: Penn’s own Olivia Gold and others of the New Foundry Team (Michelle Klahr & Jade Rex) being given a tour of Rubicon Bakery by Andrew Stoloff
SPOTLIGHT: Rubicon Bakery
A while back, we got a chance to tour Rubicon Bakery, an award winning social enterprise centered on employing and developing “hard to hire” people (like ex-cons, veterans, etc.). For a long time, Rubicon Bakery was Rubicon Programs’ (New Foundry’s former entity) flagship program. It was a great example of a social enterprise: a worthy mission and a profitable business! Recently, it was sold to a Wharton Alum: Andrew Stoloff. Andrew kept the mission and a healthy relationship with Rubicon Programs and New Foundry. Under his management the bakery grew even more profitable, and is now a major supplier to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Featured: Rubicon Bakery Chocolate Cakes!
Going through the bakery was an amazingly fun experience. Just seeing how all the cupcakes and pastries we take for granted are actually made was a unique enough experience in itself. Seeing Andrew’s tactics for achieving both the mission and the profits was another thing entirely. He said one of the biggest problems he faces is the balance between training these people (some of whom have never had any work experience and can’t grasp even the concept of coming to work on time and leaving at the set time) and not loosing too much of his margins to training and productivity losses. One of his little techniques which I found really cool was his tactic of labeling every single ingredient with how much per pound they cost (in the sugar bag corner it had sugar $XX/lb., etc.). He said this instills a sense of responsibility in these people and prevents any conflict in case they mess something up and have to pay for it (they know how much they messed up and know they aren’t being screwed).
Featured: Icing Machine! We literally watched this icing machine spin round and round coating the chocolate cakes for all of 10-15 minutes
The Bakery was a wonderful example of a social enterprise in action. That day, the team and I got a chance to see social enterprises at work, all the fancy steps that go into making all the delicious desserts you see at Trader Joe’s, got to step into an industrial freezer (it was cold…), and got to sample their marshmallows and cakes (really fresh!!! literally just off the rack)! Not a bad day!
Stay Tuned for a couple more spotlights and a regular post!
Featured: The Hub Bay Area Office with its cool garage-y look
The Hub is a series of shared office spaces which takes the best of social entrepreneurship and shoves them all into a tiny enclosed space… or something like that. Each “Hub” is a “place for purpose-driven people to connect and build solutions for a better world”. Collectively, the Hub system consists of over 4000 entrepreneurs and leaders and spans 25 cities in over 5 continents.
The Hub Bay Area has a massive central area with desks available to all members and guests on a first-come first serve basis. A number of companies have “private” offices, or little enclaves with glass doors. In between the private offices are a multitude of little privacy booths which people can reserve for a couple of hours at a time. These booths have a mini desk, a phone, a chalkboard wall and are sound insulated, allowing you to make calls or brainstorm in peace. There’s also a “nest”, or a mini conference area. You have to climb a steep ladder to get to it but it’s filled with chairs and bean bags and pillows, all you need for your corporate meeting needs! For the more serious (read as either tech heavy or boring) meetings, the Hub has a couple of conference rooms with tables and chairs and the like. The space is also equipped with several printers, scanners, office supplies, etc. that everyone can use. And, off to one side is a kitchen and dining area for people to eat and mingle.
The Hub isn’t just an office space, it’s a network. Every day something special goes on in the office. Whether it’s workshops (free!) to help you get better, food events (“sexy salad Tuesdays”) or even investor presentations, The Hub will always have something to attract your interest. Since I’ve been here, I’ve attended a workshop on doing customer research, listened to a talk by a successful webpreneur (who made a site that was basically Facebook for Social Causes) and watched several companies make short, five minute pitches to angel investors.
It isn’t just the events that make the Hub a great place to work in. Like I said, the Hub is a network of the leaders in the social field. With so many talented members, you don’t need to look much further if your company needs help with anything. Every week, dozens of emails fly back and forth between Hub members (through the Hub listserv). If someone needs advice on marketing, chances are there’s a marketing expert in the Hub willing to help. If someone’s friend needs a job, chances are there’s someone looking to hire. If someone needs a certain piece of equipment, chances are someone can lend it to them. Even if someone needs money, there are investors just itching to throw their money at great social enterprises. Emerge, and I personally, have been able to benefit from this wonderful network as well. We’ve turned to the Hub for help with votes for a financial competition (many members = many votes = happy company), part-time workers, advice on microphone equipment (that was my project), web developers and more. Our parent/sister company New Foundry was also able to generate awareness and receive feedback on one of its pilot projects (healthy cooking for food deserts) by doing a session with Hub people!
The Hub network is also good for company! With so many like-minded people, a person has to really go out of their way to be lonely in life. The Hub either hosts or has members who are affiliated with dozens of wellness, hobby, lifestyle, etc. groups around the country. If ever there’s a place to find people like you, the Hub is the place to be.
Sorry for the overdrawn marketing for the Hub. However, chances are the next great leaders of the social enterprise field will come from this program! So if you ever find yourself starting your own social business, then head on over to the nearest Hub posthaste!
It’s my PennSEM blog debut! I’m sure you have all been refreshing this webpage obsessively all summer waiting for all the astounding insights that are about to come out of this USB keyboard. I will try my best to meet your undoubtedly sky-high expectations.
In all seriousness though, I apologize for taking so long to make my first post. Everything has been absolutely hectic with work, a couple side projects that I’m working on, getting settled in, and getting to know Singapore as well as the surrounding area. But now that I’m here, expect me to pretty much be the PennSEM intern blog MVP (or MVB?). Get excited.
So, to introducethe social enterprise that I’m working at:
I am spending this summer at Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIX), a start-up in Singapore that is creating platforms that will increase the flow of investment capital to the social sector. In my opinion, IIX is truly innovative because while the majority of the capital flow into the social sector is through charitable avenues such as grantmaking, IIX is targeting traditional investment capital, a much bigger pool of funding that absolutely dwarfs social capital, for the social sector. IIX intends to accomplish this by connecting impact investors, or investors seeking double or triple-bottom line returns, and social enterprises (SEs), which are organizations built around social and environmental missions that are also sustainable and often profit-seeking. Thus, with IIX’s help, impact investors get the investment opportunities and social, environmental, and traditional returns that they seek, mission-driven social enterprises doing good and often innovative work receive the capital they need to scale their operations and their social and environmental impact, and finally, the world gets solutions that help chip away at its significant social and environmental ills. Everybody wins.
To accomplish this ambitious task, IIX has two platforms: Impact Partners and Impact Investment Exchange. Impact Partners is IIX’s private placement platform and the first of its kind in Asia. Created for earlier-stage social enterprises, Impact Partners showcases screened social enterprise dealflow to a body of registered and accredited impact investors and provides an efficient avenue for investors and social enterprises to find each other. Impact Partners launched this past March and, in just four months, already boasts over US$40 million in social enterprise dealflow. Impact Investment Exchange, IIX’s other platform, is scheduled to launch mid-2012 and will be a fully functioning stock exchange specifically for Asian social enterprises.
Finally, one last aspect of IIX that needs to be mentioned is that it has a non-profit affiliate named Impact Investment Shujog. Shujog focuses on impact assessment and the advancement of social enterprise. Logically, Shujog has a proprietary system for impact assessment and uses this to perform assessments on a variety of organizations. Additionally, it also performs research and advocacy through its research team, its monthly Impact Chats on social entrepreneurship, its Impact Investing Forums, and its education modules, called Impact Academy.
As for what I’ve personally done so far this summer, I was brought in to mainly work on Impact Partners, but over the course of the summer, I’ve gotten my hands on almost everything that’s happening here at IIX. My major workstreams so far have been:
· Investor Outreach:
This is one side of my work with Impact Partners. I’m working with En, our Director for Impact Partners, on reaching out to potential impact investors. We’re pitching registration on the platform to these investors and working to close some of the SE deals we’re currently showcasing.
· Social Enterprise Dealflow:
And this is the other side of my work with Impact Partners. Here, I’m working primarily with Ria, a social and financial analyst, and Robert, our Managing Director, on liaising with the social enterprises we’re currently working with and preparing the assessments they need to be showcased on our platform.
· Impact Investment Ecosystem:
I’m working with Komal, our Director of Strategic Partnerships, on this workstream. For a stock exchange to successfully help companies raise capital, it must be surrounded by an ecosystem of supporting bodies. This ecosystem consists of accounting firms, law firms, financial institutions, government bodies, credit rating agencies, etc and all these organizations have an essential role to play in the listing of securities on a stock exchange. For example, accounting firms can perform due diligence, financial institutions can underwrite, and as I’m sure we’re all too aware in the midst of this current debt crisis, credit rating agencies can lend legitimacy (or illegitimacy as the case may be) to securities. My work in this space has been a combination of outreach and research analysis.
· Impact Assessment:
In this area, I’ve done research work and industry reports for some of Shujog’s current impact assessment projects as well as a proposal for social enterprise research in mainland China. However, this is Melanie’s area of expertise more than it is mine (she recently went on a trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh for impact assessment!), so I’m sure she’ll talk about this more in her posts.
· IT and Marketing:
Finally, since I’m one of the more tech-savvy people in the office, I’ve to some extent also become the go-to IT person. At IIX, this has mostly meant website design and as a result, I’ve gotten rather good with Wordpress, HTML, and, to a lesser extent, PHP in my time here. I’ve also been pulled into work involving database structure schema design for our database migration to Salesforce, a cloud computing-based CRM management tool, as a result of this. Finally, my IT work has segwayed into work on a number of marketing initiatives with Lina, who works on business development, and Gyneth, who does marketing.
It’s been a busy summer so far.
Hope the rest of you are doing well,