Saturday, May 23, 2009

Business Bio for Social Innovation Incubator involvement

I was recently asked by someone helping me make my case as to why I should assist in leading the development of the Austin Social Innovation Incubator. The questions were;

You’ll want to be able to build this case for your support and grant sources:
    - why you (as recipient of their support)
    - why now (at this point in your career)
    - why this specifically (vs some other type of project, business)

Why me? (longest part of the response, lol)

Most people that I tell about my involvement in the development of the Austin Social Innovation Incubator are quick to respond, “Wow you are so lucky!!” in which I instantly let out a little chuckle. Only if they knew my journey to get to the point where I am today.

To me, Luck is preparation meeting opportunity and I have been preparing my whole life. For the sake of time, I will begin my case as to why I am destined to lead the Social Innovation Incubator.

The business bio in relation to the Social Innovation Incubator begins in the last week of July 2004. That week my world was thrown into a whirlwind. In one week, I had a partial thyroidectomy to remove a suspicious mass on my thyroid, lost my father figure to wide spread cancer, attended his funeral and I myself was diagnosed with cancer to top it off to end the week. Keep in mind all this happened right before my junior year was to begin. I was taking a full course load to finish on time in graduating with a double major in business administration and management while working 30 plus hours at GSD&M in the mail room.

Looking back on my time with GSD&M, I am extremely grateful to have worked there. I learned from the best about the value of relationships and the relationship of value. I learned first hand, behind the scenes, the true power of living with a purpose and meaning. Being exposed to the GSD&M story, I knew that being an entrepreneur was for me and I did everything I could learn from them. I read the books all the executives were reading, all the magazines related to business and news that I could get my hands on, and I checked out a countless number of books from their Library and spoke to everyone I could that had been a part of the ride in GSD&M's history. Couple that real world experience with my formal business education at St. Edward's, made for a great opportunity to see business in practice and in theory.

Luckily for me at this same time, I met Diane Carroll. She was a godsend, she taught me the way of the bootstrapping entrepreneur and everything I would need to strengthen my mind and heart for the journey I was barely embarking on back then. One of my main goals that I set for myself was; after I had started enough businesses and after making a name for myself that I would create an investment venture similar to VC's and incubators that would fund and develop businesses that were set to change the world for the better. I am a firm believer of the law of attraction and feel that I found the social innovation incubator and the idea of this entity found me for a reason, destiny.

This time in my life made for the perfect mixture of teachings I would need to learn and excel at for when the day would come that I would need to answer my call. That time is now.

It was not easy that first year, battling cancer while going to school and working full time. It was not any easier having to rely on myself financially throughout all this. Looking back on it all, I am grateful to have been given that experience because I can confidently say that it has prepared me up to this very day when I can lead the Austin Social Innovation Incubator.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I have convinced myself that because I had to deal with such a difficult time that I am destined for great things.

I learned all the characteristics of a leader and entrepreneur during this time. I learned how to be self reliant while reaching out to others in order to reach common objectives. I learned how to be resilient, whatever life threw my way I quickly adapted and got better. I learned the amazing power of positive thinking. When counselors and family told me that I couldn't deal with what I had been dealt, I told myself that I could and I envisioned success. My resourcefulness at the time was unmatched, a key trait in this Incubator venture and any bootstrapping venture. Finally, my personality came to maturity. My biggest strength is my ability to relate to people and quickly talk like old friends. In these difficult economic and global times, we need a leader that encompasses all these strengths and much more, I am that leader.

For starters, in my opinion one of the biggest social challenges facing the United States today is an expensive and declining quality in education. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced both public and private schools in my educational journey. There is an obvious gap in degrees of quality education between the two and I believe that I can help narrow that gap through the ASII. I know there are many entrepreneurial solutions out there to help improve our education both domestically and globally. Having participated in Citizen Schools professional after school program where I taught 6th graders financial literacy, I have seen the astounding effect a change to how children are taught can have. Finally, at a very early age, while in the 1st grade, I was neglected by my teacher and did not learn how to read till the 2nd grade through Hooked on Phonics. Just goes to show you what can be accomplished by a business solving a need.

Health care is arguably one of the biggest social problems plaguing this great country. Luckily, I have seen the best and worst of the health care industry. I have been fortunate enough to have benefited from a non-profit health care bill write off of $17,000 while at the same time having thousands of dollars in medical bills from doctors not wanting to work with a full time college student working full time while battling cancer go to collections. Not only did I pay these off but I saw first hand the complexities of dealing with medical billings and collection agencies. I have received the shocking notice from hospitals and doctors that my insurance company canceled my health insurance coverage because I maxed out my coverage while still getting treatment. I have had to deal with the inefficiencies of health care from standard doctor visits to the advanced medical procedures. I have first hand experience in some of the worst aspects of health care and know that I will be able to identify great solutions at a very early stage. Finally, in regards to health care, I have traveled to Mexico to work with doctors and made a trip shortly after graduation to Lima, Peru and saw the inadequacies of 3rd world health care by working at a school for the mentally and physically handicapped.

Coupled with the health care challenge, I am dealing with my mother and aunt not having much for retirement. Luckily I am putting some measures in place that will be able to allow them to have somewhat of a lifestyle without having to work long hours when they get older. Although this type of situation more resonates with the societal challenges of social security, I see it all the same. This very type of situation is going to be a huge burden on the country as a whole. When social security is running out, people have lost half their retirements, and many others don't any type of retirement we need to develop solutions now. I believe there are entrepreneurial solutions to helping with this and we will find it through the Incubator and Hub.

The last two biggest societal challenges we face are a deteriorating environment and increased poverty. I couple these because I can relate to the both of them through one experience. My cultural immersion experience to Lima, Peru was where I changed my entrepreneurial focus. I left three days after having graduated from St. Edward's University on time with magna cum laude honors in a double major in business administration and management. The purpose of the trip was to be cultural immersed into a third world life style for a few weeks. I believe there are entrepreneurial solutions that can help solve these societal challenges we face all over the world. While in Lima, I met individuals who were extremely poor and were working towards positive change. The hope in these people's eyes showed me that yes there is hope for change and it is much needed.

Finally my last true test of resiliency and resourcefulness was when I went backpacking in Europe by myself for a month with less than a thousand dollars. I had to figure out ways to live frugally, meet people from all types of backgrounds, and most of all see another side of the worlds vastness. I saw that Europe faces all the same problems we as a country face. The problems in the U.S. Are the same as those in Lima to those in Mexico and to those in Berlin. I realized that no societal challenge is country specific. I also learned that people from different cultures and languages can agree on a common ground and build upon that together. This experience solidified my thinking that we all want to see positive change and can unite together. We are all human with different origins.

Having over come so many obstacles to get to where I am today, there is no doubt in my mind that I am here for a reason, to do something great. Everything has happened for a reason leading up to this day. Who would have imagined I would be where I am today? Well I imagined it, here I am and lets going. I have lived through many social challenges and have succeeded with flying colors. Couple that with my formal and informal business education, I have what it takes to help change the world.

Why now?

I believe the world is in peril right now. If we do not band together and come up with solutions then we may slide to far from getting back to prosperous times. The Social Innovation Hub and Incubator is bigger than any one individual or business entity, it is about answering the call of humanities societal challenges through business solutions and driving action for that. The world is calling and Austin's entrepreneurs are answering the call. My experiences have equipped me to lead the Social Innovation Incubator to the heights we envision it becoming.

Why this specifically?

Its a no brainer, I have lived through many societal challenges and have prevailed. The Social Innovation Incubator is everything that I have always wanted to do; change the world for the better and to work with businesses in getting them developed. My passions are helping others achieve their goals, ideating, and working with people. I can't see a better fit for me than leading the Incubator component of the ASIH.

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