Making an Impact: Wes Meier, EOS International

Wes Meier is the CEO and co-founder of EOS International. EOS stands for Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability and EOS’s mission is to empower rural families in Central America with access to safe drinking water and opportunities to generate income through simple technology solutions and education. 

Since their founding in 2008, EOS has accomplished 2,325 installations of simple, inexpensive, and locally serviceable technologies and have helped over 534,167 Central Americans access safe drinking water and opportunities to generate income.

We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Wes about his inspiring work and here is what he had to say.

How did you get into this line of work?

I grew up in Iowa and studied Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University. After I graduated I was scared to jump right into a 9-5 job so I looked into other opportunities. I love travel and wanted to explore a new area and learn Spanish so I decided to join the Peace Corps. 

In the Peace Corps, I served in the Agricultural and Food Security sector in Nicaragua. I lived in a rural community near El Sauce, Leon, and it was a truly life-changing experience. It opened my eyes to a lot of things and I realized that I was extremely passionate about this kind of work. 

I initially started working with local farmers to incorporate sustainable farming practices such as live erosion barriers, improved fertilization strategies, and planting nutritious family vegetable gardens. My work quickly morphed into technology design and implementation where I implemented several of our early-stage technology solutions in the community. This work quickly grew to other Peace Corps volunteer sites throughout the country.

The journey has kind of been a slow process but I'm really happy that I had the opportunity as a Peace Corps Volunteer to test out models and technology solutions, and to really understand some of the needs and resources available. It was during this time that I met our co-founder and current country director Alvaro Rodriguez, and we founded EOS International. That was back in 2008 and we have been learning and growing ever since.

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What is the mission of EOS International?

EOS International empowers rural families in Central America with access to safe drinking water and opportunities to generate income through simple technology solutions and education. EOS promotes, manufactures, installs, tracks, and educates its users on life-changing technology projects that allow access to clean water and create economic opportunities for individuals to break the cycle of poverty and improve their quality of life.

Nicaragua and Honduras, where EOS primarily operates, are some of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere with fifty percent of the rural population living below the national poverty line. A large majority of the impoverished population lives in rural areas, where access to basic services is limited and to where businesses and NGOs rarely travel. In addition to living in remote areas and possessing little purchasing power, most rural families continue to live without access to clean drinking water and have little opportunity to generate income.

How does EOS provide safe water?

First, we target water quality. Most Central America communities are developed enough where they have some type of a water system. Generally it is a gravity fed system where water is gathered from a stream or in the mountains and piped into an elevated tank to the community. The community tank has pipes that provide each home with running water. However, over 90% of the water is contaminated with bacteria. Therefore, our first step is to test the water systems in each community to understand what they are drinking.

The second step is water treatment which is done via water chlorinators. Chlorine tablets are the most effective way to treat unsafe water and remove the bacteria that is making people sick.

The third step is ongoing monitoring, evaluation and distribution of the chlorine tablets. We use a market-based model to distribute the chlorine tablets to community distribution points throughout the country.

Since we are targeting a community water system as a whole, we are able to directly target the source of the problem and provide treatment to entire communities at once. It is the best system to guarantee success.

What kind of impact has EOS made?

We have provided clean water services including training, education, and support for 1169 communities impacting 526,742 people. Our 50 chlorine distribution centers have created income generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

For our fuel-efficient ovens, over 40% of oven beneficiaries, which are mostly women, were able to start their own businesses. The ovens are safe to use and eco-friendly, using approximately 80% less firewood than traditional wood-burning ovens. By baking and selling goods, users were able to increase their annual income by 65%.

What is an average day like for you on the job? 

I work remotely here in Minneapolis and oversee our operations in Nicaragua and Honduras along with our co-founder and country director Alvaro Rodriguez. We have a total of twenty on-the-ground staff in Nicaragua and Honduras. Our locally managed team works to ensure the successful implementation of technology solutions through tracking, evaluating, and revisiting community installations to ensure a long-term, positive impact.

A lot of my day is spent communicating via Skype or WhatsApp calls with our staff, and overseeing some alliances and partnerships that we're creating. However, I also work to build relationships here in the US with partners and donors.

What is the benefit of working at the Impact Hub?

The Impact Hub is not just a local network but a global network with hubs across the United States and around the world. This has been wonderful as I’ve been able to tap into different hubs both across the US and internationally and use the co-working space during my travels. What has been so beneficial for me is that I get to meet like-minded people in the social impact space all going through the same challenges.

Why do you do the work you do?

By school and training I’m an engineer so I have a really common passion for technology and technical solutions. During my time in the Peace Corps and running EOS International, my passion has morphed into solutions for scaling in business, all within the realm of of social impact. 

It is thrilling to make a positive impact in the countries and communities that we’re serving. I am very fortunate to be able to travel into these countries and get to witness firsthand the impact we’re making. I’ve also enjoyed all the new challenges of growing a business from the ground up.   

EOS doesn’t donate their technologies but instead ensures that local communities are making their own investments. Why did you choose this model?

I think this idea stemmed from coming as a Peace Corps volunteer and seeing firsthand what development looks like. In my opinion, the Peace Corps model is one of the best models out there. By sending a volunteer into a community, we were paid a stipend that was just above the local living wage, so I was paid about six dollars a day. This is critical because you're living with the community members and living with the same resources and challenges as everyone else.  This meant that I had to come up with solutions from within and that was much more difficult but more sustainable in the long term. 

We used this same model with EOS, realizing that we are not giving out handouts and instead we are making sure people are investing and have some skin in the game. By investing in technologies, the community is investing in their own future. We tweaked the model a little bit to take it where we can grow and expand. This model also allows the communities to hold us accountable so if we're not providing the right solution, they will let us know and we can fix it.  

How are you funded?

About 50% comes from the US (individual donors, foundations and grants), and about 30% of the investment comes from the actual community, and the remaining 20% comes from a local government. Our goal is to find the resources from within so currently about 50% comes from within country and 50% comes from our US base. 

EOS is very people-focused. Why did you go this direction? 

Over the years, we have evolved as an organization. Starting off with a technical background, I was always counting and paying attention to the numbers but then I realized that it is just a headcount and that wasn’t what mattered. What matters is the people we are impacting and how we are impacting them and improving their lives. Our job is to communicate and educate our investors and donors on what kind of impact they are making on the community level. Together we are making a difference and that is what matters. 

Want to learn more?

Visit www.eosinternational.org

Follow on social:FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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Making an Impact: Amanda LaGrange, Tech Dump

Making an Impact: Amanda LaGrange, Tech Dump

Amanda LaGrange is the CEO of Tech Dump and sister company Tech Discounts. Tech Dump and Tech Discounts is a Twin Cities based social enterprise that uses electronics recycling and refurbishing as a workforce training tool working primarily with individuals coming out of incarceration or in recovery from addiction. They use their model of recycling and refurbishing as both the funding tool and laboratory of their training. 

Making an Impact: Susan Hammel, Cogent Consulting

Susan Hammel is the founder and president of Cogent Consulting, an independent, Minneapolis-based strategic, financial, and impact investing firm empowering purpose-driven organizations that drive positive social impact in their communities.

Cogent Consulting applies traditional investment discipline, community engagement, and creative design to impact investing and strategic advising. They work with a diverse set of mission-driven investors and entrepreneurs through evidence-based and actionable advice.

We had the opportunity to sit down and learn more about Susan’s background and what drove her to launch Cogent Consulting. Here is what she had to say.

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Tell us more about yourself and your background.

Susan: I am the founder and president of Cogent Consulting. We are a public benefit company with a mission to empower purpose-driven organizations to drive positive social change in their communities. I was trained in finance and worked on Wall Street. While I was there, I was struck by the powerful notion that money can be used as a force for good and came up with the idea of founding Cogent Consulting as a way to help organizations figure out how to invest according to their values, mission, and passion.

What was it like working on Wall Street?

Susan: Being on Wall Street was a huge culture shock especially since I worked for a small non-profit before coming to Wall Street. At the non-profit, I saw that despite the enormous amount of passion and energy the staff had, we still couldn’t do more to create change. I realized that I needed to go where the money was so I moved to Wall Street to learn the investment industry with the goal of bringing that knowledge back to the non-profit world.

Five years later I went to grad school at Harvard where I learned about government and the public sector which gave me insight into how I could harness my passion for helping organizations invest to make a positive social impact. I moved to Minneapolis, began working in this area and then launched Cogent Consulting.

We are advocates for people who have a passion for their work and a commitment to creating their own success. Our financial acumen is balanced with demonstrated leadership ability, appreciation for the values of people we assist, and an innate ability to communicate effectively. We empower individuals to achieve their organization’s mission, and in turn they shape lives and make a difference in their communities.

– Susan Hammel, CEO

What have you learned since founding Cogent Consulting?

Susan: That “doing good” means different things to different people. For me, I have faith-based values and social justice, taking care of the earth and people are very important to me. Clients have a variety of different issues that empower them to do good ranging from climate change to racial injustice to sustainable agriculture. Good can be defined in many different ways.

Why did you choose finance as your focus?

Susan: In social impact, sometimes it is hard to know if you are making a difference however with finances you have concrete ways of measuring your impact and that can be very empowering.

What makes you inspired about your work?

Susan: I bring passion to work with me every day. I am excited to bring the finance piece of work into the social justice and impact sector, to marry the two worlds and create something better. Many people think you can’t do well and good at same time. However, I’m here to show people that you can make money and do something positive. If everyone thought about where their money was invested, it would change the world and that excites me.

How long have you been a member of the Impact Hub and what do you like about being here?

Susan: I have been at the Impact Hub for almost 4 years and I love the new space. I love the positive environment, and how active the social impact community is here at the space.

Want to learn more?

www.cogentconsulting.net

Making an Impact: Vanessa Haight, Elliot Park Neighborhood

Vanessa Haight is the Executive Director of Elliot Park Neighborhood, a non-profit established in 1979 with primary focus of reinvesting in the community through renovation of existing housing and investment in new housing. The focus of the organization has shifted over the years and their mission now centers on addressing community issues, improving safety, and influencing development.

As one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Elliot Park offers downtown living with an abundance of amazing historical architecture. As the neighborhood grows, the community has encouraged a mixture of affordable and high-end housing that retains and values the diversity of our community members. Elliot Park is home to many well-known institutions and organizations, including Hennepin County Medical Center, Augustana, North Central University, Catholic Charities, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, House of Charity, Kraus-Anderson, and more.

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As Executive Director, Vanessa’s role is to engage the community to collectively make their neighborhood a better place for all. Through her work, she has been inspired by the collective power of the people to join together and use their voice to solve problems in a much different way.

We had the opportunity to meet with Vanessa to learn more about her background in urban planning and her passion for building community. Here is what she had to say.

When I cam here I was looking for community. Then I realized I was helping to create one”. - Vanessa Haight

Working with the Impact Hub has been a wonderful experience because it is right here in the neighborhood and it truly fits into Elliot Park’s mission of building community. Vanessa has enjoyed working in an environment where she can meet and learn from others and also have access to networking, education and the amenities offered in this beautiful space.

Jordan Munro, Community Organizer and Vanessa Haight, Executive Director of Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc.

Jordan Munro, Community Organizer and Vanessa Haight, Executive Director of Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc.

About Vanessa

Vanessa Haight serves as the Executive Director of Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc.  Since 2014, Vanessa has worked in partnership with neighborhood organizations on community-led redevelopment, renters’ rights, park improvements, economic development and more.  Prior to her time with neighborhood organizations, Vanessa worked in city government, coordinating a variety of housing programs and development projects.  Vanessa holds a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan and Bachelor of Science from the University of Minnesota. Vanessa lives in South Minneapolis with her husband, two children, rescue dog, elderly cat, and leopard gecko.  She enjoys reading, hiking, baking, and has taken up tap dancing just for fun.  

 www.eliottpark.org







Making an Impact: Catch Your Dream

This post first appeared on The Idealect. To read the post in full, click here “Reframing Our Story”.

From the subtle tones of a gentle offering to a sharp rebuke, our words carry great weight and significance. 

We often say, “chase your dream.” But Donte Curtis says this isn’t enough. His business is called, “Catch Your Dream.” It’s a consulting and coaching group that focuses on inspiring people through what Donte calls “cultivating the soul.” He says that everyone has passion, but recognizing what that passion is and how to translate it into action is not always a process that comes naturally or quickly.

Donte Curtis, Catch Your Dream. Photo credit: Nick Theisen

Donte Curtis, Catch Your Dream. Photo credit: Nick Theisen

Chasing our dream allows us an easy excuse to give up when the dream proves too elusive. But catching your dream demands seeing it through until the end.

Words have significance. Framing has significance.

In initially trying to articulate the core of his work, one word came to my mind: empowerment. But this falls short. Donte says that the term empowerment comes from a place of paternalism. It implies that power is being gifted from one who has the power to one who does not.

Donte’s work, rather, is a matter of liberation.

It’s a matter of inspiring, rather than motivating. Motivation involves the promise of a reward, something to grasp at. But inspiration is internal. The root of the word means “inflame, blow into.” Really, “to breath life into.”

This is what Donte means when he speaks of “cultivating the soul.”

It’s his passion to help highlight the passion of others. Supporting people, connecting them with each other, inspiring them, helping them discover hope… this is why he does what he does.

The absence of hope is the absence of life. Donte’s fond of the saying, “the death of hope is a hope for death.”

His work of instilling hope in others is more than simply encouragement. It’s life-giving, life-affirming, and a beckon to the possibility of fulfillment.

“What do you tell people who say they don’t know what they want to do?” I asked.

“I don’t tell them anything. I just ask them questions.” Often times it seems we under-appreciate the value of questions. We listen in order to respond and give our advice. But questions can act as clues along the journey, clues that prompt reflection and exploration of what drives us individually.

“Everybody came into this world with a purpose, a gift, a unique set of who they are. It’s up to you to discover that for yourself.”

— D.C.

The journey of life is fraught with what Donte calls “limiting beliefs,” thoughts we convince ourselves us that preclude us from acting, from catching our dreams.

For Donte, one of these limiting beliefs was that he wasn’t qualified to start his own business, that he wouldn’t be able to live off his business, his passion. But after attending a workshop similar to the ones he now puts on, he began the process of overcoming that limiting belief.

It started with first acknowledging his belief in his limitations. “People have gotten comfortable lying to themselves… I was lying to myself. [I realized] I didn’t have integrityto myself.”

He then began debunking those limiting beliefs. His perception of his story was beginning to change. He says if you can change your story, if you can change how you perceive your story, it can reframe your situation.

Everything he wanted his business to be and do was already in his hands. He was already doing it.

We can either choose to be victims of our limiting beliefs or chose to overcome them. The way we frame our situation and the words we use to articulate it, have power. 

We can end up spending our whole lives chasing something and never reach out to grab it. The choice is ours to make.

Catch your Dream links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catchyourdream2017/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/donte-curtis-88281882

Black History Month: Celebrating Commissioner Angela Conley of Hennepin County’s 4th District

By: Isaiah Mack

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Carter G. Woodson, a prolific figure in African American culture during the early 1900’s, alongside the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, started Negro History Week in 1926 to celebrate the lives of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Woodson, who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard, saw an opportunity to join the traditional celebration of Fredrick Douglas’ birthday on February 12th by black Americans, and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 14th celebrated by Republican supporters, in a week-long celebration of both their lives and the rich African American history.

Minnesota made its own black history on January 7th when Angela Conley was sworn in as Commissioner of Hennepin County’s  4th District, making her the first Black commissioner in the board’s 166th year. Born, raised, and currently living in South Minneapolis, Angela has been an active member in her community working in roles as the President of the Bryant Neighborhood Organization and a veteran in the Public Service Sector. Running with the mission of reducing inequity that she observed during her time in Health and Human Services, she won by a landslide- 14% over DFL endorsed incumbent Peter McLaughlin who had served on the board for 27 years.

Since 1976, President Gerald Ford began a National tradition by U.S. Presidents to celebrate Negro History Month. On February 5th, 2019 Angela extended the Nationally celebrated holiday to Hennepin County by proposing the now accepted item 19-0065 stating, “WHEREAS, all Hennepin County students, educators, and residents should know and pay tribute to our community’s rich African-American legacy, and rededicate ourselves to nurturing a bright future for our African American students”.

As a member of the oldest County entity, she will take on both executive and legislative roles serving east and downtown Minneapolis, as well as Fort Snelling. With Hennepin County’s mission of enhancing its resident’s health, safety, and quality of life, Angela will use her 20 plus years of experience in the Health and Public Services sector to contribute as the chairwoman of the Health and Human Services committee of Hennepin County.

Impact Hub had the pleasure of learning more about the Commissioner's activities in person. Earlier this month, our members at Elliot Park Neighborhood (EPNI) hosted a breakfast with Commissioner Conley. She spoke about her key initiatives including safe, accessible and affordable transportation, housing and racial justice. This, coupled with EPNI’s plans for the future showcased the hard work and strong values of key leaders of this community. EPNI  is dedicated to bringing people and resources together to preserve and promote the unique urban character of this historical neighborhood. Learn more about Elliot Park Neighborhood on their website!

Impact Hub is proud to be a part of a community that is celebrating new and old history through the election of Commissioner Conley. Commissioner Conley has already demonstrated her goal of addressing inequity in Minnesota by making Black History Month a recognized Holiday by the County early in her tenure. We looked forward to her future activities that will continue to make Hennepin County a more equitable place live.  

Making an Impact: Seiche

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“We like to do tough work,” says Tom Elko, Creative Principal at Seiche. As a full-service strategy and creative consulting agency, Seiche works collaboratively with their clients to come up with innovative solutions to challenging communications problems. Seiche works expertly at the intersections of digital and social impact, media and climate change, strategy design and campaigns. But in everything they do, people come first.

Some of Seiche’s largest clients have been with them for more than ten years. They get deeply invested in the success of their clients by building long-term relationships. One of the recent projects Seiche is especially proud of is a collaboration between funders and grantees resulting in The Power of Minnesota. They had the opportunity to work together to elevate the stories of people benefiting from clean energy.

“There are a lot of possibilities in the work that we can do. There is great variety in subject areas including, local, national and international work. I enjoy being able to dive deep into particular programmatic areas in a variety of industries, and learn new things all while bringing the same principles of good work to each project,” said Tom.

Seiche’s team is growing fast and with their commitment to a positive and healthy work culture, it seems clear that this will continue! They are as dedicated to providing for their employees as they provide for their clients.

Seiche is excited to office out of Impact Hub because their “besties,” Software for Good, are just around the corner and they wanted to be at a place that matched their values with a commitment to social impact and doing good, together.

Making an Impact: Tony Koop, Wrfcoin

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In order to articulate Tony Koop’s story, it is important to first define some key terms. 

Blockchain: a digital ledger in which transactions made in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly

Cryptocurrency: a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

WRF Models:  a numerical weather prediction (NWP) system designed to serve both atmospheric research and environmental forecasting needs. NWP refers to the simulation and prediction of the atmosphere with a computer model, and WRF is a set of software for this.

Tony’s vision is to leverage these technologies to create a platform (Wrfcoin) for cryptocurrency that can be earned based on producing measurements for local weather data. Inspired by transactions between gold, he believes that money shouldn’t be a business but rather a peer to peer exchange with secure privacy. 

He also sees Wrfcoin as a way to reduce consumption. Currently, one Bitcoin transaction consumes enough electricity to power 22 US households in one day. This is a lot of wasted computer power! What if instead, the energy was going into collecting data to measure air quality, predict natural disasters and improve weather forecasting?

When I asked Tony what it was like working on his own venture he said, “ I feel extremely fulfilled because I am working on an idea that I fully believe in. I may not have have a lot of money right now, but I am having the time of my life because I feel like I’m using my skills to change the world.”


This is exactly what Impact Hub is all about! Tony is grateful to have a space to host meetings and make connections with other Hub members. He is also grateful for the recent opportunity he had to attend the Web Summit in Lisbon. This giant technology conference attracts people from all over the world which allowed Tony to connect with software developers, other blockchain experts and investors to share his ideas. “It’s a big, crazy idea, but I am going to keep going until it happens!”

Making an Impact: Find Your Power

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How do people take the leap to start their own business? For Ivy it was simple. She just couldn’t do anything else. After an amazing experience in Durban, South Africa, where Ivy received her Master’s degree in Development Studies from ZwaZulu-­Natal, she was inspired to dedicate her work to expanding access to resources for underrepresented women.

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Learning from survivors of domestic abuse at the Saartjie baartman Centre for Women and Children, Ivy witnessed how minimal job skills and education hinder the financial independence of many of the women, ultimately trapping them in a cycle of abuse. With the help of an online Social Entrepreneurship Course through the Copenhagen Business School, Ivy founded Find Your Power in 2016 to address this issue.

Ivy and her team of volunteers and interns have been conducting a needs based assessment with local African immigrants to determine their next phase of action. They plan to take what they learn to build a tech tool resource library.

Even though owning your own nonprofit can be challenging and stressful, Ivy loves having the opportunity to use her talents and skills to connect and empower women. “Plugging into the Impact Hub community has been tremendously helpful,” said Ivy. She knew she didn’t want to be a traditional nonprofit and Impact Hub offered her the connections and resources to feel more innovative and nimble.


On November 15 (Give to the Max Day!), Find Your Power has their biggest event of the year! Their 2nd Annual Poetry Jam will celebrate the unique artists, talents and voices of our Twin Cities community, while also raising awareness and funds for Find Your Power. Learn more and RSVP!

Making an Impact: Victus Engineering

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We have all been there. Fed up with the corporate hierarchy of your workplace, frustrated with the lack of agency to make innovative changes, not feeling valued or heard. What do we do about it? Complain to our friends or spouses, write a passive aggressive email? Not Victus Engineering. Willow Nichols, Som Boualaphanh, Eric Rodriguez and Nick Zech decided to take action and start their own engineering firm. Victus Engineering was built on the desire to help clients overcome complex design problems through a collaborative and creative process.

Victus, which is Latin for ‘having overcome,’ celebrates the team’s’ diverse background and the determination and grit it took for them to get where they are today. For example, Som and his family escaped political persecution in Laos when he was a child, spending a year in a Thai refugee camp before coming to the United States with only what they could carry. Not all of the team has dealt with challenges quite as extreme, but each partner’s history with overcoming adversity shapes the firm as a whole. In a white-male dominated industry, Victus proves that great engineers don’t have to fit the traditional mold.

After more than 150 hours of planning over a six-month period, Victus Engineering launched in July of this year. As a small team, this has been an immense opportunity for growth and learning. One of the ways Victus stands out is through their commitment to their clients. “Engineers are people persons, too,” said Willow. She is excited to get more face-time with clients. This not only makes the process more rewarding, it helps create better designs.

Even though Victus has only been operating for 3 months, the team has already expanded to Mexico. One of their current clients has a plant in Monterrey so Victus took the opportunity to expand their business south of the border. They even found an office through the Impact Hub Global Network! This is the beauty of owning your own business, it provides the freedom to make decisions quickly and take innovative risks.

Next, Victus Engineering hopes to attract talented designers who share their mission. They want to provide mentorship to women and minorities interested in engineering. The team is dedicated not only to providing the best experience possible for their clients, but also for their fellow designers.

Mission-driven week

The Twin Cities was a busy place with Startup Week, Food/Ag Ideas Week and the Blacks in Tech Conference all happening at once! Over 200 panels, workshops, trainings and networking events took place throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Impact Hub/FINNOVATION Lab was proud to be the home of 12 of those inspiring events.

Excitingly, the majority of our events were hosted by our very own members! Cogent Consulting kicked off the week with a panel of advocates fostering and funding startups that are run by, provide services to and/or are led by people of color. Learn more in this Star Tribune article.

If you were in our space during the week, you could have started your day with Ecotone Analytics and a crash course in Impact Measurement, then moved into a session on the confessions of a venture capitalist with Urban Innovation Fund and finished the day learning how to manage your unconscious bias with Wiserwolf. And that’s not all...

Each day included at least one event to equip, inspire and prepare the Twin Cities Startup community for success. Software for Good led a hands on workshop to give individuals a clearer vision to share with developers and investors who can help build their dream app. The Social Lights provided insights on current social media trends, Avisen provided real-life examples of legal blunders to learn what NOT to do and 301 Inc set up individual office hours for entrepreneurs to meet one on one.

Some of the best events happen when individuals are able to share their personal stories of entrepreneurial success and strife. 301 Inc hosted a Mission-Driven Brands Panel for Food/Ag Ideas week and Social Enterprise Alliance hosted a Mission-Driven Companies Panel. Both events featured stories and Q & A with Social Business leaders in Minnesota and throughout the country. Learning from others is what this ecosystem is all about!

Finally, the Venn Foundation hosted a Program Related Investments 101 while also making an exciting announcement! Thanks to the support of the Bush Foundation, Venn has $250,000 ready to be deployed for up to 10 early-stage social businesses in our region. Their goal is to leverage this $250,000 commitment from Bush Foundation into $1 million invested in social businesses by 2020! Learn more and apply!

It was impossible to attend every event, even just here at the Hub. This just goes to show the amazing network of talent, energy and inspiration in our community. Thank you to everyone who made the week a success! We know the learning and connecting will continue well beyond the week.


Making an Impact: Julie Delene

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The Changing Face of Leadership: Training Wise Women to Step into Their Power

By: Ivy Kaminsky

Julie Delene has been working with women in her consulting business, Move As One, since 2005. She has been a successful strategic management consultant training leaders and organizations to be mindful and co-creative for over twenty-five years, and is a founding member of the Impact Hub MSP.

For those of you that do not know Julie, the best way to describe her is zen. Just by being around her, you can sense that her mindfulness training and practice are alive and well. She walks her walk and does an exceptional job of straddling two not traditionally compatible worlds; those of business and mindfulness, and leadership and purpose.

Imagine getting past your fear and being reminded how to be in possibility. That’s what playing Julie’s transformational game, Your Wise Move , did for me. Through a mixture of meaningful conversation, the wisdom of the natural elements, some probing and well-thought out questions, physical movement, and Julie’s masterful guidance, a small group of us were each brought to our own clarity on the issue we came with. For me the game was very powerful. It reminded me of a pivotal time a few years earlier when I had first decided I was ready to start my nonprofit. A time when I was terrified, but knew exactly what I needed to do. Playing Your Wise Move with Julie and a few other women allowed me to identify the feeling of fear I had been experiencing recently, and it helped me acknowledge that fear and to let it go. Even more importantly, Your Wise Move reminded me of my purpose, and enabled me to clearly see the direction I need to go in now to continue to live that purpose authentically.

If you are a changemaker in any stage of your development, you could really benefit from playing Your Wise Move with Julie. She hosts regular introductory game events (with some happening at the Impact Hub soon). And on November 9th, Julie is kicking off her new Wise Women Leadership Program. She also has a newly launched YouTube Channel, Remember Your Source. In 2019, in collaboration with fellow Hub Members Susan Hammel of Cogent Consulting, and myself, Ivy Kaminsky of Find Your Power, on a series of quarterly events called Wise Women Leadership & Money, Julie will help us transform both our personal and collective financial consciousness.

https://move-as-one.com/

https://www.facebook.com/allwisemoves/

Making an Impact: Tech Dump

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In 2010, a group of passionate volunteer board members, including current CEO Amanda LaGrange, were interested in creating a business model that employed individuals with a history of incarcerations. After testing different ideas, the concept of Tech Dump was tested in August of 2011. Now, Tech Dump is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing job training and practical experience for adults facing barriers to employment that prepares them to be more valuable employees with an expanding future.

Tech Dump uses electronic recycling as a fair chance business. This means they have made commitments to achieve the goals of promoting opportunity for all, eliminating barriers and providing meaningful opportunities of success for reentering individuals. The Tech Dump team is made up of 48 FTEs, over half of which are trainees going through the work-readiness program. All of these individuals have a history of incarceration or chemical dependency.

“The best part of working for Tech Dump is the people,” says CEO, Amanda LaGrange. “It is really amazing to work with people who really care. There is care for the service, environmental impact and each other. Everyone is on a journey to being better, whatever that means to them.”

The next time you have electronics to recycle, consider using Tech Dump. They provide secure, responsible, free electronic recycling. Then, take a gander through their Tech Discount Retail Store. You can also support Tech Dump by helping to spread the word! Business owners looking for data destruction services can use Tech Dump to ge a customized asset management plan to keep the company compliant and the data secure.


Tech Dump recently won Minne Inno’s Coolest Company of 2018 under the category of ‘Most Eco-Friendly’ and are ramping up to share some very exciting news about the future of their business later this week. Follow them on social media to stay in the loop! @TechDumpMN

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Volunteers pack 10,000 meals at Impact Hub!

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On Wednesday, September 19, our space was transformed into 6 busy meal packing stations where 50 volunteers came together to pack 10,000 meals in just 2 hours! Mighty Spark Food Co. and Kids Against Hunger brought in all the supplies needed to pack these healthy, well-balanced meals that will be donated to local food bank, Ruby’s Pantry.

With music blaring and energy in the air, volunteers from 7-50 years old worked in sync to efficiently pack meal by meal. The line started with the four nutritious ingredients that make up the meal; long-grain rice, vitamin fortified crushed soy, dehydrated vegetables and vitamin/mineral powder. Ingredients were scooped into a bag through a standing funnel. Then, the bags were weighed, sealed and packaged. Each station got into their own rhythm to most effectively package as many meals as possible!

More than 15 million children under 18 in the U.S. live in households where they are unable to consistently access nutritious food necessary to live. Impact Hub was proud to partner with Mighty Spark and Kids Against Hunger to help feed hungry kids.

More about Mighty Spark: Founded in 2010 by then college student Nick Beste with a stand at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Mighty Spark is an independent company on a quest to disrupt the meat and snack aisles with remarkable food that does good, one meal at a time. For each purchase of Mighty Spark’s small-batch meat, they provide a meal to a child in need. Thanks to the support of consumers, they have donated more than 1 million meals in 2017 and are on track to donate millions more! https://mightysparkfood.com

More about Kids Against Hunger: Kids Against Hunger is a non-profit humanitarian organization with a mission to provide fully nutritious food to impoverished children and families around the world… and around the corner. The goal of the organization is for the meals to provide a stable nutritional base from which recipient families can move their families from starvation or food insecurity to self-sufficiency. https://kidsagainsthunger.org


More about Ruby’s Pantry: Ruby’s Pantry holds Pop-Up Pantry’s in a number of locations across Minnesota and Wisconsin every month. Ruby’s Pantry is faith-based and is organized and hosted by a group of volunteers from a local church. A Pop-Up Pantry is held either at the church location or at a site easily accessible for guests. https://www.rubyspantry.org

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Making an Impact: Software for Good

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Software for Good is a team of do-gooders who believe your day job can be your dream job. Casey Helbing started his own consulting business in 2004 while taking on pro-bono nonprofit work on the side. When he realized he was rushing home to do the nonprofit work, Casey decided to shift his business to focus on ‘for-good’ work. Casey founded Software for Good in 2010 in order to bring people and technology together to solve complex world problems.

Software for Good was one of the first organizations in Minnesota to become a General Public Benefit Corporation. Certified B-Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Casey and his team wanted Software for Good to be more than just a name. By becoming a B-Corp, they show proven dedication to people, profit and planet.

With a modest team of 16, Software for Good takes on a variety of important clients that include nonprofits, health care, government and more. Recently, they have been working with The Arc Minnesota to develop an online quiz to help teenagers with disabilities plan their future. The quiz includes a roadmap print-out that they can share with counselors and parents as they make important decisions that will impact their future. They also worked with the organization on strategic planning and stakeholder interviews, which will inform new online tools to help The Arc increase their reach throughout the state. This is an example of how Software for Good is shifting their own scope of work to include more in-depth research before jumping into coding.

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Software for Good continues to grow and develop. Last year, they launched an internship program to help increase diversity in the tech field, give students real world work experience and offer more services to their clients. Their core team is also growing as they are currently hiring for 3 new roles. Long term goals include developing products beyond what they do for their clients. The Software for Good staff is made up of passionate social good enthusiasts who have causes of their own they care deeply about. Eventually, the team would like to tackle some of these causes, such as affordable housing and education, with technology of their own.

Do you have a big idea, problem you are struggling with or change you want to see in the world? Software for Good can help you make it happen!

 

Impact Week Recap

“I am loving the warm, busy Hub vibes today,” said Susan Hammel, founder of Cogent Consulting and longtime Impact Hub member. The space was certainly buzzing as we celebrated an exciting Impact Week, August 20-25, which included an array of inspiring events highlighting the spirit of what Impact Hub and FINNOVATION Lab are creating together.

Monday kicked off with a Social Enterprise Leadership Breakfast, which was well attended despite the 7:20 am start! The group will continue to work together to achieve greater impact in our ecosystem. What a perfect model of collaboration in action!

Tai Chi with Ayano Performance

Tai Chi with Ayano Performance

After a 7:20 am meeting, what could get you through the day better than a post-lunch session of Tai Chi, Yoga and Meditation? Ayano Performance led a stress-reducing Wellness Sampler for our members and guests.

Tuesday included the first ever FINNOVATION Lab Fellowship Pitch & Selection Day. Judges met with the 16 finalists individually before pitches took place. The final 5 have been chosen and will be announced soon! Visit us again on Monday, September 17th from 4-6pm to welcome the inaugural cohort of fellows. We are eager for you to meet these incredible social entrepreneurs as they begin their 9-month fellowship.

FINNOVATION Lab 2018 Finalists & Judges

FINNOVATION Lab 2018 Finalists & Judges

We spent a well deserved afternoon in the Brewer’s Den on Wednesday, sharing a few pints and snacks together. Fellow members, friends, staff and board members gathered together to connect and celebrate this exciting new chapter for Impact Hub and FINNOVATION Lab.

Thursday featured an exclusive Social Entrepreneur Roundtable with special guest, David Press, Partner with Confluence Partners, a C-suite consultancy based in New York City. As a strategic, legal, marketing and communications expert, David shared his best tips on how to talk to investors. This marked the highest attended round table yet!

Community Innovation Manager, Keith, kicking of MN Cup Impact Division Pitches

Community Innovation Manager, Keith, kicking of MN Cup Impact Division Pitches

The week ended with the Minnesota Cup’s Impact Division Semi-Finalist Pitches followed by the Good North Market. Judges gathered in our boardroom to painstakingly narrow down the 10 semi-finalists to 3. (Learn more about MN Cup and all of the 2018 finalists here.) Then, over 100 people gathered in our space to watch the pitches and venture throughout the rest of FINNEGANS House to visit amazing social purpose businesses, brands, and makers that are making a difference in the world with the products they sell and missions they live.

What a week! We are energized by the countless hard-working, innovative people in our community doing whatever they can to make an impact.

 

Making an Impact: ClipDifferent

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What seemingly simple tasks do you take for granted? Buttoning your shirt, tying your shoes, clipping your nails? When TJ McMullen’s mother’s health began to decline, his family was inspired to create innovative products that can leverage the power of how one small thing can make a huge difference, even a nail clipper.

ClipDifferent Pro, an automatic nail clipper, was specifically designed for individuals with one upper limb, limited hand dexterity or vision impairment. The safe fingernail slot prevents skin from coming into contact with the trimming mechanism. It also catches the nail clippings in a drawer, eliminating the mess of flying fingernails. Although the ClipDifferent Pro was designed for individuals with disabilities, any adult can use it! The smooth clipping device even eliminates the step of having to file your nails.

Mentoring and connections at the Impact Hub helped TJ and the whole team at ClipDifferent, a general benefit corporation, meet crucial community leaders to help develop and advise their entrepreneurial business plan.They are excited to participate in MN Cup this year because their major goal is to get these products into the hands of people who need them. In the next few years, the ClipDifferent team has more products being developed to address different niches.

“Seeing the face of someone using our product for the first time is so rewarding,” says TJ. The ClipDifferent Pro gives individuals independence and control. It’s important to the ClipDifferent group to do what they can to make life just a little bit easier.

Learn more about ClipDifferent

 

Immersive Computing for Impact

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On Tuesday, July 24, Impact Hub member Asante Simmons led an Intro to AR/VR presentation and demo for the public in our Training Lab. Asante spoke passionately about how Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and even 360 degree audio are creating a generational change. This technology has the power to inspire change, improve processes and efficiency, save money and even save lives!

After listening to Asante’s presentation, the ways virtual reality can be used seemed endless. It goes way beyond the typical gaming experience that may come to mind. For example, VR has the potential to transform the medical industry. It is being used to plan complex operations which increases the success rate. In 2017, VR played a vital role in the successful separation of conjoined twins at Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

Virtual Reality is also being used to teach individuals in settings from elementary school classrooms to the military. VR offers an affordable and readily available way to bring virtual field trips, language immersion, and various skills training scenarios to life.

Asante’s presentation also taught the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. Augmented reality enhances experiences by adding virtual components such as digital images, graphics, or sensations as a new layer of interaction with the real world. Contrastingly, virtual reality creates its own reality that is completely computer generated.

So what does this have to do with social impact? Asante shared how these immersive technologies are being used to inspire others to act when confronted with a social problem. AR/VR can be used as an empathy machine, helping to raise awareness, and further connect audiences to social causes. Examples of this include; a AR/VR series to create stronger appreciation for the planet and building AR/VR scenarios to address social interaction in individuals with autism.

After the presentation, attendees had the chance to interact with the technology. Asante had glasses and headsets available to demo. People of all ages were eager to try each item. Entrepreneurs from Snapspheres were also present to show off their 3D printed globes.

Thank you, Asante, for hosting an interactive and educational event. We can’t wait to see where immersive technologies will take us!