For the launch of our global Environmental Strategy, we spoke to Anne Merkle, Environmental Lead at Impact Hub Network.
Q: First things first, tell us, why do you do what you do?
A: Simply put, because I carry a deep love for our planet in me and want to know that I did everything possible for future generations to have the chance for a vibrant, peaceful and content life.
I CARRY A DEEP LOVE FOR OUR PLANET IN ME AND WANT TO KNOW THAT I DID EVERYTHING POSSIBLE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS TO HAVE THE CHANCE FOR A VIBRANT, PEACEFUL AND CONTENT LIFE.”
When I grew up on a small island in the Baltic Sea in Germany I had no idea about what harm was already taking place. The Club of Rome already pointed to the threat in 1972 but growth was more important and too little did people know and understand.
Now most of us do understand that there is a crisis – one that impacts us all. I just could not pretend and simply continue with the “good life” I envisioned for myself when I was building my sandcastles on the beach.
I decided to listen to science, educate myself, change what I can in my own life and dedicate my work to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss in my unique way. The environmental emergency we all face can seem far away but just let this sink in: half of the island I grew up on will disappear with sea levels rising and this is just 80 years away. My home town will be almost completely gone. It might not happen in my lifetime but that doesn’t make it matter any less. I had two options: get paralysed or do what I could. You can guess what I chose – using my area of influence, my skills and taking it one step at a time.
Even if it is small steps – moving is what matters. If we all – governments and non-greenwashing corporates, but also start-ups and us as humans – do the same, let’s see what might be possible. I want to be a climate optimist!
Q: Incredible story, Anne. Thanks for sharing. You’re leading the launch of the Environmental Strategy of the Impact Hub Network. What is this all about? Who’s involved?
A: When the Impact Hub Network decided last year that environmental action as well as diversity, equity and inclusion will be our two key focus areas in our 2030 strategy, my heart jumped! The potential for all 100+ Impact Hubs to stand behind and put their energy on these two crucial and very interconnected topics… WOW. Don’t get me wrong, Impact Hub has already had so many great successes in social innovation and many environmental programs. Still, this strategy can take us to a whole new level – so much is possible.
The Impact Hub Network stands side by side with the local, regional and global communities that are aiming to tackle our climate emergency. As a network, we aim to contribute to building a regenerative economy while focusing specifically on actions in the areas of Net Zero (energy, mobility and construction), Food & Agriculture and Circularity.
AS A NETWORK, WE AIM TO CONTRIBUTE TO BUILDING A REGENERATIVE ECONOMY WHILE FOCUSING SPECIFICALLY ON ACTIONS IN THE AREAS OF NET ZERO, FOOD & AGRICULTURE AND CIRCULARITY.”
Of course, we acknowledge our limited climate expertise – but we want to use our unique innovation and start-up support knowledge, our influence and our locally rooted globally yet connected networks, to co-create with key partners. We can’t – and won’t – do this alone but we are ready for serious and large scale action. Doing this with three core values in mind: being grounded in science, daring and positive.
The strategy was co-created with Impact Hubs across the globe and we are now moving into implementation. I hope in a year from now we can say: everyone – every Impact Hub employee, every member, every partner – thinks about and acts on our environmental action strategy and it is fully integrated within our work. Making it a priority will offer all our members a great chance to grow in this area and receive targeted support while opening the doors for many new strategic partnerships.
Q: Sounds ambitious! Can you elaborate on some concrete actions we’re taking as a network?
A: We have three key areas of action for now. And being honest, we will learn (a lot!) together as a network and with our partners and adapt as we go. Nevertheless, this is our starting point:
First, to empower our membersto have either neutral or positive environmental impact. It doesn’t matter what SDG they work on. We want to support all our members to consider their environmental impact and act on it. Let’s not forget we are talking about 24.000 people and counting!
Second, to support green ventures to scale their impact faster, especially in our focus areas (net zero, Food & Agriculture and Circularity). We want to run more thematic local, regional and global programs; convene key stakeholders to co-create actions; and create more visibility for the existing solutions of our members.
Lastly, to role model through our spaces. For us, looks both at becoming a CO2 Neutral Coworking community by 2025 (and eventually net zero) but goes further by looking at all our operations and aims to fully integrate the topic in a locally fitting manner.
Q: Which two actions are you personally most excited about?
A: I would first choose our recent Circularity Program. In 2021, we started a prototype exploring how to integrate circular design principles into all our programs across 12 Impact Hubs in Africa and Europe. The idea is simple: equipping start-up founders with this knowledge early on to anticipate the environmental impact of their ventures and make different choices when it is still easy to make changes.
THE IDEA BEHIND OUR CIRCULARITY PROGRAM: TO EQUIP START-UP FOUNDERS WITH CIRCULARITY KNOWLEDGE EARLY ON TO ANTICIPATE THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THEIR VENTURES AND MAKE CHANGES.”
After this pilot, the intention is to have all 100+ Impact Hubs incorporate this knowledge in all their programs. This is already pretty exciting as we run 240+ start-up support programs a year across the network.
We also want to make this knowledge and approach accessible to other social enterprise support organisations – so can you imagine everyone supporting start-ups includes education on circularity as a standard for their programs across the globe? Nice, right?!
The second? I will keep it brief. We already have a lot of excellent programs globally and within local Impact Hubs, such as the Ikea Supply Chain Innovation on food and packaging or the 35ish programs we run with WWF – one of our global strategic partners for almost 10 years tackling topics from deforestation in the Amazon, to innovative solutions to protect biodiversity in Austria, to sustainable energy in Rwanda to a recent program on plastics in China. I am super excited to identify the programs that work best, bring the concepts to more Impact Hubs and get back to the drawing board to come up with some completely new program ideas with partners.
And of course, there are many internal pieces we will need to figure out. One example is how do we measure, compensate and reduce our CO2 as a community operating in 60 countries, each facing different realities. We are excited to get started!
Q: Love the excitement! Now, let’s dream a little. What’s the potential impact we aim to make through these actions?
A: Today’s start-ups are tomorrow’s multinationals. When talking about environmental action it takes a lot of effort from governments (big time!) and of course, companies and citizens are just as important. Yet, start-ups and their contribution is often overlooked. That is the unique role that Impact Hub can play: getting the start-up world (starting with our network… but you asked me to dream!) to come to play and not on the side stage but joining the others on the main stage. It is not just the start-up solutions but also the entrepreneurial spirit and the innovative energy that we need so badly to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis we face.
When we reach 2030, I hope we will look back and be proud of the change we co-created with our members and partners. We are ready – it won’t be perfect but we are hungry for change and want to contribute in our unique way as a network.
Q: Thank you, Anne, for this inspiring, action-filled, story.
Getting Ready for Climathon Houston 2021: A Look at Climathon 2020 Winner InnoGrid
In 2020, 11 teams gathered at Climathon Houston to develop solutions to the challenges presented in the City of Houston’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Three teams’ ideas rose to the top; and InnoGrid’s approach to addressing the lack of energy resiliency in our city was particularly relevant in the wake of Winter Storm Uri.
Q: How has your role evolved since Climathon Houston 2020?
Ed Pettitt: During the Climathon, I contributed relative to my roles as a Third Ward resident and community organizer, as well as a public health practitioner, business owner, and urban planning student. I provided input as a member of the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement (HCEDD), which engages in advocacy for the development rights of working class African-American residents in and around the Innovation Corridor, which we selected as the proposed site for InnoGrid. Since the Climathon, I have further delved into energy justice issues and am now an active member of the Equity in the Clean Energy Economy (ECEE) Collaborative and a Graduate Research Assistant with the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice (CECJ).
Bryan Gottfried: My background as a geoscientist has led me to advocate for the expanded use of geothermal energy resources. I am also interested in promoting the modernization of our electric grid and improving resiliency. During the Climathon, I originally suggested the development of a microgrid, although I had something like Austin’s Whisper Valley development in mind — a master-planned mixed-use residential-commercial community that uses geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling. We shifted the focus on the Innovation District to take advantage of the redevelopment and the clean-tech advancements occurring there. Since then, I’ve hosted our regular team meetings and reached out to others who could help the project. I’m looking forward to pushing things along now that we’ve gained support from crucial partners.
Paresh Patel: As a start-up founder focusing on energy poverty and a champion of sustainable energy for all (UN SDG7), I have been advancing deployment of solar microgrids and minigrids in off-grid frontier markets. In Asia and Africa, distributed renewable energy models (DREs) were enabling millions to essentially leapfrog centralized, legacy energy infrastructure. I was looking for a way to develop a microgrid closer to home. As an inaugural member of Greentown Labs Houston, I had been conceptualizing something similar, stemming from my recommendation for them to install rooftop solar panels. While it wasn’t financially practical there, I presented the idea of a microgrid for the wider Innovation District to its developer, Rice Management Company (RMC). It made sense to join up and work with the InnoGrid team. Since then, I’ve driven our partnerships with Baker Botts and Schneider Electric, and discussions with stakeholders like CenterPoint.
Q: What do you think of your impact innovation journey and progress since Climathon Houston 2020? Have you discovered anything new and/or surprising?
Ed Pettitt: Since the Climathon, we have learned a lot about the process of seeking funding and technical support for a microgrid startup. From submitting a Connected Communities grant application to the U.S. Department of Energy to partnering with Baker Botts for pro bono representation, I am very pleased with the progress we have made.
Bryan Gottfried: I echo Ed’s comments. This is an entirely new realm for me — from learning about various sources of funding to the numerous regulatory and technical challenges. I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made considering we’ve been dealing with COVID throughout the life of the project, as well as the transition between federal administrations which has had a significant impact on policies and sources of funding.
Paresh Patel: It has been a discovery process on several levels. We’ve had to gather learnings and lessons on all aspects of building out a microgrid from the ground up. Our mission-driven model has resonated. There’s consensus that we should have a microgrid in the heart of Midtown as a source of resilient, sustainable energy — it’s become even more imperative in the wake of polar vortex Uri. We’ve been able to access industry leaders and stakeholders, forge partnerships, and consult a wide range of experts. Baker Botts and Schneider have helped us complete a project qualification study scoping the potential for a microgrid in the Innovation District. That’ll give us a clearer understanding of the technical and financial dimensions of the project, and will put us in a position to seek federal funding, grants, and other capital.
Q: How has your outreach to other organizations helped InnoGrid’s progress? Are there partnerships with similar organizations that you’d like to seek? Why?
Ed Pettitt: Our outreach to the Equity in a Clean Energy Economy (ECEE) Collaborative has opened up a number of opportunities to learn from and engage in best practices related to utility program design, customer research, public participation, and regulation and policy.
Bryan Gottfried: There are numerous individuals and organizations that have encouraged us and given us ideas on ways to push the project forward. I believe FEMA’s BRIC program (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) fits nicely with the goals of our project and I’m looking forward to exploring that avenue further as we move along in the process.
Paresh Patel: I too joined the ECEE with Ed. I’ve also had discussions on forming an alliance with Climable, which has developed community microgrids in the Boston area. We’re mission-aligned and their proven business model can be adapted for the Houston context. RMC is a key stakeholder, and we’d like to find a way to enlist them as a partner, with the potential to add The Ion and adjacent commercial buildings as a co-anchor site.
Q: Stakeholders such as the City of Houston and CenterPoint Energy are excited about InnoGrid’s plan. What do you think the next steps should be? How do you help stakeholders like these move forward?
Ed Pettitt: One of the next steps should involve the City of Houston facilitating a signed Community Benefits Agreement between Rice Management Company (RMC) and the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement (HCEDD) that includes a provision for affordable housing and equitable access to affordable energy (like that proposed by InnoGrid) in and around the Innovation Corridor.
Bryan Gottfried: One of our most significant hurdles is the Chicken-and-Egg situation: It’s hard to get property owners to participate in InnoGrid unless they receive incentives from the City, but it’s difficult for the City to offer those incentives without a better understanding of the scope and level of interest they’d see through property owners’ participation. Similarly, without knowing the interest from property owners and the scope and level of support from the City, it’s hard to have substantive conversations with CenterPoint about Innogrid. I believe we need to get both CenterPoint and the City to agree that InnoGrid is something they want to see happen and will incentivize property owners to participate in.
Paresh Patel: CenterPoint has been supportive, providing helpful guidance on technical aspects of interfacing InnoGrid with their infrastructure. To Bryan’s point, we want to explore specific ways to partner with CenterPoint once we have the project qualification study completed by Schneider Electric. The InnoGrid aligns with the goals of the City’s Climate Action Plan and the Resilient Houston plan. Naturally, the City’s ongoing support would be indispensable.
Q: What kinds of financing opportunities are you exploring or would help develop the InnoGrid?
Bryan Gottfried: I mentioned FEMA’s BRIC program above, and I think the Texas PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) will be a resource that we can guide property owners to so they can install generation capability that can then be tied into the InnoGrid.
Paresh Patel: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes new funding streams for grid infrastructure, much of which could directly or indirectly boost microgrid demonstration and resiliency projects that we are tracking. We might also consider a crowdfunding campaign as a way to invite community buy-in and raise public awareness of the project.
Q: In your wildest dreams, what would InnoGrid’s future look like and how would it impact the Houston area?
Ed Pettitt: I envision an Innovation Corridor that supports entrepreneurism and small business development while providing stable, decentralized, and affordable energy through an innovative microgrid that contributes to job creation and equitable access to clean energy that prevents the displacement of long-term and working class residents.
Bryan Gottfried: I can’t say it any better than Ed did! I would also like the InnoGrid to become something that Houston is known for within the world of clean-tech, and have it cited as a model for other urban microgrids.
Paresh Patel: Ed captured it quite nicely. Once the initial InnoGrid site is proven, the value will become obvious to others. I’d like to see the InnoGrid evolve into a microgrid model that can be deployed to serve LMI households across Houston and beyond that are most vulnerable to energy poverty and insecurity as extreme weather events become more frequent. In sum, Equity through Resiliency.
Q: Any additional thoughts or information you’d like to share?
Bryan Gottfried: I could have never imagined that signing up for the Climathon last year would have led to this amazing experience. I’ve learned so much and met so many great people. I encourage anyone who is considering participating in it this year to do so–you never know where it may lead!
Paresh Patel: I second Bryan’s invitation. The Climathon catalyzed the random collisions and connections of ideas and innovators leading to this collaborative—and potentially transformative—project. A huge thanks to Impact Hub Houston and partners for hosting the Climathon!
The InnoGrid team has had quite a year and we’re excited to see their continued progress. We hope that their journey is an inspiration to others who want to catalyze action and make an impact. We invite everyone to join us for the Climathon 2021 Kick-off on October 25th. As Bryan Gottfried said: I encourage anyone who is considering participating in it this year to do so–you never know where it may lead!
The impacts of climate change are all around us, hitting our region more seriously and rapidly than models have predicted. We invite you to leverage Climathon Houston as a way to start ideating and innovating solutions or to continue working on and engaging people in solutions you may already be developing.
Come learn about this year’s challenges, connect with the teams, and get ready for the week! We’ll see you at Climathon!
Eligible small business owners may apply for financial support in the form of grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to advance their recovery from the economic setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The application window will open Monday, September 20 at 9:30AM and close Monday, October 4 at 5:30PM Central Standard Time. The application process is not first-come, first-served; all completed applications will be reviewed for eligibility and prioritized based on small business impact parameters. Below you will find more details about this program, including eligibility, funding methodology and timeframe.
To learn more, scroll down and/or attend one of LiftFund’s upcoming Virtual Info Sessions:
The Harris County Small Business Relief Fund will provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to eligible micro and small businesses. Funds must be used for business-related expenses, including payroll, working capital, business rent, inventory, supplies, equipment, and other operating costs.
Grant applicants are only eligible to receive one grant award
Only one grant may be awarded per business with more than one location
Limited to one grant per physical address within Harris County
The grant application will require verification of pertinent documentation.
Driver’s license or government-issued photo ID
Proof of business registration with Harris County or TX Secretary of State
Q1 2021 941, payroll report or 1099 to verify number of employees
Business utility bill (water, gas, electric) Home based businesses may provide a home utility bill.
Business Financials: 2019 and 2020 business tax return (additional financial documents, such as bank statements or P&L may be requested if losses cannot be verified by the tax returns)
DD 214 proof of military discharge (veterans only)
The Harris Small Business Relief Fund awards will not be made on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications will be assessed and scored using the following methodology. Applications with the highest scores will be reviewed and approved first. Applications will have up to 150 points based on the following five elements, each with a maximum of 30 points.
The program has a priority for woman, minority and veteran-owned businesses
Previous access to financial support
Receipt of previous federal COVID-19 funding through PPP loan, EIDL or Harris County grants
Applications will be accepted from Monday, September 20 at 9:30AM to Monday, October 4 at 5:30PM.
The application review period will start on October 5, 2021 and continue through January 9, 2022.
The grant funds will be awarded monthly beginning in November 2021 and through January 2022. Eligible applications with the highest scores will be reviewed and awarded first, followed by applications with lower scores.
She was born Joy, but chose Action as her moniker. “After all, an idea without action is worth nothing,” she says. This intense need to turn ideas into action pushed her to open a media production company for small businesses back in 2018. It was also what brought her to Impact Hub Houston, where she found support to build a business model for her most audacious project: The Black Business Lab. Action was one of the 8 founders to participate in the Female Founders Program, an initiative of Impact Hub sponsored by Frost Bank. From May to July 2021, Action worked closely with Impact Hub’s CEO, Grace Rodriguez, and received support from additional experts to build the Black Business Lab Project business model. “The Lab” is a spinoff of the Black Marketing Initiative, which she created to help black owners thrive in business.
To understand how she got here, we must look back to 2020, when COVID hit and caught her by surprise. At that time, Action was celebrating one-and-a-half years as head of Action One Media. She wanted to change the narrative about Black business owners and started by helping small businesses communicate with clients and the community through media content, especially in video format. The company was online but got its client base from having 20-100 people come to their small studio every week and doing events outside. Action decided to close the company as soon as COVID hit. The following three months were hard. She had no clients, no revenue, and no clue where to go next. But she knew she had to do something, and she decided to start by listening.
In June 2020, Action and her team–the Action Squad–led a survey with 226 small business owners. Over a hundred of them answered they were about to close if they didn’t get online. Action soon realized the need and the urgency to do something about it. She used the data from the survey to pivot her business and offer a well-rounded marketing strategy for clients.
“In a nutshell, you can get video to show your face. You get the consulting to know where to put your video and help yourself get the clients you want. And we can also save you time by automating the process for you.”
She implemented an entirely new system to meet the unique needs of small businesses. Finally, things started getting better, but Action was still not happy. She knew from the surveys that most owners couldn’t afford the service. Action was struggling herself to put her company back in business after months without revenue.
“We realized we didn’t need just to sell the services. We could create a program and offer the services to the business through the program funded by grants, crowdfunding or anything we could pull together to help Black owners.”
Impact Hub was crucial in implementing the first pilot she did with 16 Black owners. Grace Rodriguez even participated in some of the sessions and helped shape the business training. But Action wants to go further. Her next goal is to build a Black innovation corridor in South Houston. She compares it to other Houston initiatives, such as the Energy Corridor and The Museum District. She already gathered more than 20 businesses, and they are working together to create a safe space to help Black owners get the support, the funds and the collaboration they need to thrive.
Action’s pitch sounds firm and convincing. She says this was one of the best aspects of the Female Founders Program. The constant practice and interaction helped her strengthen her case for support. Frost Bank’s advisors also helped her build some new financing strategies, especially regarding balancing her statements.
“They gave their hearts to make sure we learned. These are things sometimes we ignore as founders. I got some strategies behind changing our financial year.”
The three intense months of coaching sessions and hard work also helped her build new perspectives on her business. “We got counsel from them to build up the part we were missing. If you are a service business like us, you think you don’t need a supply chain, for example. Until you answer those questions in the assessment that they gave us. That in itself opened my eyes the most. It gave me a different perspective. And you need all the perspective you can get.”
Since we are talking about Action, we shouldn’t be surprised by how fast she is putting everything she learned in the service of her community! She is working with partners to expand the Black Marketing Initiative into the Black Business Lab. They applied for grants and are developing an asset map for the Black Innovation Corridor. The project has the support of some of her largest clients, including NANCo Aero–an aerospace company creating a “flying car”; South Union CDC–a STEM Foundation for youth and seniors with a solar co-op; and The Fish Bowl Experience–a pitch competition that gives away up to $50,000 in funding to small businesses owned by college students, veterans, and entrepreneurs with serious hustle.
“The ability to be who we are, take action on the things that matter, and impact is a blessing. We can build business models that can be used by the world to improve the world while making money. The sky is no longer the limit.”
Founder and President of McMac Cx, a company devoted to safer and healthier buildings and environments, David MacLean shares his story behind the meaning of his mission and how Impact Hub Houston is helping to achieve his goals. McMac Cx aims to achieve SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. While SDG 11 is their primary goal, the company addresses needs that also target SDG 4: Quality Education and SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.
David joined the Accelerate Membership Program to increase his knowledge on branding and marketing to further advance his goals for his company. His biggest challenge, he shares, is getting people to understand why they should care. Why is it important to create buildings which are above minimum code requirements?
It begins with addressing the unrealistic expectations of inhabitants and what creators can deliver with the institutional barriers getting in the way. That is where McMac Cx comes in. To minimize the sacrifices on the health and safety of citizens and maximize on impact, MacLean and his company look at first, costs of buildings while also evaluating what the social and environmental impact would be. They work with partners around the globe and use advanced social tech to have immediate implementation of sustainable improvements for a safer environment. David works diligently to change the reality of the current operation of buildings and create a standard that is above minimum code.
“The pivoting and changing conversation is all about education, and people understanding the order of magnitude of the problem.” David says.
As one of his current initiatives, David created the USGBC Texas Best Practices App as an educational tool and a way for members to connect with nonprofits and other organizations achieving similar altruistic passions. He is also the founding Board Member of the Texas Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and created the Best Practices Committee as a platform of connection between the creators and inhabitants to work together.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about me doing something that anybody else can do” David says “it’s actually me helping somebody else over that lift so they can be more successful, because it’s about impact that we want to make, right.”
Part of the reason David was drawn to Impact Hub was because of the global Sustainable Development Goals they use as a guide and a lens for their work. Out of the 17 SDGs passed by the United Nations in 2015, IHH primarily focuses on six. David says the SDGs create a global language to articulate what is important and what more can be done. Although he strongly resonates with three or so of the goals, the Accelerate Program keeps him engaged in how the rest of the world is acting across the 14 other SDGs.
Looking ahead, David wants to keep growing his company nationally and globally. His current services are largely focused locally in Texas, but are all transferable to any other place in the world. He recently launched a global video competition to reach advocates across the world to become ‘Air Champions’ in their neighborhood. The video content focuses on why they think air quality is important. Although having McMac Cx recognized is a priority since it is a for-profit company, David prioritizes sending a certain message to his community which he is eagerly passionate about.
McMac Cx works with partners from around the globe to aggregate advanced Social Tech, allowing the immediate implementation of sustainable improvements that create positive social and environmental change. Its goal is to economically enable everyone to live, learn, work, and play in places that are safe, healthy, efficient, and prosperous. Learn more about McMac Cx and connect with David.
Our team at Impact Hub Houston is here to help you take your venture to the next level. Learn how with an Accelerate Membership.
When you talk to Margo Jordan it is hard to imagine that she once suffered from low self-esteem. Yet, this confident and persuasive entrepreneur says she struggled when she was a little girl back in Milwaukee, WI, where she grew up. Today, she is a successful and passionate founder who turned her own struggle into an educational company that helps students overcome low self-esteem and depression. Her entrepreneurship journey started in 2013, after 10 years in the Army and a brief experience in the finance sector. She was only 26 years old when she opened her first company, a facility in Northeast Houston to offer enrichment programs for children, including day camps and workshops.
Thanks to a combination of creativity and strong knowledge in finance, Margo was able to develop her leadership skills and grow her business. But like many founders, she had to deal with unpredictable events that tested her resiliency and leadership skills. The first big challenge came in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey destroyed her facility in Northeast Houston. Nevertheless, Margo didn’t give up and was able to raise funds to continue serving families in Houston.
Two years later, another major disruption menaced her business. COVID forced her to stop the in-person programs, but also offered an opportunity to make a greater impact and help students cope with a new reality marked by isolation and uncertainty. She pivoted and focused all her efforts on her e-learning platform, Enrichly.
Currently, Enrichly has 500 subscribers and impacts more than 10,000 students from different grade levels and backgrounds. The platform offers self-esteem-based learning workshops and curriculum, live content with teens and influencers, and mental health resources. The goal is to help members build their confidence, recognize their capabilities, and put limitations in perspective. According to Margo, having high self-esteem helps prevent depression, anxiety disorders, and even suicide. It affects all aspects of life including academic performance.
When parents and schools from countries worldwide started coming back to her for help, she realized she was dealing with a global issue and started expanding her business outside the US. Her platform currently reaches members from 12 countries, mainly parents and educators trying to help students overcome depression and low self-esteem. Margo is also negotiating with corporations and schools in countries such as Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. Her most recent contract was with the Arabian American School, which will bring a self-esteem learning program to their campus middle school students in Dubai.
The power of connections
As a visionary entrepreneur, Margo thinks it is important to take risks and learn from mistakes. She recognizes the value of connections and resources for her business. In 2021, Margo was selected to participate in a three-month support program offered by Impact HUB Houston in partnership with Frost Bank. Since May, she and seven additional Founder women had weekly meetings with advisors and mentors to refine their business model. The program has also helped them gain a deeper understanding of business and financial management, while working on their pitching and funding model.
“The amount of resources we received are invaluable. Being able to connect with Grace and Michelle has allowed me to put some of the pieces I’ve been missing together. Grace and I worked on my diagnostic and defined a lot of what my company does and gave me a more concrete plan moving forward. This was very instrumental in making sure I’m capturing my impact more efficiently,” says Margo.
Margo’s next steps include launching the Enrichly app and growing her membership program. She is also working on a side project to help students develop leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset. She admits it was particularly difficult to build her reputation and raise money being a Black woman, and she wants to inspire others to believe in themselves and fight for their dreams. Considering her personal story, and the passionate way she talks about her mission, Margo is certainly a great inspiration.
Now that COVID-19 and climate change have profoundly disrupted society and our economies, how might we innovate investment in impact and build more just, equitable, and resilient economies by 2030?
We are addressing this at the Impact Hub Houston’s “Investing2030: Redefining the Future of ROI” Summit on Thursday, May 20th, from 12:00pm CT to 5:00pm CT!
Investing2030 aims to provide a window into this future, where a surge in entrepreneurs developing “glocal” (global+local) solutions to the world’s most pressing issues intersects with the next generation of funders implementing triple-bottom-line investing with an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) lens.
From climate change to economic, gender, and racial inequalities to crises in health, education, and more — areas targeted by the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — we know that it will require more inclusion, more ideas, more innovation, and more investment to effectively address all of these issues and get our planet on a positive track by 2030.
You will walk away from Investing2030 with a better understanding of:
Diverse types of impact ventures and social entrepreneurs
What fundraising looks like in different regions, industries and verticals
How to raise funding at various stages of growth
What entrepreneurs’ *real* challenges have been for fundraising in Houston
Investing2030 is happening during Houston Tech Rodeo May 18-24 and is open to all: entrepreneurs, startup founders, students, and community members who are interested in learning more about transforming “Return On Investment” into “Return On Impact.” And it’s FREE and virtual, so all can attend! Registration is still open — Join us to learn from and connect with people at the forefront of our Impact + Investment ecosystem!
Workforce Solutions selects MassChallenge and Impact Hub Houston to operate a startup bootcamp designed for female founders.
(Houston, TX) April 1, 2021 – MassChallenge, the global network for innovators, Workforce Solutions, the public workforce system for Houston and the surrounding 13 counties in Southeast Texas, and Impact Hub Houston, a locally rooted and globally connected impact innovation incubator, today announced a new partnership to launch a bootcamp to support female founders in the greater Houston region.
Together, Workforce Solutions, MassChallenge, and Impact Hub Houston will identify and support female founders looking to start a new high-growth or high-impact startup and support them through the earliest stages of building a business.
“There is unprecedented growth in startup creation as a result of the pandemic and founders from all corners of the world are connecting in this virtual environment to build and scale amazing ideas,” said Jon Nordby, Managing Director of MassChallenge Texas. “With these new collaborations, we are also witnessing a massive gap in access to startup development resources. Our partnership with Workforce Solutions and Impact Hub Houston will help female founders build on their existing knowledge to become life-long innovators. MassChallenge is thrilled to partner with Workforce Solutions to equip bold entrepreneurs, disrupt the status quo, and create meaningful change.”
Grace Rodriguez, CEO/Executive Director of Impact Hub Houston, adds: “As a female founder myself, I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity to support and uplift more women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses in our region. By now, it’s no secret that women, and especially women of color, are under-invested in; and this is our chance to change that by helping more women strengthen their businesses and prepare to seek funding. It makes perfect sense that we’re starting in Houston — one of the most diverse cities in the country and consistently ranked one of the Top Ten cities for women entrepreneurs — and that we’re launching this with our partners at MassChallenge Texas and Workforce Solutions, both of whom have been strong allies in our collaborative mission to empower diverse entrepreneurs and talent.”
“Workforce Solutions is excited to partner with MassChallenge and Impact Hub Houston to bring to life a new bootcamp designed for mission-driven women focused on creating, sustaining, or expanding a business,” said Mike Temple, executive director of Workforce Solutions. “We recognize that small businesses and startups are vital to the continued growth of the local economy. Our goal is to drive a community that will support female leaders in support of entrepreneurial activities that create income and new job opportunities across the greater Houston area.”
The female founder bootcamp leverages MassChallenge’s proven acceleration model and Impact Hub Houston’s inclusive incubation expertise to identify, accelerate, and connect female founders with the resources they need to launch and scale high-impact businesses. The bootcamp is industry agnostic and applications are open to all female founders in the Houston-Galveston region, offering them access to the global MassChallenge and Impact Hub curriculum, workshops, and networks of expert mentors and resources.
Applications to the bootcamp are live April 1 – April 7 and applicants will need to meet the Workforce Solutions eligibility criteria in order to participate.
Applicants can apply by:
Submitting the pre-screening application by the deadline of 5PM CT on April 7 2021.
If a pre-screening application is approved, a Workforce Solutions staff person will reach out to the applicant to schedule a meeting; a response is needed within 2 business days.
At the conclusion of the assessment the applicant will be asked to complete the Workforce Solutions Financial Aid Application and upload supporting documents; this process must be completed by April 19, 2021.
Twenty-five applicants will be selected to participate in the Women’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp on April 29th and 30th. Content will be available in both English and Spanish.
Workforce Solutions is dedicated to keeping the Gulf Coast region a great place to do business, work, and live. Our employer-driven, people-focused approach elevates the economic and human potential of the region to attract and retain the best employers, afford everyone the dignity of a job, and remain indispensable to the global economy. As the public workforce system for Houston and the surrounding 13 counties in Southeast Texas, we work in tandem with the Texas Workforce Commission and the statewide Workforce Solutions network.
MassChallenge is the global network for innovators. Headquartered in the United States with seven locations worldwide, MassChallenge equips bold entrepreneurs to disrupt the status quo and to create meaningful change. Since launching in 2009, more than 2,900 MassChallenge alumni have raised $8.6B in funding, generated $3.6B in revenue, and created more than 186,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at masschallenge.org.
About Impact Hub Houston
About Impact Hub Houston (houston.impacthub.net): Impact Hub Houston is a locally rooted, globally connected, 501c3 nonprofit impact innovation incubator that empowers diverse changemakers to solve some of society’s most pressing issues. A member of the Impact Hub global network — the world’s largest community recognized by the United Nations for accelerating entrepreneurial solutions towards measurable and scalable impact for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — Impact Hub Houston intentionally designs places, platforms, and programs to build an inclusive innovation ecosystem that looks like Houston and works for all.
About Impact Hub
About Impact Hub (https://impacthub.net): Impact Hub is a global network focused on building entrepreneurial communities for impact at scale. With 100+ communities of 16,500 social entrepreneurs & innovators in more than 55 countries across five continents, Impact Hub is one of the world’s largest communities and accelerators for positive change. It contributes to the development of social enterprise ecosystems to drive collaboration and innovation around the Sustainable Development Goals through locally rooted Impact Hubs, as well as with partners and allied networks.