UNDP and Impact Hub Announce Accelerate2030 Program Finalists

Together, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Impact Hub are pleased to announce the international finalists for the Accelerate2030 programme. Accelerate2030, is an international programme that supports high-impact ventures tackling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since 2016, the Accelerate2030 programme has been implemented across 24 countries, covering 16 developing countries in this year’s edition.

Selected from over 1100 applications, this year represents a diverse cohort of impact-driven ventures covering numerous SDGs including innovative solutions for rapid and inexpensive diagnostics, bioplastic from olive seeds, and using artificial intelligence in agritech, to name only a few.

“This year’s cohort of Accelerate2030 ventures are developing innovative solutions to important Sustainable Development Goals. It is innovators like these entrepreneurs who set the pace for addressing the world’s most pressing challenges related to the environment, food security, clean water, and many other important challenges manifested by SDGs.” notes Artak Melkonyan, UNDP.

Photo Credit: ImpactHubSanJose

The 10 International Accelerate2030 finalists are:

Unima (Mexico): Biotechnology company that develops rapid and inexpensive diagnostic and disease surveillance systems. The company’s goal is to solve the lack of access to rapid diagnostics for the 3 billion people in developing and resource-poor countries.

Portal Telemedicina (Brazil): Portal Telemedicina’s mission is to enable universal access to quality healthcare, through a platform that provides reliable, fast, and low-cost diagnostics to over 300 cities in Brazil and Africa by allowing doctors to diagnose online empowered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Bio Live (Turkey): Biolive produces 100% natural bioplastic granules made from olive seeds, in order to overcome environmental problems of plastic consumption, and to fulfil the deficiencies in bio/plastic market.

AgroCognitive (Venezuela): An affordable and smart precision farming platform for every farm size and food industry. It is powered by an artificial intelligence (AI) visual recognition engine, analytics models, blockchain, and it is compatible with IoT management devices.

Ekofungi (Serbia): Ekofungi is a mid-sized organic mushroom producer using an innovative circular mushroom-production model that harnesses local cellulose-based wastes (in a 30 km radius), creating mushroom substrate and cultivation mushrooms using unique energy-efficient innovations.

Impact Water (Nigeria): Delivering safe water to developing country institutions (schools and health facilities), via the sale, installation, and maintenance of water purification systems which use established technologies that perform effectively for decades with relatively simple, preventive maintenance.

InvestEd (The Philippines): InvestEd enables institutions and individuals to invest in loans to unbanked college students through an innovative credit scoring tool that predicts repayment and employment.

Sampangan (Indonesia): An innovative waste processing solution using carbonisation technology (heat radiation) to efficiently decompose any kind of solid waste (organic & inorganic) into carbon for organic agriculture and other industries.

Costa Rica Insect Company (Costa Rica): Creating sustainable insect-based solutions, and providing high quality and healthy solutions for malnutrition. In addition CRIC seeks to use of insects to develop biochemical components for unsustainable industries such as plastics, pharmaceuticals, technology or even packaging.

SoluBio (Brazil): SoluBio’s mission is to eliminate the usage of chemicals in agriculture through a technology that enables farmers to produce their own biofungicide, biopesticide and other necessary products in agriculture.

For more information on the ventures, visit https://accelerate2030.net/2019-global-finalists

These ten finalists will join the global Accelerate2030 scaling programme, kicked off by an intensive
week of activities in Geneva from 4-11 of October, benefitting from a set of services and support offered by UNDP, Impact Hub, International Trade Centre, Pfizer, Amazon Web Services, UNAIDS, Boston Consulting Group and other program partners. The Geneva week is part of the Building Bridges Week, connecting key players working in the field of sustainable finance, with the entrepreneurs presenting at the SDG Geneva Finance Summit (SGS Geneva) on October 9th, and the Factory17 event on October 10th.

About Accelerate2030

Accelerate2030 is a multi-stakeholder program, co-initiated by Impact Hub and UNDP, with the mission to scale the impact of entrepreneurial solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The programme has to-date been implemented in three editions, in 24 developing and emerging economies across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, reaching 2 million people and more than 1500 entrepreneurs, and engaging around 50 partners globally. Within this time, the programme has brought together numerous entrepreneurs, investors, UN agencies, multinational organizations, consultancies, local authorities and other stakeholders around a common mission of addressing the SDGs through entrepreneurial solutions.

This year the program was launched across 16 countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Cambodia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Mexico, El Salvador, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Turkey, Serbia, and Armenia.

For more information & interview requests, please contact:

Impact Hub Geneva UNDP Geneva
Ljupka Mitrinovska, Accelerate2030 Sarah Bel
Email: ljupka.mitrinovska@impacthub.ch Email: sarah.bel@undp.org
Tel: +41 76 396 64 13

Learn more about the program at www.accelerate2030.net.
Media kit with photos and visuals available here.

The Cannon and Impact Hub Houston Partner to Expand Diversity-Centered Programming in Houston’s Startup Ecosystem

HOUSTON, (August 27, 2019) – The Cannon and Impact Hub Houston are excited to announce their new partnership to create more inclusive and diversity-centered programs across the Greater Houston area.

Impact Hub Houston, a member of the global Impact Hub network—the world’s largest community dedicated to helping social entrepreneurs create impact at scale—aims to make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues. With collaboration as a cornerstone, Impact Hub Houston and The Cannon will work together to deliver events that connect and empower diverse changemakers, social entrepreneurs, and impact supporters across the Greater Houston area.

The Cannon recently welcomed nearly 500 of Houston’s most accomplished entrepreneurs, small businesses and service providers into their community with the opening of their newly-constructed 120K sq. ft. Main Campus in West Houston in late July. Lawson Gow, Founder and CEO of The Cannon, notes, “One of Houston’s best differentiating qualities is that we are truly a melting pot. We want our community to reflect the amazing diversity across our city, so we have to move beyond simply discussing diversity and work to create an environment where innovation can thrive and real change can happen. We are confident Impact Hub will be the perfect partner to bring those aspects to our community.”

Grace Rodriguez, CEO and Executive Director of Impact Hub Houston, shares, “Over the past few years, Lawson and I have brainstormed how we could work together to connect and grow our region’s innovation ecosystem, and demonstrate how organizations can evolve from competition to true collaboration. I’m so excited that those talks have developed into this partnership: Through The Cannon and Impact Hub Houston, we’ll be able to effectively ‘meet people where they are’ geographically, socially, and culturally, helping diverse entrepreneurs and startups at the myriad intersections of place, purpose, demographics, psychographics, and business growth stages. We at Impact Hub Houston look forward to doing more good with the great team at The Cannon!”

Impact Hub Houston will establish a #PopHUB at The Cannon – Main Campus and provide programming there, at The Cannon – Post Oak just west of the Galleria, and at additional new locations as they open. Members of each organization will also receive access to both organizations’ locations across Houston.

To kick off the partnership, the organizations will host a joint AMA panel and reception at The Cannon on September 11, 2019, followed by Impact Hub Houston’s Social Entrepreneurship Meetup. Both events intend to bring their communities and the general public together, as all are invited to come learn more about the organizations, the partnership, and what this and future collaborations will mean for Houston.

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About The Cannon (https://thecannonhouston.com)
The Cannon is a coworking space and entrepreneurship hub located at the center of the 32-acre Founders District on the west side of Houston, just north of Interstate 10 and Beltway 8. Currently, there are over 200 companies in The Cannon community working at The Cannon – Main Campus, a brand new 120K square foot converted warehouse that is one of the largest coworking and offices spaces in the world, and at The Cannon – Post Oak, the first of many satellite locations that will allow for even more flexibility and resources for Houston’s entrepreneurs. The Cannon plans to headquarter over 800 of Houston’s most accomplished entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses, and will be surrounded by service providers and resources geared to help their businesses grow.

About Impact Hub Houston (https://houston.impacthub.net)
Impact Hub Houston is a locally rooted, globally connected, nonprofit startup development organization that aims to make Houston a role model for how the world solves its 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 and empower diverse changemakers, social entrepreneurs, and impact supporters to create the change they wish to see in the world.

The Secret to Driving Change: Embracing Your Humanity

As I dig into my own research on organizations changing lives for the better, it’s only fitting this month’s UN theme be Human Rights. Uniformly, I find the businesses and charities championingnhuman rights (through economic inclusion, physical safety, or personal autonomy) and thriving put one thing at the forefront of their work.

Their humanity.

What better way to move the needle on the world’s challenges (like human rights violations) than to remember our own humanity? The more founders embrace who they are, and infuse
themselves into their work, the more traction and attention their work gets.

It’s easy to see why that’s the case. Humanizing our work builds culture and it’s culture that creates loyalists and communities invested in our success. The social capital that comes with community investment beats out tote bags and hashtags any day.

As you put your own solutions out into the world I challenge you to take the more “humane” approach to business by remembering a few things:

Lean Into the Messy
In the world of decks and pitches, there’s a ton of pressure to have all of the answers and execute. Thing is, you’ll never have all of the answers. Even worse, if you preoccupy yourself with finding answers you’ll miss some pretty interesting problems.

Move yourself and your team away from the need for certainty, and embrace the humanity of evolving. Curiosity is one of the best ways to explore empathy, and empathy is how you get to
the root of a successful solution.

Build in a student mindset and I promise you’ll start to see new ways of integrating clients, engaging beneficiaries, new solutions to thorny problems, and identify growth opportunities that fit who you are and who you serve.

Talk About Yourself
Don’t mistake this for prattling on about yourself endlessly. What draws people into adopting, supporting or not protesting solutions is understanding your relationship to, and passion for, the problem. Why is the problem so important to you and your team? How are you touched? What have you experienced?

Talking about your interest(s) in the problem creates transparency, trust, and humanizes it for the listener.

People move when they are moved.

Chunk the Persona
So listen up, we have all read the same twenty or so startup books with the same advice and mantras. So when you copy and paste these into your pitches, donor materials, or projects they tend not to stand out because we have all seen it before.

Even worse? When we co-opt based on the lens of another there’s almost always incongruency between who we say we are and what we do.

Make it easy, and be yourself. Infuse your values, mission, and vision in all that you touch. If democratic and inclusive discussion are paramount to you, your legal business structure should reflect that. If you support wealth-generation and equity, your supply chain should reflect the local economy. If you want to fundraise in a way that builds wealth and equity, really think about venture capital versus a crowd-funding approach.

If we look at a list of your dreams, mission, and vision then look at your business operations, model, and recruiting there should be alignment between the two.

Own Your Impact
The research is in, and it turns out we as humans like to be liked. There are a number of historical and anthropological reasons for this, but the bottom line is it’s uncomfortable to be different. Which is why there’s a gut inclination for some impact organizations to apologize for not fitting neatly into boxes the philanthropic, corporate, or venture create. Either squeezing themselves in or erasing their distinctive nature.

But projects solving the world’s largest challenges are complex and messy because the WORLD is complex and messy. Organizations moving the needle understand this and embrace it.
The next time you feel the need to apologize because someone doesn’t understand why you do what you do, fight the urge to apologize and translate instead. How does your business model
educate and promote more charitable behavior? What are the economics behind inclusion and mental wellness?

Don’t shrink when confronted, expand.

Create Your Own Definitions
I’ll end with saying, not everyone’s dreams will be your dreams; nor should they be. There are milestones startup media heralds as indicative of “success.” Thing is, those milestones may not work for you and what you’re doing. Organizations solving the problems others haven’t dared touch, such as human rights violations, must define for themselves what success looks like…for them.

I truly believe running a business, charity or project should never require we co-opt someone else’s experiences or discard any parts of our own. The best way to have a positive impact and move us all into forwarding change will come when you embrace that you have a perspective and experience that no one else has had or will have again. Use that to your advantage and see how much progress you make.

Impact Hub Houston thanks Erin McClarty for authoring this piece. Erin is a mix between a business coach, attorney, impact architect, and vision doula. She helps people run businesses, foundations, initiatives, and movements that are unique to the founders. In doing her work, Erin works to carve out spaces that are the truest of expressions of who they are, allowing them to heal themselves while they heal their communities. Learn more about Erin and the services she offers by clicking here to visit her website. 

June 2019 Impact Updates

Impact Friends and Family,

June has been filled with celebration at Impact Hub Houston!

Did you hear? We are excited to partner with Houston Exponential for a summer pop-up! Stop by to say hello!

What else?

We launched the Impact Hub Houston Community Membership this month! We’re working to offer you more programs to learn from, more events to connect at, more storytelling to inspire you, and new virtual and physical spaces to empower your networking and coworking! Learn more at https://houston.impacthub.net/membership — if you’re ready to take our relationship to the next level, apply to become an Impact Hub Houston Community Member, today!

Before June flies by, be sure to connect with the Impact Hub Houston fam on Friday, June 28:

…and don’t miss out on these opportunities from Houston’s broader impact + innovation ecosystem:

We look forward to seeing you at these events!
Team Houston

Impact Hub and WWF Join Forces for the Oceans!

JOIN FORCES FOR THE OCEANS: For any of our members and partners addressing themes like climate, energy, food, water, and oceans — some of WWF’s key areas of focus — Impact Hub has a partnership with WWF that aims to bring together innovators from our two networks, identify high potential solutions and provide these with access to WWF’s deep expertise in nature conservation as well as credibility and support in scaling and access to finance.

Impact Hub’s partnership with WWF builds on 8 years of successful collaboration and now enters a new phase. Our ambition is to expand our collaboration to many more countries around the globe, working together on a deep strategic level to tackle the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. 

First, we need to have a better sense of the kind of solutions within the wider community. Then we might, for example, provide ventures with best practices from Impact Hubs around the globe, reach out regarding relevant events, WWF projects, joint programs, support offers, among other things to inspire and enable you to move forward with your project.

One dump truck full of plastic waste enters our ocean every minute and by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. As unsettling as these facts are, there are lots of changemakers out there already getting involved and acting for a more sustainable world. If you are one of them, don’t miss the chance to learn from our experience and make a difference. Register now!: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScKtXZYmF-Cnqnz61Txg9GPD7bypXoBtjdNMLll_yOGEUhSBw/viewform

To learn more, go to http://wwf.impacthub.net/about/. If you’re an Impact Hub Houston member and apply to participate, please let us know! >>> houston@impacthub.net

…and if you’d like to become a member and participate in this opportunity, sign up now at https://houston.impacthub.net/membership. We look forward to helping you create the impact you wish to see in the world!

ELEVATE: Hubspot Offers Free Inbound Marketing Accelerator Program for Social Ventures & Startups!

For all Impact Hub Houston Members and Community:

Behind every fast-growing startup is the ability to successfully attract, engage, and delight customers.

To do so, high-growth companies must focus on adding value to customers at every stage of their journey. Inbound marketing, sales, and service are well-known methodologies for achieving customer value.

General Catalyst and HubSpot are excited to announce ELEVATE, a free virtual accelerator consisting of eight 1-hour sessions designed to help early-stage startups learn the principles of inbound marketing and create a growth playbook tailored to the needs of their customers. Startups will be invited to attend an exclusive, four-week program where they will join Master Classes led by HubSpot experts to learn inbound methodology fundamentals, and case studies led by General Catalyst portfolio founders and executives to better conceptualize how to apply these principles. In the fourth week, startups will complete a Master Class and case study focused specifically on fundraising led by General Catalyst investors and portfolio founders. 

The summer will culminate with a final pitch event to a live audience at INBOUND19!

Featuring experts from HubSpot, General Catalyst, Stripe, Gusto, B12, and Verta.AI, ELEVATE will teach high-potential startups how to grow better. If you have a social venture or startup and you are looking to grow, apply to ELEVATE today: https://offers.hubspot.com/startups/elevate

Applications close Sunday, May 26th at midnight EDT. Attendees will be notified of their acceptance no later than June 1.

ELEVATE ACCELERATOR SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Attract – June 4th and 6th

  • Master Class: As an emerging company, nothing is more important than driving traffic to your website. The easiest way to attract traffic begins with understanding your target audience.
  • Case StudyLearn how Gusto navigated customer discovery and set up their online presence to attract early customers, and become a top payroll and benefits provider for small businesses.

Week 2: Engage – June 11th and 13th

  • Master Class: Now that you’ve attracted website visitors, you need to engage them with your content and turn them into repeat visitors. As you provide more value to your prospects you will begin to build trust.
  • Case Study: Learn how Stripe built their sales strategy and engaged repeat visitors to become the leading payments platform for internet businesses.

Week 3: Delight – June 18th and 20th

  • Master Class: The cost of acquiring a new customer is dramatically higher than the cost of retaining an existing customer. Creating the final step of the inbound approach, delighting customers should be treated with the same care and attention as all the other steps of the methodology.
  • Case Study: Learn how B12 has continued to delight early customers with their AI-built website product through their deliberate focus on customer success.

Week 4: Present – July 9th and 11th

  • Master Class: With an inbound marketing practice in motion, startups might also be ready to raise seed capital to help fuel anticipated growth. Successfully raising a seed round requires a compelling narrative, a thoughtful plan of action, and an understanding of the documents and requirements from potential investors during the process.
  • Case Study: Learn how an early stage GC founder built and presented a crisp narrative and secured top investors for her seed round.

Apply to ELEVATE today: https://offers.hubspot.com/startups/elevate  Applications close Sunday, May 26th!

Meet the Launch Team: Carlos Sotelo

In continuation of the spotlights we promised in our campaign launch post, there are several passionate people behind Impact Hub Houston we want you to meet. Carlos Sotelo (https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlosotelo/) shares how his experiences growing up and helping students as a college counselor led him to join the Impact Hub Houston launch team:

Growing up in working-class Pasadena, I learned some of my greatest values from family and friends who called this hard-working, aspirational community home. Resilience. Echale ganas. Determination.

Still, I longed to expand my horizons beyond the endless refineries located just blocks down from our family’s apartment. I wanted to honor my parents’ sacrifices by taking advantage of every opportunity I could find. As an undocumented student, sometimes that meant creating a few along the way too.

Here, I also learned about what occurs when access to opportunity is limited for those that need it the most. Immigrant day laborers robbed of promised wages. Uninsured individuals unable to afford preventive health care. Financially-stressed parents with more options for predatory payday lenders than asset-building opportunities. Residents putting up with broken infrastructure and regulation-breaking industry. Students falling through the cracks at under-resourced schools.

I took these experiences with me to college. There, I studied public policy to learn how to find solutions to social problems. Thanks to those who helped me overcome the barriers of my educational journey, I believed in the power of education as a driver for positive social change.

The ladder of social mobility needs to be widened for the future of our country. As the one making the generational leap in my own family, I wanted to address the inequities in access to opportunity for all as I began my career.

So when I began serving as a college counselor, I connected with so many of my students who aspired to be the first in their families to go to and graduate from college.

Still, advising them on how to navigate the process of obtaining a postsecondary degree/certification of any kind was not enough. Too many of our students were failing to show up to their first day of college classes. Further, data shows that far too many students of a low-income or underrepresented minority background were not graduating.

With these problems in mind, I went to my first Impact Hub event last year: Open Project Night. I had hoped to just listen to what other people’s challenges or ventures were. Yet, something else happened. I got pushed to present about the problems I faced.

After jotting notes down on paper, I nervously spoke to the crowd about the experiences of my work and students. Soon, my two minutes were up and I started talking with people who came up to me. Just as quickly, my nerves went away. The free beer probably helped too, I may add.

The collaborative energy was infectious. Everyone was friendly and encouraging. People offered helpful advice and their contacts. Feeling uplifted, I returned the favor and visited the other presenters to offer my own support.

I joined Impact Hub Houston because I got pushed. I’m glad I got pushed.

Because that’s what Impact Hub Houston intends to do for the community of problem solvers. Push them forward towards enacting solutions. Push them to connect with one another to work smarter together than harder alone. Push resources and opportunities in our paths. Push the envelope for what sustainable impact looks like. Push social entrepreneurship as a viable option for addressing our most critical issues.

Being part of the Impact Hub Houston community is an opportunity to ensure a better future for a more equitable and prosperous Houston for future generations. Now, as we get ready to launch, expand our programming, and build our community, I push anyone who cares about making a difference to support and donate to Impact Hub Houston. You’ll be glad you did.

Meet the Launch Team: Jaison Oliver

As promised in our campaign launch post, we want you to meet all the passionate people behind Impact Hub Houston. Jaison Oliver (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaisonoliver) shares how he first engaged with Impact Hub Houston and how YOU can help drive impact in our community too:

Activists and organizers are mobilizing to end discriminatory bail practices, small businesses are providing vital space and sustenance for neighbors, and we’re all checking on one another amidst the smoke and pollen swirling around.

I’m excited about our future! I attend dozens of events weekly where I’m constantly energized by seeing people work through methods both old and new to make Houston better. Solving problems is what we do, and Impact Hub is the embodiment of that collaborative spirit.

I met Grace Rodriguez and Shiroy Aspandiar at an Open Project Night years ago. Open Project Night is a space where people collaborate to drive ideas and projects forward to make Houston a better place./em>

Shiroy and I had a shared interest in education technology since I had just left an ed tech startup. Shiroy was developing One Jump, a platform that connects under-served students to enrichment opportunities to the shorten the opportunity gap.

Seeing Shiroy tackle a major problem for schools helped me realize just how little our education system has changed despite all the new innovations we have at our disposal. It also reminded me how much power we have to change it ourselves. I’m basically One Jump’s biggest fan and I tell every student I encounter about how invaluable it is for summer opportunities.

Meanwhile, Grace was supporting Writers in the Schools as a board member. Watching Grace wield her unique amalgam of experiences for good constantly pushes me to be more creative in my own work. I’ve been hacking for Houston alongside them ever since.

I love this city and I want to see us all thrive. In my experience, thriving begins with creating robust ways to invite people into our work. Here are a few ways I want to build community and solve problems with you:

I shared those examples because it’s important to consider the many ways that change making is already happening in our neighborhoods, especially in communities of color. I want to connect that innovative spirit to institutional resources and knowledge that can help advance Houston.

To that end, one major project I’ll be working on through Impact Hub is to map out support pathways for social entrepreneurs. How can we better define pathways to success for problem-solvers? If you want to share the story of how you navigated this process, please reach out to me!

Also, we’ve built up quite the community of change makers over the years but we can’t do this work without partners. If your organization is solving problems in Houston, I want to know about it. We want to amplify your voice, expand your impact, and look for ways to partner with you.

Houston feels different. America feels different. Everything is changing. Can you feel it? We invite you to subscribe, volunteer, mentor, and — if you’re feeling our mission — slide us some coins for our crowdfunding campaign to help us increase our capacity for programming! Let’s shape and embrace change together. I can’t wait!

Meet the Team: Michelle Avalos, Launch Team Member

As we shared in our campaign launch post, there are several passionate people behind Impact Hub Houston we want you to meet. Michelle Avalos (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-%C3%A1valos-32300439/) shares how her journey of elevating the value of her community work as she advanced her college and professional career led her to join the Impact Hub Houston launch team:

When I was finishing my second year of college, I remember getting asked how much money I wanted to make after graduation. Easy question for a business student to answer, right?

The expectation was to respond with a dollar figure. Instead, I responded, “I want to work for a company who values me and my work.”

There is so much context packed into this one statement. One, I attended college because I knew education was the only way for me to help my family move forward. Yet, I did not want to be driven strictly by money. Two, I always wanted to work for a great company, but never imagined entrepreneurship would be in my future. Three, I wanted to be valued as a person and I wanted my work to be recognized.

In 2010, I transferred to the University of Houston and started volunteering with the Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA). The notion of giving back began growing its roots in my heart. For the first time, I had the opportunity to connect with other Latinos of a similar background as me who were driven to accomplish something bigger for themselves, their families and their communities.

Through HBSA, I helped organize career development opportunities for nearly 2,000 middle- and high-school students from low-income communities in Houston and Pasadena. The more I stood in front of other youth to share my story, the more driven I was to give back.

Shortly after my college graduation, I started my career as a natural gas and LNG analyst. Continuing my community work from college, I served as a volunteer board member for the Bauer College Alumni Association (BCAA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). My role on these boards focused on student outreach, professional development, career advancement, and community engagement. As I advanced in my career, I spent countless hours mentoring students with efforts to close the gap between where they were and where they wanted to be.

In 2014, my husband and I decided to find a solution ourselves to barriers preventing students from accessing professional programming to advance their college careers. We pulled our resources together, formed a team, and developed a two-day professional boot camp and suit scholarship. In two years, the program impacted the lives of 50 deserving college students who did not own a suit. In 2017, building on the pillars of creativity, youth and education, we turned the suit scholarship into a non-profit organization called Creative Vida. Our mission is to educate and empower youth through creative experiences.

Over the last couple of years, I began thinking more critically about time and how little time we have on this Earth. I contemplated how I was going to write the next chapter of my life and career. On paper, I was in a prime position for my career. I worked for the first LNG exporter in the US. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was allocating my time to fully living out my values. Through prayer and mentorship, I realized the time I was putting into my volunteer efforts was insufficient to make the impactful change needed in our city. Thus, I made the decision to transition out of the LNG industry to focus full time on community work.

Now, I work to create a world where individuals who want to make an impactful change in their communities have access to the education and resources needed to best accomplish their efforts. This is why I joined the Impact Hub Houston launch team last year. I believe my unique combination of corporate and non-profit experience is a great asset to our city’s current and future social entrepreneurs. Before last year, I had never heard of the term social entrepreneur . Others words I had never heard of were social impact, social venture, impact investing, innovation ecosystem, b-corps. The lists go on and on.

How is it that someone like me, a business person who has been extremely involved in our community, did not get exposed to the “impact space” prior to 2018? When my husband and I registered Creative Vida as a 501(c)3, we did so because it was the only relevant business model we knew at the time. Participating in Impact Hub’s programming over the last few months is allowing the Creative Vida team to think more creatively about our revenue model to scale our impact in the coming years. Exposure and education definitely make a difference!

Houston needs Impact Hub Houston because we need a better support system for problem solvers trying to make a change.

In the short term, my goal through Impact Hub is to connect with individuals who have an idea to solve a local or global problem but are not connected to the community of people ready to help bring those ideas to life. I want to allow everyone an opportunity to find their place within this community of change makers, social entrepreneurs, and supporters. Will you join me? #CambiaElMundo

Meet the Team: Shiroy Aspandiar, Co-Founder & Board Chair

As we shared in our campaign launch post, we are excited to introduce you to the people behind Impact Hub Houston. First, meet Shiroy Aspandiar (https://www.linkedin.com/in/shiroy-aspandiar-b6a38443/), Co-Founder and Chair of our Board of Directors, as he shares how his entrepreneurial journey led him to play a key role in launching Impact Hub Houston:

I was one of the many people who bought into the myth of the unconquerable entrepreneur. The pioneer who was prolifically confident, obsessive, charismatic, and unyieldingly optimistic. For a time, I, too, felt unconquerable and rode a wave of euphoria for months as I plunged full-time into co-founding One Jump, an online platform that connects underserved students to enrichment opportunities with the goal of combatting the opportunity gap.

And then something changed. My savings were gone. Debt began to pile up. Traction slowed. Technical challenges increased in frequency. The rejections and defeats along the startup journey began to feel less like rain and more like hail. Seeking advice about what I was experiencing, I called a mentor and after a long pause he shared: “I think I know what you’re feeling. You’re in the pit.”

Almost all entrepreneurs tumble into the pit at some point. What can often make or break their venture is their ability to pull themselves out of it. But how do you do that? I wasn’t sure, so I looked for help. I sought out other founders and mentors. I looked for a community, but struggled to find one … especially as a social entrepreneur.

We’re different. While we’re mission-oriented, we are quickly labeled as “charities,” and that label is either limiting or incorrect. Traditional business models can also be at odds with our theory of impact. I found this to be true with One Jump as I communicated with our mentors, advisors, and prospective investors. Our team was often pushed to work with affluent schools more directly, but we believed this would only further extend the achievement gap. During launch, our team struggled to find examples of successful hybrids and benefit corporations and how to structure them. Structuring as a non-profit, for-profit, hybrid or a benefit corporation matters significantly, but there’s a lack of quality coaching on choosing which structure would work best for your startup. And lastly, there’s a growing need to educate up the ladder – to reach potential funders, investors, foundations, and family offices about the rise of for-profit social enterprises, their expected returns, company performance, unique tax code implications, and so much more.

Frustrated and seeking community support, I presented my startup at a Sketch City Hackathon. Through that experience, I met Natasha Azizi, who had worked for Unreasonable Institute, an organization that supported social entrepreneurs internationally. She shared that she was planning to bring an organization called Impact Hub to Houston. I learned that Impact Hub was a collection of locally rooted, globally connected “hubs” dedicated to supporting social impact and social entrepreneurship in cities around the world. Think the United Nations if it were made up of hubs that support changemakers and problem solvers. Hubs were the places you’d go to connect with movers and shakers working individually and collaboratively to make the city and the world a better place. I immediately wanted to be a part of that community. That’s what I was looking for.

Over time, my engagement with Impact Hub Houston increased and I became a co-founder. I found it empowering to be able to shape an organization that I and many of my peers urgently needed. With programs that included coffee colliders, community townhalls, founders workshops, meetups, Open Project Nights, Fuck Up Nights (Yes, it’s a thing! Look it up!), and so much more, we are working to build an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

We help make Houston more equitable by supporting changemakers and social entrepreneurs so that they feel less isolated and can focus on delivering greater impact through their work. We’ll help problem solvers stop falling into pits…but if they do fall, they’ll find a vibrant community of individuals, mentors, and other stakeholders helping them get back on their feet.

Guided by our refined vision and mission, and our amazing leader in Grace Rodriguez, we are excited to write the next chapter of Impact Hub Houston! Join us in building a movement, and engage in the rewarding-yet-challenging work of achieving our vision: To make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues.