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.