Kevin Douglas (00:07):
Today on the Entrepreneurship@DU podcast,
Janney Carpenter (00:11):
When you’re trying to solve a problem, you need to really understand the problem. Otherwise, you might be solving the wrong problem, designing a solution that’s not a good fit for the local market. Or there may be you just haven’t thought it all the way through.
Kevin Douglas (00:25):
Two experts on social entrepreneurship discuss how and why purpose-driven ventures are key to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
John Sebesta (00:33):
The other benefit that earned revenue gives is validation. Your beneficiary is saying, yeah, I value this and I’m willing to part with my hard-earned money to pay for these services. People are willing to give you their feedback because they’re paying for it.
Kevin Douglas (00:46):
B corporations, nonprofits, and other kinds of socially oriented organizations are a hot topic. In the last few years, more and more attention has been drawn to the environmental and humanitarian impact of businesses. Today we are chatting with Jan Carpenter and John Esta two DU professors with several years of experience working with social enterprises. I’m Kevin Douglas. This is the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast.
Welcome to the Entrepreneurship@DU podcast. Today we have two guests speaking about social entrepreneurship. We have John Esta and Janni Carpenter. John Septa is the Koch Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship and a professor of the practice at the Daniels College of Business. He has taught social entrepreneurship throughout Central America and currently teaches undergraduate courses on the subject. Jan Carpenter is a faculty member of the Korbel School of International Studies where she teaches graduate level courses on social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. She previously served as faculty director of the Barton Institute Social Enterprise Fellowship and has engaged with local entrepreneurs for years as a community development consultant. John Janney. Thank you both for coming to the studio.
Janney Carpenter (02:05):
Glad to be here.
John Sebesta (02:06):
Kevin Douglas (02:07):
So just to start out, because I know you both teach your own courses on the subject and maybe have your slightly different definitions, could you, in your own words, define what social entrepreneurship is and what distinguishes it from any other kind of startup?
John Sebesta (02:22):
Yeah, absolutely. So social entrepreneurship, and there’s a lot of different definitions out there and people view the subject very differently. And so you can look at it just really some work that needs to be done on a taxonomy or different perspectives on this. But the way I think about social entrepreneurship is that it is a business that has been created or an organization that has been created with this specific impact in mind. It exists in order to create some kind of impact. And then it organizational structures can vary. It could be a for-profit entity, it can be a nonprofit entity, but it’s primary existence to create some sort of impact. And it does that by leveraging market forces.
Janney Carpenter (03:04):
And I would agree with that. I think the social piece is really important. Just as John said, there’s really a continuum of organizations and legal. They’re not defined by their legal structure. It’s really about their intention. The purpose of the organization is to create social impact or sustainable or environmental impact, but they’re using business practices to achieve it. And it could be anything from nonprofit to B Corporations to for-profits, subsidiaries of nonprofits. There’s a wide range,
Kevin Douglas (03:34):
So it could be any structure of business, but it’s the intention, the impact, like you said, that really distinguishes it in terms of they may look very different being a nonprofit versus being a B corporation, but have you noticed similarities among the organizations that you’ve worked with or studied in your courses? Any similarities of company culture or climate or qualities you recognize in these founders that tend to be more socially cognizant or socially motivated?
Janney Carpenter (04:07):
Yeah, I think that one of the things that, a key characteristic is that, as I like to say, they fall in love with the problem, not their solution. So how can we better improve? How can we improve client outcomes over time? How can we better solve this problem? So they tend to be very focused on client outcomes and less on, okay, this is the strategy we must use there, always asking that question, is there a better way to solve this? And that innovation mindset and also the entrepreneurial mindset of testing new ideas, being willing to test ideas and measure whether they are achieving their goal. That is really the key piece of if can’t serious about impact, usually you measure it in some way, otherwise you don’t know if you’re making any progress.
John Sebesta (04:52):
Yeah, yeah, I would agree. I think there’s a relentless pursuit of that mission above all else, and that you’ve mentioned culture that pervades the culture as well of you bring in people that are passionate about that objective about why the company exists. They’re not just looking for a job. They’re looking to be an integral part in solving and addressing that challenge.
Kevin Douglas (05:13):
What are some examples of businesses or nonprofits that you’ve worked with or studied that carry this intention behind them?
John Sebesta (05:22):
So a couple of personal examples. So I spent a fair amount of time in Central America, especially Guatemala. And while I was there, I got to work with a couple of different groups that are making some interesting impact all in for-profit businesses. Cause that’s kind of where we were focused. So one is Echo fil Throw, which is a water filtration solution that they developed basically taking a ceramic pot, effectively lining it with silver and it cleans water. And so it developed it, especially for the rural port where, I mean all throughout Guatemala, the water is not potable, but they wanted it to bring the cost down to make it available to the rural poor, but also recognize that this is a problem for even some of the more affluent urban citizens. And so they developed various models that were aesthetically pleasing, that were targeted at the urban affluent, and then really simple models that worked in the rural poor and yeah, just brought clean water when I lived there, that’s how we got clean water was from that system. So that was always fun. And then I have another friend, Jesse that runs a company, just a simple restaurant, fast casual restaurant, but they have completely changed the landscape in Guatemala in advancing organic farming where it was effectively non-existent when he started. And so his, that’s been his big impact to trying to show people the power of healthy food and of organic farming and of transforming that throughout the country. And so it’s cool to see how just a simple traditional business, like a restaurant can have ripple effects throughout their entire supply chain.
Janney Carpenter (07:00):
Those are great examples. The other one, I think the ones that I have always been impressed with coming, I come more from the nonprofit or from the NGO world, right? Development, sustainable development. And similar to what John was saying, there’s a group organization called brac who’s one of the largest NGOs in the world. And one of, after working with them for many years in consulting, I was always impressed by their ability to find a way to intervene in markets and narrow market gaps, fill the gaps by providing a missing, missing function, either providing inputs that farmers need to compliment their, not their NGO activities of education, healthcare skills training, microfinance, et cetera. So there’s a lot of ways to, they found ways to provide capital, to provide access to markets and to provide the inputs that these small entrepreneurs, small scale entrepreneurs and micro enterprises and small businesses couldn’t get otherwise.
So I love that example here in the US there’s an example in Denver, Kamal, heritage Food Incubator run by local nonprofit focus points, family resource center. Kal is a restaurant, but it provides great food and it also provides a great employment opportunity and training opportunity for women immigrants and refugees who are new to the country who want to learn how to do food production, how to possibly one woman has launched a food truck, how do they learn how to work in the restaurant business so that the earned revenue from the business keeps it sustainable, allows them to have that flexible source of funding to invest in what they think is important, but also provides a wonderful opportunity service for the community, connecting people to those heritage foods and providing great food, but also providing a training and employment opportunity.
John Sebesta (08:53):
I love all of those examples
Kevin Douglas (08:54):
Because they cover such a wide range of the two you provided. John One is a product specifically connected to filtering water. The product itself is the impact. The restaurant being a fast casual restaurant, it was the methods the food is prepared. That is then providing that social entrepreneurship and then both of the examples you provided as well and this education perspective rather than just a product in and of itself or a service in and of itself. And I love how local all of them are too. That was one thing that when I was researching this subject, a lot of social entrepreneurs tend to work very locally because they know the problems in their community and they understand the needs of the people that live in their community. Could you talk a little bit about how locality and how in that community aspect of social entrepreneurship that maybe differs from other kinds of entrepreneurship?
Janney Carpenter (09:49):
Well, if you’re, I’ll just take, I’ll start off. When you’re trying to solve a problem, you need to really understand the problem from the customer experience and the customer point of view. And so really understanding that design thinking, human-centered design principles really come in handy because you, otherwise you might be solving the wrong problem designing a solution that’s not a good fit for the local market or the cultural culture, or there may be you just haven’t thought it all the way through. So it’s really important to understand your local market and to understand the customer challenges in that they have in either production, access to markets, distribution inputs, whatever it might be. So I think that that’s really important and I think that’s also a key piece of, one of the things, I think one of the ways John and I both, one of the reasons we’re passion, both passionate about social entrepreneurship is this idea that they can change markets. You become a market actor that can hire people, can by the people you employ, the markets you serve, the product with impact baked in, you can really disrupt the status quo and create a better alternative. And that’s really important. You, you’ve got to understand your local market being able to do that well.
John Sebesta (11:07):
Yeah, I completely agree. And the only thing I would add to that is with social entrepreneurship, well, I guess with traditional startups we always talk about what’s your value proposition for the customer? That’s essential. It’s essential in every business, every organization that’s providing something in social entrepreneurship, your customer isn’t always your beneficiary. And it’s equally important to really understand at the same level the beneficiary, especially if they’re distinct, so that you’re making sure that you are creating that value and creating that impact for them that you intend. And there’s lots of examples of groups that have done that really well and unfortunately lots of examples of groups that have done that really poorly because they didn’t spend the time to really understand the needs of that beneficiary, especially when that beneficiary was removed or
Kevin Douglas (11:52):
Wasn’t the customer the framework of value proposition, understanding and solving a problem for the customer, or not necessarily a customer, but a stakeholder in the community because of these issues that affect everyone. For anyone that has a business oriented mind, that’s a concept I think they can grasp onto. If they’re interested in pivoting into the social entrepreneurship space, they can still think about it from that business angle.
Janney Carpenter (12:19):
The only thing I would add is that nonprofits also really benefit from focusing on customer value proposition, right? Yeah. It’s really about value that you’re providing. Are you helping to solve the problem from the customer’s point of view? And so either it’s because they’re, whether or not they’re going to pay for a service or a product that you’re selling, or are they going to engage with the services you’re offering because you will have no impact if you have no use.
Kevin Douglas (12:42):
Could you talk a little bit also about the nonprofit world and what you’ve noticed in terms of how that works? What motivates an organization from being a nonprofit versus a social enterprise?
Janney Carpenter (12:55):
Sure. A couple of reasons that nonprofits have been, I think over the last 10 years have been really exploring more social entrepreneurship and social enterprises. Number one is the practical reason, diversifying their revenue streams more competition for funding. Some of the more nuanced reasons though are that an earned revenue stream does not come with strings, right? It’s yours to use as you wish, and you’re not begging for money and talking about what are the restrictions the donors or the grant has with it. It doesn’t come with reporting requirements. So almost every nonprofit leader that I have worked with, they understand the importance of grants and donations, but earned revenue stream gives them some flexibility to reinvest in the organization, to invest in the priorities they think are most important. And they are kind of most the really good ones, deeply understand their communities and their customers and they can think very strategically about what are the partnerships, what’s the impact, what are the levers of change to create not only direct impact, but system level change?
How can we engage partners to shift the market and change the way people operate? That said, so some nonprofits might create a for-profit subsidiary because it’s very different from what they do and they recognize they might need different funding sources, like if they’re creating a loan fund, different funding sources, different skillset, different risks, they might create that as a separate subsidiary. Many others make it a division in the umbrella nonprofit. Under marketing 1 0 1, you want the highest name recognition at the top, so why separate it off? And others think about how do they do, they start a brand new organization with a really integrated model. And I think both John and I have talked about it’s so important that nonprofits who begin this journey, that the business activities are designed to advance the mission, not just fund it. They can’t just be a cross subsidy. They really have to be integrated. And by the more products they sell, the more people they’re able to hire, the more benefits they create. So that integrated mission is really critical to really have that social enterprise thrive.
John Sebesta (15:10):
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more on the importance of the integration and regarding the funding sources and the fact that earned revenue doesn’t come with any strings. I think that’s hugely important. The other benefit that earned revenue gives is validation of you’re getting immediate feedback in the nonprofit space when your customers typically are your beneficiary, you’re getting immediate feedback that your beneficiary is saying, yeah, I value this and I’m willing to part with my hard-earned money to pay for these services. And so you’re getting much more feedback and people are willing to give you their feedback because they’re paying for it. Whereas if you’re giving them something for free, they oftentimes won’t tell you what’s wrong with it because they don’t want you to stop giving it to ’em even if it’s not perfect. And so I think it’s a real market validation aspect to earn revenue for nonprofits that’s really, really powerful to driving their effectiveness in achieving their missions.
Kevin Douglas (16:00):
Could you talk a bit about what problems in the world that you see both nonprofits and social enterprises tackling and how you believe entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship specifically will play a role in addressing these problems? I know some of the research I did, the green watching and the future of electronic vehicles, for example, and all sorts of new technologies that tackle environmental issues. What are some other things that as people want to learn more about social entrepreneurship, they’ll be hearing a lot of these buzzwords and a lot of these issues?
John Sebesta (16:36):
There’s so many options in this, and this is part of the challenges that going back to the beginning of what makes it a social enterprise, and it’s that intentionality around creating impact. And so this can range from things like better employment standards is I think a huge challenge. And bringing employment to those who are marginalized, who don’t have some of those opportunities, those great local organization work options, it’s doing that, especially for formerly incarcerated individuals and creating a similar that food preparation training. So there’s cool things like that. I have a good friend Anish that’s moved now back to India that’s doing waste management of how can we address the vast amount of plastics that are not recycled. I think waste management is going to be a huge and growing opportunity because we’re continuing to create more and more of it and not really coming up with any solutions for what to do with what’s already there.
So I think that there’s a huge variety of different kind of opportunities for social enterprise. And I think that what’s what, honestly, what’s really the most exciting to me is that even more traditional businesses are starting to bring this intent, intentionality into their core business in of just how do we influence the employees? Is there a way that we can make our hiring more impactful? Is there a way that we can reduce the negative externalities, the negative impact on the environment? And so we’re seeing even more traditional businesses bring this in. And so I think that as the students for today, no matter what industry, no matter what business you go into, you’re going to start seeing this and being asked to think about how you can create more impact because there’s lots of benefits to doing so in terms of more loyal customers, less price sensitive, more loyal employees that work harder. And so we’re seeing it not only in the types of products, the types of businesses that are being created, but in how we design it, how we operate even more traditional businesses.
Janney Carpenter (18:35):
Yeah, I think the only thing I would add is I come at from a little more of the impact driven side because I come from the development world and nonprofit sector more, but I think there is that continuum, right, of everything from for-profit businesses who are very financially successful and we want to make them more sustainable and be more intentional about being sustainable and socially aware. There’s a lot of power corporation has, and sometimes it’s just all self-reflection of saying, oh, how might our hiring practices be more inclusive? How might we better manage our waste stream? How can we reduce our carbon emissions by being more efficient and everything else? But also it happens. There has to be a business case for it for them. That continuum runs all the way I like to talk to my students about, you know, think about, used to be we had traditional for-profits and nonprofits, profit maximizers, impact maximizers.
Now we really have a continuum of organizations and we have traditional nonprofits, enterprising nonprofits who may run social enterprises, but they still might be a nonprofit structure because of that nonprofit mission on top we have double and triple bottom line companies and we have traditional corporations who may say, Hey, this is really nice, but it’s not baked in. So I always sort of ask the butt four test, how baked in is the impact into the business model? Or is it something that could be easily stripped out if shareholders or management said, oh, margins are thin, we need to drop this, right? That to me is not quite hit the bar. That’s a socially responsible business, but maybe not a social enterprise or would. An interesting question is if you are making, you found a great business opportunity, let’s talk about solving the problems of sustainability, innovation in how can be more sustainable business practices and reducing carbon emissions and reducing climate change and all those issues as well as social impact.
If the money would flow to it anyway because the returns are high enough, is it really a social impact, a social enterprise? And I don’t know if we are on the same page with that. I mean part of me feels like social impact as long as it’s baked in and they’re really holding themselves accountable for the social impact, that’s great. But you do have a lot of companies who say, Hey, by the way, this does have some social impact, but we’re not really committed to it. We have good intentions, but it’s not really baked into our business model.
John Sebesta (21:08):
Yeah, I think that that’s a very good point. And I guess as we think about opportunities for social enterprises, and that’s that very example of is it if it’s already a profitable or it’s going to be a profitable entity, would the money flow there? And I think that this goes back to the foundations of capitalism and of economics of what are the assumptions of a capitalist society and of the free hand of the market and money moving and that those assumptions aren’t held in our reality. And so things that may have viable profitable opportunities, the money’s still not flowing there. Why? And so social enterprises have a great opportunity to come in and be market makers and like Jan mentioned earlier, starting that process and showing the rest of the world that there is an interesting opportunity here that is just currently being missed. And so I think that that’s a huge impact if you can bring an industry behind you to say, oh, we didn’t realize we’d been overlooking this. Like my friend Anish, assuming if he can f out how to recycle these other 60% of plastics and then a whole market floods behind him and says, there’s a lot of money to be made here. He was still a social enterprise because he figured it out. He invested in the effort that nobody else was looking at. So I think that that’s a really interesting and powerful opportunity where there is that profit potential and a huge impact potential to go and find those opportunities that others just aren’t looking at right now. What
Kevin Douglas (22:44):
You said about the continuum of organizations and as the problems that we deal with in the world become more complex, there are more and more organizations also complex and mission or structure, all of which cover the different bases that we have to address in the world. In the crazy world we live in,
Janney Carpenter (23:04):
We need all hands on deck, we need all types of organizations. And I would also argue, I dunno if John agrees, but we also have social entrepreneurs who are funders. We have NGOs who do r and d work and look at markets and think about creating new markets. And I lump them all under kind of the social entrepreneurship umbrella because they’re looking at are there new ways to solve problems and in a market driven way and market driven, some in the NGO world or nonprofit world say, Ooh, wait, we’re not about more markets, but we really need to be because customers, we are serving customers. If you’re not providing value to those customers, you’re going to be out of business. Or whether whatever your legal structure might be
Kevin Douglas (23:44):
For listeners or for students you work with that are interested in getting into the entrepreneurship, the social entrepreneurship space, whether they have a business idea, a product idea that specifically is mission driven or they have a product or a business idea, but they want their mode of operating to be socially motivated, socially engaged, what advice do you give those students when they’re just starting out and they want to learn how to evaluate their mission impact, how to evaluate who their beneficiaries are and things of that nature?
Janney Carpenter (24:21):
I think it’s really important to be clear of what you’re trying to achieve. And we tend to count financial, perform, measure financial performance because we know how to do it. We have an accounting system, we’ve spent a hundred years developing this. We’re generally accepted accounting principles, measuring impact. If you are an organization who’s trying to do that, you have to measure something, you have to measure your progress on that goal. And you may not get it right away, just you may be a basket of metrics or you may be thinking about, okay, let’s understand what the outcomes are so we can better hone our strategy and come up with a better, what I call theory of change or logic model or business hypothesis, your theory of business to have create that impact. So you really need to measure both and you need to think about how are we achieving our both goals and the same principles of entrepreneurship, I think apply of, you know, test ideas, you measure, you build, you measure and you learn and you do iterative learning cycles to figure out what works and which ideas provide the most value to customers are easiest to deliver, to deliver, and then how do we identify how you can capture the value?
John Sebesta (25:31):
Yep. I agree with all of that and I want to go back to some of that. Jenny mentioned at the beginning of you have to fall in love with your problem. If you’re going to go into this space, you do it because you are just so enamored with addressing whatever that problem is that that’s going to be what carries you through. Because is it harder to start a social enterprise than a traditional business? Absolutely. And so you need that passion that’s going to pull you through and it has to be a true genuine passion because you’re going to need it to attract others to your team to attract investors. All of those things are going to see through that. And so you have to really, really be in love with your problem. The other main thing I tell students all the time is don’t forget your business fundamentals.
We tend to think like, oh, this is impactful, or I have a sustainable business so people are going to buy it. No, they won’t. Unless it’s a better product, they’re not going to buy it. And so make sure that you are actually providing value beyond your impact. Impact is critical, but it’s when selling into the market, typically it’s not enough. And so as much as we want and people are moving in this direction of you voting with their dollars and buying things that are more sustainably produced generally, it still has to be higher quality, still has to have a value proposition beyond that. And so don’t forget your fundamentals.
Janney Carpenter (26:53):
Definitely. And the only thing I would add to that is the idea too of it’s important just on a global context, markets are different. United States, we have a lot of philanthropy, we have a lot of donation, cul a culture of donations. But if you’re looking at the developing economies, there may be real pressure to hit break even really fast because you have a shorter runway, you’re not going to get additional grant funding. It’s going to be you depend on earned revenue. So you have to be providing value to those customers and then you can expand the services, the education, financial literacy, microfinance is a great example. It’s not perfect at all, but it one proved the market that there’s a credit worthy borrowers in the informal sector, especially women around the world also was a organizations who found that if we do this at scale, we can actually cover our costs. But the good ones then hit once they hit the surplus or profit, they start reinvesting back in, how do we expand education? How do we expand market access? How do we make sure that those profits return back to benefit our customers?
Kevin Douglas (28:03):
Considering all of the things that make a social enterprise, the fact you have to remember your business fundamentals and everything that goes into this social space. It’s almost like I think of double think. You have to be constantly looking at things that feel very different, but both go into this one business. How did you personally get into this space? What motivated you into learning more and now teaching social entrepreneurship?
John Sebesta (28:32):
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There’s a whole process, and this is interesting when you get into the academic stuff of paradox theory of how do you hold multiple ideas in tension that appear to be intention and then find the commonality, find the synergy among them. So I got into social entrepreneurship after about a decade in corporate America doing business management, international sales negotiations for a Fortune 50 company and found the work fascinating, was proud of what we were doing. At the same point, especially with some turnover and management, started to get more and more pressure for the what are we going to hit this quarter? How can you bring it in this quarterly earnings and much less of a focus on the long-term value of those relationships. And as I still step back, I just felt that there was an opportunity, the business could be used as a tool to create a tremendous amount of positive impact in the world, but that we weren’t using that tool to its fullest potential and that I wanted to use my life and my career to figure out how to better do that.
So my wife and I quit our jobs, moved to initially Peru, but then the western Highlands of Guatemala, which is where I got into an organization called Alterna where I really developing curriculum and working with dozens of different social enterprises throughout Central America. So that was my what drove me into it. And then I also had a short stint as an actual entrepreneur doing some of this stuff as well. But it’s been a joy and it’s made work so much more it, so much more pleasurable, so much more passion focused. May I ask what that social venture was? I’ve done a couple of different things. And so I’ve done and actually still involved with the real estate development or regenerative real estate development project in Costa Rica, taking about 170 acres of cleared pasture land in turning that into a sustainable regenerative residential community. Was working on a hospitality organization in Puerto Rico, focused specifically on bringing economic activity an impact to the island of Puerto Rico. And then I worked with a company here called Better Things that was doing water filtration solutions for the developing world. So a couple different avenues.
Janney Carpenter (30:41):
Very cool. I love learning more about your history every time we talk. The other thing is, I guess my background, I started off in banking, realized that there’s a lot more to, I was much more interested in getting up and going to work in the morning when I was problem solving, thinking about how can we do more design, more inclusive finance, how do we improve access and how do we use capital? I mean, one of the things when you’re in banking, you see the power of capital to grow businesses, to create new markets, and seeing that power unleashed in developing markets, when I transitioned from banking to development, finance consulting, did that for over, I’ve done that for over 20 years in various capacities. And the idea of sharing that inspiration, trying to use business private sector tools to solve public problems, cons and social problems that affect the globe, it’s really compelling and it’s interesting, and I’m always learning.
I think it’s really inspiring to see so many different entrepreneurs tackling problems they’re passionate about and finding solutions like this that are based on not just addressing the symptoms to the problem, which is very important. We want to alleviate suffering. We want to make sure we’re providing food and healthcare and all those things, but how do you shift markets in a way to reduce the root C, to affect the root cause, right? Narrow market gaps, find better ways to allocate resources, empower people to giving them their access to economic opportunity. It’s very compelling. And back to what you said before about being this double think, having both sides in your brain. One of my clients that we’ve worked with for some of my, one of my classes, the student grad students work with different organizations and one of those clients said, it’s like running two businesses. I’m running a nonprofit and I’m running a business, and I’m constantly pulling those two together and making sure they’re very closely aligned,
Kevin Douglas (32:39):
That both of you came from working professionally outside of the space. And because of the personal attachment and personal passion you had for these problems, that’s what brought you into this space. It reminds me of all the conversations I’ve had on this podcast with entrepreneurs. There’s got to be the passion for the product or for the service, and it’s the same with social entrepreneurship. It’s just instead of being passionate about throwing pizza parties or designing shoes, it’s being passionate about environmental issue, social issue. So that’s very cool. Both of you came out from outside, came in,
John Sebesta (33:19):
You only get one life, and so I figure you might as well work on solving problems that really matter, but find something you’re passionate about, you’re going to work a lot, so you might as well enjoy it. Yeah, yeah,
Kevin Douglas (33:30):
Absolutely. And I want to wrap up with a couple rapid fire questions. We ask all of our guests, so it could be for you in the framework of social entrepreneurship or just as you live your life day to day, they’re pretty, I don’t want to say broad questions, but they could be applied in different ways. First question I’ll ask each of you is how do you define success in one or two sentences?
John Sebesta (33:54):
Success is all too often elusive as we continue to change the definition for it, I think is one of the larger biggest challenges. No matter what we achieve, we redefine success. To be something a little bit further for me, I think that success is knowing and feeling that I have contributed at the level that I have potential in all aspects of my life in a more balanced way. And so that pendulum swings in terms of balance. For the last three years I’ve been doing, working and going, getting a PhD. And so now that pendulum is swinging a little bit more to the family side, which is a great thing, but I think that it’s what is my potential and how can I bring that to fruition and create impact?
Janney Carpenter (34:44):
That’s a good one. I guess I would say that it gets pretty old relying on external validation for your success. And I think that leads a lot of people down a path of poor not being very fulfilled in their work. And I think being fulfilled is really the key to success. And so whether that is individuals make choices all the time, whether that is throwing yourself into your work, whether it’s throwing yourself into your family or your community. There’s lots of ways to be successful, but I think it is a balance, and I think that the challenge of always learning and finding ways to make things better, I think that’s my personal goal of how do I leave this better than when I found it or sort of making progress then leaves some value.
Kevin Douglas (35:31):
I think those are both great answers, especially the external validation is something that there’s so many external metrics, how many sales you got last quarter, how many people attended an event? And you’re right, there’s always going to be coming up short. And when that success comes from within, it’s, it can be much healthier and more, I find more satisfying than getting those external validations. Last question will be, what is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? It’s okay if you have to think for a second. Do well in school, get a good job, work there the rest of your life.
Janney Carpenter (36:13):
One of the things my dad told me when I was graduating from college was think about being on the revenue side of a business because that’s where you learn customers and you learn the what drives it, right? That value proposition, and I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. But it’s true to a certain degree. You really need to understand the customer and their point of view. And I think whether you’re a social enterprise or for-profit or whatever, you need to understand the value, prop value to customers. And sometimes you may define your customer, also teach a sustainability class over Daniels, right? Sometimes your stakeholder is the planet. It doesn’t have to be always just shareholders or employees or suppliers. So really thinking broadly about that, about why, what problem do you want to make a difference about? I think that’s that follow, I don’t know. I think that’s the piece is how do you figure out how to make a difference and that on something that you really care about.
Kevin Douglas (37:13):
That’s good advice. My advice was bad advice. Well, I want to thank both of you for coming to the studio. I’ve learned a lot about social enterprise today and social entrepreneurship, and I really appreciate both your openness to talk and as we finish out the quarter and go into summer. I hope you both have a wonderful summer break.
Janney Carpenter (37:32):
Thanks so much.
Kevin Douglas (37:37):
The Entrepreneurship@DU podcast was recorded in Margery Reed Hall on the University of Denver campus. You can find us on Instagram at du entrepreneur, on Twitter, at du_entrepreneur, and on Facebook at entrepreneurship@ du. Entrepreneurship@DU is part of the Daniels College of Business, which has its own podcast, by the way. Check out voices of experience available wherever you get your podcasts.