Hans Hickler, founder and chief executive of Parkland-based Ellipsis Advisors, who also attended the Ashoka summit, also believes strongly in embedding a social agenda in business. He has invested in Lumni, as well as other social entrepreneurial ventures.
“Business has to be an integral part of making the world a better place,” Hickler said. For him — and many other social entrepreneurs — the bottom line is based on three factors: profit, people and planet.
Creating social change drove Eduardo Balarezo to found Lonesome George & Co., an apparel firm whose designs promote awareness and conservation, and whose revenue is partly used to fund Outward Bound and Ashoka programs. The Outward Bound programs teach such skills as leadership, resourcefulness, teamwork and compassion by taking individuals out of their comfort zones, he said.
It all started because Balarezo, who founded the Ecuador Outward Bound program and sits on the board of the nonprofit’s parent, realized it needed access to recurrent income rather than depend on philanthropy and grants.
So he created Lonesome George, named for the last surviving tortoise of its kind in the Galapagos. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company’s distribution center is in Doral, and it sells from stores in Ecuador and a showroom in Berlin, Germany, as well as from its website, lonesomegeorge.net.
Lonesome George is the spark Balarezo used to develop what he calls an “academy of agents of change.” Ten percent of Lonesome George’s revenue goes for scholarships, which pay 75 percent of students’ Outward Bound program and Ashoka youth program in the Galapagos, Balarezo said. This year, he expects 23 students to graduate from the program.
Balarezo, who lives in Key Biscayne and attended the Ashoka summit, is bringing his “agents of change” model to San Francisco and Berlin, and hopes to bring it to Miami as well, next year. Hickler is also an investor.
“It’s about leveraging professional and personal assets into creating social impact,” Balarezo said.
In that way, Mehta of MyMela, which translates to “artisans’ fair” in Hindi, has used his company and website, mymela.com, to empower hundreds of artisans in India since its founding 18 months ago.
With 600 different items, MyMela also sells goods made in India to stores including Cubavera in Miami Beach; the Ritz-Carlton and the Yoga Center, both of Key Biscayne; and Levenger’s catalog. The website also allows customers to make micro-loans to craftsmen.
“It’s a way to allow people to buy beautiful products, and also make a difference in the world,” Mehta said. “Making a social impact — that is the concept.”