from our founder - Annual Letter to Members
2011 was the year the "impact entrepreneur" was born.
Until that time, social entrepreneurship had rarely been placed within a context of systems change. As an entrepreneur, I had experienced first-hand the sense of dislocation and frustration that came from trying to build a triple bottom line company (one of the first B Corporations) in the conventional, single bottom line-dominated business world. It wasn't easy, nor pretty.
Defining impact entrepreneurship as "social entrepreneurship 2.0," and declaring that change-makers needed to be as focused on collaboratively building a supportive business paradigm and ecosystem that can hold mission-driven businesses as they are on building the businesses themselves, Impact Entrepreneur was launched as the first international network of "systems-minded" entrepreneurs, investors, scholars and students of social and environmental innovation.
Working alone in my home office tucked up against the forests of the Berkshire Hills, I used the young LinkedIn platform to build the network, establishing a group and publishing articles on impact entrepreneurship and impact investing. The pieces found a growing readership. Gradually, impact entrepreneurship as a concept began to take hold and interview and speaking requests followed. Colleges and universities became interested in IE.
As the Network grew into the thousands, and our now award-winning LinkedIn group became one of the "go-to" places for cutting-edge thinking and networking in the rapidly emerging impact space, I heard from increasing numbers of entrepreneurs and investors who had business development needs. In 2015, Impact Entrepreneur's consulting arm was launched to leverage the vast Network and our knowledge of impact enterprise and investing to assist some of the most remarkable of these impact initiatives in fundraising, market expansion, publicity and other areas.
In 2016, we launched the Impact Entrepreneur Center so we could expand the ways we serve our global community, as well as to establish a year-round gathering place for impact entrepreneurs, investors and scholars in the U.S. northeast corridor, including those in Boston and New York. As a think tank, the Center has been developing innovative models for "regional impact economy," and has advanced "place-based" tools, such as the "public benefit enterprise zone." This past September, we launched an anchor program series, XVii, which focuses on innovations and investment that advance the Sustainable Development Goals, with a thought leadership summit on SDG 2 (Sustainable Food and Agriculture).
We have been asked to present this work in a variety of forums, including at Opal and Ivy Family Office Conferences and the Sustainatopia Impact Investing Conference, as well as at colleges and universities like MIT, Middlebury, UMass, Brown, NYU and, most recently, at the University of Vermont's Sustainable Innovation MBA Program, where I recently accepted an invitation to join the Advisory Board.
Most exciting of all, we have found that increasing numbers of people around the world have begun calling themselves "impact entrepreneurs" and the term is being widely used in media accounts of the space and increasingly at universities.
It is fair to say that impact entrepreneurship has become a potent global movement!
And we are just getting started!
Having, in our first six years, successfully defined and established the impact entrepreneur as a foundational concept and vocational movement, having created the premier global network of systems-minded innovators, having worked with a wide range of innovative companies and impact investors, and having launched a global & regional Center of operations, we are now launching an ambitious Phase II of Impact Entrepreneur's work.
Among our goals for this new phase are to:
1. Grow the network beyond its current rate of 100 new members/week to remain the impact space leader.
2. Expand our communications to Network members (i.e. regular newsletter; newsfeed on website).
3. Launch an online webinar series and podcast, featuring the most well-respected figures in the impact space.
4. Expand our collaborative efforts with partner organizations and institutions.
5. Undertake foundational research for our pilot regional impact economy model.
6. Expand our consulting capacity/offerings for Network companies.
7. Establish a global network of IE satellite Centers with year-round, on-site programming.
8. Launch our first Integrated Impact Finance Vehicle (IIFV or "iffy") to provide funding for exceptional early stage impact companies.
So far, Impact Entrepreneur's development has been self-financed. These new initiatives, however, will require additional sources of capital in addition to the revenue we see from program fees, sponsorships, and consulting. Wanting to experiment with our new integrated finance model on ourselves, we are seeking philanthropic gifts and grants to help us launch Phase II. There are a couple ways you can support our work.
- By making a one-time donation through our Donate page.
- By making a philanthropic donation through your family foundation (if you have one) or through our affiliated donor advised fund at Cavendish Impact Foundation. Email or phone me for further details.
Remember that every dollar you provide will help our Impact Entrepreneur movement to grow and flourish like never before.
Thanks so much!
Laurie Lane-Zucker, Founder & CEO, Impact Entrepreneur