portfolio finds


As I was packing up my apartment, I stumbled across the career portfolio I made during a junior year class. It was the making of this portfolio that spawned this business idea {I didn’t end up pursuing it but I still love the idea}.

Coincidentally, I designed the portfolio exactly two years ago today (March 23, 2010)! I browsed through the portfolio and saw some funny things.

Screenshot of my Twitter account

  • I had 111 followers on Twitter; I now have over 800
  • My most recent tweet on that day read “@ryanallis- I’m excited to read your blog- I’m from Durham and involved with social enterprise in DC!” I was so excited back then about the possibility of meeting Ryan; we’ve actually hung out since then {and he reads this blog sometimes- you out there Ryan?}. Funny how things come full circle
  • I had also tweeted about my amazing spring break in Puerto Rico; my friend just commented on a Facebook picture the other day to remind us how much fun we had

My LinkedIn account

  • I had 83 connections; now I have over 500
  • My current title then was “Analyst Intern at Social Enterprise Associates”

Hobbies

  • Pretty much reads like my current blog bio haha. Outdoor activities, playing board games, traveling, volunteering, and cooking, among others

Miscellaneous

  • I also came across two interesting op-eds on microfinance, which I still agree with!
  • I talked about Community Building Community and Alternative Breaks
  • I wrote a few of my ideas for post-grad: working within the field of social enterprise in DC or Raleigh {I actually mentioned Bull City Forward, which is a coworking space!}; spending a year abroad; or entering a MBA program. I didn’t do any of these per se, but I did end up starting a coworking space, which you could say is a social venture 🙂

So fun to look over! It reminded me of my 6 word memoir– fundamentally, I’m the same as I was two years ago, but I’ve evolved- both personally and  in terms of my Twitter following haha.

Photo credit

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Dear Starbucks…

I have to write a blog post about this because my sister is sick of hearing me talk about it (seriously, just ask her).

Dear Starbucks Corporate (Panera Corporate- please take note):

I love you. You know I do. But I have to bring this up because it’s really bothering me.

I co-own a business. It is legally set up as an LLC but I wholeheartedly believe that it contributes social value to the Raleigh community. There is no doubt it that provides economic value as well: through taxes, as well as the fact that it provides a place for small business owners to grow their businesses so that they, in turn, can provide value to the community.

You may wonder where I’m going with this seemingly obvious clarification.

Could we have been set up as a 501c3? Absolutely. Some coworking spaces are. We chose not to be. Not because we are profit-mongering bloodsuckers, but because it was the right decision for us. If we were a non-profit, would we have been paid a salary? Yes. Would our fundamental model have changed? Almost certainly not. We would still have charged the exact same fees-for-service in order to pay said salary in order to continue building our coworking space in order to continue adding social value to the community. 501c3 or not, they would have been the same fees because our expenses are the same.

So why can’t I hang a flyer on your community board?

If you stand by your decision to only support non-profits, help me clarify another issue I have. Upon seeking clarification of your flyer-hanging policy, I was told by one of your employees that I could only hang a flyer for something where there was no charge.

Wait a minute. Do I have to be a non-profit or do I have to be offering free products and services? These are not the same.

Yes, non-profits often offer things for free. But non-profits also often charge for their products and services. They have earned income streams. They charge fees-for-services. They sell tickets to galas, block parties, and fashion shows. VisionSpring sells eyeglasses. The SPCA sells items emblazoned with the SPCA logo.

And yes, businesses generally charge for things. But they also often offer free things. They offer happy hours, seminars, and workshops. The Raleigh Forum occasionally hosts free events, like our upcoming Design Mixer with AIGA.

I appreciate your willingness to support social causes (no sarcasm there). I really do. But as the lines between business and non-profit blur, I urge you to reconsider your policy. But most of all, I urge you to encourage your employees to understand the intricacies of tax designations before making flawed arguments.

Sincerely,

Cristina (The Girl Who Single-Handledly Keeps You In Business By Buying Soy Mistos)

</soapbox>

Do you have a different opinion or think MY argument is flawed? Let me know! I’m interested in other people’s thoughts on this issue (I’m looking at you, Matt, Sarah, Peter, and Elizabeth!).

Edited: my friend sent me this article, which details Starbucks’ commitment provide loans to small business owners. I thought it was very relevant to the discussion!

Edited: I submitted an edited version of this letter on the Starbucks website and got what may or may not be a form email promising to pass it on to corporate. I then posted it on My Starbucks Idea, which seems to be a pretty democratic way of suggesting changes to Starbucks. Feel free to thumbs up my post 🙂

Clearly I feel very inflamed about this issue, mostly because I see it as symbolic of the continuous divide between business and non-profit.

the value of social value

Before college, I had a very primitive view of social good: non-profits promoted social good; corporations did not. As a Human Services, I became intrigued by the idea of social enterprise, which I saw as a potential “solution” (I use that term loosely) to the apparent disconnect between “good” (promoting social change) and “evil” (making money).

But I am also an advocate for a strict definition of social enterprise, so where does that leave businesses like The Raleigh Forum, our new coworking space? I wouldn’t characterize us as a social enterprise, but I certainly think we contribute social value to the community.

We provide a hub for collaboration and community. We provide a much-needed alternative to working from home or coffee shops. We stimulate the local economy by bringing 20+ individuals downtown. We will recycle, use reusable water bottles, and conserve electricity when possible. We will make an in-kind contribution (desk space + meeting space) to Change the Triangle.

We’re not ending poverty or curing any diseases. And yes, we’re an LLC. But we are actively empowering individuals and groups so that they can make their own mark on the community.

Which makes me wonder how valuable labels like “social value” are if they have the potential to lead to confusion, disagreement, and disillusionment.

Compass Fellowship Comes to Duke

PSA to individuals in the Triangle who are committed to the field of social entrepreneurship: Compass Fellows is coming to Duke! Help spread the word.

The Compass Fellowship, now in its second year of growth and supported by The Kenneth Cole Foundation, is seeking the most ambitious, passionate freshmen students in 12 campuses worldwide to learn how to be effective social entrepreneurs.

It’s an exciting process: almost 2,000 will apply, but, given 15 fellowship openings per campus, only the best 180 will be selected. Think of it as Survivor or Dancing With the Stars meets social entrepreneurship. It will be epic.

Once selected, Compass Fellows will join the incredible Compass Community, a growing global network of young, passionate, fun-loving, and like-minded social innovators. They will work alongside unreasonably committed peer Mentors on their campus and be granted numerous opportunities to interact with business leaders locally and nationally. Together, Compass Fellows and Mentors will form a tight-knit community of student leaders on their campus, actively seeking to change the world together.

The strength of the program really is this Compass Community, which will:

  • Connect Fellows with peer Mentors who will inspire them to think adventurously
  • Provide Fellows with resources to empower them live and work consciously
  • Demand that Fellows participate proactively, pushing them to start a social venture and learn by doing.

Through our peer-driven curriculum based on personal development and the philosophy that talented people learn best by doing, Fellows are inspired, pushed, and empowered to start their very own social venture during their freshmen year of college. Through our community, these freshmen will have access to countless resources and a tremendous network of social entrepreneurs and business leaders. They will develop friendships hands-on experience and  that will alter how they see and work in the world forever after.

To learn more about the Compass Fellowship and why we love what we do and you should, too, please visit: www.CompassFellows.org.

To apply visit: www.CompassFellows.org/apply


I was a Compass Mentor at George Washington University, and I saw firsthand how empowered and proactive the Fellows become. It’s an incredible fellowship that fosters social innovation, entrepreneurship, and empowered young students.

shift series recap

This Saturday, I attended Compass Partners’ Shift Series, a two-day conference on “New Approaches to Social Issues.”

I’ve been out of the networking/conference/event mode for a bit, but being back in it was fantastic. I realized how at ease and in my comfort zone I feel mingling, chatting about people’s ventures and ideas, and sharing my own.

Sessions

I chose the “Future Innovators” track over the “Educators” track because I thought it would be more pertinent to my interests. We were joined by representatives from some great local organizations.

  • Chat moderated by Philippe Chetrit of Affinity Lab, a “shared office space meets incubator meets entrepreneurial club-house.” Check out their upcoming events page if you’re interested in stopping by!
  • Social innovation session led by two staff members from Community Wealth Ventures, “a management consulting firm that emboldens and equips leadership teams to innovate, grow and sustain organizations that build a better world.” Seeing them reminded me how a presentation that I did sophomore year on founder Bill Shore sparked my interest in social enterprise!
  • Seminar with Christine Schiweitz of Georgetown on building your online identity. This interactive session was both enlightening and slightly scary, given the reality of our omnipresent digital footprints. Being in this dynamic discussion also sparked more ideas for GW Bites and my new blog, Harmonized Living! My biggest takeaway was the importance of being proactive, not reactive, when it comes to establishing a clean online identity. When I was babysitting on Saturday night, the dad made a joke about Googling me (they actually did!) and it made me appreciative that I have been proactive in the past in regards to keeping my online presence clean.
  • Chat with Live in Rhythm founder Kerrie Martin on, well, living in rhythm! It was a great conversation about balanced lifestyles; she provided insightful answers to participants’ nutrition questions. Her use of the phrase “honoring your body wisdom” stuck with me. Through this, she emphasized listening to your mind and body instead of following fad diets or “expert” opinions.

I think it was a tremendously successful conference and I commend the Compass team on their excellent execution!

P.S. Check out this awesome Washington Post article featuring William Huster and Neil Shah!

the qualities of a serial entrepreneur

I have a track record of being incredibly excited about a new idea or project and then losing interest after awhile. I burn out when I feel like I’ve mastered something or can no longer be innovative within a field…or if I just get bored.

So instead of letting this tendency stop me from getting invested in new things, I want to work on harnessing it effectively.

Though I won’t call myself a serial entrepreneur [I think that title, like social entrepreneur, should be reserved for those with a proven track record], I do think I share some of the same qualities and can benefit from adapting their mindsets.

One quality I love about myself is my ability to hatch an idea and implement it.In an article called The Rise of the Serial Entrepreneur, a woman said “”When it’s still about growth and newness and inspiration, when it’s a challenge and you’re trying to get that idea out there, it’s my thing.” And that’s exactly how I feel.

Sustaining it is where I run into trouble.

So, my challenge to myself is to learn how to build infrastructure and foster leadership so that my idea can thrive even after I move on to my next venture.

Contrived Entrepreneurship

Contrived: deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously
Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and manages any enterprise

I got to thinking recently about what I call “contrived entrepreneurship.” In some- if not most- entrepreneurship, an individual sees a problem or gap in the market and determines a way to solve or fill it. But increasingly, there are classes & competitions & institutes & fellowships that provide people an outlet for creating a business or social venture- even if they don’t know what problem they’re seeking to solve.

Is contrived entrepreneurship just another means to an advantageous end? Does the way you approach a problem matter, if what you’re producing benefits the community?

On one side, I’ve seen a team of students at a social venture competition create an ill-conceived venture plan that was completely out of touch with the needs of their beneficiaries. In fact, they mentioned in their elevator pitch that they were searching for an idea- any idea- and this is what they came up with (they were promptly admonished by the judges, who stated that a person should never admit that during a pitch).

On the other hand, I took a Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class, where I was required  to produce a business plan by the end of the semester. Constantly contemplating possible ventures  sparked an idea in my head, which I don’t think would have happened had I not been enrolled in the class at the time.

They say “Necessity breeds innovation.” If so, which is necessity? Is necessity filling a needed gap in the market? Or is necessity my need for a good grade in the class? And does it really matter?

Weekend ponderings

It’s only 11:24am and I’ve already had two deep thoughts this morning haha. They are completely unrelated, but both relevant to things going on in my life.

Last night I was feeling a bit…blah. It was one of those nights when you don’t want to stay in but you don’t want to go out, you want to be social but you don’t want to be social- a tough predicament! Mostly I’m just ready to be back in NC, and I feel like I’m twiddling my thumbs until I get there. I thought how fun it would be to be out with strangers, not caring about what I said said or did, mingling, getting to know cool people…and the perfect opportunity arose! I had been invited to a group dinner and an event with someone I had met the previous weekend. In all honesty, I had every intention of backing out because I don’t know them well, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and go. I had SO much fun- we ate Mexican food (my favorite), played games at the Exchange with other DC Kickball league players, went to Dupont, played Skee Ball, and ate delicious late-night burgers. I would have missed all that fun if I had stayed in or stuck to my usual social engagements. Looking back, that’s not a very deep thought, but it was cool how such a fitting opportunity came up just when I needed it!

On a completely unrelated note, I got an email yesterday about logging hours for the Michelle Obama Service Challenge. Apparently, if you log 100+ hours of volunteering by Monday morning, you will receive “receive a certificate of achievement, a congratulatory letter from the President, and an official President’s Volunteer Service Award lapel pin.” Since I’ve done the hours, I figured I might as well get rewarded for them, even though that wasn’t my reason for doing them. But, when I went to log my internship hours with Social Enterprise Associates, I found an unexpected but not terribly surprising catch- SEA is a for-profit organization, so my 16 hours/week hours do not count toward the challenge. This got me thinking about the evolution of social enterprise (again, not surprising!) and how many people still believe for-profit and social good do not mix. I, like many of my peers, believe that for-profit or non-profit is just a tax structure- the social component can be present in either.

THIS got me thinking about my answers for my end-of-semester “learning outcomes” for my internship class.

What changes in your own belief system have resulted from your participation in this course?

Though I am still immensely interested in social enterprise, I have begun to see the limitations and challenges instead of believing it is a magical idea that will solve all of the world’s problems. Listening to my classmates’ experiences has allowed me to re-realize the value of counselor, teachers, etc- value that cannot be measured in profit.

In addition, I have had another change in my belief system since the beginning of the semester as a result of this class, my internship work, general experiences, and my Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class. Although I do not believe that “all enterprises are social” as many argue, I have begun to believe that many businesses who are not considered “social enterprises” do in fact serve a critical social service. For example, my business plan (portfolio-building for women) would not qualify as a social enterprise because the end goal is to generate a profit, but it serves a beneficial social purpose of encouraging women to value their unique skills and abilities. This new realization is in contrast to my past belief that the end goal must be social in order for the organization to be beneficial.

—–

And those, my friends, are my deep Sunday morning observations of life!

This week’s agenda: finish paper on the evolution of philanthropy; attend the NFTE Dare to Dream Gala, attend GW’s Women & Philanthropy Forum, present my research on food sustainability with my friend at our open class symposium, and host a clothing swap party with my friends!


Back from hiatus!

So after several months on hiatus from blogging, I have decided to give it a shot again! There’s no particular reason that prompted me to begin again, but I’m excited to keep documenting my endeavors!

In just over 2 weeks, I will be back in North Carolina for the summer. My sister and I just signed the lease on our (her?) amazing townhouse, which is close to both downtown Raleigh and Glenwood. Most importantly, the cost of the whole place is less than a studio in DC!

Things I’m looking forward to this summer (in no particular order): Watching Friends every day. My brother’s wedding in VA. My 21st birthday. Country concerts- with cowboy boots and cowgirl hats. Babysitting for my amazing family (I love those girls!). Continuing to intern with Social Enterprise Associates. Spontaneous beach road trip. Sunday morning recaps of Saturday nights.

And mostly- spending every waking minute with my sister. We haven’t lived together in 7 years, but I am bubbling with the excitement at the thought of being reunited! As we like to say “Watch out, Raleigh. The Roman sisters are reunited!” When we’re together, the most mundane activities are suddenly fun- even just going to Target. And there is no one else in the world I laugh with as much as her!!

We’ve developed a new technique for when we get in little fights- we simply say “Let’s start over,” and then literally reenact the situation in a healthy, non-argumentative way. Genius, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure it will solve most, if not all, of our problems MUCH quicker than usual.

But before I head back to NC, I’ve been thinking about the past semester and how much has happened. I met Thomas Friedman, saw Bill Drayton, attended Ashoka events, came up with three business plans, interned….and that’s only on the professional side of life! Although I’ve absolutely loved all of those experiences, I’m really looking to taking a break from DC life to pursue other interests- like having fun 🙂 I’ve been thinking a lot about the necessity of having balance in life lately, and I think having a chill summer will restore some balance to my life.

Those are all the deep thoughts I have at the moment 🙂 I plan to keep this blog updated now though, so stay tuned!

 

Chilling with David Bornstein, no big deal...

 

Hello world!

Whew, the 3rd blog I’m now keeping/managing! The first two are GWSEF (for The GW Social Enterprise Forum) and 100 Things List (for the 100 Things List that my friends and I are keeping).

cmroman.wordpress.com will be a more personal account of my life, professional endeavors, academic journey, etc!

It seems like an opportune time to start this blog, especially since I am Facebook-free, as per #64 on the 100 Things List (go a week without Facebook). Mom and Sissy changed my password for me so I have no way of accessing my account! The past 11-ish hours have been liberating, but we’ll see how I feel at the end of 7 days!

Some exciting new developments:
-I submitted a business plan to MTV’s Movers and Changers contest, which called for business plans that address a social issue (the core value of social enterprise). It’s a long shot, but at least I got credit for my Entrepreneurship class! I have never felt so engaged while completing a class assignment. Sitting for 13 (yes, 13!) straight hours at Starbucks was completely worth the satisfaction I feel. It was a really eye-opening experience, and I’m definitely going to make changes to my class schedule for the next 3 semesters to incorporate business classes.

-I also entered the Pitch George contest, which is a competition where participants give short “elevator pitches” (which actually take place in an elevator) for business plans. The winner gets $2000! It’s on Nov 14, so I’ll update about my experience then!

-For a GW Social Enterprise Forum event, we are looking to hold a “SHE Soiree” for SHEnterprises (sheinnovates.com), which is an incredible social enterprise that seeks “to improve the quality of life for people in resource-poor settings” through market-based approaches. Essentially, they provide a woman in a village with the equipment to manufacture sanitary pads. Through this approach, they not only help women become entrepreneurs, but they also help attack a major health issue. This video clearly outlines the remarkable process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKmt7PwYPCY.

-We are working with Kelly Ann Collins, a prominent DC socialite/event planner/blogger (glittarazzi.com) to arrange the soiree. I must admit I’m a bit intimidated by the scope of her work, but we’re excited have her onboard with our cause.

Grant (co-founder & co-president of The GW Social Enterprise Forum, mentor, and social entrepreneur extraordinare) and I have a coffee date with Awista Ayub (http://www.awistaayub.com), author of the renowned book However Tall the Mountain. Her book, which chronicles the formation of The Afghan Youth Sports Exchange (an organization dedicated to nurturing Afghan girls through soccer), has been praised by Hillary Clinton and Khaled Hosseini (bestselling author of The Kite Runner), among others. We’re excited to hopefully schedule a speaking engagement with her for the Forum!

-The Forum is actively planning the upcoming Kiva Days. Kiva is the first microfinance organization that allows individuals and groups to make small-scale loans ($25+) to developing world entrepreneurs. Within a year, the loan is repaid. Visit kiva.org for more information. We will 1) preselect five entrepreneurs from 5 continents to invest in, 2) market extensively, 3) arrange tables in Kogan Plaza (our campus’s “quad”) for 2 straight days, 4) funnel students to Forum members, who will be stationed with laptops and will walk students through the simple process of lending through the Kiva website, and 5) keep track of all investments made throughout the 2 days. We hope to make Kiva Days a household name!

-I’m interning for Girls on the Run as a Program Development Intern. I’m designing a scalability/feasibility plan for the organization…funny how all my interests are suddenly intersecting!