Elevating Impact Stories: Timothy O’Brien
Leading up to the Elevating Impact Summit on June 21, we’ve invited event speakers and panelists to engage in a storytelling project. We believe that storytelling is an essential part of effective social innovation. How can we tell stories in a way that generates interest and creates connections? How can we listen to the stories of others with the empathy needed to achieve true understanding? We hope that by sharing stories of failure, transformation and success, you’ll learn more about our speakers and the promise and challenges of social innovation.
Timothy O’Brien answers the question, “What is your source of personal motivation?” with a powerful meditation on our relationship with nature and future generations:
“Nothing delivers more impact to my motivation than the trust, hope and happiness expressed in my children’s eyes. Their eyes are my powerful mandate to act, to guide them thoughtfully into this world and to prove I am an able and honorable intermediary between them and their future.”
Timothy O’Brien is the founder and president of Tropical Salvage, a social venture that creates furniture from reclaimed Indonesian hardwood, protecting local ecosystems and creating jobs in the process. Tim first traveled to Southeast Asia in 1989, on a buying trip for Grunts & Postures, a Salt Lake City, Utah retail store he co-founded in 1983, selling alternative music and vintage clothing aimed at the high school and university market. Tim returned often to SE Asia, sourcing products and venturing deep into wild lands, which deepened his interest resource conservation. Returning to Madison, Wisconsin in 1992, Tim brought his entrepreneurial skills to Save the Rainforest, enabling the purchase of primary rainforests in Panama, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
His adventure of starting, managing and growing Tropical Salvage has captivated his attention, thrilled his curiosity, and intensified his desire to contribute to positive change in a world beset by unprecedented social and environmental challenges. As an active board member of the Institute for Culture and Ecology, Tim provided the vision and seed funding that has shaped the Jepara Forest Conservancy into a model for community resilience and the restoration economy. Tim met his wife, Eli, in Jakarta and the couple has two children, Madeline and Rowan. Raised in Evanston, Illinois, Tim holds degrees in English Literature and Education from Lawrence University and is fluent in bahasa Indonesian.
Timothy O’Brien is a finalist for the Impact Entrepreneur Award. The winner will be announced at the Elevating Impact Summit on June 21.