Congratulations to Vector Program Graduates Sustainable Harvest and Preciva
The Portland State University Social Innovation Incubator recently graduated Sustainable Harvest and Preciva, the inaugural members in its Vector Program. The Vector Program offers up to three years of tailored consulting to established, high-impact social entrepreneurs; a companion program, the Circuit, provides a six-month series of group workshops and mentoring to concept and startup stage social entrepreneurs. Other members of the Vector Program currently include local nonprofit Central City Concern, working to address homelessness through a comprehensive set of services and businesses, and EcoZoom, a designer and global distributor of high-efficiency cookstoves.
Sustainable Harvest, a certified B Corporation headquartered in Portland, is a Fair Trade and organic coffee importer that uses revenue from sales and grants to fund development projects for coffee farming communities around the world. With offices in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Tanzania staffed by agronomists and development experts, Sustainable Harvest can tailor projects to the specific needs of different coffee cooperatives. Staff lead trainings in coffee quality and yield, drip irrigation for vegetable plots, organic compost production, and other projects to provide coffee farmers and their families with sustainable livelihoods. Sustainable Harvest’s model recently won a Sustainable Business Oregon Innovation in Sustainability Award, was featured in the New York Times, and won the G20 Challenge on Inclusive Business Innovation.
The PSU Social Innovation Incubator worked with Sustainable Harvest on a number of “intrapreneurial” projects, including iPad apps to help coffee cooperatives improve staff training, earn higher price premiums, and better integrate with global supply chains. An early concept for a coffee brand to provide job training and employment for individuals recovering from addiction and homelessness recently grew into an independent, full-fledged program at Central City Concern. Through Sustainable Harvest CEO David Griswold’s championing of innovation and partnership, the company itself has helped to incubate new ideas that will benefit not just the coffee supply chain, but the Portland community as well.
The Vector Program provided me with an invaluable space to think creatively about my work. In our monthly meetings, [SII Director] Cindy [Cooper] provided a combination of asking tough questions, holding me accountable to finding the answers, listening and reflecting back what she heard based on her deep understanding of our organization and needs.
Staying focused on our core business was the best outcome of our work with Vector Program, allowing us to deepen our commitment to our supply chain model and earn accolades on the local, regional, and international levels.
—Debra Rosenthal, Director of Development and Global Programs.
Sustainable Harvest Founder and CEO David Griswold (L). Photo by Sustainable Harvest.
Preciva, developer of a disposable, low-cost cervical cancer screening device with greater accuracy than the Pap test, is a B Corporation with a nonprofit arm. Husband and wife co-founders Craig Miller and Anaïs Tuepker are driven by the fact that cervical cancer — an easily detectable, treatable condition — still results in more than 270,000 unnecessary deaths each year, most in developing nations where testing is too expensive or inaccessible. Their new test can be easily delivered anywhere in the world, including in the field, for less than $2 per test. They recently completed a crowdfunding campaign at StartSomeGood that raised more than $11,000 for prototype production, and are preparing for early clinical trials with their research partners.
What advice do they have for social entrepreneurs?
1) Start something, a small version of whatever it is you’re doing, and then look for funding. This is a variation on “don’t worry (too much) about your business plan,” which we’ve heard from many people, because the plan is not what attracts investment, a working model is. Plus you cannot plan anything fully, and the plan evolves during deployment.
2) Don’t try to be someone you are not. There are two main reasons for this: people (investors, other partners) will not respond to you if you’re not sincere, and also if you are going to put so much energy and time into a social enterprise you need to be able to do it on terms that excite and motivate you.
3) Don’t feel you have to conform to a particular vision of what a social entrepreneur looks like. The classic entrepreneur, in our case, would have put in 80 hours a week for a year and then given up. If you believe in your idea, it may make sense to keep your day job and find a way to be there for the long haul. Social entrepreneurs are not always serial entrepreneurs.
—Anaïs Tuepker, co-founder.
Preciva Co-Founders Anaïs Tuepker and Craig Miller. Photo by Sustainable Business Oregon.