Thank you and so long from our co-founder, Cindy Cooper
After seven amazing years at Portland State University, I’m leaving my role as executive director of Impact Entrepreneurs.
As with many startup stories, the birth of Impact Entrepreneurs was an answer to a calling with the faith that a vision would come. I started working at Portland State University’s School of Business in 2009 when Scott Marshall hired me to create social innovation programs. He introduced me to Carolyn McKnight, a leadership development expert who had previously held positions as a corporate executive. Carolyn McKnight and I joined forces to launch Impact Entrepreneurs in 2010 when we discovered a shared purpose to create more joy and less suffering through social entrepreneurship and found a mutual respect and desire for collaboration in each other.
Since then, we’ve had the honor of working with hundreds of students, social entrepreneurs and changemakers as we have explored social entrepreneurship together and worked to strengthen each other and the field itself.
Working with many of you directly, I’ve gained more than I could possibly ever offer in return. You’ve shared your greatest dreams and vulnerabilities as you’ve navigated the discomfort and thrill of creating something from nothing. It has been humbling, exciting, and even heartbreaking. Social entrepreneurship can be addictive and temperamental like that.
In partnership with you and a coalition of colleagues and organizations, our small but mighty team at Impact Entrepreneurs has built an internationally recognized program that has directly educated thousands who have, in turn, touched millions of lives. Two of the many highlights for me were the realization of our Business of Social Innovation Certificate, funded by the reTHINK: PSU Provost’s Challenge, and our selection to the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium.
Our core team members Jacen Greene and Abby Chroman have dedicated their innumerable talents and resilient attitudes toward making our programs shine and thrive. Carolyn and I are pleased that Jacen will continue leading Impact Entrepreneurs’ core programs in the School of Business Administration as Program Director. In addition, Abby will continue providing project management across our suite of programs.
It’s been a gift to expose people to social entrepreneurship over the years and see their eyes and minds light up. It’s been almost 20 years since I first heard about social entrepreneurship. Only one person I knew had heard of it, and she taught me! My life was calling me to align my work with my purpose, and I was all in.
I believe now more than ever that business can and MUST be a force for positive change. From what I can gather, there are now millions of people who share this belief. It’s powerful to be in such great company. While sometimes I pine for those “Wild West” days of social entrepreneurship when it felt like we were just making it all up, I am heartened that we now know so much more about what it takes to build high-impact social ventures.
Businesses matter because they are uniquely able to build velocity and scale. A single company can get products and services to millions and even billions of people. It can inform and educate. It can make life-saving choices readily available. That’s why I want to see “do-better” businesses succeed and grow, and it is why I want to help in any way I can.
As I reflect on where it all began for me and where I’ve been, I find myself with the opportunity to leap back into the business sector. I’ll be joining the talented team at Koopman Ostbo Marketing Communications as their first Chief Marketing and Impact Officer. I’ll be dedicated to increasing impact internally and strengthening our ties with impact-driven organizations. And I’m delighted I will still be a resource to our community of changemakers. Please feel free to drop me a line any time.
Feelings can be boisterous when change is big, and I can tell you that right now joy and gratitude are loud and clear. When life called me to social entrepreneurship nearly 20 years ago, I replied “Yes!” and it has been an awesome adventure. Still, here we are today with much work left to do. Let’s support one another to keep up the good work. I would love to hear from you. What is calling you to take action? What’s new in your life?
Impact Entrepreneurs would not have happened if Carolyn McKnight and I had not combined our efforts with optimism and commitment to reaching a future state unknown to us at the time. Just as we could not imagine where we would end up now, I know that Impact Entrepreneurs is poised to achieve bigger things that we can’t even foresee right now. I can’t wait.
Here’s to remaining hand-in-hand in the pursuit of making choices that reflect our deepest hopes and dreams for the world, including those in our own lives. Thank you for believing that it’s up to us to make that difference.
Co-founder & Executive Director, PSU Impact Entrepreneurs
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