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If you step in the shower, You’re going to get wet.

October 29, 2012

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Embrace it

As entrepreneurs come to find out, there are lots of inherent risks to starting your own business. Social entrepreneurs working in the developing world know that they’re about to face challenges and risks unlike any other. And yet they jump in head first. Seemingly.

Maybe not every entrepreneur is like that. While you need a fearless leader to guide your team, not every entrepreneur is ecstatic about the possibility of being left without money and a job if things go sour. The risks to your personal, financial, and professional lives can be frightening but can also become a source of negative energy once IN the startup phase.

You cannot just assume “some” of the risk in front of you. Whatever is your share is yours whether you like it or not. So rather than occupy much of your mental energy worrying about the risks that you’ve (already) taken, embrace the risk and turn it to positive energy.

You can’t solve your latest product conundrum when you’re constantly thinking about the future. You can’t sell your idea to others when your voice sounds fearful. You can’t reach your potential when you’ve (unbeknownst to you) tethered yourself to the ground.

The phrase “throwing caution to the wind” comes to mind here. Yet this is not to say that one should be reckless or without fear.

The fact remains: you’re going to take risk. You can’t predict the future. You don’t know that you’re going to succeed. But you don’t know you’re going to fail. You can’t step in the shower without getting wet. Make the best of it.

- Chris

What’s your fallback?

October 8, 2012

As humans we have a tendency to fall back on what we know or are comfortable with in times of difficulty. When times get tough, our true character shows. The same is true for businesses, especially social enterprises.

Just as a trip home to spend time with family can help to rejuvenate, refocus or reprioritize our lives, so too can businesses get a “jump start” from their fallback. What is that fallback for you and your business? Might it be a chat with your advisors? Maybe it’s a company meeting to dust off your mission statement and realign current projects.

But why do we need this? As business progresses, efforts can sometimes be more focused on the details than the bigger vision. Now don’t get me wrong, living in the details is a necessity for companies, but that’s where leaders come in to provide guidance and a sense of calming to ensure that we still are moving towards the greater vision.

Yet at times we may diverge from our values – this is not unusual. This is where our fallbacks come into play. They serve as a healthy reminder for who we are, why we’re doing this, and can sometimes provide a unique perspective to which we’ve become blinded. Read more »

Give people a way to make the right decision

September 17, 2012

Shortcuts are generally risky. Just ask anyone who has seen the financial crisis unfold first hand, opted for medical tourism, or run a business with environmental concerns.

Yet why do we take them so often? Well for the obvious reasons that our decision could end up being cheaper, quicker, and less of a hassle. Many times the decisions are made easier by the lack of oversight and dishonest regulators who might not only allow shortcuts but encourage them. Many times, the downstream effect of our choices is so far from view, that the consequences of taking product shortcuts don’t seem real. Read more »

The Many Angles

September 10, 2012

Many times the word “entrepreneur” is code for “jack-of-all-trades”. From setting up a wireless printer to editing financial models to navigating tax code, entrepreneurs have to do it all at one point in time or another.

Our backgrounds and experiences are major parts of what shape the ways in which we approach problems – or, said another way, “the angle” in which we view them.

Our schooling, home life, prior work experience, social adventures, and values are ingredients that create various angles for us to understand problems, tasks, and solutions. Read more »

As MFIs take one step forward, Bangladesh takes one step backward

August 27, 2012

The recent actions by the government of Bangladesh should be condemned in the strongest of manners. Despite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s repeated attempts to discredit the record of Professor Muhammad Yunus, she has only succeeded in validating the attractiveness of a well-run microfinance organization.

The governmental takeover of Grameen bank stands squarely against the principles and standards upon which it was founded, and wipes out the borrower-led model that has been a shining star through the recent turmoil in the microfinance industry.

It is a shame to see the work of Prof. Yunus and the Grameen team attempt to be invalidated, but what the government of Bangladesh cannot take away is the strength, reputation, success, and promise of borrower-involved microfinance.

Microfinance lives on and is moving into the next phase of development – one with technology at the forefront to push the efficiency with which information is used. In Rwanda, MFIs are teaming up with global technology and software firms to bring MFI data to the cloud.

This forward thinking (similar to the heavier reliance on mobile payments) will be helpful in ensuring that those at the BoP obtain (and retain) access to the quality financial service they need and deserve.

Lastly, I’d like to give a big congratulations to Kiva for finally breaking down the barrier and gaining access to the nation of India. We, here at RisingPyramid, have been big advocates for Kiva to be allowed and operating in India. We look forward to hearing more great stories of the lives affected in India!

- Chris

Make it easier for customers to use your product

August 13, 2012

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

No matter how elegant a product is or how many features it packs, if a consumer’s more basic needs are not met, you won’t get any buyers. It’s fairly obvious that you can’t sell someone a refrigerator if they don’t have electricity. But how many refrigeration companies are out there making it easier for consumers to gain access to electricity?

Oxfam International, an international confederation of 17 organizations, has stepped up to tackle to obstacles standing in front of those who want to receive an education. In Wajir, in northeastern Kenya, Oxfam has acted to eliminate the main diverter of schoolchildren to the classroom: the daily need to secure water for the survival of their family and herds. Read more »

Microlending Made Easier

July 23, 2012

A few months back, Reid Hoffman turned the microlending world on its head with a $1 million promise. Microlending is one of the “easiest” ways in which people from any location can make a difference in the lives of those at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Critics of traditional donation-based aid are met with the assurance that there is an incredibly strong chance (97%) you will receive your money back.

So when Mr. Hoffman decided to make it even easier for people to lend to the poorest of the poor, it seemed like a real no brainer. In fact, due to other generous donations, you can still sign up and lend for free.

Vittana, another microlending site – one dedicated strictly to international student loans – has recently adopted a similar model sponsored by Tim Ferriss. While Kiva’s event focused on getting users involved for free, Vittana and Ferriss have put together a matching model that will match loans up to $50,000.

The added kicker that I particularly like is Mr. Ferriss’s incentive to get others to get the word out. By adding the carrot to readers to share, re-share, and publicize through any means necessary, he’s not only pushing this one event out, but raising awareness for Vittana and microlending as a whole.

I applaud both Kiva and Vittana for leveraging social media and finding yet another way to make it easier in which to help those at the Bottom of the Pyramid.

- Chris

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try

July 16, 2012

During a period of reflection this past weekend, I came across a saying that stuck with me for a multitude of reasons.

(poorly paraphrasing) “Do not take on the responsibility to save the world; but do not take that as a free pass not to try”

While the work we, as social entrepreneurs, do is fulfilling, there are times in which the task at hand seems so arduous, never ending, and almost out of reach. This simply means our work is not done. Read more »

What did you drink your coffee out of today?

July 3, 2012

Many of our stories or themes here at Rising Pyramid revolve around the concept of coffee.  Sunday Morning Coffee has become one of our most popular features, and it is no surprise to me that when thinking of what to write for this week, coffee came to mind.

What makes coffee (insert “tea” for those anti-cocoa breeds) so great in today’s society is that there is an “art” (zen-like, if you will) of picking out the beans, grinding them, choosing a filter, decided how to prepare it, and finding your own unique way to enjoy the cup of goodness.

I’ll admit that when I’m making my twice daily cup of joe, I have to search for “my” mug.  It has to be the tall one with the special handle.  Why? Read more »

Remember to thank the trailblazers

June 25, 2012

Social entrepreneurs are often trailblazers whether they like it or not. Seeking to fill a void in the business world opens up enough challenges, yet doing so in a market or environment that is not used to it can provide a whole slew of other difficulties.

Organizations like Kiva and SKS microfinance were not necessarily the first of their kind, but grew to such scale and recognition that they ended up being shoved into the spotlight as representatives for their industries.

Public missteps and controversial business decisions can create such a wave of publicity that might seem to dominate the news streams of an otherwise rather quiet / non-controversial community. Read more »

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