Wofford College Student Entrepreneurs Complete Summer Accelerator Program

Five students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Wofford College participated in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Summer Accelerator program this year and plan to be in business before fall starts.

For eight weeks, students in the program participated in weekly advising meetings, tracked progress and prioritized tasks using global startup accelerator tools, and honed entrepreneurial and critical business skills through workshops, while also gaining industry insight from weekly fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs.

“The program is a phenomenal alternative or even a supplement to a job or internship because it provides a different set of opportunities, experiences and skill development,” said Tyler Senecal, director of entrepreneurial programs at Wofford. “The Summer Accelerator is designed to aid students in expediting the process of launching their companies or business ventures by providing them with key resources, support and structure.”

The cohort for Wofford College’s Summer Accelerator program confer online with program leader Tyler Senecal and Wofford alumnus Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu and founder of SummerHub.

This year’s program looked a bit different because of COVID-19, with the five participants taking part remotely. Initially viewed as a disadvantage, virtual engagement allowed students to connect with entrepreneurs across the country, including Joseph McMillin, a 2013 Wofford graduate and CEO of Atlas Organics; Bradley Smith, CEO of AVO Insights; and Meggie Williams, CEO of Skipper.

“The Summer Accelerator program brings together a community of like-minded, driven entrepreneurs on Wofford’s campus and beyond,” said Hannah Brown, an English and Spanish double major from Winston-Salem, N.C. Brown is filling a void in the yoga apparel industry with her start-up Form, a company that produces specialized shoes for going to and from the yoga studio.

Most recently, students logged on for a discussion with Matt Kilmartin, a 1997 Wofford graduate, CEO of Habu and founder of SummerHub, a program that connects college students to “flexternships” at companies. With 15 years in the technology and entrepreneurship space, Kilmartin shared lessons learned and imparted useful advice that student-entrepreneurs could apply to their own start-ups.

“Through our weekly meetings and fireside chats, I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur is more about pursuing a mindset than a strict set of skills,” says Campbell Harmening, a junior finance major from Orlando. “In order to have a meaningful company, you have to identify problems in your community and create solutions.” That’s exactly what Harmening is doing with his start-up, Graduates Garage, a platform for students to exchange goods and services securely on their respective campuses.

Harmening and Brown are working alongside three other student-entrepreneurs in the Summer Accelerator program.

Grace Gehlken, cofounder of SEED., and her mother pose wearing a pair of the social enterprise’s handcrafted Bloom Bracelets.

Grace Gehlken is a junior Spanish and finance double major from Charleston, South Carolina. She is cofounder of a start-up called SEED., a social enterprise venture that sells local and global artisans’ work with a percentage of the profits distributed to nonprofit organizations and community leaders to fund key tools and resources. SEED. was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of the Sullivan Foundation’s Engage magazine, and cofounder Mackenzie Syiem was an attendee of the foundation’s 2019 Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip.

Grace Cromer, a senior business economics major from Anderson, S.C., is developing Grace upon Grace, an adaptive clothing line for special-needs newborns and infants. The line is intended to help parents navigate the complications of caring for children with special needs.

Finance major Zander Dale, a junior from Athens, Ga., is working toward the launch of TripShare. TripShare is a platform that connects like-minded travelers so they can build trips and experiences like never before.

Pioneer of Slow Money Movement Launches Beetcoin to Boost Small, Local Farms

When it comes to funding local farms and food startups, social entrepreneur Woody Tasch believes slow and small wins the race. That’s the principle behind the Slow Money Institute, which Tasch founded in 2009, and his latest initiative, Beetcoin.

The Slow Money Institute connects investors with independent farmers, thus “catalyzing the flow of capital to local food systems, connecting investors to the places where they live and promoting new principles of fiduciary responsibility that ‘bring money back down to earth,’” according the nonprofit’s website.

The institute promotes the formation of self-organizing local groups with a focus on local sustainable farming. The groups host public meetings, on-farm events and pitch events and help facilitate peer-to-peer loans, investment clubs and nonprofit clubs making no-interest loans. According to the website, the institute’s work has generated more than $73 million for 752 food enterprises “in deals large and small.”

this photo shows the family that owns Ollin Farms, a recipient of a SOIL group loan connected to the Slow Money Institute and Beetcoin.

Ollins Farms in Longmont, Colorado, received a zero-percent loan from a local SOIL group.

According to Denver publication 5280.com, Beetcoin, which grew out of the slow money movement, allows individuals “without deep pockets” to invest in locally owned agricultural businesses “committed to doing the right things for the earth.” These small donations from microinvestors are pooled, and the money goes to support  local Slow Money’s SOIL (Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally) groups, which give zero-percent loans to small farmers and startups.

“Our hope is that a large number of people chip in $10, $25, $50,” Tasch told 5280.com. “In the greater scheme of things, it’s small. We hope that, over time, it will grow.”

There are presently five SOIL groups in the U.S.—four in Colorado and one in Virginia. Those five groups thus far have received $1.25 million from 304 members and issued nearly $800,000 in zero-percent loans to 60 agricultural entrepreneurs. There is a membership fee of $250 to join the group, and all members get an equal vote on which projects to fund.

Recipients of loans have included Two Roots Farm in Basalt, Colo.; Ollin Farms in Longmont, Colo.; and Native Hill Farm in Fort Collins, Colo.

pictured are the owners of Two Roots Farm in Colorado, recipient of a loan from a SOIL group connected with the Slow Money Institute

Two Roots Farm, located in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, received a no-interest $7,500 loan from a SOIL group to help purchase materials for a mobile walk-in cooler and a drip-irrigation system.

To receive funding, farmers and food startup owners pitch their projects to the group and explain how they will make a positive impact on local food systems. The loans might be used to pay for a new tractor or a drip irrigation system, whatever is needed to improve the operation. Once the loan is repaid, the money goes back into the pool for future loans. “The money you put in stays in and recirculates indefinitely,” Tasch told 5280.com.

“We’re not kidding about the slow part,” Tasch added. “The idea is to very slowly grow this thing. We’re trying to build a movement of people who see that banding together with your neighbors to invest for the long-term health of the community is important … If we’re going to do what needs to be done in the world today, it’s going to take a lot of small local actions.”

The Man Who Makes Money Grow

By Rick Hynum

Sullivan Foundation alumnus Matt Dunbar started feeling the “entrepreneurial itch” while working as a chemical engineer in the early 2000s. But scratching that itch required a radical shift in his mindset—from linear, step-by-step causal thinking to effectual reasoning, a more fluid approach that embraces the unknown and the unknowable. Both styles have their place in the business world, but effectual thinking—which is inherently creative and improvisational—is crucial to building a business from scratch. After all, there’s no way to predict what challenges might be waiting around the corner in a startup venture.

Luckily for entrepreneurs and startups in South Carolina and surrounding states, Dunbar kept scratching until he found the sweet spot. A Clemson University graduate and recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Dunbar now serves as managing director of VentureSouth, one of the country’s leading angel investment groups. Along with VentureSouth co-founders Charlie Banks and Paul Clark, he has helped guide dozens of entrepreneurs to success while jumpstarting the region’s economy with funding for new businesses—many of them tech-based—that have created hundreds of high-paying jobs.

From Carolina to California
Raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Dunbar graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1999 from Clemson, where he served as student body president and received the Sullivan Award. “I have to admit that I didn’t know much about the award or the Sullivans before I became a recipient at Clemson,” he said. “But once I had a chance to learn about the history and legacy of the award and its namesake, I was extremely honored and humbled to share the award with such a long line of great servant leaders. Even now I am still challenged and inspired to try to live up to the principles and values it represents.”

After graduation, Dunbar worked for Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tenn. for several years. Ultimately, he said, “I decided I didn’t want to be an engineer for the rest of my career,” he told podcaster John Livesay. “I was more intrigued with some of the business challenges I encountered within the company and decided it was a good time in my life—in my late 20s—to have an adventure.”

So he packed up and moved across the country to earn his MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University in 2005. There, he was exposed to new ideas and opportunities in business. “It opened my eyes to a new world,” he said. “I also didn’t know anything about investment banking and consulting. I was really impressed with my classmates that came out of those backgrounds in terms of their skills sets—their ability to analyze data, to synthesize business solutions and communicate them really clearly. I decided I wanted to learn some of those skills.”

After leaving Stanford, he landed at the Boston Consulting Group in Atlanta. “I was able to improve some of those skills that I was so intrigued by, but mostly in working with Fortune 500 companies,” he recalled in the podcast interview. “But I still had an itch … to be more involved in entrepreneurial and younger, high-growth businesses rather than large established businesses.”

this photo shows an electric bus manufactured by Proterra

VentureSouth provided startup angel funding for Proterra, a leading innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation.

A Fast Learner
He got his chance after a serendipitous meeting with some fellow South Carolinians who wanted to start an angel investment group to boost the state’s struggling economy. Dunbar came on board to help launch the Upstate Carolina Angel Network (UCAN) as its founding managing director in 2008. UCAN has since evolved into one of the country’s largest angel investment groups, now called VentureSouth.

At the time, Dunbar didn’t know much about angel investment groups, which consist of accredited private investors who join together to identify, evaluate and fund startup companies and provide guidance to the entrepreneurs on growing their businesses. “As an engineer, you’re trained to think in a logical, linear way, which lends itself well to working in a large organization with fairly well-understood trajectories,” he said. “But it turns out the engineering way of thinking in logical, linear steps isn’t necessarily the best way to think about startups because nothing is linear, nothing is known, and everything is ambiguous. It was somewhat of a challenging transition for me. But I was intrigued by it and wanted to think in a more effectual way, where you’re faced with uncertainty and ambiguity and you try to create order from chaos.”

Dunbar proved to be a fast learner. Since its inception, VentureSouth, which includes more than a dozen connected angel groups across the Carolinas, has invested nearly $50 million in more than 75 companies, with a focus on startups in the Southeast.

Companies in its portfolio include Altis Biosystems in Chapel Hill, N.C., which specializes in next-generation stem cell technologies designed to make drug discovery faster, cheaper and safer while reducing the need for animal testing; ActivEd, the Greenville, S.C. developer of a technology platform for movement-based learning—such as Walkabouts—to get kids out of their desks and onto their feet as they’re learning language arts and mathematics; Proterra, a leading innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation; and Spiffy, an on-demand car company that started in the North Carolina Research Triangle Park.

The VentureSouth Sullivan Angel Group
Dunbar sees VentureSouth and angel investment groups as an engine for creating economic growth—and positive social impact—in regions where venture capital has long been scarce. And, as a Sullivan alumnus, he and his team recently launched an affiliate angel investment group, called VentureSouth Sullivan, to continue that mission while benefiting the Sullivan Foundation.

With the formation of VentureSouth Sullivan, faculty, staff and alumni of the foundation’s 70 partner schools can become members of one of the top 10 angel groups in the country and invest in startup businesses that will drive the region’s economy. Upon joining, 25 percent of members’ annual dues will be donated to the Sullivan Foundation. All of those proceeds will be used to financially support students, faculty and staff who participate in the foundation’s events, programming and education initiatives focused on making positive change in their communities.

Members of VentureSouth Sullivan can also donate a percentage of any profits derived from their investments to the Sullivan partner school of their choice.

“I was fortunate and humbled to be presented the Sullivan Award upon graduating from Clemson, and, through chance, recently reconnected with the foundation,” Dunbar said. “Creating this affiliate group specifically for Sullivan alumni and donating a portion of the annual fees is one way of supporting the Sullivan network of schools and encouraging students to choose a path of service to their communities.”

this is a photo of an employee of Spiffy, an on-demand car care company, polishing the grill of a car.

Spiffy, an on-demand car care company, got its start at the North Carolina Research Triangle Park and received angel funding from VentureSouth.

Joining VentureSouth Sullivan’s angel group allows Sullivan alumni to use their investment dollars to make a positive difference in a region of the country that’s underserved in terms of venture capital. VentureSouth’s motto, after all, is “Make Money. Have Fun. Do Good.”

“For VentureSouth members, ‘doing good’ comes from multiple levels of impact created by our investing activity,” Dunbar said. “We know that all net job growth in the economy comes from young companies that grow fast—and which don’t usually have access to other forms of capital—so our investments really help fuel the growth of good jobs and opportunities and wealth creation in our communities.”

“Additionally, many of our portfolio companies are working to solve serious problems in arenas like cancer diagnostics, infant screening, women’s health, public transit and clean energy,” Dunbar added. “So we are helping advance significant efforts to save lives and protect our environment. And our model allows VentureSouth members to share their experience and wisdom with the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders, which creates a wealth of good in the form of passing it down and paying it forward.”

Want to learn more about joining the VentureSouth Sullivan angel investment group? Three online Q&A sessions are scheduled at venturesouth.vc/venturesouth-sullivan for the following dates:

4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 1
8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9
11 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 17

Saxbys: Coffee With a Conscience

Coffee is easy to find in caffeine-crazed cities coast to coast, but coffee with a conscience—that’s a taller order. Nick Bayer, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Saxbys, believes a good cup of java has the power to awaken social change even while it jolts you out of a sleepy stupor first thing in the morning. And with Saxbys’ innovative Experiential Learning Platform (ELP), it can also put college students on their own path to social entrepreneurship.

Bayer opened his first Saxbys café in 2005 with a mission to “make life better”—for his community, his employees and the planet itself. It has since grown into a 30-store chain stretching across the eastern U.S., from Georgia down south all the way up to New Hampshire.

From the start, Bayer envisioned Saxbys as much more than a coffee shop. “We are a hospitality and social impact company first and foremost, with our efforts primarily rooted in education and opportunity,” he said in a 2018 interview with his alma mater, Cornell University.

this photo shows two coffee drinks offered by Saxbys
Saxbys rolled out its inaugural Experiential Learning Platform in a partnership with Drexel University in 2015, creating the country’s first entirely student-run café. Students can earn full academic credit and wages through a cooperative education program. Each café is managed by a Student Café Executive Officer (SCEO) and submits a profit-and-loss statement every month to Saxbys’ executive team. In addition to being paid for their work, each SCEO receives ongoing mentorship, bonus-earning opportunities and training while helping peers grow into team leaders.

The program has expanded to 10 ELP cafes at eight universities, including two at Drexel, two at Temple University, and one each at La Salle University, Millersville University, West Chester University, Pennsylvania State University, St. Joseph’s University and Bowie State University. Two more cafes are scheduled to open in the fall of 2021 at the University of Pittsburgh.

The ELP Café
Working for an ELP café involves a lot more than slinging coffee for some quick cash. It’s a full-blown immersion in the highly competitive world of business operations with industry veterans showing you the ropes. Saxbys’ executives work closely with ELP team members to teach them skills ranging from financial management, marketing and community outreach to leading a team of their peers, social impact and systems thinking, all in a busy, bustling coffee shop frequented by their fellow students.

Bayer said the program was built around “the belief that the lessons we would teach in our cafés to undergrads and aspiring entrepreneurs would go way further than steaming milk and making lattes. In fact, it transcends the coffee business and teaches the skills necessary to be successful, civic-minded leaders in any industry.”

this photo shows Saxbys founder Nick Bayer with Devin Gallion at Bowie State University

Saxbys opened its first ELP Cafe in a historically black university at Bowie State University. Pictured are Saxbys founder Nick Bayer and Devin Gallion.

In other words, it’s the kind of learning experience that students can’t get in a traditional classroom. And Saxbys chooses its team members carefully. “First and foremost, our mission is to make life better, and core values are at the epicenter of our hiring process,” Bayer said. “Every single Saxbys team member goes through what we call a culture screening—where our certified recruiting team screens them first on the culture we are so proud of within the café. Because we’re on so many college campuses, we’re a lot of students’ first job, so we pride ourselves on the training and education program we’ve put in place that enables team members to reach their full potential and offer the hospitality we know our guests are looking for.”

Each ELP café has one fulltime position—the SCEO. “The rest of the team are current students in a part-time role,” Bayer said. “At some of our institutions, the university has realized how valuable our part-time leadership roles—which we call ‘team leads’—are and have started to offer credit for those positions as well on top of the Student CEO role. All café roles report to the SCEO, making them responsible for overseeing sometimes up to 70 of their peers.”

Building Relationships
Saxbys also looks for the right fit as far as partner institutions are concerned. “Our Experiential Learning Platform is composed of individuals with a really unique set of experiences in higher education, teaching, real estate and foodservice,” said Raymond Smeriglio, Saxbys’ head of partnerships and external relations. “That team works to identify universities leading the way in innovation, entrepreneurship and experiential learning. From there, like most things at Saxbys, the partnership is built off of relationships.”

this photo shows the passing of the bagel, a Saxbys ritual, at Millersville University

A departing ELP Cafe SCEO passes the bagel, a Saxbys ritual, at Millersville University.

“The partnership conversation usually starts at the presidential or board level,” Smeriglio added. “Then, a team of intra-university officials combine with the Saxbys team to create two critical paths—academics and real estate. We create a crediting structure that benefits the students, does not hinder their graduation and keeps them eligible for financial aid. While those academic discussions continue, Saxbys continues to work with the university to identify the real estate that can turn into a beloved café and bustling Experiential Learning Saxbys.”

Historically, the coffee industry has been notorious for taking advantage of farmers in developing countries. In recent years, fair-trade market reforms, particularly in terms of ethical sourcing and sustainability, have led more companies to carefully consider their impact on the farmers who grow and harvest coffee around the world.

Ethical sourcing is ingrained in the Saxbys business model. A Saxbys’ team visits every country where their coffee is grown, direct-sourcing their coffee and purchasing it with a handshake at origin. “We want to be as involved in the process as possible to get the best product we can find and also to nurture and develop relationships,” Smeriglio said. “We will often select from hundreds and even thousands of farms in a geographical area to determine which coffee would be ideal for Saxbys. Last year alone we visited Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.”

this photo depicts two women employees at a Saxbys ELP Cafe at La Salle University

In a ritual similar to “passing the bagel,” a departing SCEO passes the latte to her replacement at the ELP Cafe at La Salle University.

“It’s important to us that every coffee we serve has been purchased in a sustainable and ethical way,” he added. “We pay above fair-trade prices for our coffee and believe that it’s critical and necessary to pay coffee farmers what they deserve. We try our best to form long-standing relationships where we can purchase from producers year after year, allowing them to have more stability in planning.”

Saxbys is also committed to being transparent about its sourcing and the components of its blends. “We publish exactly what coffee is in each blend and where it came from for each of our coffees,” Bayer said. “Sharing our supply chain and blend information is not a common practice, but we believe that our guests like the aspect of traceability. It also gives credit to the hard-working coffee producers that make all of this possible.”

And it means university partners can feel comfortable knowing they’re working with a company that empowers its coffee growers in faraway lands as well as its student team members in the ELP environment—and the local community, too. In addition to providing scholarships and fellowship funds to students from all backgrounds, Saxbys has ongoing partnerships with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Philadelphia Youth Network, Covenant House and the National Youth Foundation, to name a few. And the ELP cafés make a commitment to hiring under-resourced students—including those who live under the poverty line or who have experienced homelessness—as well as those from more privileged backgrounds.

In addition to its current partner schools, Smeriglio said Saxbys is open to expanding its network and working with other schools that offer the right fit. They can contact Smeriglio directly via email at ray@hellosaxbys.com or by phone at (717) 599-8249. “We absolutely love having conversations about partnerships with any school that’s interested,” Smeriglio said.

Chicago Restaurateurs Celebrate Women’s Restaurant Week August 26-31

Female chefs and restaurateurs in the Chicago area have banded together for Women’s Restaurant Week to encourage consumers to support women-owned restaurants. Presented by Let’s Talk and supported by the Illinois Restaurant Association, Choose Chicago and the James Beard Foundation (JBF), the six-day event will kick off on Women’s Equality Day, Wednesday, August 26, and runs through August 31.

Some of the participating restaurateurs and restaurants include Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Cafe; Beverly Kim, Parachute and Wherewithall; Carrie Nahabedian, Brindille; Danielle Dang, HaiSous;  Amy and Clodaugh Lawless, The Dearborn; Sandra Holl, Floriole; and Rohini Dey, Vermilion (a JBF trustee and Let’s Talk founder).

Related: Why we need to nurture entrepreneurship in young girls

This photo shows Sarah Stegner, owner of Prairie Grass Cafe and a founder of Women's Restaurant Week

Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Cafe

“The idea came out of a Let’s Talk group Zoom call with women chefs involved in the James Beard Foundation,” said Stegner, a two-time James Beard Award winner. “It was smart to band together to face the COVID19 challenges, learn from each other and encourage customers to support our women-owned restaurants,” she said.

Women’s Restaurant Week is led by the Chicago JBF “Let’s Talk” Forum to which seventeen Chicago-area women restaurateurs belong. Their purpose is to support each other and survive the coronavirus crisis together.

Women’s Restaurant Week is open to all women-owned restaurants, bakers and food-related and beverage businesses. Each business will offer a special dine-in meal, product for sale, delivery, or pick-up offer to showcase their business to Chicagoland.

Related: Rise & Thrive inspires and mentors teen girls to become leaders

Learn more about Windy City participants in Women’s Restaurant Week at their websites below:

UNC-Chapel Hill Forges Global Partnership to Develop New Drugs for Future Pandemics

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), a Sullivan Foundation partner school, has joined with the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and the Eshelman Institute for Innovation to develop new medicines that could save lives in future pandemics.

The three partners announced in early April the launch of the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI), a global organization aimed at discovering and developing drugs to put “on the shelf” for clinical trial testing in anticipation of future viral pandemics similar to the COVID-19 crisis that has wreaked havoc on the American economy.

Related: UK social enterprise will bypass big drug companies to make COVID-19 vaccine available to the poor

“We are proud to help launch READDI,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz in a statement. “We are also proud of the three schools—the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the School of Medicine, and the Gillings School of Global Public Health—that created this concept and will be collaborating closely. It is uniquely structured to innovate for the public good, just as we do at Carolina. Through this initiative, researchers will be able to create new therapies that will help people live longer, healthier lives.”

READDI is modeled after DNDi, a proven model for non-profit drug research and development.  In READDI, projects will adopt extreme open-science methods, sharing drug discovery progress with other researchers in real time so that all can benefit. The nonprofit aims to raise $125 million to generate five new drugs with human safety and dosing data in five years to be ready for the next pandemic.

READDI’s website notes that most pharmaceutical companies can’t afford to make a drug before there is a market need for it. That means the scientific community can get caught flatfooted by an outbreak of a new virus. Additionally, there are large gaps in the scientific community that prevent effective communications and potential breakthroughs.

READDI aims to solve both problems. Through the organization’s global access model, “READDI will accelerate the pace of antiviral discovery globally for three viral families with the most pandemic potential—coronaviruses, flaviviruses and alphaviruses.”

Related: Victoria Orlando, a Lincoln-Memorial University student, serves the sick and dying in nursing home

According to SGC Chief Executive Officer Aled Edwards, the collaborative effort is overdue. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for the world’s top researchers and drug discoverers to work together to invent new therapies,” Edwards said. “We should have done this decades ago, but READDI has the potential to make sure we are never caught off-guard again.”

Added DNDi  Research & Development Director Laurent Fraisse: “We are excited to support this much-needed effort in anti-viral drug development. We are happy to lend our hand in any way to ensure the global community is better prepared for any future pandemics.”

This article was adapted from a press release on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill website.

University of South Carolina Alumnus Rethinks the Way Columbia Looks at Its History

Born into a Columbia, S.C. family steeped in social justice, Robin Waites left her hometown for college, earning an undergraduate degree in art history and Russian from Middlebury College in Vermont. But she returned to the University of South Carolina, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, to pursue a master’s degree in art history.

“I wanted to do something that could impact community in some positive ways. I ended up going the art history route because that was a way I felt I could do something at some level that was important but still cultivate something that I really love, which is the arts,” Waites says.

Related: Guilford College art professor’s paintings capture plight of racism

“The way that I come to the arts is with a social lens,” Waites added. “I love to look at work and figure out what the artist was doing, why they painted it, what was going on in the world at the time, and how it’s a commentary on life.”

After earning her master’s in 1996, she worked in a variety of jobs at the S.C. State Museum, eventually becoming the chief curator of art. In 2002, she moved to Historic Columbia, and in 2004 she became executive director of the nonprofit dedicated to preserving Columbia and Richland County’s historic and cultural heritage.

Waites has made her mark by rethinking the way the city looks at its history, renovating and transforming the organization’s house museums and grounds, creating partnerships with a wide spectrum of communities, and advocating for preservation of historic structures.

In December, she was honored by One Columbia for Arts and Culture, the city’s arts advocacy organization, with its Stephen G. Morrison Visionary Award. The award is given to a Columbian who reflects the values and qualities of the late Morrison, an attorney, arts patron and former One Columbia board chairman. Waites was specifically honored for accomplishments such as the renovations at the Mann-Simons site, the Woodrow Wilson Family Home and the Hampton Preston mansion and gardens.

Related: Duke University’s Bella Almeida turns trash into stunning sustainable art

“All of these property transformations opened spaces that are much more than just historic homes,” reads the One Columbia press release for the award. “They present and elevate the roles enslaved persons and post-emancipated people of color played in shaping Columbia. They are now centers for connected thinking and dialogue that challenge visitors to make broader connections and appreciate people different from themselves—key ingredients for social awareness and community involvement.”

The description illustrates Waites’ commitment to expanding the conversation to tell a full story of Columbia’s past.

“It’s what we do,” she says. “We’re helping people find ways to establish a sense of place for themselves and to find that through different mediums and different ways.”

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of South Carolina website.

Duke University Researcher Tracks Down Cute Mouse-Like Creature in Horn of Africa

It’s the size of a mouse with a long nose, it’s adorable even to hard-nosed scientists, and it mates for life. But the Somali Sengi has been missing in action for decades. Now, thanks to a researcher at Sullivan Foundation partner school Duke University, the fuzzy, remarkably speedy little critter has been rediscovered in the Republic of Djibouti—and it’s living its best life.

The Somali Sengi, also called the Somali Elephant-Shrew, is a tiny African mammal boasting a long and flexible nose that it waggles to and fro. In fact, it’s a close relative of other trunk-nosed creatures like aardvarks, elephants and manatees.

Related: University of North Carolina research explains why sea turtles eat plastic

Unfortunately, no scientist had seen this particular species of sengi from the Horn of Africa since the early 1970s. Only three dozen historical specimens existed in museums. That made the sengi among the top 25 most-wanted in the Global Wildlife Conservation’s Search for Lost Species initiative.

Early last year, Steven Heritage, a researcher at the Duke Lemur Center, set out with a small team of other zoologists, including Galen Rathbun from the California Academy of Sciences and Houssein Rayaleh from Association Djibouti Nature, to see if the Somali Sengi was still around—and maybe hanging out somewhere else in eastern Africa other than Somalia.

More than 1,200 live-traps later, they had found eight Somali Sengis and a whole bunch of mice and gerbils.

“It was amazing,” Heritage told Sci-News. “When we opened the first trap and saw the little tuft of hair on the tip of its tail, we just looked at one another and couldn’t believe it.”

“A number of small mammal surveys since the 1970s did not find the Somali Sengi in Djibouti—it was serendipitous that it happened so quickly for us.”

this photo shows Dr. Steven Heritage of Duke University with a small brown Somali sengi or Somali elephant-shrew

Dr. Steven Heritage of Duke University shows a tiny Somali sengi caught in a live-trap baited with peanut butter, oatmeal and yeast.

With some modeling of its distribution and potential habitats, the researchers also concluded that the Somali Sengi is a lot more common than people had thought, with a much larger range that includes hot, dry and rocky parts of Somalia, Djibouti and maybe even neighboring Ethiopia. The finding should move the sengis from “data deficient” to “least concern” on the missing-species lists.

In an interview about the discovery with CNN, Heritage said the sengi is noted for its long hind limbs, which make them swift runners. “The proportions of their hind limbs are closer to antelopes or gazelles than they are to other small mammals,” Heritage told CNN. He said that some species of sengi can run up to 18.6 miles per hour.

The sengi are also monogamous and pair off for life with their mates.

“In the scientific community, we try to use a reserved language that would classify the animals as ‘charismatic microfauna,’ which translates from science-speak to normal-speak as ‘adorable little animals,’” Heritage told CNN.

After some careful DNA and anatomical analyses of the captured animals, the research team not only confirmed that the little mammal, known as Elephantulus revoilii, was alive and well, but that it had been misclassified by scientists, probably because of the sparse data.

In a paper appearing Aug. 18 in the open access journal PeerJ, the scientists nominated the resurrected sengi for its own genus, which would make its new name Galegeeska revoilii.

“For us living in Djibouti—and, by extension, the Horn of Africa—we never considered the sengis to be ‘lost,’ but this new research does bring the Somali Sengi back into the scientific community, which we value,” Rayaleh told Sci-News. “For Djibouti, this is an important story that highlights the great biodiversity of the country and the region and shows that there are new opportunities for new science and research here.”

This article was adapted from a Duke University press release and other media reports.


Leading CEOs Propose Roadmap to Building a Purpose-First Economy

A new coalition of global leaders, including the CEOs of Danone, Mahindra, Philips, L’Oreal, and other companies representing a combined annual revenue of over $100 billion and a combined global workforce of over 500,000, have endorsed a roadmap to “build the economic system better,” rather than merely “building it back.”

As Real Leaders magazine reports, the goal of the roadmap is to create an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID economy that benefits society, the planet, and shareholders for generations. In an open letter, the group of 14 CEOs called on governments to accelerate such a transition by recognizing and supporting purpose-first business as an emerging fourth sector of the economy.

The signatories to the letter have also committed to advance the purpose-first economy by leveraging their procurement, innovation, research, development, and investment to accelerate the growth of this critical sector. The letter provides a practical roadmap for proactively redesigning corporate structures and government policies to develop a more supportive ecosystem for organizations that operate under a new business logic. The leaders have urged businesses and governments to join them.

“Our world was a dangerous and troubled place even before COVID-19 took hold,” said Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, who is now working on transforming the structural impediments to sustainable business. “We have the chance to rebuild a fairer, greener society. But to do so, we need courageous business leaders who are willing to act, individually and collectively. It’s why I applaud the signatories of this letter. No company alone can solve the problems we face. But together, we can begin to challenge the orthodoxies which got us here. Together we can help the world change.”

Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, said: “Today, more than ever, the world needs to reimagine a new future, a future in which people can feel safe and protected. The initiative being set in motion by Leaders on Purpose is an effort toward defining the new environment. It provides a much-needed aspirational framework that can change the language of business discourse and how we regard the future. This philosophy resonates deeply with Mahindra’s vision and has the potential to become a movement that will define the future for generations.”

The group’s diverse community includes corporate leaders from across the globe, including Ajay Banga (Mastercard); Alan Murray (Fortune Media); Anand Mahindra (Mahindra Mahindra); Dan Hendrix (Interface); Dylan Taylor (Voyager Space Holdings); Emmanuel Faber (Danone); Feike Sijbesma (DSM); Frans van Houten (Philips); Dr. James Mwangi (Equity Bank); Jean-Paul Agon (L’Oreal); John Denton (ICC); Mike Doyle (Omnicom-Ketchum); Roberto Marques (Natura & Co.); and Stefan De Loecker (Beiersdorf).

While governments around the world debate economic and social policies designed to jumpstart their economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Build it Better” framework includes six key imperatives for public and private sector leaders to guide innovation of public policy as well as corporate and financial structures to accelerate the progress of the purpose-first economy. These imperatives include:

  • Recognize the purpose-first sector.
  • Carefully craft incentives and policies.
  • Incentivize innovations of financial products, risk assessment, valuation models, and ratings.
  • Design for a safe, educated, and healthy society.
  • Leave no one behind.
  • Enable a supportive ecosystem.

Feike Sijbesma, honorary chairman of DSM, said: “The private sector needs an integrated strategy and supportive ecosystem that integrates more fairness, less dependency, more climate and sustainability focus, preparedness, and agility for uncertain times. We each have to think about the world around us, our role in it, our tremendous potential, and how we can contribute to making it better together.”

About Real Leaders Magazine: Located on the web at real-leaders.com, Real Leaders Magazine is the world’s first sustainable business and leadership magazine. Real Leaders aims to inspire better leaders for a better world, a world of far-sighted, sustainable leadership that helps find solutions to the problems that 7.5 billion people have created on a small planet. Click here to subscribe to Real LeadersFor more Real Leaders video content, check out their Youtube page here.

Girl Scout Creates Sustainable Shopping Maps to Combat Fast Fashion

Sarah Kessler is a Girl Scout on a mission: to educate consumers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about the problems posed by “fast fashion” and the need to shop sustainably.

According to the West Central Tribune, Kessler, 16, has been working on her Gold Award, the highest achievement for a Girl Scout (similar to the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America). To earn the award, she had to develop and execute a project that would have a lasting positive effect in the community.

After learning about the environmental impact of fast fashion and the plight of low-paid factory employees working in the industry, Kessler decided to help local shoppers make better buying decisions. She created two shopping maps covering a large swath of northern Minnesota. One map highlights stores that carry responsibly made, locally made and/or Fair Trade Certified products. The second map focuses on those stores that offer second-hand goods.

“When I kind of learned about how badly we need sustainable fashion, I was just really shocked, because I’d been into fashion my whole life, and I’d never heard this before,” Kessler, a member of Girl Scout Troop 1483, told the West Central Tribune. “I was just really amazed, and I wanted to give people the opportunity to know how their actions affect so much more than they think it does.”

For her Gold Award project, Kessler contacted more than 80 stores within a 300-mile radius to gauge their commitment to sustainability. She took into account whether the stores were paperless or offered single-use plastic bags. “It was really inspiring to see how many stores did have responsibly and locally made stuff,” she said. “The more we know, the more we can make informed, ethical decisions.”

Kessler also created a YouTube video that succinctly and effectively explains the problems with fast fashion and how to shop sustainably. “We like these clothes because we can buy a lot of them for really low prices,” she explains in the video. “But they’re such poor quality that they wear out and fall apart really quickly and become garbage. It’s disposable clothing.”

She also notes that the fast-fashion industry “is a major contributor” to global warming. It releases 1.2 billion tons of carbon every year, Kessler says, and generates 20 percent of the planet’s waste water (fresh water that is rendered unusable).

Additionally, 40 percent of purchased clothing is never even worn, Kessler says in the video. “One garbage truck full of clothing—that’s 530 garbage bags—is being burned or dumped into a landfill every second.”

Kessler’s video also touches on the issue of worker exploitation in developing countries where fast fashion clothing is usually made. “People are dying at work from making our clothes. Most of the people making our clothes are being exploited and physically, verbally and/or sexually abused. They work in awful conditions every day and are not even paid enough to live. This is not OK.”

The video, titled “Fast Fashion & How to Fix It,” was posted on June 20 and has garnered 270 views and 20 likes. On August 10, Kessler posted a second video, titled, “Sustainable Fashion: A Beginner’s Guide.” (See below.)

Meanwhile, Kessler plans to distribute her sustainable shopping maps at visitor centers and chambers of commerce throughout northern Minnesota. The map can also be viewed at visitgrandrapids.com, while her project is featured on her Instagram account, @fashion_or_planet_choose_both.

“When we buy from a brand, we directly support everything they do, including environmental and social crimes,” Kessler notes in the YouTube video.

“We can’t survive without clean water and air,” she adds. “And fast fashion is wasting it.”