Feature Profile: Hunter Sebresos FMS 2015

Hunter & Woman 12-4-2013 copy“We’ve found that market penetration and cultural understanding are the biggest challenges, because it can make or break the entire venture, no matter how business savvy the team is.”

Hunter Sebresos (FMS ’15) is the Founder and Lead Designer of Concept Hunter, a growing consultancy focused on emerging market penetration. Hunter met his business partner Jeff Hicken while they were working in Kenya with MOTIIS, a market innovation team. Jeff is now Director of Business Development and Strategy at Concept Hunter. At MOTIIS, Hunter and Jeff researched markets and had the opportunity to participate in the creation of Bamba Water. Working in Kenya was the turning point for Hunter, where he was able to directly apply his traditional design education in the impact market. Right out of Kenya, he applied to FMS. Hunter and Jeff connect with us on their current work in the impact space-including a free e-book which teaches how to successfully penetrate a market by building an effective brand, marketing plan, and sales team. You can pre-order now for the June 2016 release.

Hunter, why did you decide to join FMS?

I wanted to legitimize my experience in Kenya and was attracted to the certificate because it focused on impact. I also wanted to make connections and meet others who were interested in the space and it was highly recommended by another member of the MOTIIS innovation team, Kevin Lehr, an FMS Alum. I knew that the training would give me a good overview of social enterprise and impact investing. Now, I feel like I can really speak to the two sectors whereas before, even though I was working in the space, I wasn’t as knowledgeable. Thanks to the FMS training, I am confident in my understanding of the key concepts in the social impact sector as well as the skills that I can contribute.

What was your biggest takeaway from FMS?IMG_5746

The due diligence training was extremely useful. Learning how a good investment deal is structured has informed many of my decisions since the training. Now, when we look at potential clients with Concept Hunter, we also go through aspects of the due diligence process. This helps us assess what stage the clients are in with their project and how we can best help them. It’s surprising how many companies turn a blind eye to this process and how useful it can be across the board.

What is Concept Hunter focusing on today?

After FMS, we connected about some of the challenges we see in the impact space. Through our experience working in Social Enterprise, we have observed that companies struggle with two debilitating problems in particular. The two problems are (1) attracting investment capital and (2) penetrating markets through effective branding, marketing, and sales. The investment capital problem is overwhelming, however, we believe we can help solve the market penetration problem for social ventures. Not only that, but we believe effective market penetration will help them attract investment capital. Think about it, we haven’t seen a Facebook or a Twitter in the Social Enterprise industry. Once we see one or two Facebook-like companies emerge from Social Enterprise, that is when we will also see serious investment capital flood for these ventures.

Today, Concept Hunter helps clients build a powerful brand, marketing plan, and sales team to penetrate emerging markets and generate high returns. We specifically focus on the following:

  • How clients can find a brand that will be adopted and spread in the culture they are addressing.
  • How to market in a way that will resonate with the local culture and communities.
  • How to create sales teams that actually drive results, also paying attention to the local culture.

The one thing we find to be absolutely crucial to a venture’s success is to have an understanding of the local culture and to know which aspects are challenges and which are opportunities. We call these opportunities “anchors” and they allow for a solid foundation upon which the company can prosper. The reality is, when it comes to business, it is REALLY difficult to work upstream against culture. Culture must be taken into account and Concept Hunter works to identify ways that companies can incorporate cultural factors into their market penetration strategies to ensure greater success.

IMG_3155Even for teams who are already on the ground and who already have their services or products in use, crucial mistakes can be made when it comes to market penetration that will compromise the health of the venture. With help from MOTIIS, Bamba Water went from selling 3,000 units daily to now selling 90,000 units daily, and this in a matter of two years. They have also expanded to Nairobi and we know that increasing sales by 30x was only possible because of how seriously we paid attention to culture and the specific market. Using our experience with Bamba Water and our team’s success, we want to help other enterprises incorporate the benefits of truly understanding the market they are working in and applying that knowledge to branding, marketing and sales. Better yet, we know that if we can help ventures be more successful- such as increasing sales by 30x in two years- it will automatically address the first issue of finding funding because impact investors will undoubtedly be more attracted to these successes.

What are the key aspects of market penetration that your book will address?

We note that a sound market penetration strategy will cover the process, methods and expected outcomes for the following aspects of a venture:

– Cultural / Market Awareness

– Brand building

– Marketing strategy

– Sales Team building

These techniques are useful for both for-profit and nonprofit companies. In fact, we urge nonprofit companies to begin paying more attention to this topic and know that it can greatly benefit them. People tend to think that business principles won’t apply to nonprofits and that focusing on sales or branding isn’t where they should put efforts. We know, however, that by focusing on branding and marketing and localizing to specific markets can be immensely beneficial to their operations. The Red Cross does a great job of branding and marketing themselves in a way that is similar to for-profit models, and it works to their advantage. We encourage individuals working in the nonprofit space to read our book and to focus on market penetration techniques.

Will your book address market penetration in multiple regions?IMG_2957

We will be using experiences from the multiple cultures we have worked in and we will also be using experiences from other individuals working in the impact space around the world. These stories will help give context to the key points we emphasize.

It is important to note that we find similarities in market penetration challenges to have more to do with an economic divide than a regional divide. We are writing the book specifically for people working in emerging markets and in fact would not suggest the same tactics to someone working in the U.S. or bigger markets. These tactics may work, but our advice is not tailored to large markets. Most of the book is coming from our experience in Kenya with Bamba Water, and we will be incorporating insight from others who have worked in different countries and with different ventures. While the inspiration for the book came from our experience in Kenya, the formula we have developed in the book is one that can be applied to any emerging market. When we think to our experiences in other countries such as Ecuador and the Philippines, we remain confident in our formula and are excited to share it with everyone in this book.

Are there any stories you can share with us now?

Hunter: One of my favorite stories is the experience I had creating Bamba Water’s tagline. First, I’ll note that Bamba Water sells water sachets and not water bottles. Water bottles were twice the price of what we were offering and well water was not a safe option for many people, so we had a great advantage. In the beginning, working with branding, we came up with “bottles are for babies”. As Americans, we loved the tagline, we felt it applied right away. However, I started to notice that Kenyans weren’t actually appreciating the tagline the way we did. It wasn’t funnyStevenHawking the way it was to Americans because…Kenyan babies don’t drink from bottles. The tagline ended up only coming off as if we were making fun of individuals who drink bottled water. Fortunately, after noticing the reaction and before placing “bottles are for babies” on every poster, we came up with “Bambika na Bamba Water” which resonated much better with Kenyans. Not only did it make sense- translating to “refresh yourself with Bamba Water”- but it also had the alliteration and it rolled off the tongue in a way that felt good when saying it. The reaction we got from Kenyans to the new tagline was similar to what we were getting from Americans with “bottles are for babies”, and this solidified for us that it was a perfect fit. This experience proved how important it is for companies to pay attention to the market culture and customer preferences. If one were to travel to Mombasa today and ask ten people about Bamba Water, they will all respond with ‘Bambika”. That’s how well it works.

Another quick example is our decision to put up a billboard at the entrance of the ferry between the island of Mombasa and the city of Likoni. Whereas in the U.S., this decision would have been for the purpose of marketing and awareness, in Kenya, it was for the purpose of gaining credibility. We knew the culture and the appreciation of status when a company obtains a large billboard, and therefore knew that it would be an advantage with customers to place that ad in such a prime location in a way that proved our status.

Jeff: On the sales side, everything has to sync with culture, just like on the brand side. With your sales team, you have to develop simple, consistent, repetitive standards. Sales culture—and company-wide culture for that matter—is not something that comes because you wrote it in a mission statement. Rather, culture comes from the accumulation of your standards exhibited through habits and behaviors over time. When we started with Bamba Water, the sales team wasn’t very developed. I spent the first weeks moving around with the sales team, learning how they worked and taking notes. I quickly realized they had many challenges and from there was able to identify the obstacles and opportunities. Some of the obstacles we found included opinions about positions and status. At Bamba Water, each team had a sales manager, a sales clerk in charge of inventory and a mkokoteni pusher- the individual who pushed the cart and delivered the product. In Kenya, a manager is generally seen to be sitting behind a desk and directing people on what to do, but not engaged much further. On the flip side, within the context of Kenya, pushing the cart as a mkokoteni pusher was one of the lowest positions and was the most labor-intensive job. There was one mkokoteni pusher in particular, Simon, who really caught my eye and who I often traveled with. One day we went to a school and I watched Simon work very hard and play with the kids while his manager would only sit on the truck and fill the role he felt he was meant to play. Shortly thereafter, the manager himself left and we put Simon in the manager roleIMG_6563. This was a defining moment; it was amazing to see him going from what was seen as a bottom position to be working as manager and because he understood the cart pusher experience, he was right away an effective manager. For us, the single most important leadership training for the sales managers was to teach them ownership of their team’s results. They had a tendency early on to blame everything but themselves for poor performance, i.e. weather, their team, their superiors, the product, etc. We had no tolerance for this lack of ownership, and trained all sales managers to take full responsibility for the performance of their team. If their sales were down, it was the sales manager’s fault and no one else’s. This was something that Simon took very seriously, and did very well.  This critically changed the way his sales team operated. Simon went on to lead the top-producing area in Kenya for Bamba Water and I’m so proud to have witnessed that progression.

Where can we access the e-book once it is published?

The book will be available on our site and is projected for publication in June 2016. We encourage everyone to pre-order today. Our goal is to help social enterprises get over the common problem of market penetration issues and we believe all entrepreneurs should have access to this knowledge, which is why we are providing our book for FREE online.

Follow Concept Hunter: Twitter  LinkedIn

Hunter Sebresos served in the Marine Corps out of high school and was deployed to multiple locations where he grew an appreciation for people and cultures. He spent two years on a religious mission in the Philippines and then worked in advertising in cities including New York, Salt Lake City and Miami. Hunter then became interested in other aspects of communication and design which led him to apply to graduate school in order to find ways of blending his love of international cultures and design. After graduate school, he worked at NASA and helped communicate the various complex activities of scientists and astronauts to the public. Shortly after NASA, he moved to Kenya and worked with MOTIIS before joining FMS.

Jeff Hicken lived in Ecuador for two years on a religious mission after high school. The experience marked him as it was his first time living outside of the United States. He then studied Economics at BYU in Utah and worked in business development. When he moved to Kenya to work with MOTIIS and Bamba Water, Jeff focused on innovative ways to develop the sales team. His background in economics and business compliments Hunter’s design background, which is a unique aspect of the Concept Hunter Team.

The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The early application deadline is April 29, 2016. Learn more and submit your application here.

Challenging Impact: FMS Monterey Applies a Critical Lens to the Evolving Impact Investing Space


Should impact investors be allowed to accept returns on investment that exceeds the economic benefit delivered to community stakeholders who are impacted by their transactions? Is this relationship mutually beneficial, or purely extractive? These questions were posed by Morgan Simon during her recent Profiling Ventures for Impact Investing session at the January FMS session. Leveraging her deep knowledge of social justice issues to challenge existing paradigms in the impact investing landscape, Simon addressed several key challenges, these included: a lack of consistency and transparency among impact investors on stakeholder engagement, defining the role of the state vs. private sector models, and building strong methodologies around the identification and collection of key impact performance data.


When defining “impact” Simon provided a definition from the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, “to impinge upon, especially forcefully.” She did not mince her words when discussing the nature of transparency in the deal structuring process; enumerating unintended consequences that have resulted from well-meaning interventions crafted by social entrepreneurs and impact investors (that often occur with little-to-no community stakeholder engagement). Morgan asked of the cohort, “what can help ensure that impact investment and social enterprises empower people in need, rather than impinging upon them?” Her critique sought to more accurately channel the intentionality of investors and entrepreneurs towards livelihood challenges as they are defined by the communities themselves.


The FMS cohort in Monterey was engaged in a critical analysis of failures of the state, philanthropic and international development models (by utilizing an examination of public vs. private school debates in Kenya and the US). Participants were asked to discuss the nature of essential services and rural infrastructure; the conversation highlighted the contentious nature of defining roles and responsibilities for the public sector. Private sector service delivery models were introduced as a potential solution to the state’s failure to hold up its end of the bargain in providing adequate access to education, infrastructure, and healthcare. What ensued was a complex debate around the risks of supplanting public goods with a neo-liberal, profit-centric, model targeting the world’s poorest consumers.


The longstanding business axiom “what gets measured, gets managed” was also subject to revision over the course of the two day session. While engaging in group work, the cohort was encouraged to debate the relative merits of various environmental and livelihood indicators. Morgan noted that measurement did not necessarily lead to impact outcomes in the absence of effectively aligned management and incentive structures. Of particular note was Morgan’s call for enhanced transparency around the auditing of impact metrics and stakeholder engagement methodologies.

Simon’s session, taken in the context of the entire two week Monterey training session, highlighted the dynamic nature of the impact investing space; as a nascent industry, the landscape appears to be in a state of near constant flux. Her perspectives on social justice brought the emergence of segmentation in the market among investors (and LPs) into sharp relief, with perspectives that run the gamut from Pi Investments to Goldman Sachs. Increasingly, impact investors are coalescing around specific investment and social/environmental impact theses (i.e., African agriculture, conservation, financial inclusion, empowering women, etc.) In the search to create a common language around impact metrics, measurement, and reporting the daunting challenge will be to negotiate the tremendous diversity of market players, geographies, and deal structures for investments that can vary from $50,000 by an asset manager with $15 million (AUM) to $200+ million by institutional investors with $300 billion (AUM).

-Alexander Wilbanks


 2c9045dAbout Morgan Simon:

Morgan has spent the last decade engaged in impact investment, emphasizing community empowerment, leadership and ownership. She co-leads Pi Investments as Managing Director, building a 100% impact portfolio with an emphasis on community empowerment and environmental sufficiency. In that capacity, she evaluates investments across asset classes, including direct investments. Morgan is also a co-founder of Toniic, where she served as founding CEO from 2010-2013. Toniic is a global network of early-stage social investors looking to move $4.5B into impact. She is on the investment committee for The Working World, a fund for stakeholder-owned businesses in the US, Argentina and Nicaragua, and co-chair of the board of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a worker center supporting 10,000 restaurant workers nationwide. Previously, as the founding Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Morgan brought together 100 colleges and universities, helping to move their $200 billion in endowment dollars towards impact investment. Morgan has also worked with grassroots organizations and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Mexico, Honduras and Sierra Leone, and in domestic microfinance with Women’s Initiative for Self Employment (WI). She received a B.A with High Honors in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College.

New Center for Social Impact Learning Graduate Assistant Positions

We are hiring for the spring 2016 semester: 

CSIL Graduate Assistants. Learn more about our work: go.miis.edu/csil
CSIL Graduate Assistants. Learn more about our work: go.miis.edu/csil

Salinas Microfinance Fund Coordinator (10 hours/week)
Primary Responsibilities: Perform research, assist with mobilizing wide ranging community support, and help design and develop the organization of a Microfinance Fund in order to make loans to low income people in Salinas to start their own business enterprise.

How to Apply

Send your resume and statement of interest via email (Subject Line: Microfinance Fund Coordinator) to:

Jerry Hildebrand (ghildebrand@miis.edu)

Special Projects Assistant to CSIL Director (10 hours/week) 

Primary Responsibilities:  Assist CSIL Director with research, development, and documentation of a wide-range of experiential learning projects for MIIS students in Social Entrepreneurship.

How to Apply

Send your resume and statement of interest via email (Subject Line: Special Projects Assistant) to:

Jerry Hildebrand (ghildebrand@miis.edu)

NEW Impact Accounting and Management Course


MIIS Students,

Professor Olsen is offering a three credit course, MBAG 8616 Emerging Discipline of Impact Accounting and Management, and has modified the schedule. Below is information about the content, structure, and optional certificate- great for your resumes!

Content: The course is open with no pre-requisites, and will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00-9:00pm throughout the entire term, starting next Wednesday February 10th.

The course will provide students with an overall framework within which to understand the social/environmental impact of any enterprise, and will then equip students with a practical toolkit they can apply to any entity to gauge its impact, and to manage impact as a strategic asset and/or risk factor.

Students will also explore the following: measuring general corporate responsibility versus specific impact, the difference between change, “impact” and value; the proper engagement of stakeholders in measurement; how to determine materiality; the landscape of data sources and collection/management tools; and emerging standards and their use within the social capital marketplace.

Any students interested in social impact, social investing, stakeholder assessment, environmental impact/assessment, etc, would be well served by this course taught by a leading professional in this field.

In addition to other topics, Professor Olsen will be covering content that will prepare you to sit for an optional professional certification in Introduction to Analysis of Social Impact, awarded by Social Value International (SVI). Please see below for details for this optional credential.

Structure: Typically the Certificate would be awarded based upon completion of a one-day workshop with materials to review before and after, and successful passing of the exam. However SVI-US is proposing that due to the similar content offered in the MIIS course “MBAG 8616A Emerging Discipline of Impact Accounting and Management,” students who take this course would qualify to take the exam.

Exam Cost: $100 for students

Skills: Students successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • understand the different purposes of, and the different principles and terminology used in analysis of social impact;· understand several frameworks currently used to analyse social impact;

    ·             describe and explain the fundamental components of a basic assessment of the estimated social impacts of a given organization, project or venture;

    ·             recognize and apply good practices in assessing social impact;

    ·             critically evaluate social impact reports; and

  • understand the role of engaging stakeholders as part of a robust analysis of social impact.


Please sign up if interested!



B Corps Panel Highlight: David Payne

david payne

David Payne is a sustainability consultant and instructor at University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. In addition to teaching about B Corps in his Business Sustainability and Ethics courses, he has worked closely with B Lab’s Colorado office and is the faculty advisor to UC Boulder’s Net Impact Chapter. As an instructor, consultant and mentor, David reminds us that there are many different ways to be involved with and positively contribute to the impact space. We asked him to briefly share his journey and hope that it encourages others to find ways to make their mark in this space as well. David recounts:


After working in the dot com industry and selling my company, I took time off to sail on my boat and read as much as I could. In 1999 an article called the Roadmap for Natural Capitalism was published which lead me to the book Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawkins. Even today, I would highly recommend it (download it here!) because the core theory still holds and I’ll never forget the impact it had on my worldview.

During that time, I was also volunteering and attending conferences, where I made a point of asking bold questions. A defining moment in my life happened at a CERES conference, when I raised my hand and flat out asked the members of the panel if I could get a job with them. Fortunately for me, it worked! Amory Lovins gave me his business card on the way out and ten days later I was on my way to Colorado as the newest employee of his think tank, Rocky Mountain Institute.

My experiences there challenged me to think more about all that was written in Natural Capitalism. The phrase “do more, better, with less, for longer” adequately sums up the theories and the book encourages cradle to cradle thinking as well as investing in human and natural capital as if we were managing any other asset. It just makes sense. With any other asset, you make it pay off in the long run by living off of the interest without consuming the capital. If you start consuming the capital, you begin to diminish the business itself. Taking those concepts and applying it to human and natural capital resonated with me. To help others understand, I phrase it as “unsalable product” instead of “waste”. It actually isn’t good business to be making things that you aren’t getting paid for, which would be this waste or unsalable product.

The mission of B Corps resonates deeply with me as well and I make a point of weaving them into final assessment projects for my students. In teaching the class on sustainable business at the Leeds school, I’ve been able to introduce them to the B Corps movement and we use the B Impact Assessment regularly. It is a perfect way to show students how the topics in ethics that we discuss can manifest in the business world. As part of the class, my students create their coat of arms, list their top four values and use those values to make decisions that develop better solutions to key issues. We do temperament and strengths assessments and I require them to define their theory of change so that we can tease out how better business can help them achieve that change.



Chatting with David was exhilarating and it was refreshing to hear the utter passion he has for the work he does and his efforts to inspire the next generation of socially responsible leaders. David also has his own sustainability consulting company, Point 380, which was named for the level of CO2 in the atmosphere when the firm was founded. He reminds us with heavy disappointment that CO2 levels are well over 400 today and that it is our duty to make decisions with the health of our planet in mind.


Connect with David:  Website   LinkedIn



Fellow Feature: FMS Fellow Kate Hanford

Kate Hanford1

Kate Hanford, FMS 2015 Alumna, began working with Unreasonable East Africa in Uganda through an FMS Fellowship. She is now their Chief Operating Officer (COO) and making big moves! We are proud to share her feature as we gear up for the new cohort of amazing FMS Fellows in the coming two months.


Tell us a little about your position and your daily activities.

My position is split between an internal facing side and external facing side. Internally I build processes and systems for Unreasonable East Africa so our team runs smoothly. Externally I am the primary focal point for our entrepreneurs. I work to make sure we understand, and are addressing their key challenges.

What has been the most exciting part about working with Unreasonable East Africa and professional life in the impact space?

Getting to work directly with companies that are changing people’s lives for the better, and seeing these companies grow! For example, one of our companies from this past year has really struggled to raise money because they are based in South Sudan, which is quite an unstable environment for investment. A funder that we connected them with in July just agreed to give them a $50,000 grant. This company works to train doctors in a country where currently only 60 new health professionals enter the workforce annually. That means only ⅕ of a doctor per person in a country whose population is growing the 3rd fastest in the world, and where the maternal mortality rate is 1st in the world. It’s an amazing feeling to see a company like that grow faster through our work!

Why did you decide to join the FMS program and what were you hoping to get out of the experience?

Starting in high school, I had a goal of working with companies in developing countries. After living in DC for several years, I was ready for the next stage in my career, and was considering going back to grad school for an MBA, or going to do something in a foreign country. I decided that getting more international experience was more time-sensitive than going back to school, so I applied to the FMS program to help me find positions internationally. I expected to work abroad for 6 months somewhere in the world. I hoped to gain a better understanding of a foreign culture, and to build my understanding of the social enterprise world.

Were there any surprises or unforeseen benefits that emerged?

Well, I’ve been here for almost 2 years, so yes! Including:

-Motivation/inspiration from being surrounded by like-minded people during the training
 (some of which I’m still friends with)

-Getting a placement that was so aligned with what I wanted
(I didn’t necessarily expect this would be possible)

-Getting so into the work I’m doing that I would commit to being in Uganda for 2 years

-Being inspired by the entrepreneurs I’m surrounded by, both within Unreasonable East Africa and with the companies we work with. Coming into this role, I was very much a “big organization” type person, and really enjoyed structure and working within big systems. While structured approaches will always be a part of my thinking, I have come to really enjoy the sometimes crazy but exhilarating lack of structure, and the resulting increase in opportunities that comes with entrepreneurship.

What were some of your biggest obstacles during the experience – professional or personal?

-Adjusting to living in a different culture long-term. There are so many different layers of culture to understand! It’s fascinating, and working to understand it is one of my favorite things about being here, but it’s also hard to feel like you don’t understand the nuances of what is going on. I still feel like I learn new things regularly, and like I said, I’ve been here for almost 2 years!

-Adjusting from being part of a large organization to now being part of a tiny start-up team. Before I moved, I was working for a large NGO in Washington D.C. that had about 400 people at its headquarters, and about 2,000 staff internationally. Now I work on a team with 6 people. This means changes in the way I communicate, the way I work in teams, the roles people play – almost everything!

How would you describe FMS to a stranger?Kate Hanford

FMS is a fellowship program that gives you 2 weeks of training on social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and then matches you with relevant job positions around the world. The program is a chance to strengthen your knowledge about the impact space, and connect with relevant people therein (both classmates and instructors).

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges in growing the impact-driven economy?

I think the first challenge is how you define the “impact-driven economy”. 77% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, and 83% of people in that age bracket don’t have jobs. 83%!!!! That means that creating any business that creates jobs for locals is creating a positive social impact, regardless of what kind of business it is. The complicated part comes when you consider the details – is that business paying living wages; are they harming the environment; what impact do they have beyond employment? A second challenge in an emerging economy context is finding the right people to work for impact organizations. Especially when they are starting up, impact organizations are generally looking for people who are motivated by passion for the cause more than salary. This is easier to find in countries like the US, where people have more job options, and tend to self-select for these type of roles. In a place where some job, any job is hard to come by, people that are not necessarily passionate about the cause will still apply for jobs at impact companies. This makes it hard to tease out if a potential employee will be cause/values aligned over the long-term or not.

What are your top three tips for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

1. Have a clear idea of what your goals are, even if they are very broad. If you’re not sure, keep talking to as many people as possible about it! When I joined FMS, I knew I wanted to work with companies directly, and that I ideally wanted to work with a broad range of companies to get an understanding of the social impact space, rather than the understanding of a specific industry in more depth. Be honest with yourself about what is most important to you, and explain that to people you talk to about your career.

2. Be patient in looking for what you want to do. There can be a lot of pressure to find a job and jump into things, but if it’s not a good match with your skill set and passions it likely won’t be worth it.

3. Remember that there is no one “right choice”. This applies to any career path, but it’s important to remember that there is only so much you can do to predict what will make you happy and successful in the future. Make a decision on your next step based off the information you have now and some thoughtful self-reflection, and keep in mind that if it doesn’t end up being the thing for you, you can always change!

What’s next for you? 

It’s time for me to go back to school! I’m currently in the process of applying to MBA programs, and will start next fall. (Fall 2016) I plan on continuing to work on operations for big, game-changing ideas!

Check out Kate’s post about Unreasonable’s learnings in East Africa, entitled “What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About Working in East Africa”

Follow Kate:  Twitter  LinkedIn

Follow Unreasonable East Africa: Facebook     Twitter     Website




B Lab and the B Corps Movement Visit CSIL!



Here at the Center for Social Impact Learning, the student group M Force recently hosted panelists to give fellow students, community business leaders and interested individuals the opportunity to learn more about B Lab, where the B Corps Movement is heading, and most importantly how to get involved. We had the pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with the panelists and are happy to introduce the first, Craig Dalen, here.


Craig Dalen is a Senior Fellow in B Lab’s inaugural cohort of B Corps Fellows. Over 400 applicants applied for 12 final spots as fellows, divided into six young professionals and six senior professionals. Ten of the fellows are currently focusing on the Best for NYC partnership between New York’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and B Lab, which challenges local businesses to take the B Impact Assessment, maps the impact created and highlights the top achievers.

Craig, himself, is based in Pennsylvania at B Lab’s Main Office and, along with another fellow Jasmine Jones, focuses on the B Corps on Campus initiative. He and the team are crafting a strategic path forward to engage education meaningfully and effectively as part of the B Corps movement. They are finding ways to support extracurricular experiences, such as ways to engage members of our CSIL student group, M Force, or student chapters of Net Impact across the country. Furthermore, they are deciding how best to support faculty members with curriculum development. Craig elaborates in the interview below.

Tell us about yourself and how you became involved with B Corps

Most recently I was the Director of Sustainability at Messiah College and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to launch the Messiah’s Office of Sustainability. This project largely came from listening to students who drove the effort by pushing the college to take into account its environmental footprint across the campus. I was so happy with what we were able to achieve through the Office and have enjoyed seeing the efforts continued as I transition to new positions.

As an educator at Messiah College, I taught about B Corps in my classes and we often discussed the role of the private sector in finding the solution for current world issues. As I looked forward in my career, I was interested in moving into the private sector and knew I would like to be involved in positive ways such as part of the B Corps movement. Professional fellowships that are salaried and allow you to use your experience are few and far between, so the B Corps Fellowship was already compelling in that way, but I was simultaneously asking myself to what degree I can be of most service and what it takes to lead a meaningful life. Inspired by B Lab harnessing the power of business to cultivate the right solutions to current problems, I am so happy to be part of the inaugural cohort of fellows. In general, being involved with B Lab and its community has been simply amazing; I’ve learned so much from colleagues and from business leaders. I recently joined the B Lab Champions Retreat in Portland Oregon and it was an invigorating experience. These relationships are where I find the most value.

What does B Corps on Campus hope to achieve?

The ultimate goal is to help support efforts that inspire the next generation to use business as a force for good. B Lab is currently inspiring companies to do business differently and to be oriented towards their “best for the world” achievement, but we also want to focus more on bridge-building to formally connect our movement to the interests and activities that already exist on campuses and in communities. We are always looking to collaborate with students and faculty who have insight or suggestions on ways we can support campus activities and I encourage them to reach out because they are the people that we want to learn from directly. Ideally we can use the resources and structures that B Lab and these schools currently have in place. We want to know how students and faculty are already integrating social enterprise and impact assessment education on various campuses and then find ways that we can enhance the experience or effectiveness through cooperation with what B Lab already has to offer.

What does impact mean to you?

I’ll answer this with a story. While studying business as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Latin America and spent six week on a coffee farm in Guatemala. I was there to learn about the business but I spent my time with the farmers. I lived where they lived, shopped where they shopped and was paid the same wages as them. I was able to immerse myself in a profound way and quickly understood how little they are paid and how difficult it is to stretch that money given the cost of living.

At the time, over fifteen years ago, there was no language to explain what I was experiencing, but it was the first time I was able to feel the difference between shareholder benefits and stakeholder benefits. The shareholders were benefiting very well and they were happy. The stakeholders on the other hand, were not benefiting as they should have and I understood them because I was experiencing their experiences. It was then that I knew the system was wrong and I know now that B Lab’s vision of creating a “shared and durable prosperity for all” is language I was searching for fifteen years ago during my experience on the coffee farm in Guatemala. Impact is taking into consideration stakeholders; it is valuing humanity and our interconnections and how small our world has become to realize that we are no longer separate and we can no longer neglect the experiences of certain stakeholders.

The reality is, business is the most powerful human made system on the earth, and harnessing it for good is a must. We know today that profit and purpose can co-exist. B Lab is building the infrastructure to hold those two intentions in concert together and they are creating universal standards so that performance is evaluated and held transparent. It’s an act of solidarity to be part of this experience and I am confident that I’ve found my tribe at B Lab.

Invitation to Students

B Lab welcomes student input regarding the B Corps on Campus initiative. B Lab wants to know how they can be of service to students. They want to know what students themselves want from B Lab and to find a path to work together as part of the B Corps movement.



Connect with Craig   Linkedin  Email

Follow B Lab: @bcorporation #bestfornyc

Inspired? Interested in becoming a B Corps Fellow?

B Lab will begin recruiting this month, so keep an eye out!

Friends of CSIL Feature: Cara Hagan

Cara profile

Cara Hagan, MBA ’15 and one of CSIL’s brightest stars, connected with us about her new position in Quito, Ecuador and we can’t help but share our excitement. Cara is an inspiration to fellow MIIS students who hope to follow in her footsteps working in the international impact space.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately.

I completed my MBA at MIIS with a specialization in sustainable supply chain management. After MIIS, I joined MUJUS as a production manager in Quito, Ecuador. MUJUS is a social enterprise that produces contemporary artisan jewelry under fair trade practices.  In this position, I have learned how to manage an efficient supply chain while maximizing the social impact.

Then, like any start-up employee, I had to exercise my versatility. These days I am temporarily working for MUJUS in New York to help with the busy holiday markets.  Working with sales and distribution on the US front has allowed me to see all sides of this social enterprise. It is amazing to understand and be a part of the entire value chain, from sourcing raw materials in Ecuador to placing the product in a customer’s hand in New York. Although I am loving the lively environment in NY, I look forward to returning to Ecuador and our incredible artisan partners in a few weeks.

Why did you choose to work in the social impact space?

Prior to my MBA, I worked from an activist/NGO standpoint to fight social and environmental injustices that businesses commit in their supply chains. I then transitioned to researching and working with these issues from the business angle, as more opportunities were arising in the wave of responsible and sustainable business.

Then while at MIIS, I learned about social enterprise and impact investing as a new approach to international development.  This is what sparked my interest in working for a social enterprise.  I also wanted to gain experience in supply chain management. The production manager position at MUJUS was the perfect fit.

How did your experiences with CSIL impact your current path?

While working for CSIL, I worked closely with the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program.  During the FMS trainings, I learned the motives behind the fellows wanting to work for social enterprises and impact investing firms. In my work and in attending conferences, I built an extensive network in the impact space, from FMS fellows to employees and founders of social enterprises and impact investing firms. This network was very useful when I was applying for jobs post-graduation. The individuals in this space are passionate and connected.

In fact, my network continues to prove extremely useful in my current job. For example, I have reached out to FMS fellows in the field working for impact investing firms such as Pomona Impact, and to fellows Cara Post2who work for similar social enterprises in order to find raw materials in the Andean region.

Above all, CSIL was helpful to me because I learned valuable lessons from the amazing CSIL directors and staff. I learned that 1) You can learn from every single experience in life, and 2) It is worth it to work hard, make sacrifices and do absolutely everything in your power to have an impact career.

These lessons have proved very useful in my current job. Working for a start-up and social enterprise has been both challenging and rewarding. My team and I learn as we go. We are part of an exciting journey of growth. I have learned not to be afraid to make mistakes, and that we are all in a process of self-improvement and self-growth, even the most experienced professionals.

Social entrepreneurs are driven, hard-working individuals. Working in a social enterprise is thrilling. From managing artisans in Quito to managing salespeople in Manhattan holiday markets, I Iove seeing the connections between production and sales, between success and social impact.


Connect with Cara: LinkedIn  Email    Connect with MUJUS: Website  Facebook  Twitter



CSIL SOCAP15 Recap and Takeaways


CSIL attended Social Capital Markets’ SOCAP15 conference, and WE LOVED IT!  

SOCAP is a the perfect event opportunity to reconnect with great minds! Above, Slater Matzke, FMS Partner Engagement Associate at CSIL reunites with recent MIIS graduates and CSIL stars, Sarah Sterling and Donna Sinar (left to right) while at SOCAP.

CSIL Staff and MIIS graduate student attendees are excited to share their impressions with you in this special edition of testimonials and takeaways.



The next generation of impact investing isn’t about being fund managers allocating capital as a removed, third-party. Rather, its about democratizing investment decisions within the community.

Ben Grimmig, Graduate Candidate Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Strategic Initiatives Assistant at CSIL

The session on ‘Human Capital Solutions for the Future of Impact Investing’ led by some great Tanous Headshotpractitioners, including Sal Giambanco of Omidyar Network and Paul Breloff of Accion Venture Lab, really hit home with its emphasis on talent. The panel spoke about questions of how to find qualified talent, about employee engagement in social enterprise and of course the widely-discussed compensation. Hearing from leaders in the world of impact investing about the importance of universities and programs like Frontier Market Scouts and Ambassador Corps drove home the impact of the activities of CSIL.

Hunter Tanous, Strategic Initiatives Associate



Impact investing portfolios are outperforming traditional portfolios. This gives us confidence in the work we are doing and the causes we believe in.

Annie Makela, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives




1. Some significant, challenging, introspection is required around the following questions: Is the social enterprise and impact investing space a well-functioning market? Do impact investors need to delineateAlex Headshot between “bridging the frontier gap” and “market distortion”? (i.e., When, where, and how do traditional grant money and LPs willing to accept concessionary returns serve to help impact entrepreneurs scale their businesses and become profitable in nascent, undercapitalized, markets/industries? When, where, and how might they create perverse incentives?)

2. There seem to be some lingering, unanswered, questions surrounding environmental and social impact metrics: What do investors want measured? Among different types of investors and asset classes, are there a varying appetites for rigor when it comes to impact metrics? If so, how do impact asset managers best adapt to tailoring varying levels of reporting required by different LPs? How do asset managers propose to collect data? What is the burden for data collection on social entrepreneurs? What are the challenges and costs associated with remote data collection in emerging markets? How do you establish a baseline? How is monitoring and evaluation conducted over the lifetime of an investment? Over what time intervals should asset managers report? Should there be an expectation that this data becomes public?

3. The ideas and investment vehicles coming out of the natural resource conservation space are among the most exciting financial innovations in the US economy. Some revolutionary propositions around:

Market-based methods to combat drought and forest fire (panel: Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital, Zach Knight @BlueForestConservation, Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, David Groves @PrivateCapitalForPublicGood, Louise Bedsworth @OfficeofJerryBrown)

Land conservation (Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, Susan Phinney @David&Lucille Packard Foundation, Peter Stein @LymeTimber)

Water conservation (Joe Whitworth @FreshwaterTrust, Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital)

Established vs. emerging market opportunities in real asset conservation (Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital, Justina Lai @WetherbyAssetManagement, Chris Larson @NewIslandCapital, Jerome Ryan @ConservationForestryPartners)

Environmental investments generating social outcomes (Taryn Goodman @NatureVest/TNC, Debra Schwartz @JohnDandCatherineTMacArthurFoundation, Bettina von Hagen @EcotrustForestMgmt, Craig Wichner @FarmlandLP)

Alex Wilbanks, Operations and Marketing Associate


1. Social responsibility in supply chains (impact sourcing) opens a new door for advertising/marketing

2. As social entrepreneurs working in innovative spaces, why are we using the same models to function as those not in our space (wages and other compensation)? Is it possible to generate new motivations for the work of social innovators so as to encourage more creativity as opposed to confining them to the same parameters as every-day business people?

3. Although not a new idea, I think this one needs to be emphasized! Every person that makes up an org brings their own opinions and biases that stem from their worldview/experiences. These collective opinions and biases end up forming the work culture, suggesting that people should take full responsibility for how they personally improve or worsen the workplace dynamic, and individuals should have more agency to confront personal issues, if not only to better themselves, but also to improve the efficiency and morale of their employer.

Danny Pavitt, Graduate Candidate Middlebury Institute of International Studies

CSIL’s Operations and Marketing Associate, Alex Wilbanks, has compiled a list of great reads as a follow up to SOCAP15. We are particularly proud to highlight “Investing for Sustainable Global Fisheries“, a publication which Alex contributed to as a consultant for Encourage Capital. Well done, Alex!

“Introducing the Impact Investing Benchmark” Exciting data on the performance of impact asset managers
“Liquid Assets: Investing for Impact in the Colorado River Basin” Walton Family funded research exploring innovative financial approaches to massive natural resource management challenges surrounding water use in the Colorado River Basin
“Investing for Sustainable Global Fisheries” Funded through a collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative and The Rockefeller Foundation, this report proposes several investment blueprints that promote enhanced fisheries management for artisanal and mid-scale fisheries in The Philippines, Chile and Brazil.
“ImpactAssets Releases Annual IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Showcase” “ImpactAssets has released its 2015 impact investing showcase, the ImpactAssets 50 (IA 50), a free online resource for investors and financial advisors. The fifth annual guide features fund managers representing private debt and equity investments that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. “
“Scaling U.S. Community Investing: The Investor-Product Interface” “The GIIN, in partnership with the Carsey School of Public Policy, published Scaling U.S. Community Investing: The Investor-Product Interface, an in-depth landscape study of the U.S. Community Investing (USCI) field. The full report includes a detailed analysis of the major types of USCI products, parameters that different investors use to evaluate investment opportunities, and the barriers and opportunities to increasing investment.”

Upcoming Events:

Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) : It’s your last chance to apply to our D.C. Training! Applications close this Friday, October 30th. Apply: go.miis.edu/fms

CSIL will be hosting our SOCAP RECAP event tomorrow!
On Tuesday, October 27th from 12 to 1:30 in our offices, SOCAP attendees will share their biggest takeaways from SOCAP15 and group discussions will be held on key topics. Bring your lunch, snack on CSIL goodies and let’s talk impact! Looking forward to seeing you there.

1st Millennial Impact Speakers Series Event: “B Corps;Business as a Force for Good.”
 ​ Four B Corp rockstars such as Marcello Palazzi (co founder of B Corps Europe) and Vincent Suich (founder of Monterey’s first B Certified Benefit Corporation, Sox Box) will present for us. Join us to answer these burning questions:  What is a B Corp?  Why do B Corps Matter? How can MIIS help local businesses become Certified B Corps?​ This special event will take place on Monday, Nov. 2nd in McGowan 102 from 6-7pm with free food, wine, prizes, and reception to follow. Please contact socialimpact@miis.edu for more info. We’ll see you there!

Fellow Feature: Laura Benoit Current FMS Fellow in Peru


 “The opportunity to…watch our projects unfold from ideas and planning to the actual implementation has been amazing.”

For the past five months, Laura Benoit (FMS ’15) has been working in Lima, Peru with Klaud a Design Consultancy. FMS placements average between 2 and 12 months; Laura intends to take full advantage of her placement and work with Klaud . On the eve of a weekend trip to Guatemala, she gave us the inside scoop about her current job and how she is using her FMS training:

Tell us about your new position

I am the Social Responsibility Project Manager at Klaud, a Design Consultancy that works with artisan groups and designers in the textile industry in Peru. Klaud works with both artisans and the industry; however, in my position, I focus [only] on the artisan groups. Specifically, I implement projects to improve organizational sustainability, such as the work I do with La Republica del Tejido in the Puno Region. My role is to create their business model and ensure that the project is financially viable and sustainable over time. At Klaud, sustainability is a top priority. Historically, projects in Peru tend to exist for only one or two years before fading away, but it is important that our projects can increase the financial autonomy of these women in the long term. In addition to La República, We are also working with La Bodega Mate to source their products from local artisans to maximize local resources. By doing so, Mate contributes more to the local economy instead of importing goods at high cost.

What has been the most exciting part about working with Klaud and professional life in the impact space?

Being able to implement the different projects we have created. In the past I have either implemented other people’s ideas or worked more on the idea side, but here I’m working through the entire project. The opportunity to work alongside my colleagues from start to finish and watch our projects unfold from ideas and planning to the actual implementation has been amazing.

How are you directly applying some of the skills learned through FMS?

In FMS we focused a lot on ensuring that the mission, goals and business model of an enterprise are all aligned so as to create the intended impact. At Klaud, we have been working to align all of their projects with the initial mission and goals of the company. I now have a unique viewpoint because I was trained to not only look at goals and projects through the lens of the enterprise, but through the lens of the investors as well, taking into account how they want their money to be used and the impact they intend to create. I use FMS skills like that on a daily basis. In fact, FMS was the best thing I did at MIIS. The training had the best return on learning, experiencing new things and meeting new people. Another incredible thing about FMS was that it was such a diverse community. I was used to working with graduate students in my program and with FMS we had so many new people and such a mix of backgrounds and experiences that it really pushed me to be competitive in a different way, which was a fantastic learning experience.

PicMonkey CollageLaura

What are you most excited to learn in your current position?

I’m most excited to learn how to build camaraderie on a project between different actors. A lot of our work involves public private partnerships with government, mining companies and the alpaca industry so it is important to present the project in a way that encourages them to really lend their strengths. Essentially, we want to integrate the actors so that each one is playing on their strengths when contributing to the project because with all of these willing actors, the project and community as a whole will be fortified. I am also always learning to better encourage communities to take the projects on their own after we have set the stage.

What are your top three recommendations for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

  1. Find a part of the social/impact sector that you are excited and passionate about because if you do so, your work will always be rewarding even though it may not be easy.
  2. Stay flexible and creative in your thinking and process of working. Things don’t always go as planned; new challenges come up and it will be up to you to find solutions.
  3. Surround yourself with people with whom you can share ideas and work through challenges. The more you communicate your ideas and thoughts, the more input you’ll get and the stronger your ideas and understanding will become.v

If you are looking for a way to launch into the field of social enterprise and impact management: apply before September 4th at go.miis.edu/fms and start your purpose-driven career.

Why wait? Your impact matters now!

Link in with Laura Benoit |   La Rep. del Tejido: @republica_tejid  |

Follow FMS & CSIL @FMScouts  @center4impact

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