Each day, people like you have ideas on how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put their ideas into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling budding social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.
Chris Baker first traveled to the Himalayas when he was 18, and hasn’t stopped going back ever since.
In college, Chris researched rock carvings in the area surrounding Mt. Everest, and held the position of President of the Yale Mountaineering Club. Shortly after graduating he became a Kiva fellow in Nepal, working closely with Patan Business and Professional Women (BPW Patan), a micro credit program that provides women with business development resources.
From his experience in Nepal, Chris saw a real opportunity in linking the mindful traveler with local communities and entrepreneurs. Combining his passion for social enterprise and the mountains, he created OneSeed Expeditions.
OneSeed invests 10 cents of every incoming dollar directly into microfinance initiatives that provide capital to women entrepreneurs in Nepal. You take an amazing trip to Everest Base Camp; a local woman launches or expands her business.
Chris’s first step was laying the groundwork. As a teacher with Teach for America, Chris would spend his summers off in Nepal getting to know the people and land even more.
But as with any idea, Chris ran into a few challenges along the way:
Obstacle: Committing to the idea
Solution: After things started rolling, every founder had to make the decision to commit full time, which meant quitting jobs and possibly moving. Once everyone did there was no turning away from OneSeed. “It’s easy to waver and and find reason not to do something, but at a certain point you have to commit and do it wholeheartedly,” Chris says. “There’s a level of momentum that comes with that complete commitment.”
Obstacle: Getting on the same page
Solution: When starting the social enterprise, the other two founding members were from Nepal. It was important to be clear and figure out what OneSeed’s core values were right away. It helped cause less confusion when communicating about the details over many Skype calls and to this day, Chris and his team are careful not to lose sight of their original principles. “The conversations and connections that come from sitting around a stove and drinking tea form the foundation of our company,” he says.
Obstacle: Fear of the unknown
Solution: “It’s easy to be blinded by optimism,” Chris says of being an entrepreneur. He had to become a true realist and take a self-assessment of the projections, which meant sitting down and asking himself and the team if they were going to meet their targets and goals. Once they evaluated their chances of success, Chris said they just had to jump. “When you’re making your idea a reality there is always a high risk and reward,” he says. He now has a thriving social enterprise that’s expanding, and everyday he loves his job. “I get to spend time in beautiful places with amazing people and we do a little bit of good along the way.”
Chris is now busy bringing the OneSeed name to Chile, offering expeditions in Patagonia beginning in January 2013. To date, OneSeed has raised over $16,000 for women entrepreneurs, and has trained and hired more than 30 local guides in Nepal and Chile.
Chris is of the belief that making a plan can’t be overstated enough. “Ideas are plentiful; execution is rare,” he says. “Some things wind up easier than you think.”
Specifically, here’s how he encourages you to move forward on your idea:
- Know your limits of what you can and cannot do.
- Be aware when you need to bring in other team members to collaborate.
- Draw upon your networks to find true experts.
- Recombine and link ideas across contexts e.g. travel and microfinance.
- Ask a lot of questions.
Finally, Chris advocates for acting on your idea no matter what. “Remember you’re always going to have people warning you of the constraints, challenges, and impossibles,” he says. “But if you’re willing to follow through, you find that you can do things that seem out of reach.”
Starting your own social enterprise and need some advice? Feel free to reach out to Chris: firstname.lastname@example.org.