Insights from the 2015 Mentor Capital Network Annual Gathering

Neal Henderson, Founder and Principal of FrontRow Performance Coaching, was honored to present a workshop session on “Creating a Vibrant, Engaged Workplace Culture” at the Mentor Capital Network (MCN) 2015 Annual Gathering, held July 9-10, 2015 at the United Nations in New York City.

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Convened in partnership with the UN Office for Partnerships, the MCN team – especially Executive Director Ian Fisk, Program Coordinator Rachel Andersen, and Outreach and Marketing Coordinator Suzannah Simmons – put on an excellent, wall-to-wall packed two-day event that provided a fantastic opportunity to network with many innovative thinkers and doers in the social enterprise space.

MCN, formerly known as the William James Foundation, supports exceptional entrepreneurs who are building or growing companies that are solving the world’s toughest social and environmental challenges through profitable business models. The highlight of the annual gathering was the showcasing of the finalists of MCN’s 2015 William James Sustainable Business Plan Competition, which provides mentorship, feedback and promotion to participating entrepreneurs, as well as serving as a valuable, vetted pipeline for investors.

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Congratulations to the top four companies in the competition: 1st place winner, Sanivation, which addresses sanitation challenges in Kenya; 2nd place winner, Estufa Dona Dora, which provides a more efficient wood-burning stove for use in Guatemala; 3rd place winner, Eqalix, which has developed a plant-based skin substitute wound dressing; and 4th place winner, Remright, which created a cost comparison website that allows immigrants to quickly compare and find needed services for international money transfers. It was exciting to see how Social Entrepreneurs are taking on a wide variety of global social challenges.

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Over the course of the MCN Gathering, we heard many humbling and inspiring presentations. Throughout, MCN Alumni provided updates on their successes since winning previous Business Plan Competitions. Keynote speaker Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen, conveyed how he nurtured his businesses while remaining aligned with community needs. He also shared the insight that if you want your staff to provide outstanding customer service, leadership needs to provide outstanding service to the staff. During the “Clean Tech Green Grab,” three companies — the Iron Goat, Fuego Del sol Haiti, and Wello — made funding pitches, and it was amazing to see the focus on business details in determining if a business was viable for investment, as well as its ability to impact a social issue. Listening later to the presentation of Emily Woods, co-founder of Sanivation, you could hear her enthusiasm for her product and grasp the breadth of her technical skills.

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MCN demonstrated how an entrepreneurial community can be supportive and committed to organizational excellence without fostering a highly-charged, competitive environment. Being part of this event solidified our connection to social entrepreneurs as a group and reinforced FRPC’s commitment to serving the social impact community. We look forward to more opportunities to work with these types of growing enterprises.

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