Businesspeople pursuing their passions and making a difference
Inspirational business leaders serve multiple purposes. Their passion and dedication are contagious, spreading through the rest of the company. The example they set provides a spark for other entrepreneurs who decide that they can also start a successful business. And, the companies run by inspirational business leaders matter to their communities.
As the year winds down, BOSS takes a look at six of 2019’s most inspirational businesspeople and what makes their stories and ventures so unique.
Reshma Saujani – Girls Who Code
Much has been said about the gender gap in STEM fields, but few, if any, have done as much to address that disparity as Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. The nonprofit, founded in 2012, has set up coding camps reaching more than 185,000 students across the United States and in India, the UK, and Canada.
In September, the organization announced plans to expand to 10,000 sites, which will nearly double its current reach. At the beginning of the year, Saujani published her most recent book, Brave, Not Perfect, based on her TED Talk of the same name in which she notes, “We are raising our boys to be brave, but our girls to be perfect. And this is holding us back.”
Angus Burke – EP Health
Angus Burke, the founder of EP Health, has always had a passion for fitness and athletics. Initially, his passion led him to play soccer for the Canadian Men’s National Team as well as NCAA Division I soccer at Towson University. More recently, the company he founded shares his passion for fitness by helping companies develop corporate wellness programs.
The EP Modern Corporate Wellness Program focuses on mindfulness and making changes that will last a lifetime. The company takes a personalized approach to each client, providing dietary consultation and fitness plans that fit with clients’ schedules and goals. An app that integrates with FitBit helps keep clients accountable and weekly and monthly corporate challenges with prizes provide extra motivation.
Nicole Snow – Darn Good Yarn
After spending some time in the import business and taking note of the unsustainable and morally questionable practice of some in it, Air Force vet Nicole Snow founded Darn Good Yarn. Celebrating its 10th year in 2019, Darn Good Yarn sells yarn fabric, clothing, and more, while focusing on ethical sourcing that supports fair jobs as well as products that use recycled or reclaimed material.
It’s not the easiest business decision, but it’s worth the extra effort. Snow explains, “From the artisan to the person who packs our orders, Darn Good Yarn is fueled by infusing Good into all parts of our business. From our warehouse and order fulfillment partnership with Schenectady ARC (a non-profit dedicated to providing employment for adults with developmental disabilities) to our employee benefit programs, our goal is to create a better world by caring and doing things the slightly harder way.”
Sheena Allen – CapWay
As the world waits for the promise of cryptocurrency to bring financial equality to the unbanked, inspirational business leader Sheena Allen has taken the matter into her own hands. CapWay has the goal of “breaking negative generational cycles when it comes to financial behavior.” Still in its early stages, CapWay serves as an app for both online banking and financial literacy.
Allen was motivated to start the app after growing up in Terry, a small town outside of Jackson, Miss., that had only one bank. She had seen many around her have to pay to cash checks at the grocery store and take out payday loans due to not having equal access to banks. CapWay looks to eliminate such issues while also helping customers avoid overdraft fees and other charges that are incurred simply for letting a bank hold one’s money.
Rob Leslie – Sedicii
A former member of the original management team of Dell Japan, Rob Leslie is best known for his work in AML/KYC (anti-money laundering/know your customer) technology. He has been named a Global Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum and been invited to speak at Davos. The inspirational business leader’s latest endeavor, Sedicii, has the goal of protecting users’ data during verification processes.
Sedicii’s patented Zero Knowledge Proof Protocol “eliminates the transmission, storage, and exposure of private user data during authentication or identity verification, which reduces identity theft, impersonation, and any fraud resulting from the identity theft.” During a time when privacy and ownership of personal data is of great concern, Sedicii adheres to the EU’s Right to be Forgotten policy, which is meant to allow users to be part of the digital world without handing over private information.
Henry Rock – City Startup Labs
Noting that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area of North Carolina struggles when it comes to economic mobility, Henry Rock founded City Startup Labs (CSL), a nonprofit that focuses on helping African American millennials and formerly incarcerated locals “learn how to research, plan, launch, and operate startup enterprises.” The process, known as “Center of Excellence,” consists of four progressive modules: cultivation, preparation, education, and demonstration.
CSL’s ReEntry Entrepreneurship Program, started in 2018, aims to show that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative for the formerly incarcerated who might otherwise have difficulty finding employment. The nonprofit has received support from Wells Fargo, the Kauffman Foundation, and several Charlotte-based organizations, while Rock has been the recipient of the Purpose Prize Fellow award from Encore.org.