Handshake 2.0 Intern Wins Leadership Award

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 8:27 PM on April 22, 2009:

We are so honored to announce that Melinda Marcus, author of the series Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur for Handshake 2.0, won the 2009 Caught in the Act of Leadership Award from The Business Leadership Center, Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech.  The award is presented to "...an undergraduate or MBA business student who has shown outstanding leadership and/or courage in a specific leadership situation."

Melinda Marcus, an intern for Handshake 2.0 in the fall of 2008, is a Virginia Tech management major, Class of 2010.

Mindy, your leadership and vision serve all of us!  Congratulations!

Defining the Local Social Entreprenuer - The Guide to Being a Local SE

Posted by Melinda Marcus at 5:30 AM on December 10, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus:

Mindy's Top 5 Tips to Becoming a Local Social Entrepreneur (SE):

1. Passion. To become a SE, you must be full of passion for your organization and for your goals.

2. Do what it takes to start that organization. Even if that means giving up certain "rights" you think you have (sleep, money, and comfort).

3. Network. To really make a difference locally, it is really important to know the residents as well as the businesses here in the Roanoke and New River Valley. Thanks to theCRC, NCTC, and other organizations, networking is very easy and very fun. The resource of minds is very great here in the RNR Valley.  Make sure to use it.

4.  Have HUGE dreams - but remember it is one step at time. Many SEs have the desire to change the world.  Let's be honest.  That could takes years and years. But with each life you change and each view you challenge, you are starting to change the way people look at the world and that is so important.

5. Blog. In today's business world, much of the communication and following is done through blogs and having an online presence. Working with Handshake 2.0 has taught me a lot about working with the Internet and on staying up on a lot of information. Now that my eyes are open, I see how smart it is to really start a blog about your business. This not only helps gain attention, but can keep customers loyal and interested in your product or service.

The above 5 are just some of the lessons that  I have learned while being one the first interns with Handshake 2.0 this semester. I have learned more about myself then I ever thought I would. I know more about the business world, more about what I want to do with my life, and more about what my strengths and weaknesses are. Besides that, I have also had the opportunity to create something concrete that I can show future employers and improve my portfolio.

Thank you for reading this series and for being a part of my quest to find what it means to be a Social Entrepreneur. It was been an interesting ride that I don't see slowing down anytime soon!

Melinda Marcus wrote Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur series for Handshake 2.0 as intern at Virginia Tech during the fall of 2008.

Defining the Local Social Entreprenuer - Finding My Dream Job

Posted by Melinda Marcus at 9:49 PM on December 9, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus, intern with Handshake 2.0:

Whenever I tell anyone that I am at college getting an undergraduate business degree, the question that always follows is "So, what do you want to do with that?"

What a loaded question! An almost better question would be, what don't I want to do with my degree?

As a 20-year-old student, I have quite a few life goals and desires. When I was first asked this year about what I want to do with my life, I had to sit down and really think about it!

Some things I love most are: people, service, and organization. With that in mind, I set off on a quest to find my ideal job. In my previous post, NCTC's Answer is Passion, Mr. Cory Donovan encouraged me to find out what it takes to get that ideal job. 

An organization that I have always admired is World Vision. World Vision is a faith-based organization that  works with children and families all over the world in hopes of "tackling the causes and poverty and hunger." As I searched through the requirements for jobs and internships at World Vision, I noticed a few things I currently lack:
- A Master's Degree (or progression towards one) 
- Knowledge of a second language
- Experience living outside the country (U.S.)
- 8 years working experience in the field

Now that is a lot of experience!

Feeling a little overwhelmed by the above list of qualifications for World Vision, I also checked out the job postings for another organization I respect called International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM is also a faith-based organization whose goal is justice for "victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression."

In the posting I found my ideal Job: Regional Director of Operations in Latin America.This job sounds amazing.  It is based in the States, with time spent abroad.  The position entails organizing people and resources to best  benefit those who need it most.  

However, here is the list of qualifications for the job:
- A Bachelor's Degree (or higher)
- Second language preferred
- 3-5 years experience in the business field
- Time spent in the nation of interest and in the developing world
- Master's degree for the upper management positions

So after reading all this, I am a little disheartened.  I was not planning to earn an MBA, become fluent in a second language, or even spend 5 years in the business field.

The lesson learned here is experience. To get one of these jobs, I need experience in the field and in foreign countries.The next questions is then "Where do i start...?"

Nicaraguan Orphan Fund Club at Virginia Tech

One place I have started is with a Virginia Tech Club called Nicaraguan Orphan Fund Club. Each spring break over 200 college kids from all over Virginia spend a week in Managua with Orphan-Network doing humanitarian aid work as well as being exposed to a third world culture. I am Vice President of Trip Planning of the Virginia Tech club.

You can follow the entire Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur series by Melinda Marcus.

Defining the Local Social Entreprenerur - The Burnout Problem

Posted by Melinda Marcus at 6:00 AM on November 30, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus, intern with Handshake 2.0:

I have a problem.

I have a hard time saying "no" to great volunteer and leadership activities. Just this past week, I was asked to be part of a volunteer leadership team for one of the many organizations with which I am involved here at Virgina Tech. I love the opportunity to serve others and gain experience, and I am therefore having a hard time figuring out whether I should do it or not. I really want to say "yes," but I know I should say "no." The thing is, though, that I don't even know how to say "no" in this situation.

Realizing that I have a problem, I wondered if professionals in the non-profit and social entrepreneur world have this same issue - overcommitment and the inability or difficulty to say "no".

As it turns out, they do.

In a blog entitled Mental Meals: Brain Food for Your Business, Bart Gragg, President of Maverick Business Advisors, writes that "because they (non-profit professionals) are givers they are also giving time and energy to other organizations, or individuals...  When they don’t have the energy to give anymore, because they give more than receive, they begin to burn."

So, people in this sector like to "do do do" and give themselves passionately. Those are great things - but there seems to be a fine line between passion and burnout.

I don't want to become burned out in my future career, so I'm looking for a cure, or at least a method to prevent burnout.

Here is some radical advice from Ken Goldstein: "I suggest a new movement today: The nonprofit Selfishness Movement. We all need to set aside certain times and days to something entirely selfish (and legal). A little "me time" to guiltlessly get away from the stress of constantly being other-focused." Goldstein has a blog entitled The Nonprofit Consultant Blog in which he writes tips, stories,  and advice about managing and running a nonprofit organization. 

To me, Goldstien seems a bit selfish. But then again, maybe that is my problem. Maybe I am not selfish enough.

After being close to burning out myself this semester, one of the best pieces of advice that I have received came from my supervisor Anne Giles Clelland. In the midst of my almost-burnout she told me this: "The over-committed, with the best of intentions to serve everyone well, under-serve everyone."

I still have this "problem" of being a giver. But it seems as though practice and prayer are the best things to avert burnout. So, this week I am going to practice saying "no," starting right after I say "yes" to playing in the snow!

You can follow the entire Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur series by Melinda Marcus.

Defining the Local Social Entreprenuer - NCTC's Answer is Passion

Posted by Melinda Marcus at 6:00 AM on November 24, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus, intern with Handshake 2.0:

If there is one thing I have learned over the past three months as an intern with Handshake 2.0, it is that connections, passion, and communication are the basic keys to success in the business world.

I recently had the chance to interview the well-connected Cory Donovan, Executive Director of The NewVa Corridor Technology Council (NCTC), whom I first met at the Virginia Tech Business Horizons Career Fair in September, 2008.

NCTC has connections with almost everyone and everything here in the New River and Roanoke Valleys.  Just take a look at all their events - with almost two events per week, this non-profit organization is connecting people and creating jobs and relationships that are helping this area grow!

Cory Donovan, NCTC Executive Director, Melinda Marcus, Handshake 2.0 Intern

Right off the bat, Mr. Donovan defined what Social Entrepreneurship (SE) means to him, a businessman in the non-profit sector: SE is "being proactive to find a solution to a problem," in a business sense and helping to raise awareness about the issue that the entrepreneur is passionate about.

Perhaps the best piece of advice that Mr. Donovan gave me was to be passionate and gain experience in the passion, no matter what that means. He encouraged me to find out what I need to do to get the job I want and do it, even if that means taking a lower paying job or the road less traveled.

One desire in my life that I have is to live a passionate life! Ever since high school, I have wanted to be a woman who lives a creative, adventurous, and passionate life. However, there is one thing I need to get over: fear. I fear not "succeeding" according to the world's standards of wealth and prosperity.

Mr. Donovan encouraged me as a young business student is to be educated in what brings me happiness and why it does. In the end, happiness is much better then wealth.

To sum up what I have learned from Mr. Donovan:  Passion is key. If I want to make a difference in the world (or even in my community), I need to find out what brings me happiness and brings out my talents and skills, and then put everything I have into it!

You can follow the entire Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur series by Melinda Marcus.

Defining the Local Social Entreprenuer - HALF WAY THERE!

Posted by Melinda Marcus at 6:00 AM on October 31, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus, intern with Handshake 2.0:

First impressions.

Ah, yes.  We are told they are so important, yet most of the time first impressions are very, very wrong. I am sure each us has a story where we had a bad first impression of a person, and now we realize how wrong it was.

I feel as though that is what is happening with my ideas about Social Entrepreneurship (not that I want to marry the idea, just that I really like what I see now). When Anne Clelland, my boss (actually, my internship supervisor) and CEO of Handshake 2.0, first mentioned the idea of Social Entrepreneurship, I thought it would be a small topic, unpopular, and, honestly, not applicable to what I wanted to do with my life.

Now, as I reach the midpoint in my semester,  I realize how wrong I was about Social Entrepreneurship.

For this blog post I want to take a step back and evaluate what I have learned, what I want to learn, and basically state what this internship is teaching me about myself and my passions.

Here are a few thoughts on what I have learned so far about Social Entrepreneurship (SE):

  • SE isn't just for the "non-profit" sector
  • An SE can be an architecture firm, a retail store, high-tech companies, and so much more
  • In essence it is all about giving back - taking what you have learned though school, experience, and life and applying it to a business mission
  • I have a lot to learn about businesses and how they work
  • An SE places ethics and social justice at its core (not profit)
  • SEs are changing the world

The more I learn about the business world and the world, the more I realize how important SE companies are for our future. 

In the last half of my internship, I really want to learn about opportunities in which to practice social entrepreneurship as a business student. I want to develop my own expertise in this field.

This is where I need YOUR HELP!

If you have any ideas about innovative and socially-grounded RNR (Roanoke and New River Valleys) businesses that practice even a hint of social entrepreneurship, please let me know!

I am very interested in talking to all kinds of businesses that have included "giving back" in their business models.

You can follow the entire Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur series by Melinda Marcus.

***

Melinda Marcus is an intern for Handshake 2.0, a member company of business acceleration centerVT KnowledgeWorks, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a technology park, a research park, and a science park on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.  The research park provides high-technology companies access to university faculty, university facilities, university equipment, and business-related support services.  The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center fosters commercialization and technology transfer of university research for both high-tech start-up companies and established technology businesses.

Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur - The Shelter Alternatives Answer

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 3:00 PM on October 27, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus, intern with Handshake 2.0:

As a kid, I struggled with organization and clutter.  The wisdom my mother shared with me is that if I cleaned up right when the mess happened, I wouldn't spend hours cleaning my room on the weekends. What valuable advice my mom gave! (Although I rarely did listen to it, in fact - I still don’t! Sorry, Mom!)

After my interview with Ed Tuchler of Shelter Alternatives, Inc., I feel as though my mom's advice is a part of defining a social entrepreneur.

If a social entrepreneur is one who makes a difference in the community and helps people by filling their basic needs, then Shelter Alternatives is one of them. Shelter Alternatives is an architecture firm whose main aim is to provide green, energy-efficient, beautiful homes. Shelter Alternatives has been around for 20 years and is involved in building and remolding projects all around the New River Valley.

When asking Ed Tuchler, the owner and project manager of Shelter Alternatives, his definition of a social entrepreneur, he replied, “Using one’s ethics and morals for business to better the community.”

Shelter Alternatives boasts that they are very environmentally friendly, making sure they are responsible for how they use material and in what material they use. On top of that, they plan for the long-term. They believe that what they are building is "immortal," and should last long after they have passed.

One exciting new adventure they undertook about a year ago is called Energy Check. In this project they “check” old homes for their energy efficiency, and suggest improvements.  This program helps homes to be greener while looking beautiful.

Ed’s passion comes from his own personal ethics and moral values. He believes that it is vitally important to give back. He lives by the simple idea that, “If everyone makes a small difference, we can make a big difference.”

So why is Ed Tuchler in the New River Valley of Virginia?

The first reason is, of course, Virginia Tech. Ed came to Virginia Tech as an architecture student, fell in love with the area, and decided to stay here.  He finds the area "naturally beautiful, rich with natural resources." The people around here are "like-minded people" who are very socially aware. They live responsible lifestyles and are very interested in being more green (a popular trend in the NVR Valley - See Sustainable Blacksburg).

Making a small difference seems to be the goal of Shelter Alternatives, and maybe even other social entrepreneurs. Is that all a social entrepreneur can make? A small difference?  With over 1.5 million non-profits in the United States alone - that is a lot of small differences! (Source:  NCCS.)

So my mom's wisdom is perhaps part of the puzzle to social entrepreneurship.

To change the world through entrepreneurship, all it takes is making a small difference (just like cleaning up the small messes). THANKS, MOM!

xMelinda Marcus and the Virginia Tech Student Alumni Associates

Being a part of the Virginia Tech Student Alumni Associates (SAA), I understand the importance of making a small difference within one community. In SAA we do service projects each week within the university and community, helping the Alumni and homecoming events go well, and to be a success.

You can follow the entire Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur series by Melinda Marcus.

 Melinda Marcus is an intern for Handshake 2.0, a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a technology park, a research park, and a science park on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.  The research park provides high-technology companies access to university faculty, university facilities, university equipment, and business-related support services.  The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center fosters commercialization and technology transfer of university research for both high-tech start-up companies and established technology businesses.

Defining The Local Social Entrepreneur - SE According to Scholars

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on October 14, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus:

Over the past few days I have realized that my view on social entrepreneurship (SE) is very small. To gain a broader view of the “social entrepreneurship” world, I have decided to see how academia and the professional world defines the phenomena of SE. Melinda Marcus defining social entrepreneurship

J. Gregory Dees, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and Non-profit Management at Duke University has identified five characteristics of successful social entrepreneurs in his book, Enterprising Nonprofits:  A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs:

  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value)
  • Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
  • Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

Okay, so basically to be a social entrepreneur, all it takes is passion, connections, and not being afraid of failure. Easy, if your biggest fear isn’t failure (like mine!).

The Peace Corps has even started a Peace Corps entrepreneurs blog on the popular Social Edge site.  According to a Nationl Peace Corps Association news page, "These Peace Corps entrepreneurs exemplify what our community is fundamentally about--innovation leading to change that makes a difference.” This difference is what they consider to be social entrepreneurship.

As I dug a little deeper I found an interesting article, Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, by Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg. They “believe that appropriating entrepreneurship for the term social entrepreneurship requires wrestling with what we actually mean by entrepreneurship. Is it simply alertness to opportunity? Creativity? Determination?... [These questions] are not the whole story.”

So what is the whole story? If professors and highly educated people are still figuring out the definition of SE, then how am I to know as well?

In his Social Edge blog, Let There Be Light, NYU Professor Paul Light struggles with this same question: “The challenge is not to define social entrepreneurship so broadly that it becomes just another word that gets bandied about in funding proposals and niche building…At the same time, social entrepreneurship should not be defined so narrowly that it becomes the province of the special few…”

If you are like I am, you are reading this and seeing that the common thread among all of this is helping people live better lives. But can’t everyone help people live a better lives in some way or another? 

Most companies have the good of their customers at the center of the business. So then, the question still remains, WHAT IS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

I think I need to change the questions I posed in my previous entry, Definition Quest. I need to find out what sets SE apart in the business world. I need to understand what difference SE is truly making.
So these are the questions I would like to ask local businesses and organizations:

  1. What is your definition of social entrepreneurship? What makes it different from entrepreneurship?
  2. How does your company truly change the community? How does it make a social difference?
  3. Where does your passion stem from?
  4. Why are you in the sector you are in, for-profit or not-for-profit? In terms of social entrepreneurship, how is it an advantage and a disadvantage?
  5. And in keeping with a social entrepreneurship goal of Handshake 2.0 – to contribute to local community and economic development - how has the community here in the New River Valley helped further your cause and how have you helped it become more socially aware?

Melinda Marcus is an intern for Handshake 2.0, a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a technology park, a research park, and a science park on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.  The research park provides high-technology companies access to university faculty, university facilities, university equipment, and business-related support services.  The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center fosters commercialization and technology transfer of university research for both high-tech start-up companies and established technology businesses.

Defining The Local Social Entrepreneur - Definition Quest

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on October 4, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus:

As an intern with Handshake 2.0 in search of a definition of local social entrepreneurship, the first question for me to answer is this:

What is social entrepreneurship to me?

I see social entrepreneurship as a way of using a business, whether not-for-profit or for-profit, within a community to promote the welfare of a certain group with a certain need. Social entrepreneurship comes from a passion for social justice combined with the desire to help people lead better lives.

That's my definition.  Then I began to look elsewhere for other definitions.

When I e-mailed Patricia M. McCarthy, Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business, she directed me to Wikipedia:

“A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur assesses success in terms of the impact s/he has on society. While social entrepreneurs often work through nonprofits and citizen groups, many work in the private and governmental sectors.”

Ms. McCarthy added, “Implementing this definition at VT looks like this: VT business school students will be asked to apply their IT skills to projects from regional not-for-profit organizations through VT-ENGAGE and the YMCA@VT . Prof. [Christopher] Zobel of Pamplin’s Business Information Technology Department is coordinating the match ups between students and organizations.”

Melinda Marcus, Social Entrepreneur, and Patricia M. McCarthy, Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business 

Change is the goal of a social entrepreneur. Every day, new companies are being established under the title of social entrepreneurship and old companies are focusing on the social impact of their businesses.

National and international leaders exist in the social entrepreneurship (SE) field. The term first came into being in the 1970s and 1980s reflecting the need for social change. Bill Dayton of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public was the main advocate of this social movement.  Social entrepreneurs are rising up all over the world - from India to the States.

Even here in the Blue Ridge region of Virginia, many social entrepreneurs have goals for better lives in Southwestern Virginia.  One example is the non-profit organization, NewVa Corridor Technology Council, NCTC, whose goal is “to help make this region - already one of the best places to live - one of the best places to build a technology enterprise."

I’ve just started my research on local social entrepreneurship.  There are so many companies that I have not even heard of yet!  I welcome your suggestions and your ideas about companies that are working for the social betterment of our area, the New River Valley.

So far, I’ve defined social entrepreneurship for myself and begun to seek other definitions.

I want to ask companies, organizations, and individuals the following questions over the next few weeks:

1. What is your definition of social entrepreneurship?
2. How are you focused on change and in what area?  What is the problem you want to address?
3. Where does your passion stem from?
4.  What advice would you give a person wanting to enter into the business of social entrepreneurship?
5. And in keeping with a social entrepreneurship goal of Handshake 2.0 – to contribute to local community and economic development - how has the community here in the New River Valley helped further your cause?

Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on September 25, 2008:

From Melinda Marcus:

“Would you like a Christmas baby or a Christmas Eve baby?” 

The doctors pose that question at 11:30 PM, Christmas Eve, 1987. The dad-to-be asks, "You can do that?"  Meanwhile his wife is screaming in the other room.   Thirty-six minutes later, at exactly 12:06 AM on Christmas Day 1987, according to my parents, a beautiful Christmas baby girl was born. And that is how I got my humorous start into this world. 

My name is Mindy, and, yes, I was born on Christmas, and I love it. A few things I also love are my spirituality, Hokie football, reading, being challenged, and serving others. I care most about people.

Melinda Marcus - Defining the Local Social Entrepreneur for Handshake 2.0

Something I have come to believe in my short life is that this life is not about the individual, but about the influence one has on the others with whom one interacts.  I believe that there is a greater power out there then just ourselves - the power of love and humility.

I grew up in the typical suburban home of a middle income and traditional values. Childhood for me had no hardships or setbacks. Life was great – I was encouraged to be all that I could and obey all the rules. And, of course, I did.

As I grow up, one question that continues to disconcert my soul is this:  What kind of life is just playing by the rules of society?  Is there more?  My goal in life is to find the answer to these questions and live it out. In essence I want to find the “Mindy Dream” – not the American Dream. I want to fight for all I believe and do it with a passion that is uniquely mine.

I want to know how I can bring together my two passions: social justice (or helping people) with my deep interest in business.  I think this is can be summed up in the idea of social entrepreneurship.

But what is social entrepreneurship? What does it mean to me, a college student about to be pushed off into the real world (and trust me it is "pushed" – why would I want to leave college, especially Virginia Tech)?

As an intern with Handshake 2.0, my attempt  over the next few weeks will be to explore the relationship between social justice, local business, and entrepreneurship.  I hope to discover a definition of social entrepreneurship for today’s local economy.

This is going to be an interesting ride, full of eye-opening and humorous stories (like the way my life started) as well as challenges to how I think and see life.