How These Entrepreneurs Got Their Start

This article was originally posted in Nonprofit Hub Magazine, a bi-monthly publication. Sign up to get your free issue delivered to your mailbox.

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Sometimes a story begins on a whim and a spark. Then, add a dash of passion and a pinch of crazy (in the best way) and you’ll get what some are calling the social entrepreneur movement.

Millennials have been the face of this change-maker movement (although that’s not to exclude the other generations of do-gooders). So what gives some of these millennials that special spark to be social entrepreneurs?

Katherine Stephans is the partnerships and communications manager at Library For All. She said she had one of those sparks working with Library For All, inspired by the passion of Library For All’s co-founders.

“We (millennials) are the change-makers,” Stephans said. “We are driven by passion instead of by financial gain.”

Let’s backtrack to when it all started. Library For All co-founder and CEO Rebecca McDonald was living in Australia when tragedy struck Haiti in 2010. A massive earthquake caused chaos in Haiti and killed over 100,000 people. Although McDonald had never been to Haiti, she had recurring dreams about the country. She didn’t know anybody there. At the time, she’d never even been to the country. But that didn’t stop the dreams from coming.

Those dreams had so much of an impact that McDonald and her husband ended up selling all of their belongings to go to Haiti and help rebuild the country. It was a defining moment for McDonald.

“It was one of these crazy life moments,” Stephans explained. “She [McDonald] ended up finding her purpose.”

Her purpose would be discovered while visiting classrooms. While there, McDonald noticed that many classrooms had only a stack of books to share between hundreds of children.

“It hit her like a lightning bolt that this could be a solution for Haiti…that she could build a digital content platform,” Stephans said.

This was McDonald’s solution to the lack of educational resources. Just like that, after the initial whim, countless hours of planning and a spark of passion, Library For All was formed in March 2012 with co-founder Tanyella Evans.

Simply put, Library For All is a digital library for developing countries. By using ICT infrastructure that is already set up in these countries, Library For All partners to ensure that quality, locally relevant reading material is available to help improve literacy and promote education. Not only does Library For All help Haiti, but also other developing countries.

But it runs much deeper than that. A group of passionate and talented individuals are behind the mission.

Stephans saw passion at work when college roommate, Isabel Sheinman, started at the organization early on, directing a Kickstarter campaign to raise nearly $110,000 dollars. Although she began as a volunteer, Stephans decided to take the leap and make her passion for social entrepreneurship a full-time job.

She found herself asking questions like, “How am I moving the needle? How am I making a true and genuine impact?”

Since changing to making Library For All her full-time gig in April, she hasn’t looked back.

“It’s the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life to date,” She said.

So why is there such a thirst for social entrepreneurship in this day and age? Stephans has a theory.

“It’s great to watch something grow from the ground up.”