There are leaders we look up to, causes we care about, foundations we support. In those formative years when we start making choices that impact who we will become as adults many of us feel a calling for doing good, others for making money, some want to change the world, others just want to have normal happy lives.
For some the path is clear, for others the path can lead to many places. For me it is the latter and I have come to realize that the journey itself, not where I will get to, is what brings value and joy to my life.
As a child in Caracas in the 80’s and the 90’s I had a series of jobs and internships that I now realize were key in my development. To most my CV would read just like every other teenager’s CV – a collection of short term opportunistic summer jobs. To me looking back, I realize that there was a pattern and what the pattern represented was the fact that I always had a drive for business and a genuine interest in our family company, but also I had a drive to make the world a better place.
When you grow up in a place like Venezuela, or any other developing country, you are constantly reminded that there is a great disparity between the quality of life for the lower and upper class. Every day driving to school we would pass by the shanty town where much of the poor of the country lived without access to basic services like running water or electricity. I am sure the daily commute was what instilled in me this sense of responsibility to impact to lives of the less fortunate.
By the time I got to college I had already worked at many foundations and NGO’s in Venezuela and in the US. Most summers I would spend a month splitting my time between working at a not for profit and at one of our family companies.
I had the opportunity to work at some extraordinary foundations. I worked at La Fundación Daniela Chappard, which at the time was the only place in the country that gave medical and emotional support to people living with aids. I was Aid for Aids’ first intern out of NYC, an organization that today has shipped over one hundred million dollars’ worth of medicine all over the world. I helped a brilliant young conductress get a Latin-American orchestra off the ground and I also worked at our own Foundation that specializes in bringing high quality education to the under-served.
Working in both the private and the non-for-profit sector at the same time made me realize the correlation between the health of a nation and the well-being of its individuals. It also made me realize the many ways in which our system is broken. The private and the public sector have to continue working together, but nations in the developing world should take ownership of the well-being of its citizens. The state should guarantee access to education, health systems, etc. and not the private sector. If Singapore could do it, so can we.
Where we can make a huge difference is in supporting programs like Endeavor that focus on diversifying the economic environments in our countries. Endeavor supports high impact entrepreneurs that are at that inflection point where with an extra push and guidance an entrepreneur can go from being the owner of a small business to being a national, regional or global player. The model contributes to the health of country’s economy because it is industry agnostic and has a trickledown effect that creates many news jobs and even generates new industries in a country.
There is a whole new generation of business leaders coming out of the Endeavor model. Watch them closely; they are the ones bringing change to the world. Not only are they contributing to the economic wellbeing of the region, they are also giving back to the community that supported them and are mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Endeavor, I can now see, is something that I was always working my way towards. It’s a hybrid of the private sector mixed with NGO DNA. Once upon a time, Endeavor was just an idea tossed around between the two founders, Peter Kellner and Linda Rottenberg, at Harvard Business School. From that idea, 17 years later, businesses have grown in over 19 countries. Almost a quarter of a million jobs have been created and the entrepreneurs they support collectively generate $6 billion in annual revenues. Good ideas create more good ideas. Let them continue to flow…