Our Story – What is the Impact Entrepreneur?
A Journey of Growth, Transformation, and Impact…
2011 was the year the “impact entrepreneur” was born.
Until that time, social entrepreneurship had rarely been placed within a context of systems change. As an entrepreneur, I had experienced first-hand the sense of dislocation and frustration that came from trying to build a triple bottom line company (one of the first B Corporations) in the conventional, single bottom line-dominated business world. It wasn’t easy, nor pretty. Furthermore, as a career professional in the sustainability field, well-versed in the major social and environmental challenges of the time, I felt a real sense of urgency about the need to transform the way we do business in the world — that our business needed to be the “business of change.”
Coining the term “impact entrepreneur”, characterizing impact entrepreneurship as a “systems-minded approach to social and environmental innovation”, and defining the word “impact” as “the rigorous application of blended value” and “transformation,” I believed that changemakers needed to be as focused on collaboratively building a supportive business paradigm and ecosystem — an “impact economy” — that can hold mission-driven businesses as they are on building the businesses themselves. Impact Entrepreneur was launched as the first international network of its kind in the world.
Working from my home office tucked up against the lush forests of the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, I used the young LinkedIn platform to build the network, establishing a group and publishing articles on impact entrepreneurship and impact investing. The pieces found a growing readership. Gradually, impact entrepreneurship as a concept began to take hold and interview and speaking requests followed. Colleges and universities became interested in IE.
As the Network grew into the tens of thousands, and our now award-winning LinkedIn group became one of the go-to places for cutting-edge thinking and networking in the rapidly emerging impact space, I heard from increasing numbers of entrepreneurs and investors who had business development needs. Most exciting of all, we found that an increasing number of people around the world were now calling themselves “impact entrepreneurs” and the term was being widely used in media accounts of the space and increasingly at universities. Rarely, if ever, has a business successfully created a global professional/vocational movement in its own name.
Our Frog Logo
Frogs are universal symbols of transformation, fertility, creativity, and wisdom — alive in the mythologies of disparate cultures around the world throughout human history. Frogs are a sign of healthy ecosystems (“indicator species”), and come in many colors that blend them into their local environment.
For us, the aspirational frog in our logo is a totemic mandala. It is a representation of all those who aspire for a better world through “the business of change.” Our frog was also designed to recall the “boiling frog” story that emerged from studies conducted in the late 1800s at Johns Hopkins University. A frog that falls into boiling water will jump out due to the heat, while a frog placed in slowly heating water will simply sit there until it, uh, croaks…, making it a potent metaphor for human action (or inaction) in the face of significant social and environmental challenges.
Our frog, of course, knows better and jumps before it cooks — like the systems-minded impact entrepreneur!