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Last weekend I participated in the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures Summit at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
I was invited to tell graduate students about my journey as a social entrepreneur and the work we are doing at CNote to drive financial inclusion and equality.
What a humbling experience it was, and such an honor!
The TFC is known for crafting real-time experiences for their students to give them the holistic exposure into the world of social ventures. The summit is one example where practitioners across sectors share their ideas, challenges, learnings, and the impact they have achieved through their work.
This is work we have to do together
This year’s theme was collaboration and partnerships. The world’s social challenges are just too great for social entrepreneurs to tackle in silos.
For us at CNote, from when we were just incubating an idea all the way to the present, collaboration has been at the core of our product development. To create the first mass-market high yield impact savings product required many parties at the table: users who are interested in connecting their money with their values; CDFIs who are ultimately responsible for deploying the funds in the underserved communities; regulators whose job is to analyze and qualify all the financial products, and; many agencies who are on the guard to protect interests of consumers, small businesses, CDFIs….the table was quite full and still is.
We were very honest with ourselves that creating a more inclusive financial system is not a manageable task for any single company. So the more, the merrier.
Another great thing about having diverse parties at the table is you hear all the possible reasons why your idea might not work, you take the feedback and figure out the ways to prove them otherwise.
Criticism is an opportunity for growth, not a reason to give up.
Opportunity for Personal Growth
Along with the story of CNote, I shared my personal story – I called it the journey of the “non-entrepreneur.” I do not think I was born to be an entrepreneur, but my life experiences prepared me for that path.
When my anger with injustice, inequality, and unfairness in the financial world found a like mind in my co-founder Cat, I was pushed to roll up my sleeves and dive into the world of entrepreneurship. Together, we share a vision of what a more inclusive economic system can look like–and we’re building it together.
After the talk, many people came to me saying “Thank you for your work. You inspired us.” Quite candidly, it’s inspiring to see so many students interested in social ventures. College is a time many of us are only looking inward, but to see so many students looking to build a brighter future for us all, gives me great hope.
It’s also motivating to see so many people share our vision. Those words of encouragement are the fuel that drives us here at CNote, and we would not have done it if it was not for you.
So thank you!