During the wet, long, months of July and August in Maryland, I made it my mission to find a creative job that I could return to school to. I desperately scoured through the University’s catalog of available jobs for internships, crossed my fingers, and applied to a position enticingly titled “Marketing and Communications Intern”. There was limited information on the posting, but I felt it was promising. As I stepped into Miller Center’s office for my interview, it became clear that this role would offer great exposure, an excuse for me to rekindle my love for writing, and an opportunity to network with some of the world’s most notable and inspiring social entrepreneurs. I was completely bewitched by the overall mission of Miller Center as it was instantly clear to me that they are committed to diversifying the business world by supporting sustainable solutions through social entrepreneurship that uplift historically underrepresented communities.
Embracing the Beautiful Chaos: In-Residence Unveiled
After I happily accepted the job offer, I anticipated the arrival of my first day. I joined Miller Center’s team in the midst of beautiful chaos: the planning, preparation, and execution of the In-Residence program. Twelve social entrepreneurs were invited from all over the world for the opportunity to accelerate their company development with the helping hand of Miller Center. I had the privilege of witnessing the unwavering commitment displayed by Miller Center’s staff, mentors, and partners as they led mock investor meetings, facilitated roundtable discussions, and imparted valuable insights on storytelling as an entrepreneur. This was all part of the thorough preparation for the upcoming, exclusive SOCAP conference, a 3-day opportunity for the entrepreneurs to meet with (and hopefully appeal to) impact investors. In order to reap the benefits, both in terms of moral and financial gains, it’s imperative for these social entrepreneurs to seek support from investors who share the same goals of poverty alleviation and environmental preservation.
As I sat in the office, attending discussions that were not intended for me, I eagerly digested every bit of information that was shared. Leaders of these discussions meticulously took into consideration the backgrounds of all 12 enterprises and provided advice according to that. While these workshops provided valuable insights and benefits to the entrepreneurs, my most memorable encounter occurred at the Welcome Reception. This event featured the entrepreneurs sharing 3-minute presentations about the inspirations driving their organizations to an audience of students, investors, and like-minded souls. Miller Center’s open and welcoming atmosphere became clear to me when, on my very first day, they immersed me in this remarkable event. While my initial role involved distributing parking passes to investors and providing name tags to social entrepreneurs, I never expected to be deeply touched by the diverse stories of people from all walks of life. Graciously, I embraced the opportunity to forge personal connections with these remarkable entrepreneurs, savoring every second of the event. From Maziwa Breastfeeding, which provides on-the-go breastfeeding solutions for busy mothers in Africa, to ONOW, which provides initiatives to uplift the economic power of female migrants, each entrepreneur shared the kind of inspiration that made me wish I had their level of creativity. I can only aspire to be held in the same regard as they are in their respective fields.
A Special Encounter with Charlot Mayagi
In the midst of the beautiful chaos, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to directly speak with Charlot Mayagi, CEO & founder of Mukuru Clean Stoves, an organization that I was immediately inspired by. I was instantly drawn to the confidence that exuded from her on the stage, as well as the stunning crown of curly hair she proudly adorned. She engaged her audience with humor and personability, presenting herself as a pioneer amongst peers, and opening up a whole new sustainable market in Kenya. Mukuru Clean Stoves stands out as a company that has not only achieved remarkable results, such as saving East African families $20 million in fuel costs and preventing 500,000 tons of CO2 emissions, but has also touched my heart on a personal level. With East African heritage myself, I was deeply moved and proud to see a solution that has the potential to directly impact my own family and enhance the welfare of the entire region.
At the tender age of 16 years old, Charlot Mayagi became a mother in the bustling confines of Mukuru Kwa Njenga, a large slum in Nairobi, Kenya. When her daughter, just 2 years old, experienced a severe burn caused by a traditional cooking stove, it served as an unexpected catalyst that awakened Charlot to the serious health and environmental risks associated with the conventional cooking methods in her home. Charlot embarked on a passionate mission to bring about a direct and positive impact on the lives of her community members. She achieved this by ingeniously repurposing local waste metal into clean and dependable cookstoves. Furthermore, Charlot was steadfast in her commitment to uplift the women in her community, involving them in different aspects of the initiative, such as distribution, marketing, and advocacy for increased awareness regarding the detrimental effects of toxic household air pollution. As I complete further research on Mukuru Clean Stoves, I grow more fond of the face behind the organization. I aspire to emulate Charlot Mayagi’s level of dedication, compassion, and genuine concern for the social issues that affect her community and beyond, which she continues to exemplify unwaveringly. I am happy to be a part of an organization that chooses to uplift entrepreneurs who possess the courage to tackle social issues head-on.
“The In-Residence and general Miller Center program has been instrumental in enabling Mukuru to access more investors. The most important part of it was the opportunity to pitch to mock and real investors in person: 2 intense hours that allowed me to do a proper X-ray of my business and identify the aspects that need improvement. I left ready to open my next funding round and confident that I would be able to close it in record time.” —Charlot Mayagi, Founder & CEO, Mukuru Clean Stoves
When I embarked on the 2,000-mile trek from my hometown to Santa Clara, I had no expectations of encountering the kind of inclusive and supportive community that awaited me here. My prior perception of Silicon Valley was that it predominantly favored affluent white males, but my experience has since altered that preconceived notion. Having Miller Center right on campus, an organization that actively accelerates social entrepreneurs with notable causes, has provided me with a valuable gateway to learning more about social entrepreneurship. I am fortunate to be able to attend a school like Santa Clara University and to be a part of Miller Center, as I can help give back to communities that are striving to provide the same support and opportunities that I have been privileged to receive.