Introducing the Entrepreneurs for a Change Podcast
Happy Thanksgiving from beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand!
My name is Lorna Li, and I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Entrepreneurs for a Change podcast on iTunes, a radio show featuring entrepreneurs who are choosing to “screw business as usual.” In this very first episode I’m going to talk about:
- Why business can be an even greater force for good than charity The kinds of world changing entrepreneurs we are going to interview for this podcast
- The juicy questions I’ll be asking to uncover exactly how these entrepreneurs succeeded in growing their business
- I’ll share with you the story of how my personal mission to harness the story telling power of emerging technologies became activated deep in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon – and how this experience eventually led to my career as an Internet marketer, blogger, and podcaster hell-bent on cracking the code to profitable, triple bottom line business.
- What it takes to be an evolutionary entrepreneur and reveal the outer game and inner game strategies these that changemakers leverage to succeed in business and in life.
Business Can Be A Powerful Force For Good
As Richard Branson writes in his book of the same title – “Screw Business As Usual” – business can be a powerful force for good. His message is:
Business as usual isn’t working’. In fact, it’s ‘business as usual’ that’s wrecking our planet. Resources are being used up; the air, the sea, the land – are all heavily polluted. The poor are getting poorer. Many are dying of starvation or because they can’t afford a dollar a day for life-saving medicine. We have to fix it, and we have to fix it fast.
And Richard wakes up in the morning feeling positive. Because ordinary people around the world are rallying to fix things, not because we have no choice, but because this life and this world are all we have.
The old model of making as much money as possible, only to give it away by throwing charity at the world’s problem, is no longer interesting to the emerging generation of young people.
There’s a growing army of entrepreneurs around the world who are coming up with creative solutions that merge doing good with doing business. They recognize that the problems we have in the world around poverty, gender inequality, climate change, deforestation – these are complex issues that require innovative, lasting, whole system solutions, not bandaid fixes.
This new wave of entrepreneurs are about enthusiastic, creative, yet ordinary people using their skills and their business assets to drive not only profits but a better world.
Throwing Charity at the World’s Problems is No Longer the Solution
You see, doing good in the world is not confined to the work of nonprofits, NGOs and other charitable organizations. While these organizations do valuable work, they can sometimes create bigger problems by enabling a dependent handout mentality in the countries they serve, or distorting local markets with a flood of well meaning donations that don’t solve the roots of the problem at hand.
Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, a non-profit that raises charitable donations to invest in companies that are changing the way the world tackles poverty, and author of an inspiring book about the power of social entrepreneurs called The Blue Sweater, talks about the value of profit-driven solutions to the world’s most pressing concerns. For profit businesses rely on valuable market feedback to determine whether their products and services are truly what the people they are serving really need and want.
Let me give you an example: a charity might send millions of insecticide treated mosquito nets to an African community in a campaign to combat malaria – and consider their work done – but this is a total waste money if the recipients don’t use these mosquito nets because it’s just too hot to sleep under them.
But criticizing charity is not the purpose of this podcast. At Entrepreneurs for a Change, we’re going to focus on business for good success stories.
Our mission is to highlight the work of evolutionary entrepreneurs, and uncover what it takes to start, operate, grow, and most importantly live a business with a mission.
Who Are Evolutionary Entrepreneurs?
Who, exactly, are evolutionary entrepreneurs, you may ask?
They are disruptive entrepreneurs who say “No!” to business as usual, and say “Yes!” to business for good. They are passionate entrepreneurs who are fulfilling their life purpose by loving what they do, and doing what they love.
They are spiritual entrepreneurs who abide by the principles of Sacred Commerce, and are in the business of helping you optimize your human potential. They are lifestyle entrepreneurs who have kicked down their cubicle prisons to start lifestyle businesses of maximum freedom and flexibility.
We feature social entrepreneurs who are addressing the world’s most pressing concerns through business driven solutions. Enterprises that have incorporated helping people and protecting the planet into their business model – in a way that aims to generate prosperity for all.
We love companies that embrace the buy one get one model, like TOMS shoes, that donates 1 pair of shoes for every pair purchased. We love sustainable brands like Back to the Roots, that turns tons of used coffee grounds into premium home grown mushroom kits, to the tune of $10M a year. We love social enterprises that strive to embody the triple bottom line, through conservation and empowering indigenous peoples, like Runa Amazon Guayusa Tea. These are companies that are certified Fair Trade, Green, and B-Corporations, companies that are moving in this direction, or who are already, all of the above.
We feature conscious mediapreneurs working in the fields of human evolution, spiritual growth and optimal health, who are able to transform the lives of thousands of people through digital media and online programs.
These are entrepreneurs who inspire the masses with their message, people like the Millionaire Messenger Brendon Burchard, whose near brush with death caused him to question, “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?” Since then he’s built a multi-million dollar empire that helps millions of people transform their lives and feel more alive, engaged, and fulfilled.
We are inspired by Vishen Lakhiani, founder of MindValley, a company that has built several businesses in a variety of sectors, such as mobile apps, marketing, technology, personal growth, entrepreneurship, and health and wellness, with the aim to empower human beings to live healthier, happier lives, and spread enlightened ideas to 1 billion people by 2050.
We are empowered by heart-based entrepreneurs like Christine Arylo, founder of the Inner Mean Girl Reform School and author of the books Madly in Love with ME, and Choosing Me before We. She embraced her life purpose by starting a business that helps women rid themselves of limiting beliefs, love themselves and become their own best friend.
These mediapreneurs are thought leaders who are catalyzing the shift humanity urgently needs to become a society that is compassionate, inclusive, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling.
We showcase lifestyle entrepreneurs who are helping thousands gain unprecedented freedom without sacrificing abundance, by connecting them with their passion, and empowering them with the digital tools to run their businesses from anywhere.
We celebrate entrepreneurs like Chris Guillebeau, best-selling author of The Art of Nonconformity & The $100 Startup, who built his internet business during the 4 years he lived as volunteer on a medical ship off the coast of Africa.
We high-five Natalie Sisson, the author of The Suitcase Entrepreneur, who built up a 6 figure location independent business that she runs from exotic locations around the world. She’s been traveling for the past 4 years – with no end in sight – she’s on a mission to ensure 100,000 entrepreneurs create freedom in business and adventure in life by 2020.
Cracking the Code to Profitable Triple Bottom Line Business
Now, I’m also an entrepreneur, so I can tell you that I’m not really interested in hearing people talk about their business, how awesome their products are, why you should by from them, what their favorite books are, in one long ego-stroking infomercial.
I am truly interested in cracking the code on how to successfully launch and grow a business that helps people or saves the planet, or, even better, does both at the same time, profitably.
And since each business is unique, their success story simply can’t be uncovered by a list of the same canned questions over and over again. So I actually spend time researching my guest, the company, and inviting the participation of shared connections in our community to identify the best questions to ask this business changemaker.
So I’ll be asking under the hood questions like:
• What inspired this entrepreneur to start their business
• Exactly how did they raise money or bootstrap to get their business off the ground
• What specific online marketing strategies work best for their business
• What #1 mistake did they make during their entrepreneurial journey that they’d do differently if they had the chance.
I’ll be drilling down further to uncover any juicy tips that you can use today to up-level your business.
About Your Show Host Lorna Li
Now some of you might be wondering, who are you Lorna, what inspired you start Entrepreneurs for a Change?
I’ve spent nearly a decade working in the nonprofit sector with organizations working on Tibetan cultural preservation, indigenous rights, and environmental sustainability.
My nonprofit career gave me rewarding, life-changing experiences, such as distributing over 100,000 books, thangkas, and prayer wheels to the Tibetan community in exile during the World Peace Ceremony in Bodh Gaya, India, as part of an effort to rebuild monastic libraries that were destroyed during the Communist invasion of Tibet.
I lived in a Zapatista community in Chiapas as a human rights observer and witnessed first hand, the military policy of low intensity warfare against the indigenous communities in Southern Mexico.
I co-produced Al Gore’s groundbreaking presentation on climate change at UN World Environment Day before it became the movie, An Inconvenient Truth.
While I loved spending every day working on issues I cared about, as one human being trying to be part of the solution, my life as a nonprofit activist looked like working around the clock trying to save the world, for very little pay.
And what I saw, working with these nonprofits, were a lot of people who cared about the world, working really hard, within organizations that were lacking in management strategy.
- I saw a lot of goodwill and energy from volunteers and staff leveraged in ways that weren’t really optimized.
- I saw a lot of giving, and a lot of awareness-raising, but difficulty creating long term solutions that addressed the roots of the multi-faceted issues facing the people these organizations were trying to help.
- I saw chronic lack of resources to invest in skills training and career development for their rank and file employees.
- I saw a willingness to bypass promoting internal employees for upper management positions in favor of poaching someone from the private sector – and paying that person more money than someone who had dedicated their entire career to working in charitable sector.
And I wondered – what’s wrong with this picture?
My gradual disappointment with my career prospects in the nonprofit sector inspired me to get an MBA. Now I got my MBA before Green MBA programs came into existence, and during the 2 years of doing my traditional MBA, I was immersed in a world focused on profit maximization, and consumption based growth.
Nobody questioned the impact of consumption on future generations, nor why our economic formulas don’t calculate the negative cost of resource depletion, environmental contamination, social ills or human sickness that industries create.
Here I am in the polar opposite universe of the world I came from, and I began to wonder, is there something in between – some kind of hybrid model between charity and business?
Back then, in the early 2000s, the social enterprise sector was young. Social enterprise involved helping nonprofits generate earned income streams to help wean them off their dependency on individual donations and foundation grants, the availability of was strongly influenced by the health of the economy.
I got involved with a social venture incubator, and helped launch their Nonprofit Bootcamp, a program that taught nonprofits business skills. The community of businesses that incorporated social benefit into their for-profit business models was small but growing. We had Odwalla, Ben & Jerry’s, Toms of Maine, to name a few.
Today I’m thrilled to see that the number of companies choosing business for good is accelerating to the point that it feels like a movement. Now we even have B-Corporations – legal incorporation designed for for-profit entities that choose to consider society and the environment – in addition to profit – in their business decision making process.
Discovering My Life Purpose with the Shamans of the Brazilian Amazon
It’s 2004 and I’m discovering the world of social enterprises, and trying to formulate my exit strategy from the nonprofit sector.
That spring, I had a powerful, visionary experience in a spiritual ceremony founded in the shamanic plant medicine traditions of the Amazon basin. During that shamanic journey, I perceived that we humans, shared the world – not only with animals, insects, plants, microbes – but with spiritual beings related to the forces of nature and other dimensions. And that some of these beings had an important message to share with humanity – a message of love, peace, and wisdom.
Yeah, I know that’s far out. I suggest you read Daniel Pinchbeck’s book Breaking Open the Head, if you want to explore the topic of modern day shamanism in greater depth.
This concept – that we share this planet with spirits – spirits that we can actually communicate with, entities that have a message for us if we choose to listen, is actually not new – it’s ancient. Western science, which is far more recent, hasn’t developed the tools to observe and prove the existence of nature spirits, but just because we lack these tools, doesn’t necessarily mean that this phenomenon doesn’t exist.
So, I’d like to invite you to have an open mind. I also encourage you to take whatever I say with a grain of salt, question everything, and explore things for yourself. My worldview is subjective to my life experiences and the cultures that influence me. And culture of the Amazon, and many other cultures in the world, accept the presence of spirits in our every day lives as something completely normal.
A series of ceremonies began to shift my relationship with the natural world. Instead of experiencing nature hikes as outdoorsy excursions as I did in the past, I started to feel as if nature was trying to communicate with me.
And the message was that we humans have lost our connection with the natural world, and this was the underlying cause of disease, psychological imbalances and larger scale social problems.
If you want to understand this concept further, I encourage you to Google the term “eco-psychology”.
I became increasingly intrigued by the tribal cultures of the Amazon basin, to the point where I realized that I needed to go and have a direct experience with the indigenous people who have been wisdom holders of this medicine tradition for thousands of years.
The details of what brought me to Acre, Brazils westernmost state, which borders Peru and Bolivia, are too long to get into in this episode.
What I can say is, I arrived there, knowing nobody, and not speaking a single word of Portuguese, armed only with the 2nd chapter of my friend Robert Tindall’s then unpublished book, the Jaguar that Roams the Mind, as my only guide.
I had the email address of Fabiano Kaxinawá, the son of the cacique (or chief) of the Kaxinawá communities of the municipality of Jordão, a frontier town in the Amazon rainforest. Fabiano, unfortunately couldn’t understand a word I said because I could only speak and write in Spanish.
So I spent a couple of weeks bumming around the city of Rio Branco – which is NOT a tourist town – alone, trying to teach myself Portuguese, wondering what the hell I was doing and if I was on some kind of wild goose chase.
Not knowing what to do, I did the only thing I could do which was pray. I prayed that I’d accomplish my purpose for traveling so far away, to the middle of nowhere, in search of knowledge that I urgently wanted, that I suspected was going to completely transform my life. I wrote down a list of everything I wanted to accomplish during my time there.
Soon, a series of synchronicities unfolded that brought people into my life and opened doors to experiences I could have never imagined possible.
Again, to make a long story short, I was invited to travel to Fabiano’s village with 2 documentary film teams from São Paolo to participate in the Festival of the Royal Hawk.
Funding appeared from the Brazilian government to pay for our charter planes from Taruacá, the town with the nearest airstrip, and 3 boats to take us 5 days further upriver. We travelled with the chief, his sons, and 2 anthropologists deep into the heart of the Amazon jungle.
All around us, the forest buzzed and trilled with the music of nocturnal creatures, while in my expanded mind’s eye I could perceive a multitude of luminous beings that lived among the trees. It was a primal, primordial experience and I felt a deep sense of connection to the natural world that was both healing and empowering.
This is who we – human beings – truly are, beloved children of the earth. Who we are is not what we do, nor what we have. Our fixation with image wealth, power, status, keeping up with the Jones, these are delusions that keep us from knowing our intrinsic worth and connecting with our true purpose.
During my time with the tribe and the 2 anthropologists, I learned about the Huni Kui’s difficulties surviving and preserving their ways, in a world where civilization increasingly encroached on their land and their identity. The tribal nations of Brazil have suffered over 500 years of persecution, slavery, and repression.
Their modern day conflicts with loggers, cattle ranchers, and gold prospectors are real, violent, and often condoned by authorities, politicians, and lawmakers who have financial gain. This is “profit at any cost” in action.
The Huni Kui shamans shared with us their worldview, understanding of reality and how all the knowledge they have about the forest was taught to them by the spirits of plants and animals. To me, their wisdom has value, and to imagine their voice disappearing from the world seemed to me, a great tragedy.
On one hand, we know what we lose. According to Mark Plotkin, a Harvard-trained ethnobotanist, and founder of the Amazon Conservation Team, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving South American rainforests in partnership with indigenous peoples:
Every time a shaman dies, it’s as if a library burned down.
On the other hand, we don’t know what we lose. We lose 1 culture’s entirely unique way of understanding the world, reality, and humanity – a perspective that graces our multi-faceted collective consciousness with its own brilliance. When we lose a culture’s world-view, the diamond mind of our collective consciousness shines less brightly. How can you quantify that?
I resigned my job via email and spent 4 months in Acre, exploring how I could be of better service in the world.
During that time I met and apprenticed with some medicine women, who gave me a flower essence to accelerate my ability to learn and master Portuguese, which I came to speak fluently at the end of my 4 months there.
I met Txai Macedo, an officer of FUNAI, the Fundação Nacional do Índio, a Brazilian governmental protection agency for Indian interests and their culture. Txai Macedo survived multiple attempts on his life for his work helping the Indians gain Federal recognition of their tribal lands.
In one incident, a man assaulted him in broad daylight in the township of Marechal Thaumaturgo, stuck the barrel of a gun point blank range at his temple, and tried to shoot him. But the bullet stuck in its chamber, and onlookers took down the assailant before he could fire again. The reason for his amazing luck in evading attempts on his life? “Because I walk with the Queen of the Forest,” he said.
My friend Robert Tindall, my original inspiration to go to Acre, introduced me to his fiend Leo by email, who was also following in his footsteps. Leo became enamored with the Amazon, after having connected with the Pachamama Alliance, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco, participated in the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, and gone on one of their Ecuador trips to visit the Achuar indigenous community that they work with.
Even though he was over 70, he flew to Rio Branco determine to have an authentic adventure in the Brazilian Amazon. I brought him to the Santo Daime community of Mapia, in Western Amazonas.
As we sat wedged between sacks of rice and beans, on 10-hour boat journey into the jungle, navigating our way past submerged treetops, Leo pulls out a laminated business card. Printed on one side is the vision of the Pachamama Alliance – a vision of a world that works for everyone:
A socially just, environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling human presence on this planet.” And printed on the other side is his own personal mission statement.
He looks at me with a playful, inquisitive expression and asks me, “What’s your personal mission?”
Over the weeks I thought about it, and thought about it. When I thought about the most important and prevailing passions, or obsessions, in my life, one was the pursuit of wisdom through immersion into ancient spiritual traditions.
The second was the pursuit of right livelihood. Now the Buddhist concept of right livelihood is something that has really defined my life. I wanted the way I earned my living to be in alignment with my spiritual values and my lifestyle.
I asked myself, what do I really want to do? How could I design a life that allowed me ample free time to go on mini sabbaticals like this one, without disrupting my career potential, cash flow, or limiting me to low end jobs where there wasn’t so much stigma around lengthy job gaps or sticking it out with the company for each year required to get a promotion.
What industry could I work in, that didn’t require me to physically be in the office to do my job?
What were some of the best opportunities available to me in my hometown of San Francisco?
It didn’t take long before it dawned upon me…
But what would be my personal mission, and how could I leverage the Internet to fulfill this mission?
I decided to choose a mission that ambitious, bold, and meaningful.
I was going to:
Leverage emerging technologies to preserve indigenous culture, and empower indigenous people so that their ancient wisdom could continue to benefit the modern world.
There was only one problem – I knew nothing about Internet, and was probably, at that time, the most technologically un-savvy person you ever met. The only thing I knew how to do, really, was send email.
That intention started a new adventure, learning how to build a profitable online business, so I could work from anywhere in the world. That journey was it’s own roller coaster ride, and a too long to get into right now.
However, I started by building my first website – about the rainforest! On joomla, which was exceedingly painful. Eventually I figured out that blogging about the rainforest was probably not going to be a profitable endeavor that would allow me to quite my job and work remotely.
I also switched over from joomla to WordPress – a way easier open source content management system to work with – and threw myself into blogging about sustainable business, social enterprise, and social media for good.
During this 7 year journey, I learned SEO, SEM, and social media marketing well enough to earn a 6 figure salary creating viral social media campaigns for a leading San Francisco tech company. My blogging efforts opened up consulting jobs with sustainable companies as a side-hustle. In 2011, I was able to cut the corporate umbilical cord, become an Internet marketing consultant and go location independent. Which is what brings me to Chiang Mai Thailand on this Thanksgiving Day.
This is the long story of how my relationship with the tribes of the Amazon basin influenced my life purpose to empower entrepreneurs to shift our current business paradigm of “profit at any cost” to “profit with principles”.
This is how I came to be who I am today, a blogger, podcaster, Internet marketer and rainforest crusader, trying to make the world a better place through business.
This is why I do what I do. It’s been a wild ride, full of exhilarating highs, and ego crushing lows. I hope you enjoyed this story and stick around with me for the journey.
Practical Tools & Mindset Hacks
One Final Note
Being an evolutionary entrepreneur involves mastering your outer game, but more importantly, mastering your inner game.
While the majority of each episode on Entrepreneurs for a Change will focus on outer game business strategies, at the end of every segment I’d love to leave you with a practical tool, and a mindset tool, to help empower you, right here, right now.
Here’s a great practical business tool I use all the time.
Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows me to update all my social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, from one attractive console. What’s even better, you can add team members so that they can also manage your profiles, without giving up your main password. You can add up to 10 hashtag, keyword, or list streams to your dashboard.
And here’s a mindset tool.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I invite you to practice gratitude. Every day. When you wake up, take a few minutes to reflect upon all the things you are grateful for and people you appreciate in your life. This simple practice alone has the power to uplift your day.
This brings us to the end of Episode 1 of Entrepreneurs for a Change. If you liked this episode, please take the time to review this podcast in iTunes. Thanks for listening and by for now!
Eric Smith of Monster Beach Studio for creating our Entrepreneurs for a Change Theme Song
Amazon Ensemble, whose music – from the album Mãe Inini – you hear in this episode. Mãe Inini means “The Power of the Earth”. Recordings were taken by Txai Fernando Assad and team done during the epic 2004 trip into Jordão.
Connect with Us!
Connect with Lorna
Facebook Page: Lorna Li
Connect with Entrepreneurs for a Change
Facebook Page: Entrepreneurs for a Change
If you enjoyed, I would really appreciate a review in iTunes & a review in Stitcher!
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