Becky Straw and Jody Landers are unlikely partners on a shared mission to alleviate poverty in developing countries.
In 2010 they started The Adventure Project, a non-profit that provides funding to social enterprises.
“We almost act as the VCs, where we have the money and we’re investing wisely in these enterprises so they can scale,” Straw told The Story Exchange.
Straw and Landers, who met in Liberia while working for an NGO, began their adventure with a startup budget of about $4,000. They used that money to fly to Haiti and launch a charcoal-efficient stove program.
After the program’s initial success, the pair raised $90,000 in donations to build a manufacturing plant in Port-au-Prince, which now employs 17 men who produce the stoves and 12 women who sell them for a commission.
“It’s a great way to create a sustainable supply chain… It’s been a small investment but has had a huge impact on [the locals],” says Straw.
To date they’ve raised close to $400,000 and have helped employ over 300 people in four countries, who in turn would be able to impact another 720,000.
“We thought ‘what if we can make people like us, ordinary Americans, engaged in social enterprise and able to see the impact of their gift and how it’s changing people’s lives,’” Straw says.
Watch Straw sharing one of their success stories and the impact of social enterprise.
Straw and Landers live completely different lives. Straw lives in New York City and recently graduated with a degree in social enterprise while Landers is mommy blogger with six kids.
In the beginning, the two did not take any salary and Straw was forced to give up her apartment and most of her belongings. For close to a year she bounced around from one friend’s apartment to the next sleeping on 15 different couches along the way.
Like every business The Adventure Project has had its growing pains and Straw says she has learned to overcome moments of anxiety.
“If you’re worried about failure you’re never going to get the work done, cause you’re just going to be paralyzed with fear. So I think it’s getting over that fear and just being strategic and focused.”
And right now, Straw is focused on achieving The Adventure Project’s goal of creating one million jobs in the next ten years.