Note: The oasis that nourishes heart-centered innovators opens its doors January 15 with its monthly intimate business retreat for human and social service-based businesses exploring origins of root causes to turn upstream interventions into products for their community. We start the year in 2021 focusing our impact on maternal and infant care, end of life, military mental health, and workforce pipeline-building.
In June, we adapted our in-person unconference into a 4-day virtual immersive social innovation unconference with 25+ facilitators and speakers from around the world.
We coupled it with 4-weeks of virtual integration experiences post-event because it's rare the momentum from events like that continue much longer than just a few days.
It was a painfully bittersweet experience. On one hand, we were one of the first in the world to adapt in the pandemic. We took it on headfirst by going deep with a four day, all day, immersive learning experience with facilitated sessions that invite you to do the work. No talking heads. Work.
We thought we were super cool for accomplishing that - for getting that event under our belt. Then, we realized how much money we lost from the that unprofitable experiment. It wasn't as cool anymore. Still cool, but we definitely had to drop the 'super'.
We learned a lot, and we laid the groundwork for our friends, peers, and partners to now have a model to integrate into their business and make it their own. That's nice for us to see - gratifying.
We integrated our lessons and moved into the next iteration.
I setup calls with the conference customers to learn more about who these people were that managed to find themselves at our event. I quickly noticed a recurring theme around an unmet need for 18-24 year olds, "How do I build my life without the skills needed to build a life in today's economy? School didn't teach me what I need. I am not sure what to do from here."
Unfortunately, for humanity, this isn't a new problem. Fortunately, I worked in this space for the first six years of my career.
In 2009, I built my first business. The purpose of it was to build a bridge between university students and the businesses in the city surrounding the university. I knew how to do this for others because it wasn't long ago I was in their position as a disconnected youth who wasn't working nor in school.
I was fortunate to have enough drive, resilience, and hunger for a better life. Even more fortunate to meet a few people who took interest in me. When I felt these people believe in me - when I felt them see me in ways I hadn't seen myself before - it unlocked my potential. I was now in a place of "I can create anything I imagine'". I was also empowered with the tools for that statement to be true.
I learned to carve out a place for myself in the new economy. I became the expert for these students to follow and then fork-off into their own unique path when the time was right. Over ten departments hired me to innovate their curriculum.
I am going to go a bit deeper into my background to provide context for who i am and what I bring to the table of this conversation.
In 2014, I felt something coming through me - a new way of seeing the world - a new way of working - a new approach - a new paradigm.
On October 11th, 2014 I sat down to write. 23 days of writing later I noticed that I had lived through a series of meaningful moments, changes, and transformations of growth. I went from "the bottom" - yes, as a white man from NJ suburbs - to building a company that merged with another company within three years of college graduation.
Looking back at what I wrote, it popped off the page at me. A simple framework or methodology a person can follow to bring themselves from where they are to where they're going. More specifically, a methodology that taps into the power of empathy, compassion, vulnerability, and imagination to influence the intent of our behavior before we think or make decisions.
It made sense to me that if I wanted to influence different outcomes for society - if I wanted to make things better - I would have the highest chance of success by adding new components to the ecosystem that is responsible for the symptoms and outcomes we have today.
In 2015, using this methodology as my roadmap, I created a new company for each phase of the methodology. Each company would serve a person based on which stage of the methodology they were in, and when they're ready they can bring themselves forward into the next stage by engaging with the next company.
One of the new orgs was an postsecondary education company where I would develop more people through my methodology to mirror impact through them and into whomever they mirror their impact through.
I piloted my model with students I developed relationships with through reaching out to the guidance office of the local high school - the guidance director introduced me to students who graduated high school and were trying to find their way. I built one-on-one relationships with each student to give them an opportunity to get to know me before deciding to enroll themselves in this pilot.
Near the end of the 12-week pilot, a previous mentor from my college - the Dean of the Honors College - was following my progress and asked if I would bring the pedagogical innovation to Rutgers. He had hired me for several projects, curriculum design, we co-taught a 16 week course in social entrepreneurship together, and had been friends for five years at this point. I gave him a big "hell yes".
I sat with him in his office as he cleared off his desk and put a tall stack of white paper on it. He picked up his pencil and said, "I'm ready."
This was one of the more beautiful moments of my life. I sat with him for a few hours. Carefully walking him through the subtle nuances of the approach, the scaffolded phases, etc.
I thought to myself, "Wow, I turned my life experiences into a methodology that's now being integrated into the way the university educates students. This is incredible."
A few weeks later, the dean invited me to his pitch presentation with all the admins and potential department collaborators. Within a few months, he raised $100 Million to fund the expansion of the Honors College to grow from 80 students per year to 2,000 per year.
The model I created from the methodology of my life experiences is now the required first year experience for every student that goes through the Honors Program. Within a few years, it scaled to the other three Rutgers campuses across the state.
My work was beginning to make ripples and waves into tens of thousands of humans.
When I heard from the customers of our conference as being in situation that I am fully equipped to solve, I couldn't help but create our next program to serve this need.
Emergent Leadership as an 8-week immersive program for launching ventures that impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We successfully finished our cohort in November with each team creating functional prototypes accessible and live on the web right now. This is a rewarding program for us in many ways.
We now have over 2,000 people (and growing) in a waitlist to be invited to the next cohort. At one point, we had to turn off the Facebook ads because there were too many signups coming in and they didn't have a pipeline to come through yet.
The problem was that we didn't have anywhere for the students of Emergent Leadership to go after the program ended. The pandemic was slowing things down, and reducing opportunities means increasing competition for existing opportunities.
The students did inspiring work as a cohort and built new ventures from scratch. Truly remarkable. However, it would be too resource-heavy for us to support them in a way that would allow their newborn ventures to reach profitability, or reach enough revenue that it would create economic opportunity for them.
We decided to iterate here. Instead of the next cohort starting ventures from scratch, the students acquire skills they apply immediately with existing ventures.
I wasn't sure how, when, or if we'd even find a potential site for these innovators-in-training. To my surprise, within a few weeks, I began signing new contracts with unexpected clients.
From September to November, we generated around $30,000 from entrepreneurs who work in human and social service-based businesses.
One client hired us for turnaround services, re-building the company with a new set of experiences and products for their community, digital product design, capacity-building of existing staff, and packaging the new services we built into a monthly subscription offer.
Another client hired us to bring her vision to life for a new way to frame an old problem. These types of paradigm shifting projects are my sweet spot. Hearing her vision, embodying her vision helps me see what she sees so I can imagine a world where her vision is alive. I shared that world with her and our contract was signed within a few days. After the first month I observed her evolve from somewhat timid about how big the platform and online environment could be for her people - and for women worldwide - and recently she began stepping into the new world, the new context, and I am in awe of the inspiration it brings me.
We are in process of developing a learning ecosystem for her community to self-service information and support as needed, working one-on-one with her to excavate her experiences, insight, and foresight into a 5-6 module course, and designing each component of the business from the ground-up. This is gratifying work. I share specific examples so you understand the type of training we are doing with our innovators. I can't be the only person providing services, and too many of us need support with this type of work.
We're interested to partner with more businesses in this way. Basically, any awesome people who invested a lifetime in their work now want to share those gifts with the world in a new and meaningful way. If you want to chat more on this, here's my cell: 908-801-0005
We invested the last few months on charting a course into a future where we integrate the two sides of our business into one. We are focusing on infrastructure to manage the pipeline of innovators-in-training so it's easier to develop and train them in preparation for the workforce. Being that there isn't much of a workforce out there, we are creating our own demand for the innovators-in-training by developing emerging entrepreneurs to have thriving businesses. We like it better this way.
We are responsible for a person's learning in such a way that she must have the capabilities to perform the work we know she needs to do in the company she will soon enter. It forces a new level of responsibility and accountability with our B2B clients as well.
Now that we see this integrated approach clearly - meaning, we are involved in the entire chain.
We invented the ways of working that we train innovators to do on their own. We develop relationships with the business who needs help with turnaround services so they aren't forced to close up shop in this downturn. After both sides are developed, prepared, and have the emotional intelligence to integrate we begin to carefully bring them together.
The innovator in training gets to apply these new modern skills in real work settings with real businesses experiencing serious challenges. The business owner gets dedicated innovators to support the business through this difficult time when they don't have the financial resources to invest in a team, they also may have a hard time knowing where to start or what to prioritize. Combined all of that with the fact that we're talking about human and social service-based businesses which means we are all doing the good work - we're a part of something much bigger than ourselves.
This is a big win-win.
It is hard to imagine our society has gone on for so long without this integral component. Perhaps there is a correlation with employee turnaround, culture fit, and customer churn. Who knows.
For now, we decided to start by only working with human and social service-based businesses so the work we do is inherently good work. When we work with good people who already do good work and have been in their profession for 5, 10, 20 years it means they already have everything they need to disrupt their industry and perhaps create a new market.
We get to be a part of collaborations that directly influences systemic social change, and that's pretty f*cking awesome. Making things better is why we are here. It's why we show up.
Human Venture Lab is a nourishing oasis for heart-centered innovators creating tools to shape the emerging future with intention.
We invite you to rejuvenate, reimagine, and collectively reinvent the way we live, work, love, and play. Come with us to uncover origins of root causes to influence profound systemic change. Start the new year focused on maternal and infant care, end of life, military mental health, and workforce pipelines.
We decided to move forward with a monthly subscription for a few reasons. We want to create benefits for people who commit to us from the beginning and stay with us. We also see that we are in a unique position to share the success of our last few months with other businesses. We defined the model by living through it, we built it into an interactive website with some awesome components that would cost a person nearly a thousand dollars every month to pay individually.
We are happy to offset some of the costs that we will all be paying individually and depleting our resources faster than necessary. In this case, there is only upside to sharing. All the tech you need to grow ideas into impactful businesses, especially right now, are included in the tech platform you get for being one of our early adopters.
We already built the platform and use it so it makes sense for us to share with it you, make it better for you, and wrap you in nurturing care and support. Our intention is to make things better for you so it's easier for you to make things better for your people.
We are excited to have built in a series of major value-adds you get for being in our first group of customers and you get even more for staying. It's designed with each month choc-full of value that you can consume within a single month. Start and stop the subscription at any moment for a prorated refund.
We included a cascading pricing structure where you pay the most you'll ever pay on the first month. Each following month, the price goes down by a set %. This price drop will continue forever, unless you stop or pause your subscription. In which case, you simply stay at the current price-drop you earned thus far. Fairness.
Transparency. Love. Magic.
That's what we're going for here.
Our lab opens soon. Have you checked it out yet?