Disclaimer: the answers are not entirely word-for-word quotes.
Tell me about yourself and your background.
I started out in public accounting working for Plante Moran, a public consulting firm. Most of my clients were nonprofits at the time, so I got exposure to the industry there. I left Plante Moran to get my MBA and graduated in 2007. Then, I joined Delphi for 8 years. I’ve always wanted to transition from auditing and consulting to move into more management. I wanted to work directly with an organization that is serving the public. That’s kind of who I am and how I’m wired. It's rewarding to know that I’m spending the day contributing to community and enhancing people’s quality of life.
Why did you decide to join NextEnergy in particular?
I was really just looking for any opportunities in the non-profit space. I was always open to the non-profit industry and always had a slight passion for the environment, which has become more amplified since I started working here.
What do you love most about your job?
In our core work, we are very focused on improving quality of life through technology with a sound business model. I love the people I work with; I have a great team. It’s just overall very rewarding. There’s a clear connection with what I’m doing as a potential to create greater impact, which makes my work really fulfilling.
What are some hopes you have for NextEnergy?
For NextEnergy, I am really excited about the team, their capabilities, and their passion for their work. The ideas about where we can go in the future that they have are awesome. The work we are doing is crafting the future vision of the city and where we can go. For example, the project that you two are doing is a real opportunity to drive greater impact and quality of life. I think we’re positioning ourselves for growth, which is exciting.
What is the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome while working here or in general?
Nonprofit really doesn’t imply anything other than a tax status; it’s very similar to for-profit. It is very difficult to find that niche value proposition to get people to buy in and support your cause. It can be different because particularly in our space, you’re doing good but you’re ultimately benefiting someone. It’s a little bit more challenging than for-profit. It is hard to get the state, which is not a direct beneficiary, to fund and invest in communities. It’s a very indirect benefit exchange.
Why did you choose to live in Detroit/what do you love most about Detroit?
I live in Palmer Woods, which is just about south of Ferndale. Right when we got married in 2009 and were looking for a place to start a family, we just fell in love the with neighborhood and the people. That’s one thing that we just love: our neighbors. I don’t think we would ever leave. I mean, how could we leave this area? Our neighborhood is very strong. Everyone is very committed to the community and to each other. You know your neighbor, and they’re supportive of everyone else’s efforts. They’re always passionate and active in something, whether it be in church or a school. And another thing is that it’s very diverse. I think giving our kids a broader experience and perspective is very important.
What are some things on your bucket list?
I want to learn how to sail. My next two vacation locations that I really want to visit are Croatia and Thailand. I also have places I want to go with my family. There is a lighthouse up in northern Michigan in the middle of the Great Lakes where you can basically be a lighthouse keeper for the night. I also want to take my family on a train trip. My life revolves around family and community, and family always comes first.
What is your life motto?
I don’t know if I have a life motto. I guess it’s always “family first.” For me, the driving element of my life is our relationships with each other. And I’ve been thinking about people a lot in the office. I mean, that’s why we are all here. The purpose of life is fostering our relationships and being supportive of one another. That’s why family and community stand out to me.
What advice would you give to other social entrepreneurs?
When I was younger, I didn’t think about what problem in the world I want to solve or work on, and I wish I thought about that more. I would say it is important to think about what skills you need to participate in social entrepreneurship and see how you can gain those experiences. Try to develop those skills by reaching out and taking up opportunities. And you may not start out as a social entrepreneur on day one, but look for opportunities to gain those insights.
How would you describe social entrepreneurship?
That’s kind of tough. For me, it would be entrepreneurship that places an emphasis on social impact, which can be pretty broadly defined. Sometimes I feel like it’s “what’s old is new again.” Everything is social entrepreneurship now, and maybe it is, maybe there is more interest and activity in businesses doing that and placing that at the forefront. But then, there are always other organizations that have social impact at their core beliefs.