It’s one thing to come up with a creative business idea. It’s another to turn that idea into something meaningful for society.
That’s exactly what Jeremy Jensen, MBA ’13, is doing. He was selected as a fellow for StartingBloc, an incubator that cultivates creative, socially responsible business ideas and provides its fellows with the resources to develop them.
The first step of Jensen’s fellowship is attending the Institute for Social Innovation in New York this summer. The five-day institute is held at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, and draws more than 100 fellows from around the world.
As part of the Institute, the fellows are given a real-world case study. Their task this year is to come up with creative ways to help the city of Buffalo, New York, “avoid becoming the next Detroit or Cleveland,” according to Jensen. His cohort will explore innovative ways to revitalize the troubled city and stop the “brain drain” of recent college graduates.
The second aspect of Jensen’s fellowship is to further his own business idea. He is currently building his own company, GrassrootsGear, an online retail platform for the active lifestyle community. A percentage of every GrassrootsGear purchase will be donated to a cause of the consumer’s choice.
Though GrassrootsGear is still in beta, Jensen hopes to have the site up and running by the end of the year. And the StartingBloc Fellowship will help him do that.
Purpose and Profit
Jensen believes a person's involvement in the world around him falls into one of three categories. In the first, he is cognizant of issues and actively wants to help; in the second, he is mildly familiar with issues but does not know how to get involved. In the third scenario, he is ignorant to the issues or does not care.
Jensen believes that most people fall into categories two and three, and that is “the group that I’m most interested in, and has the most potential for change.”
A native of Salt Lake City, he credits the small class sizes, the collaborative nature of students and faculty, and the quaint campus feel as reasons he came to Kogod. He’s also benefited from Kogod’s close relationship with the School of International Service (SIS).
He attributes his interest in social entrepreneurship to his international experiences. After high school, Jensen traveled for five months through Central and Southeast Asia, and in his twenties he spent time in Eastern and Southern Europe, North Africa, and Latin America.
It was while living in South America that he realized many of the problems he encountered could be solved through business. From that point on, he wanted to be a social entrepreneur. "I get a lot of satisfaction out of growing my ideas," he said.
In addition to the StartingBloc Fellowship, his MBA studies, and his work on GrassrootsGear, Jensen also works for CoFoundersLab, a startup that seeks to help entrepreneurs find the right partner to run a business.
His work there includes research on the various hotspots of entrepreneurship and startup ecosystems around the country, so “I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of a really cool movement going on right now,” he said.