The following post is written by Niranjan Kumar, founder of “MyClo”, a dedicated change agent who strives to support startup entrepreneurs by providing MicroLoans to further their businesses in order to spread more social change in our world!
My time as a social entrepreneur has been an absolutely crazy ride. For starters, I feel still in the beginning stages of my journey, yet I cannot help to think how far I have come. One thing that has really stuck with me throughout this process is reading stories on other entrepreneurs, how they began, and how they set forth goals for their specific enterprise. In my case, I broke the adventure of MyClo, my 1 year old company, into 4 specific emotions: The 4 Cs.
These 4 elements, in that order, were key drivers in my journey of idea to fruition of MyClo. Below is are my reflections on each part, and how they were imperative to starting my social enterprise. I’m hoping this can be useful for others to reflect upon their journey as well!
As a sophomore at UC Berkeley, I saw a Ted Talk by the founder of Kiva, where she discussed her journey of building her social enterprise around microfinance. Really inspired by that financial phenomenon, I later traveled that winter to Honduras as a consultant, where I could see for myself the impact microfinance had on rural communities. While working in the village of Pajarillos, I heard various stories from small businesses who had taken microloans to help expand their enterprises and income. By this time, I was completely fascinated with the tools of financial access. On my flight back, I was truly inspired and wanted to incorporate this into my education. I took a few classes on social entrepreneurship, and really understood the basis of how microfinance is built. I read Portfolios of the Poor, Out of Poverty, and many other books — my curiosity is what made me dive into the subject. I researched companies such as Toms, Warby Parker, and Krotchet Kids and realized that it was possible to build a sustainable organization and help others. From this point, I knew I had to immerse myself and think of different ways to start a company — I just didn’t know exactly how…
Where did I begin? I had already thought of different ways I could incorporate microfinance into a business, but what would be a tangible method to test out my ideas? Was it through fashion? Food? How would I even find the right people to give these loans to?
I had to find someone else who was just as passionate about social entrepreneurship and building something from the ground up. By talking to two professors from my entrepreneurship courses, I was able to get get through my own struggles and find out where I could align my mission and goals. Always interested in the apparel and clothing industry, I decided that I would use fashion as my vehicle of microfinance, supporting people through clothing products we sold. I knew that the story of our company had to be unified and strong, in order for our customer to understand the mission.
Once I knew the general direction of my enterprise, I knew I had to find someone who I could trust to bringalong for the ride. Then into the picture came my good friend Devan Anderson, a brand strategist and marketer, who was just as passionate about creating a product that had the potential to be more than aesthetic wear. With Devan, I found clarity in the vision:The focus of microfinance was there, but we narrowed it down to helping small businesses within the United States. From this, I set up a meeting with a Director of Kiva, Jonny Price, who educated me on their model and how I could potentially use their platform to provide these loans. We decided on the avenue of fashion, with our singular product as a 5 Panel Hat. By having our staple item as a hat, we could focus on marketing this product towards both women and men, with a strong emphasis on our microfinance arm. We wanted to make this hat symbolize a crown, something that made you proud to celebrate entrepreneurship, especially for the people you helped with that purchase.
With this level of clarity, Devan and I founded MyClo in May of 2015. We built an American made Headwear company that supported American Entrepreneurship through every product sold with our non profit partner Kiva. Over the past 10 months, we have given 13 loans to entrepreneurs within the Bay Area and New York City, and spread countless amounts of swagger to our customers who helped us fund these loans. It’s been truly an amazing ride so far, and we both are absolutely looking forward to the future of running our company.
With all this in mind, I’ve realized that this process of the 4 Cs is never ending. As our company has grown, we have been constantly been curious, confused, found clarity, and created. Our iteration process has been through this cycle a countless number of times. The path simply started with this first cycle. Once we realized what worked, it’s been repeating and finding new ways to stay curious, inspired, and create. It’s simply what we do at MyClo.
The best advice I can give to aspiring social entrepreneurs out there is to find your own 4 Cs. There is no handbook or manual on how to create a socially responsible company — it’s up to you to find a cycle that pushes you to question, validate, and create. At MyClo, we know what works for us — but we are always hustling to learn even more!