Social Enterprise Greenhouse CEO resigns
Ramirez said she and the SEG board are still planning a long timeline for her transition, but the next leader is likely to arrive in 2022. Her acquaintances at a private-sector company that has an international footprint.
“I plan to stay in Rhode Island – I have school-aged children,” she said. “But the silver lining of the pandemic is that the world has become more connected.”
The board will launch a national search for its next CEO in the coming weeks with the hope of filling the position before the end of this year.
Ramirez previously led the Social Enterprise Initiative at the William Davidson Institute and served as a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. After moving to Rhode Island, she discovered the Rhode Island chapter of Social Venture Partners. She found it was possible to rethink her mission and took on a group of people to build SEG. In 2009 they held a one-day conference at Bryant University and over 350 people showed up.
“When I came [to Rhode Island] and started meeting people, I was blown away by the number of social entrepreneurs based here, but doing work that had national and global impact,” Ramirez said. “I thought there was a lot going on in this little state. What if we brought this community together?
But creating that pipeline has proven difficult, she explained.
“Most people didn’t know what social enterprise was,” she says. “I was getting questions like ‘Is it Facebook or Twitter?’ “Is this socialism? There was this perception that these were not ‘real businesses’, but ‘tree type businesses’. So we had to create a lot of partnerships and awareness.
Thirteen years later, she said many companies are thinking about their impact on the community, reducing barriers and giving back. “It’s almost part of the DNA of many businesses and entrepreneurs here,” she said.
Since SEG’s inception in 2009, its programs and services, which range from consulting and talent matching to loan financing and micro-grants, have served more than 1,800 businesses. And more than 450 people volunteered during this period by offering business coaching services for free or by sharing their network with new startups. Since late 2014, it has made investments in communities where access to business support organizations has historically been less. Nearly 60% of businesses that go through SEG are owned by women, and over the past three years, the nonprofit has increased the percentage of BIPOC-owned businesses in its programming from less than 20% to nearly half.
They opened hubs at The Rail on the Pawtucket-Central Falls line and at Innovate Newport – two collaborative work environments – while offering support services from a center on Manton Avenue in Providence.
The nonprofit’s best-known services include their Incubator program, which guides entrepreneurs through the basics of launching a social enterprise, and its Impact Accelerator, which provides business coaching and fundraising resources. of funds. Well-known graduates include the founders of Kerly Girl, 15 Minute Field Trips, Roots 2 Empower, among others.
Ramirez has taught social entrepreneurship at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College, Salve Regina, and Brown University Leadership Institute. She has consulted and worked on projects for organizations such as Aid to Artisans, Ford Foundation, European Commission, USAID, US State Department and Roche. She also worked as a political analyst for the US State Department’s Foreign Service and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia.
In May 2021, Vice President Harris visited the Social Enterprise Greenhouse to hear from small business owners about how they are making a difference in their communities and to learn how new federal programs can help put people to work. For the “Social Impact Pitch Event,” Ramirez introduced Kamala to the founders of rising startups.
“You have given us all hope. The struggle is real, but your innovation, your hope and your perseverance have inspired me,” Harris told Entrepreneurs at the time.
Ramirez said SEG has shared its strategy in other communities outside of the Ocean State, but said the nonprofit remains committed to “going deep into Rhode Island.”
“I have worked in social enterprise for over 20 years. What SEG has built in Rhode Island is one of the strongest social enterprise communities nationally, and perhaps even globally,” Ramirez said. For its next leader, she advises: “Like any CEO or executive director, I do a lot of fundraising and strategy work. I love it all, but you can’t lose sight of the “why”. Do not lose sight of the mission.
“I really think social enterprises are one of the only ways to solve the world’s many, many problems,” she said.