Central Florida

Global Links

Two Tupperware executives, Rick Goings and Elinor Steele, visited Iraq in 2011 as part of a Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability. While there, they realized Iraq lacked a small and medium enterprise (SME) sector and a robust entrepreneurial class. Women suffer from this the most; they have the highest unemployment, greater barriers to credit, and weak labor laws. Despite the fact that Iraq is poised to experience double-digit growth in the coming years, women must be a part of this growth for the greatest impact.

These realizations sparked a collaborative effort between Tupperware Brands, Rollins College, and the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. It’s awe-inspiring to think a local, Central Florida company and a small, local college can make a global impact! The result is the Global Links Scholar program.

This partnership invites a female professor from Iraq, hosted by Rollins College, to come and learn skills in five key areas: career, culture, curriculum, community, and coaching through a train-the-trainer model. Ultimately, this opportunity provides the professor with the skills for her to return to Iraq and teach and empower other women to contribute to the future of their country.

The inaugural Global Links Scholar, Dr. Amel Abed Mohammed Ali, was selected and arrived on the campus of Rollins College in January 2012, one short year after Rick and Elinor traveled to Iraq. Dr. Ali is an accomplished researcher, focused primarily on change management and thought leadership. Tupperware Brands and Rollins College provides a perfect fit for this highly accomplished professor. During her Global Links experience she participated in a specially-designed graduate level curriculum that focused on entrepreneurship (both traditional and social, notably Rollins College is an Ashoka designated campus), women business ownership, and financial self-sufficiency. During her externship at Tupperware Brands, Dr. Ali learned the fundamentals of sales, strategic planning, market analysis, and general management skills.

Dr. Ali shares the Global Links program will enable her to “develop both the intellectual and economic standard of Iraqi women as well as the Iraqi community”

In 2013, Dr. Ali returned home to teach students the skills she learned through the Global Links program. And, a partnership was formed with Women for Women International (WfWI). Through these developments a career center was formed and social entrepreneurship classes are offered. The students who are part of this program are learning the importance of social entrepreneurship and community engagement. After completing the coursework, the students are eligible to apply for a two-week immersion program at Rollins College. The first group of students spent time with Rollins students in relevant seminars on social entrepreneurship and participated with local community organizations to develop leadership skills.

Over the next five years the goal is to replicate the program, leveraging these lessons on a global level.

Follow the progress of the Global Links Program on their Facebook page.

Ron Ben-Zeev: Shaking the Entrepreneur Ecosystem in Orlando

Ron Ben-Zeev noticed there weren’t many resources in Orlando in 2010 for entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, Ron describes himself as a “find a need and fill it kind of person”. There was certainly a need and he knew there were other entrepreneurs in the community that had the same need of resources. Let me digress by sharing how Ron became an entrepreneur then we’ll fast-forward to seeing how this journey allows Ron to see the needs of the Central Florida community in 2010. Without his background, he would not have been able to be a part of the thought leaders that brought an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to Orlando.

 Ron began his entrepreneurial journey as a 13 year-old boy in France. During Labor Day (May Day in France), the beautiful, exotic Lily of the Valley is used in celebration. As a young boy riding his bike through the countryside, he found a field of Lily of the Valley flowers; Labor Day was the following week. Preparedness met opportunity. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. Ron picked many of the lilies, sold them at 100% profit, and caught the entrepreneur bug.

 During Ron’s first trip to the United States with his parents, he noticed the Sony Walkman trend. Seeing the Panasonic product that was its competitor, Ron made calls, negotiated a contract, and shipped Panasonic’s product to Switzerland. Bringing this product to a new market, Ron, although young, became an accomplished entrepreneur.

 Ron recalls his days as a student at Wharton School of Business. Back in the 80’s “not many studied  entrepreneurship”; he did. However, as a foreign student, Ron wasn’t able to get a job other than on campus and there were no jobs available. Once again, Ron found himself creating his own job. As a “find a need and fill it kind of person” Ron always found a way to make money. Upon graduation, he interviewed with a company and was chosen among the top candidates; but, the only one without a Master’s Degree. As they offered Ron the position, he asked the hiring team why they would choose him. Their answer became Ron’s defining moment. They replied, “We want you because you don’t know it can’t be done; therefore, you’ll find a way to get it done.” Today Ron still finds a way to get it done.

 One of Ron’s pet peeves is people who sit on their idea and never act. He quips, “Ideation without execution is just an hallucination.”

 Ron spent some time in corporate America as an intrapreneur (before the word was even coined). He attacked silos, met resistance, but found solutions. His philosophy during his tenure in corporate America was to be pragmatic and “get shit done”.

 He has certainly been a part of “getting shit done” here in Central Florida. Today Orlando has a Women’s Business Incubator, 3 co-working spaces, 1 Million Cups, Starter Studio, Startup Weekend, and is also Rollins College first entrepreneur-in-residence. Ron has played an integral role in 1MC, Startup Weekend, and Rollins College’s Entrepreneurship initiatives. There are certainly other resources in Orlando; these are just a few.. But, one thing Ron realizes is “it takes a village” and he credits several other entrepreneurs for championing this movement to bring some “big city resources” here for entrepreneurs. I have watched Ron over the last couple of years in several settings; Ron has always given credit to the “village” of people who have come alongside to bring all these resources and events to Orlando.

 Ron says he sits somewhere in the middle between a 4-hour workweek and a 12-hour day philosophy. Although an entrepreneur’s brain never shuts off, Ron knows that family and finding time to give back are important. He says the secret to his ability to be noticed by the Kauffman Foundation (sponsor of 1 Million Cups), Rollins College where he resides as an entrepreneur-in-residence, and sitting on Wharton’s IGEL Board is to give first. When you give and ask “where can I help”, opportunity comes back to you. Orlando’s startup community is competitive, yet supportive and willing to help, Ron says. As a fellow resident and entrepreneur in Orlando, I couldn’t agree more.

Ron currently is founder and co-founder of several early stage startups. He also sits on the board of directors of a for profit and a non-profit in town.  I’m sure we’ll see more from this innovative entrepreneur who “gets shit done” and fills the needs he finds.


    The Big News in Philanthropy Across Central Florida

    Central Florida has a vibrant nonprofit community, and there is always something to share. However, three things have recently happened in Central Florida that are newsworthy in the nonprofit sector because they impact the sector-at-large. I’d like to highlight them briefly here.


    First, the P. Due to the Edyth Bush Foundation’s continued generosity for 15 years to the Center, the Philanthropy and  Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC) has changed it’s name to the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. More than 2,000 nonprofit leaders from over 200 members utilize the courses and other resources each year. Since the Center serves so many they are truly a “cornerstone” in Central Florida’s nonprofit community. Margaret Linnane still serves as the Executive Director. Under her guidance, the list of programs continues to grow. Central Florida is truly fortunate to have a resource as comprehensive as the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.


    Homelessness continues to be the hottest topic among the nonprofit community. And, Andrae Bailey, CEO of theCentral Florida Commission on Homelessness, made waves when Cardboard Stories, the media campaign went viral. Cardboard Stories was seen along I-4 billboards, on the news feed of many Facebook profiles, and received local press. Because of his effective and persistent action to shed light on the issue of homelessness, Andrae was awarded runner up as Central Floridian of the Year. His activism has put him and the Commission in the spotlight, garnering the support of politicians and other organizations. Many organizations are coming together in a collaborative effort to implement an effective model to reduce homelessness.


    Third, Charity Magazine  is now in it’s second year highlighting the news, stories, and organizations that are making a difference in Central Florida. Eric English, Editor, has gone from publishing an inaugural issue in 2014 to a quarterly issue in print this year. Two columns to look forward to are written by Mark Brewer and Kaia Forget for the pulse of philanthropy.

    Hidden Inside a Hug

    Near the Mills 50 District a hidden gem is being constructed. This hidden gem, a custom home, designed and built by Silliman Homes Cityside, will be finished in October 2015. Why is this hidden gem more noteworthy than the other homes they build?

    This 2,594 square foot home, House of Hugs, is being sold at market value and the proceeds are being donated to three of Orlando’s charities: Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Florida Hospital for Children, and the Greater Orlando Builders Association’s (GOBA) Foundation. These three charities depend on philanthropic donations. Florida Hospital for Children states one out of every two children who need care in the community are served at the Hospital. The Boys and Girls Club serves nearly 13,000 children in Central Florida each year. GOBA Foundation has given more than $1Million to youth related charities and scholarship funds throughout Central Florida. The fundraising efforts of these organizations obviously touch the lives of many in our community.

    Lives of our friends and neighbors are touched by these organizations and will benefit from the “House of Hugs”.

    The recent groundbreaking was attended by Gary Cain, President of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Dick Batchelor, Board Chair of Florida Hospital for Children, Marla Silliman, Senior Executive Officer of Florida Hospital for Children, Eric English, Publisher of Charity Magazine, and other community leaders.

    Silliman Homes Cityside is grateful for the support of its contractors and United Legacy Bank. Without their support the construction would not be possible. Hidden within the Mills 50 District is a home that will welcome a new family. In addition, this House of Hugs will serve the youth of our community at-large through the proceeds of the sale.

    “Silliman Homes CitySide is doing good in our local community. Thanks to their ‘House of Hugs’ project, we will have the ability to continue providing over 3 million hours of service and support in the areas of academic success, good character & citizenship and healthy lifestyles for the more than 13,000 young people we serve annually,” said Gary Cain, president & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. “We are grateful for this opportunity and thank everyone behind this project for making children a top priority.”
    “Bill Silliman has been a champion of Florida Hospital for Children for many years and we are thrilled with the announcement of his new gift through the House of Hugs. Combining his great talent as a home builder to support one of his favorite charities really is a winning formula. Bill has a deep passion for not only building homes, but building community. It is heartwarming to think that the home owner will not only get a well-built home, but also the special added benefit of knowing their home helped support children’s care at Florida Hospital. Bill really has a heart of gold and the children and families we serve are blessed by his generosity.“ David Collis, FL Hospital Foundation


    Entrepreneurs: Learn, Exchange, and Unite

    The vibe in the room was electric as the kickoff event opened in Orlando for Global Entrepreneurship Week on November 17, 2014!  Orlando’s The Big Exchange helped bring Global Entrepreneurship Week, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, to Orlando. Global Entrepreneurship Week was announced as an idea in 2007. By 2008, 77 countries and over 3 million participated in the week-long unconference consisting of over 25,000 activities. This is truly a worldwide movement. In Orlando, entrepreneurs spoke, shared, collaborated, taught, learned, and networked. From the feedback and the “Tweet Wall”, we believe everyone that participated was inspired to further action and found the workshops beneficial. Each day workshops and mentoring “open office hours” were offered. There were several networking opportunities, too. This week could not have been successful without the support of the sponsors, the Root Radius team handling the logistics, and the many entrepreneurs that volunteered their time and talent to attend and assist with the power-packed schedule of events. Orlando’s entrepreneurial community really showed their collaborative spirit and their desire to help others succeed. If you are a Thinker, Maker, Artist, or Educator we hope you’ll join us next year.

    The First Annual Philanthropy Day for Lake County

    The First Annual Philanthropy Day for Lake County was hosted by the Community Foundation of South Lake. Over 100 people were in attendance.

    The day began with an inspiring speech from Renaut Van Der Reit, CEO of Axum Coffee and Founding Pastor of Mosaic Church. Renaut shared how his vision for Axum Coffee was to be different; being a social enterprise allowed them to unapologetically make money to fund justice and mercy projects. Renaut inspired the audience with several profound quotes.

    “If you are not driven by a deep desire of passion you won’t sustain what you are doing.”

    “You can make money for greed or to change the world”

    Once you’ve broken boundaries once you realize they weren’t really boundaries. Someone convinced you it’s a line you can’t cross.”

    Renaut believes that in the nonprofit sector you are limited by resources and access. Just because your resources don’t align with those options on the table doesn’t mean you are limited. It means you need to be free to think outside the box and be free to fail, a message he gives his staff often. Your access is only limited by your relational access. Relationships create access. He allows his staff to fail so they can learn, grow, and succeed. The final thought he shared with the audience is that “your passion point must remain central”.

    After the audience was inspired with these profound thoughts, they were sent to the breakout sessions offered in a track for CEOs and one for Development staff. Speakers for the CEO track were Royce Gomez on a nimble strategic plan, Stephanie Krick on social entrepreneurship, and Gary Cain sharing how to assess our strengths and weaknesses. Each speaker gave relevant, real life examples and even shared some of their personal learning experiences. The Development track speakers were Todd Roupp on data collection, Vanessa Lopez-Littleton on measurable outcomes, and Susan Kelly on strategic planning.

    The evening closed with an Awards Banquet and a Keynote Address by Pat Burke, Founder of HOOPS Life. His message to the audience was investing your time and talents in young people can change the course of their life in a positive direction.

    Bryan Williams, the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of South Lake, shared that there are approximately 1,000 nonprofit organizations in Lake County. In 2012 $107M was given to charity. From that figure 47% goes to religious and educational institutions leaving an average of $53,000 per year given to organizations like the nonprofits in attendance. This gives you a brief perspective on the philanthropic picture in Lake County, Florida. This will become an annual event; the staff look forward to planning an amazing lineup again next year.

    Financial Empowerment Through Shopping

    Bajalia, changing the world while shopping the world. Simple tagline, right? But, what exactly is Bajalia? Debbie Farah, founder of Bajalia, believes that financially empowering women brings freedom. As a child Debbie watched women stay oppressed by not having access to their own money. She realized by the time she was a teenager that she didn’t want to choose that life. She pursued a career and empowered herself financially. Bajalia was birthed from Debbie’s personal experience. Now Debbie through a social enterprise business model, Bajalia, empowers women around the world by using fair trade, training, and community development to alleviate poverty, educates girls, and empowers artisans as they improve their lives.

    Bajalia offers women advance payment, assistance to purchase equipment, and training to teach the women how to establish a sustainable income that will support their families long-term. One of the most important things Bajalia does to help these women grow their businesses to a sustainable level is provide marketing channels to share their stories. Debbie has effectively used her corporate training to partner with HSN, international governments, and Business Council for Peace to maximize the effectiveness of their work to provide assistance to the artisans to provide a sustainable living wage for their families.

    Some of the causes that are impacted by Bajalia’s mission is human trafficking, community transformation, AIDS, and helping the disabled. A fair living wage, non-exploitive working conditions, and using eco-friendly products are focal points to be successful in the communities they enter. Bajalia is currently in over 15 countries.

    The impact Debbie’s vision has made on women around the world would make me proud to be a part of her small, but mighty team. Empowering women is an integral part of maintaining a healthy community. Debbie’s vision is coming home; she is working to use the same business model to help women in our local community. If you’d like to be a part of this by partnering with Bajalia, please contact Debbie. Perhaps you’d just like to follow the artisans’ stories, follow Bajalia on social media.

    Trends in Philanthropy…. Right Here in Central Florida

    August 28, 2014/in Community Impact /by Royce Gomez

    What an event Trends in Philanthropy was last week! The sponsors couldn’t have organized a better lineup of speakers. First, we heard from Shawn Seipler, Founder of Clean the World (CTW). CTW has earned the first B-corp designation in Florida. Shawn spent time sharing his business model, his vision, and the new programs he is launching.

    Next, we heard inspiration from Ben Hoyer, Founder of Downtown Credo. Ben shared how a conversation with a friend ignited a spark of an idea which began a journey to visit coffee farmers in a remote region of Guatemala. Today this journey allows us in the community to drink coffee while giving back.

    Finally, Bahiyyah Maroon from Eripio Institute spoke. Bahiyyah is a wealth of knowledge and shares her knowledge as a professor at Rollins College, contributing her knowledge to the Social Entrepreneur students. She shared how the nonprofit sector is the third sector embracing innovation, social transformation, and inspiration. Bahiyyah explained how understanding and digging deeper into your fiscal proxies will help tell your story more fully.

    Mark Brewer from the http://cffound.org/Community Foundation always presents a program that gives us inspiration, education, and so much more!

    Go forward…Re-energized

    Losing your job, moving to a new community, or having your hours cut back can have a big impact on your life and your financial well-being.  Many people feel alone in their search, but they don’t have to.  For over 20 years, Christian HELP has been working in the community to connect people with jobs (over 97,000 and counting) and helping to prevent hunger through a full service food pantry that goes beyond the classic canned foods and cereal to stock fresh fruits and vegetables as well as some meat and dairy. Their pantry gave out over 1.4M pounds of food last year alone! As a former recipient, I can share that they provide prayer, a sincere desire to make you feel good, and a week’s worth of food for your family. You never feel like a second rate person while you are served at the pantry. I have seen people that have been asked if anyone has a birthday that week, and they are sent home with a cake to celebrate the birthday! How special is that?!

    The other really cool (can I say cool?) program at Christian Help is Central Florida Jobs Initiative (CFJI). This program takes job seekers through 6 free (yes, free) classes to prepare and aid them in getting back to work. They teach how to write a resume and cover letter, interviewing skills, successful onboarding, and more. It’s truly amazing! I have had the pleasure of working near this program and being involved in several ways. It is truly a pleasure to share your enthusiasm and have gifted facilitators volunteer their time to come in and lead a class, perform a mock interview to benefit someone in getting back to work, and read the success stories.

    If you, like many I have found in Central Florida, are not familiar with all the services Christian Help provides and the recognition they’ve received, you need to attend a “Come and See”. You will be impressed and wonder why you’ve never been involved.


    Follow their page on facebook at http://facebook.com/ChristianHELP or Twitter at @Christian_HELP

    Volunteer opportunities can be found at http://christianhelp.org

    I Believe….It’s a Choice

    “There are people in this world who say – ‘someone should do something about that!’ I decided to take action and be that person who makes a difference,” Marc says.

    Marc Mero has an incredible mission to empower people to make positive choices! Through the nonprofit organization he founded, Champion of Choices, his personal story of tragedy and triumph is impacting lives in Central Florida and worldwide.  A glimpse of Marc’s past will give you insights into why he’s so passionate about his mission.

    Marc was raised in a poverty-stricken area of New York with a loving mother and father and several siblings. However, when Marc was eight his world was turned upside-down. He came home from school one day to find his father packing; his mom and dad decided to divorce.

    Marc lost daily contact with his best friend, his dad. Marc found himself determined to focus on the goals he wrote down.  He wanted a better life.  Marc worked hard to achieve success in hockey, football, and boxing.  Marc was about to become a professional boxer but broke his nose and could not participate in contact sports for a year.

    During that year, Marc had time on his hands. Too much time.  Drugs, alcohol, and parties became the norm for Marc. He worked construction during the day and partied at night.  One year turned to two, two turned into four, and before Marc knew it, life was passing him by.  The dreams he once pursued were now set aside – until one day he saw wrestling on TV and got an “ah ha” moment saying: “I can DO that!”

    Wrestling is where Marc found his biggest success. Money, fame, travel, Rookie of the Year, THE LIFE!  Dreams were coming true for this young man.  Marc traveled the WCW and WWE Circuits, gaining the success he longed for.  He bought a Cadillac, speedboat, and a house for his mom (all goals he had written down as a child!). 

    His sister Andrea was about to start her dream job and had a routine physical. The results found something unexpected – cancer.  Suddenly, Andrea was fighting for her life; Marc lost his sister at age 21.  The tragedies continued… While on Tour in Japan, Marc received a startling phone call: “Your Mother died!”  Two weeks later, Marc’s 21-year-old brother, Guy, died when he fell and hit his head.

    Marc lost his sister, mother, and brother; and sadly, Marc’s father tragically died in his arms after years of cigarette smoking. Money, fame, and success couldn’t replace his family.  On top of this, Marc lost more than 30 friends – mostly due to drugs and negative lifestyle choices.  Marc knows his name could have been on the “Death List.”

    “There are people in this world who say – ‘someone should do something about that!’ I decided to take action and be that person who makes a difference,” Marc says.  Marc discovered a new purpose and he lives each day to the fullest, sharing his message at schools, churches, and corporations.  

    The “Champion of Choices” presentation brings to the theatrical stage Marc’s roller coaster journey of life, sharing snapshots of his family, his career, his successes, and his great losses – all with the goal of helping people make positive choices – find hope and purpose, to set goals, and achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.  Lives are definitely being saved and changed!

    To learn of partnership opportunities, support Champion of Choices with a tax-deductible donation, or to schedule Marc Mero for your next inspirational presentation, visit www.ThinkPOZ.org  

    Marc invites you to attend an upcoming prensentaton at The Venue Church @ Lake Brantley High School Auditorium – April 27 at 10 AM – visit www.thinkpoz.org/event/venue-church-lake-brantley-high-school for more info

    It’s Not Just About Tomato Soup!

    Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (Second Harvest) is a member of Feeding America, a network of foodbanks across the country. Each day they provide 80,000 meals in the Central Florida five county region; each week more than 55,000 people are served through Second Harvest and their partnership with over 550 other non-profit agencies. On Wednesday BJ’s Wholesale Club took time away from their annual conference to do a service project for Second Harvest. When I met up with Sasha, Development Director for Second Harvest, she shared with me a story:

    During Sasha’s first week at Second Harvest she met a client, a single mother with twin five year old boys. This mother came to get food. She shared with Sasha that even though she had a job she didn’t make enough to feed the kids until her next pay check. This mother would go into fast food restaurants and steal catsup packets. She would take them home, empty them into a pan, and add water. This single mother of two told her boys they were having tomato soup for dinner. Sasha’s heart broke; she knew she found an organization that she wanted to be a part of, an organization that made a difference in the lives of many each and every day.

    Second Harvest has an increase in demand as the school year ends and summer begins. Kids that would normally get free meals at school will miss many meals during the summer. In Central Florida one in four kids will go hungry; there are some pockets where it’s as high as one in three kids. The solution: High Five Packs! This is where BJ’s and the service project enters in. BJ’s was challenged to beat a former record for packaging the High Five Packs. These packs consist of nonperishable items that don’t need a stove, can opener, refrigeration, or the help of an adult to open. The 400 plus BJ’s employees, largely General Managers and Corporate Executives, were challenged to put together 21,000 High Five Packs in two hours!! What a challenge! (The former record was achieved by 1400 Kohl’s employees packaging 20,000 High Five Packs.) This meets the need of almost ⅓ of the annual need for Second Harvest. What an impact two hours can make on the lives of hungry children in our community!

    BJ’s operates in 15 states, and likes to give back in the areas of hunger, education, self-sufficiency, and health care. Their spokesperson shared that several years ago the employees noticed the waste of perfectly good food being thrown out, and they brought this to the attention of the Executives. Policies were changed to allow BJ’s to give food to Feeding America Food Banks. In the two and a half years since they made the change to their policies they have given 18 Million pounds of food away! This not only allows many people in the markets they serve to have a meal that would otherwise go hungry; but, also allows them to pass on the cost savings to their members because they no longer pay to have all of the food hauled away as waste. The COO said the idea behind a service project during their annual conference is to “show their employees how easy it is to get involved in the community. Most people think it’s more involved and requires more effort than it does”. Once they see how easy it is to make a difference, his hope is that they go back home and get involved in making a difference in their local communities. Sasha from Second Harvest says, “I love working with energetic people that want to make a difference. People are good and want to do good”. And remember, it’s not just about tomato soup; it’s about the hungry child you’ve passed by today.

    Charity Magazine covered this event at Swan and Dolphin on Wednesday, April 2 2014.