Rollins College

Opportunity Knocks: Can You Hear It?

Have you ever heard opportunity knock? Are you aware it knocks in large and small ways every day?

I was banging on the door of an organization for about 6 months. Nothing happened. I couldn't even get an email returned. Although I was frustrated, I kept knocking (literally emailing and calling). Oh, and let's not forget social media; I reached out through LinkedIn to several connections. But, to no avail.

As I began what I dubbed #theSpontaneousJourney I sat in Alabama. Visiting a friend, working on my writing assignments, and just relaxing. After all, there isn't much to do as far as networking opportunities in this part of Alabama. Suddenly, I saw a post on social media for an opportunity to attend an event with this organization in Nashville. That just happened to be my next stop on #theSpontaneousJourney and I would be there at the time of this event! How fortuitous.

As I eagerly awaited the day in Nashville I made sure I cleared my calendar for the day after to follow up with any good leads. During the evening of the event, I made a few good connections.

One connection led to a meeting, a story, and then a bigger opportunity. I will be going to Costa Rica to cover a very cool story with another organization next month!

I used airbnb to travel and heard opportunity knock in small ways, too. I spent a few nights with five college students from Brazil and the UK. Two of them missed their dogs and the companionship a dog provides. Because I was traveling with my dog they had the chance to play with mine. The smile that put on their faces was priceless.

I spent the night in the home of someone that housed a foster child. She and I had several hours to talk. I was able to answer "opportunity" by feeding hope into this young life through the conversations we had. She thanked me by bringing me a homemade treat from a celebration she had with friends. That small gesture showed me I impacted her life in a small way just by being available.

Although I am back home, I wouldn't say #theSpontaneousJourney has ended yet. Opportunity knocked several times while on the road. The results of me recognizing when opportunity was knocking are still playing out.

Whether opportunity knocks in a big way such as going to another country to cover a story or in a small way such as spending a few nights in the same house with a foster child and feeding hope into their lives through conversation, opportunity knocks daily. Are you listening for it? Will you answer the door? Are you willing to take the "risk"?

Because I used airbnb to travel, I met people from all over the world with diverse backgrounds. I stayed with yoga instructors, world travelers, songwriters, foster children, project managers, salespeople, and so many others. Where can you connect with so many types of people. I have stories to tell for years to come. And, I had opportunities I would never have had sitting on my couch at home.

It's worth it to take risks. Take a leap of faith and open the door to opportunity. I encourage you to recognize opportunity, answer its knock, and take your own journey. It won't look anything like mine because it's yours. Go on, answer the door. Opportunity is knocking.





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.