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The Business of Giving

Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business, from the Gates Foundation to your donation. A fresh look at the economy of good intentions.

October 7, 2009 at 2:58 PM

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Young entrepreneurs make social change their business

Posted by Kristi Heim

Seattle is building a reputation for using business to serve humanity. That kind of work used to be called "giving back." But for many young entrepreneurs, it's essential to their careers from the beginning.

Last year Nandie Oosthuizen, 19, founded Hand & Heart, a non-profit that funds an orphanage for kids affected by AIDS in her native South Africa. Before that she started a campaign at Bishop Blanchet High School to raise money and awareness about the crisis in Darfur. Now studying business and sociology at the University of Washington, she calls herself a change maker, social entrepreneur and youth philanthropist.

Oosthuizen is one of dozens of young entrepreneurs supported by Youth Venture, an organization that encourages people as young as 12 to use their creativity and passion to take on important social issues.

Since its start in Seattle in late 2007, Youth Venture Seattle has helped more than 30 student teams get up and running, some for more than a year now. They have each created projects around solving some kind of problem, from lack of clean water to sex trafficking to a community center focused on science and technology. Started by Ashoka, the global network for social entrepreneurs, Youth Venture helps the teams form a business plan, raise seed funds and launch their own enterprise.


Members of a group called American Youth for Equal Educational Opportunities in Bellevue collect school supplies for needy students with the help of Youth Venture.

Both Hand & Heart and Youth Venture will be represented tomorrow evening, along with the Vittana and Jolkona foundations, at a forum on social entrepreneurship sponsored by the World Affairs Council's Young Professionals International Network (YPIN). The forum starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Microsoft Auditorium in the Seattle Central Library.

Participants, including Jolkona co-founders Adnan Mahmud and Nadia Eleza Khawaja and Vittana co-founder and CEO Kushal Chakrabarti, will share stories about what inspired them, the challenges they have faced and advice for others interested in starting a social enterprise.

Says Jack Knellinger, director of Youth Venture in Seattle:
"Having a room full of young people share their experiences and what they see in the world in terms of what they want to accomplish... opens up the minds of all of our youth."

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