Monday, September 29, 2008

If it’s Thursday, it must be Dubai?

In order to get the word out about RNSI to potential funders, partners and others, we have adopted a very active public speaking schedule. We will be talking about Rubicon and scaling of social enterprise at a variety of venues and conferences over at conferences all around the world in the next 60 days.

  • Social Capital Conference in San Francisco – “Future of Social Enterprise” (Jonathan) – This is a gathering of 100’s of social investors who we hope will be interested in our work.
  • World Knowledge Forum Korea (Rick) – We have been invited to present the RNSI work at an international gathering of business and government leaders interested in the model that we have created at Rubicon.
  • World Economic Forum Conference Dubai (Rick) – WEF has selected from amongst Schwab Fellows a “social entrepreneur’s council” of the leading social entrepreneurs and Rick has been asked to serve as the Chair of this Council. The first meeting is being hosted jointly by the WEF in Dubai; the goal of the council is to present a proposal to the WEF in Davos in January of a more substantive way for the work of social entrepreneurs to be supported by the business community.
  • Net Impact Conference, Philadelphia – “Scaling of Social Enterprise” (Jonathan) – As reported above, we are co-sponsoring a major national competition with Net Impact and we will be featured at their annual conference in November.
  • Social Entrepreneur Conference France (Rick) – The President of France is sponsoring a gathering of the 50 world leading social entrepreneurs in Evian and we will be presenting our work to the business community interested in ways to scale impact.
  • The Economist Magazine business summit San Francisco (Rick) – We have been asked to be a principal presenter on a panel on social innovation at t he Economist Magazine conference in San Francisco.
  • Time-Fortune Magazine’s CNN conference of “The Principal Voices”: NYC – (Rick) Last year, Time-Fortune and CNN did a special article and show about our work as part of their “Principal Voices” series focusing on new models to end poverty in the world. The magazines are sponsoring a one day gathering of all the selected “principal voices” in New York

Collaboration and Partnerships:

RNSI has been busy on the phone crises-crossing the nation formalizing our local collaborative partnership agreements, including on-site visits to Philadelphia, Newark, and Baltimore to develop local collaborative partnerships throughout the country. We now have commitments from 18 organizations in 14 U.S. Cities to review business ideas with RNSI for potential fit. We are focused on both social enterprise employment models (supportive employment) and social franchise models with these partners.

Rubicon RNSI Open House:

People keep asking us where we are located, and now we have a productive answer – come visit us—October 2nd 4-7 pm We have sent out invitations and are looking forward to seeing friends and Rubicon board and staff members at the October 2nd Open House to share in person an update on the latest RNSI happenings.

Social Enterprise needed more than ever?

Unscathed by the declaration by the Wall Street Journal and Republican pundits of the failure of social enterprise and social mandates (in response to the demise of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), we’ve just been keeping our heads down and aggressively pursuing our work to create nationally scaled social enterprises that we will be able to bring to market and pilot within the next year.

Here is some of our progress over the past three months on the development process:

  • Evaluated eight new “phase I” businesses that entered our pipeline for compatibility and fit with our social enterprise feasibility criteria for phase II. Two of these businesses passed through for phase II analysis and are being evaluated in our pipeline.

  • Completed two complete feasibility analyses for a mattress/bulk item recycling business and a payroll advance business.

  • Developed significant relationships with waste haulers, recyclers, mattress and carpet retailers and other key partners to create competitive advantage within the mattress business

  • Conducted numerous interviews with necessary business partners for the alternative to pay day lending program
  • Leveraging Volunteer Resources To Make Our Workplan Possible:

    We have leveraged a significant amount of pro bono resources in support of our work. We’ve creating four critical partnerships with organizations that believe in our work and which have contributed significant amounts of resources to support our team. Our four key partners are Bain & Co, Net Impact, the design firm IDEO, and our co-tenants in San Francisco, Architecture for Humanity.

    • Managed 3 Net Impact teams: The first phase of our Net Impact partnership is their working with us to find 9 Net Impact business management volunteers to work with us on three critical teams. We focused the three teams on mattress recycling, employer based payroll advances, and deconstruction/waste management services.
    • Bain and Company Brainstorming Sessions: We have had two high engagement meetings with potential partners, industry experts and philanthropic partners facilitated by Bain & Co. Travis Pearson, a partner at the SF Bain office, has been an invaluable and hard working additional member of our team. In preparation for, and at these meetings, Travis brought in other Bain associates and partners with content knowledge in the industries we are examining. This week, we received an additional commitment from the firm of a “virtual team” of Bain associates to work with us.

    Idea Generation Competitions and Gatherings:

    • Architecture for Humanity and our Mattress Recycling Design Competition – We are currently running a national competition online in partnership with Architecture for Humanity to encourage product designers, students, and others interested in innovative ways to improve the environment through finding a re-use of the stuff inside mattresses we all throw away.

    • Discarded Dreams Mattress Competition - Lead Mattress Sponsor: Keetsa Eco Friendly Mattresses - Lead Sponsor: ISPA - Hosted by Rubicon National Social Innovations and Architecture for Humanity

    • IDEO, the award winning national design and planning firm, has been brought on board to facilitate a pro bono brainstorming session focused on “the next big social enterprise” and we’ve invited 50 folks from the social entrepreneurial and business community to help us think through some new ideas.

    • The Net Impact/Rubicon “Next Big Social Enterprise” Challenge invited 10,000 Net Impact members to submit their ideas and expand on others in an online competition focused on RNSI’s national scaling strategy. Results and further brainstorming will be reported out at the Net Impact National Conference in Philadelphia by RNSI staff.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Interview with Joe Alexander from Keetsa Mattress

    Joe Alexander is Director of Sales and Marketing for Keetsa Mattress here in San Francisco. Keetsa is a leading manufacturer of green mattress and bedding products, using recycled and sustainable materials to produce high quality bedding for its customers. Keetsa is the bedding sponsor for the Discarded Dreams Mattress Recycling Competition, cohosted by RNSI. Jonathan Harrison, Director of RNSI, posed the following questions to Joe:

    1. The mattress industry has a bad reputation for confusing pricing structures, deceptive sales tactics, and renovated product that is sometimes passed off as new. Is that reputation deserved?
    I would have to say, in my experience, it is an earned reputation. Before the advent and accessibility of the internet, customers were subject to the marketing of the mattress giants. Shopping for a mattress was similar to the process of buying a car. In the "old days", you would go from dealership to dealership, listening to salespeople, collecting brochures and getting pressured to buy now. When the internet gave customers the ability to research, price and compare, it changed the landscape. The same thing is now happening for mattresses. Customers are now coming into the market informed, asking the right questions. Because of this, the old sales tactics many companies rely on are now accounting for a rise of alternative bedding companies. It's why you see so many of the major mattress manufacturers suffering in this economy and many alternative companies thriving. Mattresses are a perceived need. Good or bad economy, people still need mattresses. And if you give the consumer respect for being intelligent and savvy, if you give them value, they will buy.

    2. Your company is pretty green in the scheme of things? But what are you doing that is different from other mattress companies?
    What we are doing is pretty radical from most mattress stores. We do not spend tons of money on radio and TV. We don't blanket newspapers with ads. We live off word of mouth and the internet. This helps us keep our pricing affordable. In respect to being green, we are constantly challenging ourselves by searching for new innovations. We have lots of customers who cannot afford latex or are allergic to it. We make a healthy version of memory foam. In fact, we just pioneered the world's first castor oil foam. We replace over 10% of the oil with castor oil, a natural plant oil, for lower dependency and reduced VOC. We are also about to unveil our first natural latex mattress with organic cotton and wool. By packaging our mattresses in boxes that can fit in your car, we are able to send customers home in their car, taxi or BART with a new mattress.

    3. Keetsa is growing fast. This might present a few challenges in your day . . . what keeps you up at night?
    First, I am daily innundated with emails from customers, potential customers and inquiries from media. It amazes me how passionate people are about their mattress! But the one thing that keeps me up at night are the people who attack us. When you are on the forefront of change you are a target. I work very hard with our staff to educate customers about how our mattresses are different from other mattresses. And yet, to some people, it is not enough. Fortunately though, you are right, we are growing very fast. We make a great mattress for a great price.

    4. What is Keetsa going to look like in 10 years?
    In the year 2019 we will have flying mattresses! No, just kidding. Actually, if all goes according to plan, Keetsa will be a household name in ten years. I personally would like to see us making 100% biodegradable mattresses that last 25-50 years. That way waste and disposal are things of the past when it comes to mattresses. These are some of our goals.

    5. Tell us the story about a customer experience that made you proud?
    Our staff works tirelessly to make our customers happy. I try to remind them all the time that you never know the circumstances of why someone is shopping for a mattress. A young lady came into the store the other day and fell in love with our mattresses. She was distraught because she had been to some big retailers and could not afford a mattress. Her family came back an hour later and bought the mattress for her. It seems her husband of 5 months had run off with another woman and took all the furniture. She was so grateful for her new mattress!

    6. Why is reducing your companies' carbon footprint so personally important to you as an manager?
    As an avid surfer and runner, I enjoy the outdoors. Before Keetsa I had lived in Hawaii for two years and Tahoe for a winter. We have such an amazing planet! I want my three kids to be able to enjoy this place long after I am gone. With Keetsa, I get to contribute on a daily basis.