"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" These words from Mary Oliver never fail to inspire me. When I think of my favourite responses to that question, the stories behind the following entrepreneurs would top the list:
1. Jenny Dawson (@rubiesinrubble)
In the winter of 2010, Dawson started casually reading about the global food industry and the issues of food waste. She couldn't believe the extent of or logic behind food wastefulness (Western countries create up to 300 per cent more food than is actually needed, while one billion people suffer from malnutrition).
She started Rubies in the Rubble, a social venture that makes edible products from surplus fruit and vegetables while providing employment to those that need help getting back into work.
I love the concept behind the name Rubies in the Rubble, which she describes here as "the innate beauty in everything, and bringing value back to hidden or missed things".
2. Ben Keene (@benkeene)
It began as an ecotourism startup project where Keene rented an island in Fiji for five years to support sustainable community development (with 2000 others - this was crowdfunding before it became a thing). The adventure became this fantastic (highly recommended) book and the subject of a BBC series.
Now Tribewanted has spread to Papua New Guinea, Umbria, Bali, and Sierra Leone.
Keene is also an advisor for Virgin Startup, part of THNK - a creative leadership school in Amsterdam, works with Escape the City, and has worked with Right to Dream. The Guardian only confirmed a long-held view of mine: "Ben has something of Richard Branson's boundless, relentless enthusiasm." You can read more about Ben on his personal site here.
3. Pippa Murray (@PippaPot)
While training for marathons, Murray often found herself eating peanut butter straight from the jar. When she examined the ingredients, she saw that most supermarket brands were full with either palm oil and sugar, while the healthy ones were just a tad too healthy looking.
Pip entered her concept for Pip & Nut, an all-natural nut butter brand, into a competition ('Escape to the Shed', run by Escape the City). It meant that she could leave her job as a Producer at the Science Museum and spend three rent-free months developing her business from a shed in Battersea.
Now Pip & Nut are a fast growing brand, having achieved listings with over 1200 stores in the UK, including major retailers like Sainsbury's, Ocado and M&S. Murray was also Crowdcube's 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year.
4. Adam Braun (@AdamBraun)
While traveling, Braun met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked this boy what he wanted most in the world, he replied, "a pencil." This became the seed of inspiration for Pencils of Promise, which Braun would leave Bain & Company several years later to launch with just $25.
He combined for-profit business acumen with non-profit idealism into his unique "for-purpose" approach. Pencils of Promise create schools, programs and global communities around the common goal of education for all.
His book The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list and went on to become a #1 national bestseller.
5. Philippa White (@philippawhite)
White often found herself (and others) apologizing for being in the advertising industry- especially after meeting a social worker, doctor, teacher, environmental engineer or the like. She wanted the opportunity to make a difference with the skills that she had, and so after working in advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett and BBH, she left to move over to Brazil for six months in the pursuit of developing The International Exchange (TIE).
TIE has now provided leadership development opportunities for future leaders from some of the biggest agencies in the world including Leo Burnett, BBH, Wieden+Kennedy, DDB, Tribal, Glue Isobar, Ogilvy, JWT, Mindshare, Proximity, Digit, Landor as well as the WPP network.
TIE links future leaders from the communications industry with social initiatives around the world and provide a platform for the creation of campaigns and strategies that impact organisations, their beneficiaries and local communities.
6. Blake Mycoskie (@BlakeMycoskie)
As Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, Mycoskie championed the idea of One for One™ - a business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased.
Since 2006, TOMS Shoes has provided over 35 million pairs of shoes to children; since 2011, TOMS Eyewear has restored sight to over 275,000, and since launching in 2014, TOMS Roasting Company has helped provide over 67,000 weeks of safe water.
In this Harvard Business Review piece, Mycoskie offers an honest and insightful portrait of rediscovering a sense of purpose after TOMS became "more focused on process" and talks about how he reimagined the company's mission.