I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. Even as a child, I loved to create little businesses. But there was a time when I moved from being an entrepreneur, to being a social entrepreneur. Peter Samuelson, film director and founder of Starlight Children’s Foundation, encapsulated that pivotal moment. I first met Peter through the Leadership Institute, started by management guru Warren Bennis at USC Business School.
The continuous thread in my life has been about helping. At the time, I was in graduate school, heading into broadcast journalism with the goal of changing the tenor of media news. I wanted to see a world where we could emphasize positive developments.
It’s not that we should ignore the tough situations; it’s just that any entrepreneur knows you focus on building towards a new vision of a better world. If you build towards it, you will realize that positive vision. You zero in on solutions. If you focus only on the negative, you’ll stay there. Move into the new world you envision.
So Peter got up and spoke about “entrepreneurial philanthropy” or “social entrepreneurship.” “We need to make a difference in a strategic, business-like way, while serving our communities!” he proclaimed. He essentially galvanized us with his relentless passion. I’ve never seen anyone speak like that. My heart dropped. Tears filled my eyes. At that point, I had been going through my mid-life crisis at age 25. 4 jobs in three years.
In an inkling, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a social entrepreneur. Peter brought my vision of how I wanted to serve – with compassion and business principles – to life.
The relief, the joy, the glory…to know… that I was made to be a social entrepreneur.
I left the Leadership Conference and ran to a payphone (yes, a payphone) and called my Dad, “Dad, Dad, I know what I want to do!” I excitedly explained. He listened with joy and support as he always does. “That’s great, honey! And…..... how do you get paid?”
One of My Top Role Models
That was another journey…and as I continue on my path as a social entrepreneur, I feel so blessed by the strong, supportive people around me. I had a wonderful role model in my life of persevering against the odds, even when you’re different. My Oma, Frances Blaisdell, was a pioneer woman flutist in the 1920s. She was the first woman woodwind at Julliard. In 1937, she was refused an audition with the Philharmonic because she was a woman. But 25 years later, in 1962, she became one of the first woman flutists to play with the Philharmonic. It’s about perseverance, and belief—and overcoming.
Chamber Music magazine said of her, “Every woman flute player in every major American orchestra, every little girl who pays the flute in a school band, has Frances Blaisdell to thank. She was first.”