Brad Ludden’s Founding Story Started on a Kayak

April 18, 2017

Brad Ludden has spent the last 16 years taking young people with cancer on epic adventures around the world. His work has transformed the lives of hundreds of participants, including his own. Join us as we dive into his journey from working as a professional whitewater kayaker, to founding his nonprofit First Descents at age 20, to recently being honored as a CNN Hero.

In this episode, Brad shares:

  • Why the right board of directors is instrumental in your early days
  • The formula for locking in the right corporate sponsor
  • How to measure the impact of outdoor adventures on participants
  • How he conducts critical check-ins to reevaluate how he provides value as a CEO

Forbes Under 30 Entrepreneurs Share (Refreshing) Leadership Advice

April 11, 2017

Two Forbes 30 Under 30 stars are building successful social businesses to address food access in two very different ways: Noam Kimelman through healthy meals on-the-go in Detroit, and Shobhita Soor through insect farming in Ghana. What they have in common is a keen sense for establishing a solid revenue stream for their budding nonprofits and re-aligning the way work shows up in their personal lives. 

In this episode, Noam and Shobhita share:

  • Their founding stories building Fresh Corner Cafe and Aspire Food Group
  • Why they opted for a new revenue model outside the traditional nonprofit route
  • How they’re working towards financial self-sustainability
  • The business advice that influenced their early days
  • How this generation accepts entrepreneurship as a way of life
  • What they stand for: rebelliousness and opportunity

Paula Schwarz Is Solving Europe’s Refugee Crisis

April 5, 2017

At 26-years-old, Paula Schwarz is a serial entrepreneur working on the frontlines of the international immigration crisis. This Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree is developing innovative solutions to the unique needs of refugees, and then testing them in camps around the world through her company, StartupBoat.

In this episode, Paula walks us through her leadership strategies and how to stay focused in the face of adversity. She shares:

  • How to attract partners like Facebook, UBS, Bayer, UNICEF, and Aspen Institute
  • Advice for assembling a team of lifelong learners
  • What the international immigration crisis really looks like

PLUS, stay tuned for a guest Q&A between Paula and Classy engineer Morgan Snyder, another Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree.


Jeffrey Martín Is Transforming Atlanta Into the Silicon Valley for the South

March 28, 2017

It’s been a whirlwind year for Jeffrey Martín. In February he signed his first big client deal, in May he brought on a team of interns, in September was his big fundraiser, and in October he won the Forbes $1M Change the World Entrepreneurship Competition as part of the Forbes Under 30 Summit. He always said starting his organization honorCode was a risk for him, until things started to fall in place at the end of 2016.

honorCode is a new social enterprise that’s feeding K-12 classrooms in Atlanta web development training and curriculum. As the CEO and Founder, Martín envisions Atlanta becoming the Silicon Valley for the South and is closing opportunity gaps with modern technical education. He wants Atlanta's next generation to be educated as coders and able to compete for lucrative jobs in their hometown.

Born into poverty, Martín is the epitome of the students he aims to empower today. With education from the Wharton School, grad studies at Brown University, teaching for Teach for America and a stint at Goldman Sachs, he’s now lived many lives. His experiences converge into one timely interview, as we speak to Jeff on his 26th birthday.

In this episode, Jeffrey shares:

  • The growth levers that took honorCode from an idea to a business
  • How to attract lucrative corporate partners, like Google and Forbes
  • The data points you need to use to validate your startup
  • Why you should apply to competitions and accelerators, and advice on how to do it right

Toilets & Water Filters: Two Startups Redefining Nonprofit Tech

March 17, 2017

In Classy's first ever podcast panel discussion, and in honor of World Water Day, we speak with two cutting-edge leaders in the WaSH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) sector, Jason Kass and Natalie Relich. 

Natalie is the Executive Director at O’Horizons, a nonprofit developing solutions that are characterized as Low-Tech, High-Thinking. Most notably, they've created a wood mold bio-sand filter that makes it cheaper, faster, and easier to get safe drinking water. Jason is the president and founder of Toilets for People, a social enterprise that designs and manufactures waterless bathroom products and trains NGO partners in the developing world how to build, install & maintain them. Their signature sanitation solution is an affordable, self-contained waterless toilet that uses technology to safely treat human waste.

In this episode, Natalie and Jason share:

  • How to stay forward-thinking at your own social startup
  • Tips for collaborating with like-minded organizations
  • Tactics for incorporating low-tech, high-thinking solutions into your nonprofit programs
  • Why lean startups like theirs are poised to drive significant change for the international development community
  • How low-tech, high-thinking solutions are a more sustainable approach to today's world problems
  • An insightful approach to the definition of "social innovation"

Upworthy’s Creative Director Will Radically Change Your Perspective on Millennials

December 30, 2016

Erica Williams Simon grew up watching her father transform people’s lives through stories. It didn’t take long to realize that she had a similar calling.

Today, after a stint in politics, dozens of TV appearances, numerous conferences, advising the White House and several Fortune 500 companies, and serving as Creative Director for, Erica has honed her voice and built a platform that uses storytelling to affect change across generations, with a particular focus on millennials.

In this episode of the Classy Podcast, Erica shares the work she is doing to create and share messages that help generation Y thrive and radically change the world. She revisits the experience of discovering her strengths, the moments and people that shaped who she is today, and how she approaches journalism and storytelling in very different ways.

In this episode, Erica discusses:

  • How to have a great personal and working relationship with millennials
  • Tactics to get outside your “filter bubble” and listen to news objectively
  • How to get “un-stuck” in your career path
  • Why it’s important to distinguish journalism from storytelling
  • Why it’s ok to not settle for just one professional title
  • The #1 challenge for anyone creating content today
  • Why her go-to power pose has more to do with her heart than her physical presence

How a Would-Be Medical Student Took on Nonprofit R&D | Renuka Kher, Tipping Point

November 18, 2016

Renuka Kher is the managing director of Tipping Point’s research and development engine, located in the heart of San Francisco.

On a path to medical school, Renuka’s life takes an interesting turn after participating in a design program. Her experience in science, design, and community-focused nonprofits inform her refreshing take on the social sector. Renuka is a passionate problem solver, and this conversation will ignite you to be one too.


A Data Scientist With a Heart for Impact | Jackie Roshan, Pencils of Promise

November 11, 2016

Each leader in the social sector has their own winding (and sometimes surprising) path to their present influence. For Jackie Roshan, the director of transparency and data innovation at Pencils of Promise (PoP), this journey has included childhood adversity; studies in South Africa, Peru, and Thailand; and a life-changing move to New York City. This path has brought Jackie to Pencils of Promise, where she now leads the vital effort to maximize impact and transparency at the high-profile organization.

Pioneers of peer-to-peer fundraising, Pencils of Promise partners with local governments and education ministries in Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos to change public education systems. They work within communities to build schools, train and support teachers, and implement water sanitation and health programs.

Jackie and PoP are also leading the way toward new heights of impact evaluation and transparency in the sector. Intent on identifying and optimizing programs that change lives, she and her team are using the power of data and accountability to unlock the potential of more than 33,000 students.


10+ Life Lessons From the COO of Movemeant Foundation | Charina Lumley, Movemeant Foundation

November 4, 2016

“I think ultimately my biggest takeaway from watching [the publishing industry] unfold over 15 years was really a lesson in understanding that we cannot sit still.”

Sitting still was never a hallmark of Charina Lumley’s career.

The first 15 years of her professional life, she worked in print and publication in the city that never sleeps, New York.

Then, she committed what many would call “career suicide.”

She left behind the stability and glam of the Big Apple and followed an itch. She became a parks ranger for the National Parks Service–a position that ultimately led her to the action sports industry and her active lifestyle. Ten years later, trusting the opportunities presented to her along this jagged journey, she now straddles the for-profit and nonprofit worlds: she serves as both the head of growth for a startup SaaS company and the COO of the Movemeant Foundation, an organization empowering women and girls to lead active lifestyles.

Forty minutes with Charina flew by thanks to a multitude of life lessons and advice peppered among stories of her own professional development.


Special Edition: The Future of Breast Cancer with Sarah Storey, Bright Pink

October 27, 2016

Sarah Storey decided to leave a 19-year career in the for-profit world because of her personal experiences as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor. In 2014, she officially signed on as the President of Bright Pink.

One of Sarah’s top priorities at Bright Pink is making bold, measurable changes in the world of breast and ovarian cancer. A big part of this goal is encouraging women to take proactive measures when they’re young and healthy. If you wait until you’re diagnosed, the fight gets that much harder.

“There are plenty of efforts that are put into treatment, advancing the cause for folks who are actually fighting the disease,” says Storey. “Those efforts are really meaningful, but we’re not satisfied to wait until that point.”

The more you know now, the better prepared you are to take action and reduce your risk of breast cancer. If Bright Pink didn’t attempt to reach these young women, they feel it would be a missed opportunity to save lives.

That sense of duty influenced the development of Bright Pink’s self-assessment tool, Launched in 2015, over 500,000 women have taken the comprehensive, 19-question risk assessment for both breast and ovarian cancer.


This Woman is Leading a New Era of Corporate Social Responsibility | Michele Sullivan, Caterpillar & Caterpillar Foundation

October 21, 2016

“I believe we all have a role to play, not only in our own successes, but in the successes of others, and I believe we must come together to make these changes.”

As the President of the Caterpillar Foundation and Director of Corporate Social Innovation for Caterpillar, this sense of responsibility motivates and inspires Michele Sullivan on a daily basis.

Caterpillar was founded in 1925, the Caterpillar Foundation opening years later in 1952. Over time however, these two parts of Caterpillar have been united as a strategic, influential company that gives back to society in order to improve our world.

In this episode, Michele discusses: • Societal and human infrastructure working together as one • Caterpillar’s evolution as a company • Solving problems as a business and as a nonprofit • The future of corporate philanthropy


How GE Defines Corporate Responsibility | Deborah Elam, GE & GE Foundation

October 14, 2016

“How do we leverage the knowledge and expertise we have and couple it with philanthropic dollars?”

As the president of the GE Foundation and the Chief Diversity Officer of GE, Deborah Elam is responsible for answering this question for one of the largest companies in the world. In her 30 years of work at GE, she identified an overlap between her efforts to provide employees with equal opportunity and the foundation’s philanthropic areas of focus.

One of the oldest philanthropic organizations today, the GE Foundation has developed a longstanding reputation for its programs in health, education, developing skills, and public policy. Deborah’s dual role works to empower both GE employees and the beneficiaries of the foundation to contribute to society and achieve their dreams. Under her direction, corporate responsibility goes far beyond the contribution of dollars and becomes an effective strategy other organizations can mirror to engage their employees in meaningful work.

Previously a Leadership Council member of the 2016 Collaborative + Classy Awards, Deborah recently joined us again to discuss corporate responsibility, her unique role at GE, and her personal leadership experience.


How the Wilderness Inspired This Veteran to Become a Nonprofit Director | Stacy Bare, Director, Sierra Club Outdoors

September 30, 2016

Post traumatic stress, a lack of purpose, feeling overwhelmed—these are just some of the challenges that veterans face as they transition into civilian life. Stacy Bare was no exception.

Before he became the director of Sierra Club Outdoors, Stacy served in Iraq. His transition out of the army was marked by drug and alcohol addictions and depression. But the more he got outside, the more his experiences in the wilderness helped him to see the healing power of the outdoors.

In this episode, Stacy shares:

  • How lessons learned in the wilderness influence his time in the office
  • The role veterans play in our country’s conservation efforts
  • How being a new parent has changed his perspective of the world around him
  • The many mentors who empowered him

This CEO Represents the Next Generation of Nonprofits | Brett Hagler, ‎CEO & Co-Founder, New Story

September 23, 2016

Brett Hagler is not your typical Silicon Valley CEO. While he is a CEO based in San Francisco, Brett is focused on growing a different type of business—his nonprofit, New Story. New Story uses crowdfunding to raise money to build homes for those who’ve lost theirs due to a natural disaster, first in Haiti and now El Salvador in Central America and Bolivia in South America.

Under Brett’s leadership, New Story is changing how traditional nonprofits do business. From their programs to their internal culture and core values, Brett approaches his organization with the same mentality of his startup, for-profit peers: with a laser focus on transparency, efficiency, and bottom line revenue. The only difference is that the revenue he generates goes to programs and impacting the families they serve.

Despite his young age, Brett’s experience in moving from the for-profit to the nonprofit world, growing a team, and raising capital make him a powerful mentor for other up-and-coming social entrepreneurs.

In this episode, Brett shares advice for attracting a high-profile board of advisors—and why this is critical for your success, how he and his team nailed their 10-minute pitch to Y Combinator and beat out 300 other companies, why Scott Harrison of charity: water is among his top three most influential mentors, and how he remains a lifelong learner through podcasts and books.


The Visionary Who’s Redefining Philanthropy | Jacob Lief, CEO, Ubuntu

September 16, 2016

Jacob Lief was only 21-years-old when he first visited the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It was 1998 and the country was transitioning out of apartheid. With a college degree in his back pocket, Jacob cultivated a team of other inspired individuals and together they founded Ubuntu Education Fund with the hope of giving Port Elizabeth’s youth a more promising future.

Jacob’s founding story is one of grit, perseverance, and personal development. His journey of growing Ubuntu into a world-renowned leader in education is marked with many monumental challenges and milestones—including a pivot that completely changed the organization’s funding model, seven years into its operations.

Today, Jacob is a celebrated thought leader with a contagious vision for a better philanthropic sector—one that allows nonprofits to dream big and execute beyond the traditional walls of restricted funding and antiquated benchmarks of success.

In this episode, Jacob shares:

  • What it was like to turn down seven-figure funding from USAID
  • Key facets of the Ubuntu internal culture and how that culture has kept his core executive team together for 13 years
  • His personal growth as a CEO
  • Why he thinks culture is the most dangerous word in English dictionary
  • The mentor who pushed him to take care of himself first

Dirk Van Velzen, Prison Scholar Fund | Thriving in the Face of Adversity

September 9, 2016

Few people can say they spent nearly 20 years in prison and then received President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award. Dirk Van Velzen, the founder and executive director of the Prison Scholar Fund (PSF), can.

On this episode of the Classy Podcast, Dirk takes us on his journey through applying to and graduating from Penn State, starting the Prison Scholar Fund, and awarding scholarships to fellow inmates who wanted to pursue education—all during his incarceration.

After his release in May 2015, Dirk spearheaded the infrastructure building and program delivery of the organization, continuing to apply his lessons learned from previous challenges.


Leah Gilliam, Girls Who Code | Leading the Way for Women in Tech

September 2, 2016

If you had to describe Leah Gilliam—the VP of education, strategy, and innovation at Girls Who Code—in three words, “always be learning” would be the most appropriate.

Early influences (like her mom, who covered the Civil Rights Movement as the first black female journalist at The Washington Post) and experiences (growing up in D.C. and watching marches on the White House) has nurtured Leah into a life-long learner who leads through empathy.


Cindy Jones-Nyland, Heifer International | Leading With Intuition

August 26, 2016

In early 2016, Cindy Jones-Nyland stepped down as CMO of Heifer International, citing in a recent blog that “intuition spoke very clearly about needing to allow more time and space for other things I am passionate about, and for spending more moments with my family.”

This trust in her own judgment and courage to take new steps are exactly what define Cindy as a leader.

Her advice on authenticity in leadership and using intuition to make important life and career decisions, as well as her healthy opposition to the work/life balance debate, will leave you feeling renewed and rejuvenated in your own position. Not to mention, she shares a behind-the-scenes take from her experience running the marketing team of one of the largest, most trusted nonprofits in the world.


Lauren Bush Lauren, FEED | Approaching Business With Head and Heart

August 16, 2016

You’ve likely seen or even own Lauren Bush Lauren’s most popular product: a burlap tote that was inspired by the bags of food rations she saw being delivered by the World Food Programme in 2007. Nearly a decade later Lauren has inspired a movement of artisans and buyers and has established FEED as a leader within the intersection of business and social impact.

In this episode, the FEED Founder & CEO speaks openly about her early days founding the social business and the challenges and milestones that have carved her path since. She also reveals her hacks on finding balance in a busy world, where she finds inspiration, and mentors that have shaped her and FEED's trajectory.


The Beginning of a Movement with More Than Me’s Founder & CEO

August 9, 2016

Katie Meyler and Emily Bell of More Than Me, an organization that provides education to the most vulnerable girls in the capital of Liberia, join us in this episode of the Classy Podcast. Soon after More Than Me opened their academy for girls, the Ebola crisis erupted and schools were shut down. More Than Me turned their academy into an Ebola outreach center working alongside the community on the frontlines.

Katie, the founder & CEO, was recently recognized by Time Magazine as the person of the year for fighting Ebola, and Emily, the marketing and development manager, has been quoted in Forbes, Mashable, and PBS News Hour, among others.