Episode 18: Dreami.io approaches mentorship by democratizing career guidance

Featured in Business Insider, Thrive Global, 500 Startups and recently selected for Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars, California-based Dreami.io is well on its way to fulfilling its mission of democratizing career guidance. “Mentorship is a powerful tool to attract, develop, and retain,” says its founder and first-time entrepreneur Ashima Sharma. But mentorship was the very thing she lacked after leaving a successful chemical engineering career in the male-dominated oil and gas industry (where she felt like a “diversity hire”) and pivoting into the tech industry..

Positive Planet sat down with Ashima Sharma to listen to her story of how lack of professional support, surviving a Sri Lanka tsunami when she was only 10, and doing a bit of soul-searching on a wilderness backpack trip gave her much of what she needed to start Dreami.io.

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Episode 17: Social Impact Strategies Group talk impact investing to democratize wealth

In a country still very much divided by socioeconomic class and race, equal opportunity for all is far from being fully realized in the United States. Certainly people of color know this better than anyone, still grappling with the brunt of inequity in all sectors of life.

As an African-American woman raised in a Los Angeles working-class neighborhood, Elaine Rasmussen knows first-hand the challenges many people of color face trying to prosper. After years working in finance, marketing, and philanthropy, in 2015 she founded Social Impact Strategies Consulting, a Minnesota-based financial advising and strategizing organization that works to democratize wealth, financial services, and access to capital by and for women and communities of color. Elaine spoke with Positive Planet to discuss her path to and presence in the burgeoning field called “impact investing.”

Listen to episode 17 on Apple Podcast
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Episode 16: Apovo uses innovative education to empower African youth

Mathias Apovo has been a dedicated educator and a passionate youth capacity builder for more than eight years.

In this sixteenth episode of A Positive Voice, Apovo shares his personal journey, including failed business ideas, persistence, and chasing a dream that have led him to where he is now: as the founder of a young company, Blue Diamond Leading Solutions (BDLS).

With BDLS, Apovo sees education as a means to empower and positively influence youth in Africa. The organization is equipping youths in Burkina Faso for the modern, international world, through English-language proficiency. Listen to his story on Apple Podcasts.

Listen to Episode 16 on Apple Podcasts
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Episode 15: Trigg-Jones shows us how magic happens when women create together

Cathlees Trigg-Jones founded iWoman TV, a digital streaming platform by women, about women, and for everyone.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re feeling, there’s a community for you,” says our latest interviewee, Cathleen Trigg-Jones. With 25 years as an award-winning journalist and producer, Trigg-Jones has experienced the lack of representation in media firsthand and felt compelled to address it, not just for herself, but for the wider community. So, she founded iWoman TV—a digital streaming platform by women, about women, f or everyone.

In this episode of A Positive Voice, Trigg-Jones shares her mission for the platform, what she needs to make it successful, and why she is so passionate about it. We also welcome Christine Matovich as co-host. You might recognize Christine from an earlier podcast: she and Cathleen got to know each other in Positive Planet US‘s most recent Accelerator Hub, from which they are among our recent graduate cohorts. Tune in to the conversation on Apple Podcast, Audible, and more.

Listen to Episode 15 on Apple Podcasts

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Episode 14: Market Express connects local farmers to grocers in Ghana

Originally a grad school project, the concept for Market Express almost didn’t see the light of day. But, Ebenezer Lazar saw so much potential in it that he felt it deserved a chance as a real business. The result? An ecommerce platform for Ghanaian grocery retailers, connecting farmers with a market directly.

The goals and benefits of Market Express extend beyond simple convenience. Tune in to hear Ebenzer explain how the online ordering system aims to improve the quality of life for everyday Ghanaians: saving time, improving stock management, opening doors to micro-financing, and even reducing the congested streets filled with traffic.

Listen to Episode 14 on Apple Podcasts
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Episode 13: CommonTime provides global access to arts education

In 2020, Christine Matovich founded CommonTime, an online platform providing global access to the arts. With the onset of the pandemic, countless artists were unemployed, museums and performing arts centers closed, and educators teaching online were in need of new material to connect with their students.

Christine responded by building a digital platform to connect students and educators to teaching artists; private art teachers to individual learners; and arts organizations to educational institutions—regardless of location. And so, CommonTime’s existence is proof that out of necessity, creative solutions are born.

In this episode, we chat with Christine about the role of the arts as a vital, integrated, and accessible part of the education curriculum, the industry’s contribution to the global economy, and how to surround yourself with great people to build a successful business. She also gives us a tip on where to find a thriving creative community in New York (hint: it’s not Manhattan).

A graduate of Positive Planet US’s most recent Accelerator Hub, Christine is a multi-hyphenate (opera singer, cellist, and artist manager are just some hats she has worn) who has described herself as “never comfortable with just a single track with my craft.”

Tune in to hear her speak passionately about entrepreneurship and creativity and all the most relevant in 2021, the year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, as declared by the UN.

Listen to Episode 13 on Spotify.
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Episode 12: Zouaoui and Harrak challenge cultural norms in Morocco’s first ridesharing app

Co-Founders and childhood friends, Hicham Zouaoui and Otman Harrak, came back to Casablanca after spending high school and college apart, experiencing different cultures and realities. Once back together, they had the idea to build out a new business model and the first ridesharing app in Morocco.

Otman Harrak (gauche) et Hicham Zouaoui (Droite), fondateurs de l’application Pip Pip Yallah. Image courtesy of We Love Buzz.

Now they’re working together in a big, beautiful office overlooking the cinematic backdrop of Casablanca. “It’s been a wonderful adventure,” says Harrak. Carpooling isn’t a new concept for a culture that already has sharing as a big part of its values. This is what made it challenging for people to understand that it was ok to exchange money for something that is usually considered simply neighborly ⥖ even among strangers.

Zouaoui started Pip Pip Yalah through a Facebook group, just connecting people wanting to travel between universities and their hometowns. Ridesharing. They started talking about the new concept just among friends. They got all the way up to 100 users before reconnecting again with Harrak, coming back from studying in the London School of Business and the Grenoble École de Management.

Pip Pip Yalah now has recorded over 26 million kilometers in shared rides, reducing CO2 emission by 6,500 tons as people shared their rides and did not use their own cars.

Zouaoui and Harrak talk us through serial-entrepreneurship, battling “against” cultural norms, user experience and driving social, economic, and ecological impacts by facilitating and incentivizing ridesharing throughout Morocco.

Their pure friendship and excitement to conquer their mission together really comes out clearly in this very light and joyful conversation. “It challenged us to battle through interpreting  English and French context together at the same time,” they agree. Their story of beating the odds is certainly inspiring and we know they are only at the beginning of their journey.

Learn more about Pip Pip Yalah downloading their app or visiting their website.

Listen to Episode 12 on Spotify.
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Episode 11: Nobox Lab uses design thinking and social innovation to prepare Morocco’s next generation

Sophia el Bahja comes from an entrepreneurial family, but she realized that fact only years later when she learned more about her mother’s work. It was this legacy which most likely led her to build a Moroccan social enterprise with education at its core. Nobox Lab focuses on experiential programs for adolescents.

In our interview, Sophia walks us through the three main forms of learning that Nobox Lab is currently implementing. She also shares with us how she leverages design thinking and a unique innovation lab to introduce these new curricula for the Moroccan youth to express themselves differently. 

Sophia reminds us how the traditional education system gives the same learning experience to every child, expecting the same result. However, we know now that everyone learns differently, especially at a younger age when the brain is still developing. 

By providing  a human-centric platform, Nobox Lab helps develop important social-emotional skills, such as empathy and love, avoiding hateful narratives so present on today’s web.

Born out of social innovation, Nobox Lab is paving the way in Morocco with a growth strategy that revolves around key partnerships and a digital experience (with in-person training once it becomes available again) for a truly hybrid model.

Listen to Episode 11 on Spotify
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Episode 10: Bennani builds an ethical, eco-friendly sneaker brand in Casablanca

On this episode, we interview Fadila Bennani, who decided to leave her stable job at Groupon in Casablanca after she had her daughter, so that she could fulfill her lifelong dream of creating a socially and environmentally responsible and authentic Moroccan brand now called Amaz. 

Bennani was always into shoes as a student in high school and the university, but working as a consultant, she couldn’t wear sneakers in the office. At the same time, she was inspired by smaller brands launching online and growing fast in Europe, which were appealing to a more conscious consumer.

Now her shoe company, Amaz, takes traditional forms of Moroccan textile weaving to create both social and environmental impacts, at every level of its operation. “Amaz for Education” works as a give-back program which for every sneaker sold, one day of school is financed for a young girl in Morocco. They’ve raised they equivalent of over a year of schooling since the program started. 

Her experience in e-commerce also opened her eyes to frivolous consumption of low value products. Working with recycled material and using traditional textile weaving of plastic bags, she has upcycled the equivalent of 500 standard plastic bags, and 700 VHS tapes (using the film).

By utilizing Moroccan know-how and craftsmanship, Bennani continues to build an ethical, eco-friendly and socially sustainable sneaker brand in Casablanca.

A Positive Voice Episode 10 on Spotify
A Positive Voice Episode 10 on Apple Podcasts

Episode 09: Stephen Kyei and LeathOnCall use innovative ways of building environmentally sustainable shoes and socially sustainable partnerships with friendly vendors in Ghana

On this episode we speak to Stephen Kyei, a shoemaker in Ghana using innovative tactics to create shoes from cork sheets. After working for some time in oil and gas companies throughout Ghana, ensuring environmental safety standard were met and getting his environmental resource management certificate.

At the same time, he was importing leather goods from India and Spain to resell, and the business grew, until he reached a point he need to focus 100% on the business. From there, he started researching other sustainable resources he could use to build his products. He landed on cork sheets from rare cork trees.

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