Social Enterprise Raising Awareness on Sustainability

Excerpts from an interview with Eduardo Balarezo, Founder of Lonesome George & Co., a unique social enterprise working for a positive change.

Tell us about your Company Lonesome George & Co.:

Lonesome George & Co. is a social enterprise that combines branded apparel and experiential learning to outfit Agents of Change. Our mission is to raise awareness on sustainability, create mind-shift at an individual level and generate a tangible impact in our communities.

Why did you decide to create this type of social enterprise?

The future presents us with endless opportunities and I have always been intrigued and inspired by the idea of creating the world you live in. Choosing wisely within the boundaries set forth by your environment will get you to your preferred future or vision. Seems like a simple concept, but I have found that there aren’t many companies founded on that principle alone. Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Tortoise and the inspiration behind the company, has a deep message for all of us: Don’t let this type of situation happen again, you are the Agent of Change in your community, you can create an impact. What is the Lonesome George in your world? Identify it and take action.

I created Lonesome George & Co. to outfit Agents of Change who want to take charge of shaping the future so people at the ground level look after the communities they live in and then piece by piece, the world at large changes.

You see, I don’t want to change the world; I want you to do it.

What is an Agent of Change?

An Agent of Change is someone who is awake, aware that his/her decisions matter and someone who understands that every choice has a consequence.

Agents of Change understand that change is a constant in our lives, that us humans have an incredible and versatile capacity to adapt and that we all live in a dynamic system. An Agent of Change listens to nature for inspiration and accepts the challenge of shaping the future.

Where are your products sold?

We have physical presence in Galapagos, San Francisco and Berlin. A boutique in Vail, Colorado just picked up some styles as well. We distribute worldwide via our online shop at lonesomegeorge.net.

Your business model is interesting; will you please tell us more about that?

It is simple, we call it: MIND SHIFT IMPACT. Our signature replicable and scalable business model combines a for-profit and a non-profit operation under the same business platform. It is our mission (through the sale of apparel) to teach the world to fish instead of just giving fish away.

Built into our business model is the ability to invest 10% of revenue (10% of every sale) on what we call the Academy of Agents of Change. This rigorous Academy creates Agents of Change by combining Outward Bound experiential education programs and Ashoka Youth Venture social entrepreneurial programs.

Lonesome George & Co. apparel represents the MIND by raising funds and awareness, Outward Bound executes the SHIFT by inspiring mind-shift in individuals and Ashoka Youth Venture enables the IMPACT by generating tangible community deliverables.

It is a twelve-month process and the outcome is a hands on, fully conscious, well-rounded individual ready to tackle the most adverse and pressing world issues with an acute business instinct; but with a full understanding of the systemic world he/she operates in.

Now, would you like to have him/her on your team?

Exactly how do you invest in experiential education?

The Academy of Agents of Change designed an Outward Bound Program focused on outfitting the Agent of Change in you. This is a 4-module semester long program aimed at imparting skills such as: leadership, resourcefulness, respect to others, compassion (empathy), respect to yourself, team work and respect to nature.

We use the outdoors to take an individual out of his/her comfort zone so that he/she operates under instinct mode. This allows our instructors to point out patterns of behavior that represent bottlenecks in the personal growth of the individual. As the participant becomes aware and recognizes the vicious pattern of behavior we move on to providing structural mind-shift that creates long-term change and encourages a more responsible and sustainable outlook on life.

Once completed, we carefully monitor a participant’s development using a Life Evaluation Questionnaire that measures key grown principles such as: time management, social competence, achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, task leadership, emotional control, active initiative and self confidence.

Why did you choose to partner with Outward Bound and ASHOKA?

Outward Bound is the best-proven methodology that I’ve come across, to create long lasting mind-shift in an individual (without undergoing brain-transplant of course.)

We have partnered with Ashoka for two reasons: The first has to do with the experience they have in spotting and grooming social entrepreneurs around the world; and the second is because the organization, much like Outward Bound, is built upon pillars of compassion and empathy.

You operate on a Shared Value Business Model, why do you think Shared Value is important?

Creating Shared Value is the evolution of the traditional business model that incorporates social and environmental variables into the single bottom line business equation. In doing so, CSV generates profit with a social and environmental component, which in the end is a higher version of capitalism and one we should all strive for. I truly hope this is where all business is heading.

Eduardo Balarezo is the Founder and CEO of Lonesome George & Co. A former CEO and financier of a global conglomerate, Eduardo became a social entrepreneur in 2006 when he used his strong business savvy to create Lonesome George & Co., a social organization designed to inspire Agents of Change to bring change to the world through the choices they make. For more information on Lonesome George & Co., please visit www.lonesomegeorge.net.