Published: Nov 27, 2012 06:30 PM
Modified: Nov 27, 2012 06:30 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Life as a social entrepreneur can be 16 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Kevin McDonald, founder of Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers.
McDonald offered frank, uncensored remarks on his path to founding TROSA to the audience of about 40 students and business owners during Global Entrepreneurship Week, held at UNC.
When he founded TROSA with $18,000 in 1994, he was an ex-felon.
I wasnt good at it. I kept getting caught, McDonald said. The $18,000 the risk was nothing. Being scared is something
as an addict
you live through.
Since that time, TROSA has graduated 1,100 people through its residential program. It has also opened businesses such as moving, lawn care and a furniture store to supplement its income. In 2011, McDonald said, TROSA Moving alone had $4 million in revenue.
From time to time, TROSAs ventures still do fail TROSA shuttered its grocery store in East Durham this summer after two years in business but McDonald told the students not to be afraid of failure.
You have to take a risk, McDonald said. So what? You get up the next day. Hope, perseverance
Entrepreneurship, and in particular social entrepreneurship, was the topic of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a weeklong series of panels and networking sessions organized by UNCs Campus Y simultaneously with 35,000 other similar events occurring worldwide to share ideas on improving the world.
Hope, perseverance and transparency emerged as important themes at a discussion on economic development, where McDonald spoke.
Aaron Nelson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, moderated the panel with McDonald, Eric Henry, president of TS Designs; Heerad Sabeti, founder of Fourth Sector Cluster; and Dara Keatts, founder of Pengo Loans.
Keynote speaker and panelist Nancy Welsh, founder and CEO of Builders of Hope, a Raleigh-based company that provides affordable housing through green building practices, offered a clear definition of a social entrepreneur:
A successful social entrepreneur is driven to deliver the greatest benefit to their constituents through innovative cost-effective solutions and values a positive and permanent impact on their community well above any personal gain.
Builders of Hope, which Welsh said has the first green building process patent in the country, upcycles houses and relocates them to new communities. The company has done work in Durhams Rolling Hills neighborhood. Upcycling reuses and refurbishes old materials.
Were a young country, but were at a point now where we really have to figure out how to use the inventory weve got, Welsh said.
On the secret ingredient to being an entrepreneur: You have to be willing to do everything yourself, Welsh said.
But, she added, dont be afraid to partner with people. You dont have to reinvent the wheel.