Crossing The Threshold
CEO of The Walker Group and
Founder of reSET Social Enterprise Trust
Yesterday we opened our new social enterprise incubator and co-working space to 60 community friends. Upon seeing the space full of people, energy, and ideas, I realized we had crossed the threshold from vision to reality.
Fifteen years ago, it began as a question. My technology services company The Walker Group, was strong and growing. But something about “business as usual” was bothering me.
I could see that a single-minded focus on the bottom line was taking us down a dark and dangerous road – environmentally, economically, and spiritually – and I started wondering what a business that wasn’t totally focused on profits would look like.
Why not have a business that declared up front that it is about making a positive difference in the world? At first this vision was fuzzy – it was more of a dream. But the dream served as a compass that put me on the path I needed to be on and kept me walking in the right direction. And as I walked, it transformed me, and a clear vision of what my company could look like emerged.
Ten years ago, as a result of this vision, I transformed my company. I turned my traditional technology services firm into a social enterprise. We completely restructured – increased transparencies and participative governance, decreased potential egregious discrepancies in pay, and restructured distribution of profits with one-third to employees, one-third to the community, and one-third to shareholders.
Five years ago, I founded reSET Social Enterprise Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting social enterprise and to helping entrepreneurs leverage the power of business to create public good. To ensure that my technology company’s social enterprise structure would be protected in perpetuity, I donated preferred shares to reSET.
Three years ago, we sponsored a conference attended by over 200 people who wanted to learn about social enterprise. We talked about making Connecticut a hub of social enterprise. Over 70 people attended a follow-up meeting to figure out how to make that happen, and momentum began to build. In addition to advocacy and education, we decided that tangible support was needed. One important component would be an incubator that provides space and services for new social entrepreneurs.
One year ago, we received funding from the state of CT to support our vision, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus and I were invited to speak about the future of social enterprise, and we hired much needed additional staff.
Last week, we celebrated the officially opening of the reSET Social Enterprise Incubator and Community Co-working Space.
Is vision relevant today?
Without that initial “question turned dream turned compass turned vision,” none of this would have come to pass.
Today more than ever, with seismic changes happening ever more frequently all around us, vision is critical. My own personal experience has taught me that vision allows us to rest in the uncertainty of chaos and move forward in a meaningful way.
Vision allows us to pivot, dodge, and even to retreat, knowing that all of these actions can ultimately lead to progress if we know where we’re headed. Without vision, detours and distractions become destiny.
Kate Emery is founder and CEO of The Walker Group, a Technology Services Firm she started over 20 years ago. In 2007 she completely restructured Walker as a Social Enterprise. Kate is also the founder of reSET Social Enterprise Trust whose mission is to promote, preserve, and protect Social Enterprise. reSET is actively working to make Connecticut a hub of Social Enterprise, through legislative efforts and the creation of a social enterprise incubator that provides space and resources to social entrepreneurs. She also started a social enterprise investment fund to provide seed capital to new and expanding social enterprise.