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Power for Puerto Rico

26 Oct

Tesla Puerto RicoI’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for entrepreneurs: people who create successful businesses from nothing.  Peter Thiel calls this going from “Zero to One.”

One of my favorite people in this category is Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, and several other ventures.

According to reporting by the Los Angeles Times, the Governor of Puerto Rico, which is still trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, reached out to Musk by tweet on October 6 suggesting that Puerto Rico could be a “flagship project” for Tesla. Musk responded that same day saying that he would “be happy to talk.”

Fast forward to this past Tuesday (October 24), “less than three weeks after their social media rapport began – Tesla tweeted that the project was ‘going live.'”

The project was to supply power to a hurricane battered children’s hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  In last than three weeks Musk and the Governor talked, decided on how to proceed, and Tesla “assembled a solar panel installation and battery storage project” at the hospital. The hospital is now completely solar powered.

That’s what an entrepreneur can do.  You have to love that.

Comments welcome.

Eric Fraint, President & Founder
Your Part-Time Controller, LLC
www.YPTC.com

Fare & Square & Vision

30 Nov

A vision was recently realized.  What was the vision and who was behind it?  Read on.

The first nonprofit supermarket, named “Fare & Square,” opened in a “food desert” in Chester Pennsylvania on Saturday, September 28, 2013.  Chester, a city of 34,000 where one in three people live in poverty, had been without a supermarket for twelve years.

If you’ve not heard about this, I refer you to various news articles and videos.  See the citations below.

In this blog, though, I am interested in the vision that made this possible, and the man behind the vision.

The man is Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance.  Philabundance is the largest hunger relief organization in the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area. It was founded in 1984 by Pam Lawler as a food rescue organization and later taken over by Scott Schaffer who expanded the organization’s operations.  Bill came in as executive director in 2001.

I can’t say for sure when the idea that has become Fare & Square first germinated, but various press stories have given credit to Bill for working on this for seven years.  I can say this, however: it has not been an easy seven years.

Along the way Bill had to overcome every imaginable obstacle.

To secure funding Bill had to cobble together a hesitant coalition of government, foundation, and private support.  He had to persuade his board that the plan was viable.  He had to win the hearts and minds of his staff that worried that the organization was straying too far from its food rescue origins.  The business model had to be developed.  Consultants and experts of all types had to be consulted.   A skeptical local community in Chester, who had seen too many promises in the past go bad, had to be wooed.  And ultimately, an executive director willing to risk his job, career, and reputation was required.

Team efforts are needed for grand visions to succeed.  In this case the team consisted of a strong board which gave the go-ahead, a highly motivated staff that did the work, funders who understood the potential, and a local community who appreciates the results.

At the center of all this was a man with a vision.  Bill Clark.

Fare & Square is still brand new.  The final chapters on this story have yet to be written.  But two things are eminently clear:

(1) thousands of people in the city of Chester will benefit greatly, and;

(2) none of this would have happened without a man of vision, Bill Clark.

Comments welcome.

Eric Fraint, President and Founder
Your Part-Time Controller, LLC

For additional information about Fare & Square, I refer the reader to the following links:

The Philadelphia Inquirer – http://articles.philly.com/2013-09-30/news/42505117_1_ninth-and-trainer-streets-west-end-food-center-grocery-store

The New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/opinion/sunday/an-oasis-of-groceries.html?_r=0

A video on Billmoyers.com – http://billmoyers.com/content/an-oasis-in-a-food-desert/

Philabundance website – www.philabundance.org

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40,000 lives saved. And that was just last year.

14 Aug

Sometimes a seemingly simple observation, combined with the passion of a nonprofit entrepreneur, can lead to incredible results.

Consider the story of Eli Beer, a Jerusalem EMT.

As a teenager Eli drove an ambulance for two years.  He witnessed people dying while waiting for an ambulance to arrive, people who might have been saved if medical help could have arrived within 3 minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes that it took for a Jerusalem ambulance to navigate through the city’s notorious traffic delays.

What if, Eli reasoned, a network of trained volunteers could arrive on foot, or by bike, in just a few minutes, and stabilize the victim until the ambulance arrived?

This insight resulted in the development of the “ambucycle” and the formation of the nonprofit United Hatzalah.

Ambucycle

Eli is not a client of ours, but I wish he was.  Though I’ve never met him, he is just one more example of why I, and the rest of our team at YPTC, work with nonprofit organizations.

Listen to this inspiring story, as told by Eli himself, at TEDMED 2013.

Link to Eli’s TEDMED talk: http://www.tedmed.com/talks/show?id=47048

Comments welcome.

Eric Fraint, President and Founder
Your Part-Time Controller, LLC

Passion and mission: a formidable combination

28 Apr

Mark Bergel is the reason why I decided to devote my life to helping nonprofit organizations almost 20 years ago.  I should say people like Mark are the reason.  You see, I just met Mark for the first time yesterday.

When you meet Mark the first thing you notice is that Mark is passionate about his mission.

Mark is the executive director of an organization called A Wider Circle.  Based in Silver Spring Maryland, A Wider Circle’s mission is to help low-income, and many times no-income, people move out of poverty.  They do this in a number of ways.  They offer for free quality used furniture for low-income families to furnish their homes.  They offer for free professional style clothing, like suits and ties for men, so that their clients can be well dressed and unashamed to go to work.  They provide job training in basic skills needed to get and keep a job.  And more. (Visit their website at: http://awidercircle.org/)

I met Mark yesterday when our firm volunteered for a day of service helping to move and organize A Wider Circle’s household furniture donations.  As our group of volunteers paused for lunch munching pizzas, Mark came and spoke to us about the mission and history of A Wider Circle.

The stories he told us about the work of his organization and the people they help he’s probably told hundreds if not thousands of times before.  Yet his passion and enthusiasm made it seem like we were hearing them for the first time.

I’ve listened to people like Mark scores of times before.  The executive directors of almost all of our clients share Mark’s passion for the missions of their respective organizations.  Our firm, in fact, hosted a panel discussion not long ago of five nonprofit executive director founders to hear their stories of how they started their organizations and why.  Their comments were so moving and inspiring that our staff of accountants broke into spontaneous applause after each one.  (You can read a description of this discussion at http://www.yptc.com/Entrepreneurs.aspx). These people prove that one person can make a difference.

I enjoy accounting.  But what I enjoy even more is helping nonprofits like Mark’s with their accounting so that they can make the world a better place.   The purpose behind what they do is what gives purpose to what we do.  Thank you Mark and to all the passionate executive directors out there!

Comments welcome.

Eric Fraint, President and Founder
Your Part-Time Controller, LLC

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