Social entrepreneurship and moving the needle, with Forward Impact Solutions’ Christopher Gergen

Christopher Gergen‘s first entrepreneurial venture—a coffee shop bar in Santiago, Chile—was impactful, but more impactful was the man who walked in and introduced himself as a “cultural entrepreneur.” In this episode, hear how that first project inspired him to support founders and transform entrepreneurship in the Triangle as a Founding Partner of Forward Impact Solutions


Alisa Herr: Welcome to “Inside Impact”, where we give you a behind the scenes peek at how organizations can create positive change in their communities. I’m Alisa Herr, founder of Unity Web Agency. And on the show today, social entrepreneur Christopher Gergen shares his story on how he decided it wasn’t enough to be just a founder. He wanted to move the needle by truly making a difference. For Christopher, it all started when he was working at CNN Headline News and noticed something was missing.

Christopher Gergen: Being in a newsroom covering the world was just not close enough to trying to make an impact in the world. So against all parental pressure, friend expectations, everything else like that, I left CNN and spent a year traveling through Latin America with a group of artists. I started my first entrepreneurial venture, which is a coffee shop Bar Restaurant in Santiago, and it’s really a super cool community called Nunoa. And we have live music five nights a week, and a rotating Art Gallery and an ADC restaurant and attracted all of this unbelievable cultural talent. And it was through that, that I met a guy who became a mentor of mine. And he had started his own university. So here I was thinking that I was hot stuff, having started my own bar, and this guy had started his own university. And so I asked him what he called himself that he called himself a “Cultural Entrepreneur”. And for me, that was the first connection of the connecting of dots to say like, I love being an entrepreneur, but I want to have more impact in the world. 

Alisa Herr: Christopher eventually sold the bar, moved back to the US and went to grad school. After getting both a Master’s in Public Policy with a focus in education reform, and an MBA, he founded and sold an online tutoring company. Christopher then worked with AmeriCorps VISTA to place 400 entrepreneurs into 96 nonprofits, and even founded a charter school in DC. Somehow, he found time to co-author a book called “Life Entrepreneurs”, which profiled 55 founders who are truly making an impact on the world. So when Christopher and his family moved down to North Carolina, he was teaching entrepreneurship. But again, something was missing.

Christopher Gergen: I loved it. But as I got into it, I started thinking, you know, we’re putting all this energy into developing this next generation of talent that has unbelievable potential to go out and make a meaningful difference in the world. But at the time, North Carolina had not yet created a fertile environmental ecosystem to be able to connect those entrepreneurs with the resources and relationships that they needed to be successful to be able to take root and grow here in North Carolina. And so that really got me turned on to how do we create a more fertile environment in communities to be able to foster innovation and entrepreneurship? And that led to launching velocity forward here in Durham, which was Durham’s first co-working space and was trying to think about ways to be able to surround these social innovators and entrepreneurs with the resources that they needed. And out of that, then emerged, HQ Raleigh, which became Raleigh founded, and then ultimately, what became the inception for forward cities.

Alisa Herr: Cool. All right. How have you seen entrepreneurship create impact in communities?


Full Episode Transcript

Inside Impact is hosted by Unity Web Agency CEO Alisa Herr and is produced by Earfluence.

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