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Unreasonable at Sea Mentor Cathy Rodgers Distills Her View of the Aquatic Accelerator

Unreasonable at Sea Mentor Cathy Rodgers Distills Her View of the Aquatic Accelerator
Cathy Rodgers joined the Unreasonable at Sea voyage as a
corporate technology mentor.
Image credit: rootedinhope.net

Editor's Note: This post marks the fifth and final post in a short series on the Unreasonable at Sea program. Check out the first installment "Entrepreneurs Take on the World — By Cruise Ship,"  the second "Unreasonable at Sea: An Update From Cesar Harada of Protei," the third "Unreasonable at Sea: An Update From Mouhsine Serrar of Prakti Design" and the fourth "Unreasonable at Sea: Entrepreneurs Dock at the State Department."

Think pulling the occasional all-nighter and eating Ramen noodles gives you a sense of what entrepreneurship is like? Try living on a boat for several months and do nothing but eat and sleep entrepreneurship.

That's just what 26 intrepid young entrepreneurs set out to do in January of this year when they joined Unreasonable at Sea, a 100-day business accelerator program that involved traversing 12 different countries while entrepreneurs worked on their startups. The inaugural program, which was a joint venture between the Unreasonable Institute and Stanford's d.school, wrapped up in April.

To get a better sense of what the program was like, we reached out to Unreasonable at Sea mentor Cathy Rodgers, who is also the vice president of global opportunities for IBM. This past spring, she was invited to sail on various legs of the voyage as a corporate technology mentor on Unreasonable at Sea's accelerator program.

Here's what Rodgers had to say about her experiences as both a mentor and fellow entrepreneur:

Q: Accelerator programs are a dime a dozen these days. What about Unreasonable at Sea specifically appealed to you?
A: The venue is compelling and captivating and encourages global thinkers who are working to solve the world's toughest problems in the toughest areas. This was real-world education, real-time collaboration, real ideas tested, broken, rebuilt, empathy, vision, commitment, passion and practical prototyping. The eclectic group of learning partners, corporate technology mentors, bold thinkers and practitioners made a powerful combination of talent.

Related: Unreasonable at Sea: Entrepreneurs Dock at the State Department

Q: Is there one company in particular that stood out and whose progress you'll be eager to monitor as time progresses?
A: Every one of the entrepreneurs brought something special -- their passion, their creativity, their ingenuity. But I have to say my heart is with Pedro and the Aqua miracle.

I am working on watershed protection in Kenya through my nonprofit Rooted in Hope, so I understand firsthand that Pedro's work can potentially change the lives of millions, as the demand for water continues to increase. The impact of water collection on so many women in developing countries is a passion of mine. I am hooking my hopes and my jerrycan to Pedro's self-sustaining natural water purification system.

Related: Unreasonable at Sea: An Update From Cesar Harada of Protei

Q: Did you find the program helpful for furthering your own nonprofit?
A: Rooted in Hope will be working on a new project focused on water and sustainable farming practices with the City of Refuge in Ghana. This is a small nonprofit that rescues children from child labor and human trafficking. Giving these children a home and education and has been supported by Semester at Sea (Unreasonable at Sea's partner and host) for the last three years.

Additionally, we are hoping to work with Pedro to bring the water purification system as a living lab to some of the local universities. There, students studying water management systems can learn and introduce these concepts and begin broader adoption of this model.

Related: How to Find the Right Mentor for Your Startup 

Q: What's your advice for aspiring young social entrepreneurs?
A: Everyone takes a different path. Mine took me to all seven continents -- and running a half marathon on each of the continents gives you a different perspective. In the end, [traveling] fed my soul -- and my soles -- and sent me down another path: social entrepreneurism, which is not a journey of handouts but helping hands coming together.

The key to sustainability is that we address the convergence and the mutual dependency of bringing the environmental, social and economic elements together. Today's millennials, today's young entrepreneurs, are the generation that get it and will do what needs to be done.

Have a career that is your passion, your hobby and be thankful when someone is willing to pay you to do it. The challenges are significant. The opportunities to drive change are unbounded. Do your homework, stay committed, find a great mentor, challenge yourself and do not be discouraged. A bend in the road is not the end of the road -- it's the path to becoming a global citizen.

-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

Kristin Luna is a Nashville-based journalist who has written travel and news features for Newsweek, Forbes, Redbook, Self and countless others, as well as several guidebooks for Frommer's. Kristin previously sailed with Semester at Sea in 2011 as the assistant field office coordinator. You can follow her global exploits via her award-winning blog Camels & Chocolate.

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