Burning Bright

A Burning Man bohemian and business owner helps clean up after Katrina.
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This story appears in the August 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs are experts at thinking innovatively, and so are attendees at Burning Man, an annual art festival in the Nevada desert. So when a group of Burners put their skills together to help some of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, it was a no-brainer for entrepreneur Lisa Benham, who had attended four Burning Man gatherings, to get involved.

Using a temporary Kyocera hot spot to maintain her Los Gatos, California, graphics and web design business while volunteering, Benham, 42, went to Biloxi, Mississippi for two weeks in January to help Burners Without Borders volunteers rebuild a Vietnamese temple. After that, her entire camp picked up and moved to Pearlington, Mississippi. "Basically, everything had to be razed and replaced. That's where we came in."

Burners are experts at building and removing structures in the inhospitable environment of the Nevada desert. After Burning Man 2005 (which was getting underway just as Katrina struck), burners took the heavy equipment they used there to Mississippi. Benham and about 20 other BWB participants spent more than two months in Pearlington, demolishing homes and reclaiming materials while also organizing community art projects for the displaced residents. "You just have to lean down and pick up one brick at a time. That's how anything ever [gets] done," says Benham. Look for BWB to continue on well after the Katrina cleanup, with volunteers like Benham working to bring aid to hard-hit areas.

Edition: July 2017

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