Change-Maker Dev Aujla on Doing Well and Doing Good
Who says being a social entrepreneur demands sacrifice?
“People don’t [hear] the stories of entrepreneurs [who] are making money and doing good or living in a way where they have enough,” says Dev Aujla, co-author of the book, Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money, and Community in a Changing World. “They can actually live a really good life and get all the things they want.”
He should know. Among other do-gooder organizations, the 28-year-old has worked with Change.org to help mobilize citizen activists, as well as Good/Corps, an independent agency that's affiliated with the Los Angeles-based media platform, GOOD. There, he helped with a Pepsi media campaign that awarded millions of dollars in grants for social-impact ideas that assisted communities.
Aujla is also founder of DreamNow, a Toronto-based consultancy that helps charities and social enterprises further their social goals. More recently, he's planning to launch a firm that provides job-training and head-hunting services for social-purpose companies.
Here, Aujla discusses how socially-conscious treps can stand out from the pack and break into this competitive landscape:
Q: On college campuses today there's a group for just about every cause and affiliation. How do students know which ones to get involved in to actually create change?
A: The question really needs to start with you. What do you want to rebuild, redesign or rethink? What are you actually interested in tackling? You don’t have to decide this for your life, but just right now -- this second. I wouldn’t even default to going to student groups. There is so much out there that will help you on your career path.
Q: So where do activists-in-training start their search?
A: Look for people who are rethinking, rebuilding, redesigning it already. I guarantee you, someone is already there. We’re all capable of using Google and figuring out who’s on the cutting edge of, say, tackling the furniture industry and making sustainable furniture, or rethinking the way corporate offices buy furniture. Your goal is to find those people, and, guess what, they want to meet you.
Q: Why do you argue in your book that many college students and grads don't have to work for free to beef up their resumes?
A: Your job is to prove you have a mission and skills, and you'll get hired. You don’t necessarily need to work for free, unless you need to build your mission or your skills.
Q: How do you build your "mission and skills"?
A: There are lots of ways to get started. If you want to demonstrate your passion for sustainable products, for instance, show it. Start by knowing everything that's happening in your chosen field. You might learn even more if you start walking down the path as if you’re going to start your own company. Exploring that space will help you prove your point when you’re in an interview with somebody.
Q: How do young, relatively inexperienced treps get financial backing to launch a socially-conscious startup?
A: The No. 1 factor is to have a real business model. You’re not just running a business, of course. Your key advantage is your passion for what you’re doing, and, hopefully, you'll have a whole community of people willing to help. At the end of the day, you have to build relationships and put together a really good case for why your social business should receive funding. This is the same thing as any business.
Q: Do you include yourself in that category of people who are "making good" and earning enough to have everything they want?
A: It’s a constant practice. It’s something you do daily -- especially as an entrepreneur. There are times when you don’t have a lot of money, or you’re pressed for time and hustling, hustling, hustling and trying to get customers. That thirst for more or even just 'enough' is very real and, once you obtain it, can make a tangible difference in an entrepreneur's life.
-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
Neil Parmar's work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, SmartMoney Magazine, The Huffington Post and Psychology Today, and he's been interviewed on CNN, ABC News, Fox News and radio shows in the U.S. and U.A.E. In 2012, former President Bill Clinton announced that Parmar was among one of three winning teams, out of 4,000 applicants, who won the Hult Global Case Challenge and $1 million to help SolarAid, Habitat for Humanity and One Laptop per Child. Most recently, Parmar was an assistant business editor and writer for The National, a newspaper based in the Middle East.