On April 23, the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI) and the Kravis Prize celebrated their 20th and 10th Anniversaries, respectively, with a jam-packed schedule of multiple events that took place over the morning, afternoon and evening.
The festivities culminated with the 2015 Henry R. Kravis Prize for Nonprofit Leadership being awarded to Endeavor, an organization that has helped more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to build 600 companies in 22 countries.
Guests from all over the world, representing various organizations affiliated with KLI and the Kravis Prize were on campus and took part in such events as a morning video panel discussion on “Entrepreneurship: Reflections from Endeavor Entrepreneurs and Past Kravis Prize Recipients.”
At a luncheon held in the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, Endeavor CEO and Co-founder Linda Rottenberg, discussed how her organization has assisted Endeavor Entrepreneurs in collectively creating more than 400,000 jobs that have generated close to $7 billion in revenue.
Endeavor identifies and supports high-impact entrepreneurs whose work creates jobs and pumps revenue into emerging and growth markets. Under the roof of Endeavor, entrepreneurs are exposed to mentorship, networks, strategic advice, and inspiration. In return, these entrepreneurs launch their own businesses and create lasting impact in the job market.
Rottenberg said that she and Endeavor co-founder Peter Kellner started the organization on a napkin in Rottenberg’s parent’s kitchen.
“I came from a family that was very risk-averse,” she said. “My dad gently reminded me that I don’t have a trust fund and that I needed to be financially self-sufficient and the idea of a global nonprofit was probably not the best way to achieve that goal. And my mother reminded me even more forcefully of her desire to have grandchildren.”
According to Rottenberg, the “kitchen table moment” was one that all dreamer’s face. “Do you do what is safe and expected or do you choose the path that’s unsafe and unknown?” she said. “Do you choose fear or hope? I chose hope.”
Rottenberg said that she remembered the decision as scary, but, nonetheless, she committed herself to the idea that “I was then going to spend the rest of my career helping dreamers overcome these moments of self doubt when they felt they had to follow through on some dream that everyone else in the world thought was crazy.”
Indeed, that dedication (which she says is akin to her mantra) is also why she titled her book Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags.
“No one thought Endeavor was going to work,” Rottenberg said. “No one gave us support at the beginning. We have the ‘ding’ letters from every foundation that told us we weren’t trying to help the poorest of the poor; that we were trying to build a middle class. And all the corporations, as well, were telling us, ‘Wait a minute, there are no entrepreneurs in the emerging markets. And if there are, you can‘t trust them.’”
About five years after Endeavor got up and running, vindication came. “One of my favorite Endeavor moments is when the editor of the Portuguese/Brazilian dictionary called and said partly due to Endeavor’s work, they were adding the word “entrepreneur” into the lexicon. It hadn’t existed there before. That was pretty cool.”
For David Leathers ’15, Rottenberg’s luncheon remarks and the questions and answer that followed provided several takeaways.
“I think something that resonated with CMCers specifically was how you really need to take risks,” he said. “You hear that message beginning when you’re a kid – to challenge yourself. But when you get to college and you see other people matriculating to various stable careers, the natural inclination is to follow their example. But it was just great to hear Linda talk about taking the sum total of your previous experiences and really applying them to something totally new and unexpected.”
Leathers said that he’s come to realize a few “truths” since coming to CMC and becoming involved at KLI and with the Kravis Prize.
“Everyone has to work in their chosen career with different kinds of people and while it is branded as leadership, I think it is so much more than that,” he said. “I think it’s the connection between learning and doing; between finding what you’re passionate about and what you are good at doing. KLI and the Kravis Prize, and the opportunities that they offer, are the bridge, the link to leadership that connects those things.”
Rounding out the day’s Kravis-related events was the dual celebration dinner at the Athenaeum of the 10th Anniversary of the Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership with the $250,000 prize awarded to Endeavor in tandem with the 20th Anniversary Celebration of KLI.
“Endeavor exemplifies the Prize’s philosophy about entrepreneurship, social good and venture philanthropy. Endeavor’s leadership has had a profound impact on everyday people,” said Marie-Josée Kravis, an economist who is chair of the Kravis Prize Selection Committee. “We are grateful for its remarkable work to change lives all over the world, creating invaluable jobs and resources.”
In accepting the prize on behalf of Endeavor, Rottenberg said: “I’m so honored to receive the Kravis Prize because in the nonprofit sector, most people love the startups and it’s very rare to be acknowledged when you’re at the midway point. What Kravis is doing in showcasing the models that are in the scale-up phase and not the startup phase is important.”
In his remarks, Henry R. Kravis ’67, an alumnus and trustee of the College who is co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., and founder of the Kravis Prize, said: “Endeavor is a perfect example of a nonprofit that has significant influence on the ground and great success creating a sustainable ecosystem for future impact. We applaud Endeavor’s impressive accomplishments developing high-impact companies and entrepreneurs, and work to transform the economic landscapes of underdeveloped countries.”