We were recently connected to Kelsey O'Neill when our Founder, Anna Fitzgibbon, was invited as a mentor for the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School project taking place in Puerto Rico. We have been nothing but impressed with Kelsey, her determination, her passion, and her business acumen ever since. Kelsey's dedication to doing ethical, results-driven business is evident in all of her work, which is why we knew she would be the perfect addition to our month dedicated to sustainability!
In her latest En Root feature, Women Empowering Women, Kelsey shares with us her project with the Friends of Puerto Rico, and talks about her take on impacting economic sustainability.
Enjoy learning more about Kelsey's professional journey in our rapid-fire Q+A.---
What does sustainable business mean to you? I think sustainable business is all about prioritizing value for a community, whether large or small, over the financial interests of an organization. All successful, long-running businesses of course need to make a profit, but if your business can truly meet the needs and desires of your community, the profits will follow.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to giving access. Talk to us about your take on the importance of creating and supporting sustainable businesses, and how you believe this concept of access plays a role. Access to education, especially a business education, is so important! Education empowers people to take their ideas to market, and gives future business leaders the tools they need to succeed.
Tell us about a pinnacle point or moment when your experience with a sustainable business had an impact on your personal or professional life. I recently had a chance to do pro-bono consulting work for a non-profit organization that seeks to empower future women business leaders through agriculture. Young girls learn the process of growing, packaging, and selling coffee, and along the way, pick up critical skills in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and leadership.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook? Prior to this pro-bono project, I thought of sustainable business as a lofty idea, and never gave much consideration to the "business" component. This engagement made me realize how critical the business side of sustainability is. To turn a sustainability initiative into a larger functioning business, you really need to understand and incorporate core business skills. This experience inspired me to take my business background and find ways to get involved with sustainability efforts in my own life!
What are your top three pieces of advice for students and professionals who are looking to find ways to support sustainable businesses? How can they approach engagement thoughtfully? 1. Start small! Start with a sustainability issue in your local neighborhood or community. A small action to improve your community can morph into your next business venture.
2. Find a mentor who is involved in sustainable business efforts, and ask to shadow them for a day.
3. Volunteer at a local sustainable business to get hands-on experience.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? Trust the quiet voice within you.
What is your favorite quote? "Growth and comfort never coexist." - Ginni Rometty
Based on your professional experience, what are the top three career competencies that you believe can be gained/developed from more fully engaging with sustainable businesses? In other words, sustainable business are ideal spaces for developing which types of transferable career skills? Entrepreneurial skills, impact valuation, and flexibility.
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2020? 2020 is a big year! I finish my MBA program in August and am searching for ways to inject sustainability into my life - either in my work or through volunteering. I hope to engage in more pro-bono consulting projects with sustainable businesses this year as well.
Kelsey O'Neill is an MBA student at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and holds a Masters in Information Systems from Carey and a Bachelors in Business Management from Virginia Tech. She seeks to take her passions for technology and business to the C-suite of a major company one day. She currently works as an IT Project Manager and teaches yoga in her free time.