Posts tagged entrepreneurship
5 Women-led Organizations You Should Know About

By Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice 

Happy International Women's Day! To celebrate we'd like to put the spotlight on a few of the amazing women-led organizations we've had the pleasure of working with. 

"Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future."  – UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon


Etkie celebrates the rich landscape and cultural heritage of the southwestern United States through their refined jewelry and accessories produced by Native American women in New Mexico. Etkie strives to make their production process as values-driven as the products they create by ensuring that each piece is crafted or finished by talented individuals in underemployed communities. verynice had the opportunity to work with Etkie to design their brand identity which was inspired by the rich cultural heritage and timelessness of their craft.

Working with Etkie was an absolute pleasure. I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and spirit they brought to the creative process." – Alisa Olinova, Art Director, verynice

Downtown Women's Center 

Founded in 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center is the only organization in Los Angeles exclusively dedicated to addressing the needs of women overcoming poverty and homelessness in Skid Row. DWC's mission is to provide permanent supportive housing and a safe and healthy community fostering dignity, respect, and personal stability, and to advocate ending homelessness for women. 

verynice was fortunate enough to be asked to help with the 2014 Annual Report as well as both participate in and design the 2013 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment for the Downtown Women’s Center. Not only did we leverage our local volunteers to go out to Skid Row and help collect valuable information from its female residents, we also were able to see the project through by designing a series of infographics and a publication. Working with their newly revealed rebranding, we designed a publication that introduced their donors and supported to their new look. The pages feature beautiful full page photographs of the women who live and love DWC, and their stories.

"verynice is much more than a design agency –  they have been critical collaborators in our communications strategy for two years now. We’ve partnered with them on such a wide range of projects – digital and print design, illustration, website development, photography, and workshop facilitation – and their work is consistently of the highest quality and always pushes forward our brand and mission."Ann-Sophie Morrissette, Director of Communications and Policy

The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. Their goal is to help build a better life for those that have become trapped in the cycle of homelessness. They emphasize hiring homeless parents from local shelters to become full time seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing, and gain back their independence for themselves and for their families. 
The individuals Empowerment Plan hires are trained to manufacture a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag at night, and a bag when not in use.  The coats are distributed to homeless people living on the streets at no cost to them through partnerships established with outreach organizations in communities around the nation. 

"We're so excited to kick off our working relationship with the Empowerment Plan. In our interactions thus far as well as in the materials we've been deep within, I've been blown away by Veronika Scott's leadership, determination, and vision to improve lives everywhere." - Matt Manos, Founder and Managing Director, verynice


Mothers2Mothers trains, employs, and empowers mothers living with HIV to bring health and hope to other mothers, their families, and communities. Significant progress has been made over the last decade towards the elimination of paediatric AIDS.  Yet each day, 600 children are still infected with HIV. Almost 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and most acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. 

m2m’s programme also has a positive impact on the Mentor Mothers themselves. The employment enables Mentor Mothers to gain financial security for themselves and their family.  By virtue of being professionalised, Mentor Mothers become role models in health centres and their communities, putting a face to empowered, strong, and healthy HIV-positive women, and thereby reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The Mentor Mother Model has been identified as a key strategy in the United Nations Global Plan to eliminate paediatric AIDS by 2015 and keep mothers alive. m2m advances four of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that most directly affect the health of women and children.

"As on of our early nonprofit clients, it was a pleasure to work with m2m's leadership team in Los Angeles and South Africa."Kate Manos, Director of Design Operations, verynice

Swipe Out Hunger

Swipe Out Hunger partners with college campuses to end hunger while raising young people’s awareness of homelessness and hunger through education and outreach. 

Born under the name Swipes for the Homeless in 2009, a few friends at the University of California, Los Angeles went into the dining hall, used their meal cards to swipe some sandwiches and then deliver them around town. In a single week, 300 meals were collected. A few months later, in partnership with UCLA’s Dining Services student they were able to donate their extra meal funds and that allowed the number to grow to 1,087 meals. By the Fall of 2014, it exceeded 15,000 donated meals in a single week. 

As of 2015, the movement has been renamed to the current, Swipe Out Hunger has delivered its  its 1,206,145th meal. verynice believes in their mission to raise awareness, foster student leadership and – Swipe Out Hunger.

"Rachel Sumekh is a visionary leader and truly sets the bar for Millennials around the world. It's been an honor working with Swipe Out Hunger on a Pro-Bono basis for years, and watching this organization go from student group to global movement."Matt Manos, Founder and Managing Director, verynice

Together we can do great things. 
For inquiries, contact our team at
Case Studies

Travelogue | My journey to Moscow by Matthew Manos

By Matthew Manos, Founder and Managing Director

Moscow, Russia  

As a media-skeptical American who has spent way to much time watching spy movies, I wasn't sure where I landed on the whole concept of flying to Russia by myself to speak, essentially, about how awesome capitalism is. I'm excited to say that my recent trip to Moscow to teach business-design and social entrepreneurship to local students and leaders, was among the most incredible experiences of my life.

Why I do what I do. 

My greatest passions in life fall under two categories: providing access to education and empowering others to create sustainable impact. It's no surprise, then, that my favorite thing that I get to do at verynice is facilitate workshops with communities and clients around the world. Over the course of my career, I have been able to work with thousands of students, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and organizations in order to build their capacity on topics that include branding, product design, and social entrepreneurship. With the launch of Models of Impact, the majority of my focus in the workshops I have lead more recently has been on impact-driven business-design.

I define "impact" quite broadly. Of course my roots are in social impact and social entrepreneurship, but we often experience that people have aspirations that may include environmental and personal impact as well. How can I help people? How can I help the planet? How can I help myself? These are the questions people that come to our Models of Impact workshop hope to find answers to. 

After helping to launch and grow hundreds of businesses and organizations over the past decade, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on what made the most successful get that way. What I learned was that the most successful of our clients got that way because they managed to strike a perfect balance between defining their impact and revenue strategy. As a result, our methodology teaches that a business model is the marriage of an impact model (how will I make social/environmental/personal impact?) and a revenue model (how will I make money and sustain myself?). 

Getting to Russia.

Over the course of a given month, I travel to 3-5 countries.... via Skype. This tends to look like me sitting in a dark office in the middle of the night, chatting with people around the world who want to learn more about pro-bono service, or impact-driven business. 

One of my personal goals for 2016 was to do more public speaking and workshop facilitation outside of the United States. The convenient thing is that shortly after making that resolution, I got an email from Maria Polyak of the Strelka Institute for Art and Design in Moscow, Russia. She invited me to come to their school in order to share our Models of Impact methodology with the Moscow community and film an online course for entrepreneurs across Russia. Obviously, it only took me a day to say "yes".

To prepare, I held regular meetings with Maria to gain a more clear understanding of the country's social/economic/political landscape. In addition, we developed scripts and web-friendly workshop activities for the online course, which is set to go live on Vector in April 2016. The school was kind enough to fly me out, and get my visa in order. However, because I embarrassingly haven't left the country since I was 11 years old, I had to scramble a bit to get an updated passport. That said, everything went as smooth as possible.

Day 01. 

The first day I was a bit jetlag, but I had a public lecture with 200 registrants just hours after landing in Moscow, so I had to pretend like sleep was not a necessity in life (it wouldn't be the first time I did that). The talk was about our Models of Impact research as well as my book and business model, "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free". Nothing new there, as I talk about those things at least 3 times per week, but what was thrilling was the fact that the majority of the audience did not speak English. As a result, I worked with a live translator to deliver my talk and to answer questions. This was the first time I had ever delivered a speech with a translator - super interesting. After the talk we hashed out a plan for the big day, tomorrow, where we were to film our online course.

Day 02. 

The entire second day was dedicated toward filming our online course for the Vector platform. This was an incredible journey which took months to plan in terms of content, and then was filmed over the course of about 6 hours on campus and around the city center of Moscow.

At verynice, we've taught hundreds of workshops, but one of the privileges of a workshop is that we are actually there, in-person, to provide clarity in moments of confusion. When you are teaching an online course, however, this privilege does not exist. As a result, we took the content very seriously and would play out every single scenario in which a student might be confused by our content in order to film answers to any perceivable question. Because the course was to be presented in Russian, we also had to make sure my statements would translate clearly. This resulted in a series of re-shoots to get it just right.

Aside from the intensive sessions where we filmed the meat of the course, we also developed a trailer to help promote the course. The trailer included footage of me hanging out at a local bar...., but also included several scenes where I was skateboarding (yes) around the snowy (yes) streets of the city center of Moscow (yes). Those are three things I never thought I would do, all in one scene. 

Apparently the filming went much smoother than anticipated. This means we ended the day about 3 hours ahead of schedule. To take advantage of this free time, I went on a 5km walk around the city center. We explored the Kremlin and the Red Square, and took the long way to avoid the wind. The beauty of taking the long way is you see things you might not have expected. For example, because of the cold weather (extra cold for a fragile Angeleno) their are tons of underground walkways to stay warm. It reminded me of a NYC Subway, but it was packed with small businesses where entrepreneurs were selling their goods and services to the community. We also were very close to the Cathedral where Pussy Riot was taken into custody. Awesome. 

After the stroll around Moscow, we head back to Strelka just in time for me to do a one-on-one session with their students. I was thoroughly impressed by the projects, and am excited to see how they further develop!

Day 03.

After hitting the hotel buffet once again for smoked salmon, canned peaches, and scrambled eggs, I head to Strelka to host an all-day Models of Impact workshop with local entrepreneurs and students. With over 1,000 people interested in signing up for the workshop BUT only 24 available seats, there was a lot of buzz, and expectations were high. The audience consisted of a balance of individuals who were already in the midst of launching their own business as well as individuals who have not quite come to an idea for their venture yet. As a result, we designed the workshop experience to best fit the needs of both participant profiles.

Workshop Part 01: During the first half of the workshop, students worked in 8 groups of 3-4 strangers in order to start a new business concept from scratch. They did this by leveraging our Models of Impact methodology. Through our process, students were tasked with the challenge of inventing business concepts from scratch that could benefit their community, or fulfill a personal passion.

Participants went through this process three times, and as a result, generated three separate business concepts. Over lunch the small groups collaborated to select their favorite concept, and upon returning from lunch, they delivered a pitch to the group as a whole.

Workshop Part 02: During the second half of the workshop, participants learned how to write a business plan using the models of impact framework. With the time remaining, each participant was given the option to leverage this framework for their existing concept OR to continue working with their small group in order to further develop their plan and concepts. The day ended with a series of amazing pitches. 

Social Enterprise and Pro-Bono as a Movement

Meeting with local entrepreneurs from Moscow and St. Petersburg, I learned that the startup movement is growing strongly. With the current economic crisis in Russia, many individuals are seeing an equal risk in starting a business of their own vs. applying for a full-time job. As a result, a wave of entrepreneurs are hitting the scene. In particular, there is a strong emphasis on the idea of Urban Futures and Urban Entrepreneurship among the local social enterprise scene. In addition, our approaches to pro-bono were well received. While there are many new entrepreneurs hitting the market, many of them do not have the necessary funds to launch their business. Pro-bono, as a result, is an attractive system to inject in the local entrepreneur community as a means of developing an ecosystem around helping one another. 

Personally, the experience was incredibly validating for me. The need for tools and resources that can lower the barrier-to-entry in social enterprise is urgent. I'm proud that Models of Impact can be a leader in this space. Where to next?

For more information on Models of Impact training and consulting, contact:

Why Up-cycling is One of My Favorite Models of Impact
Image via  PopSugar

Image via PopSugar

This is the first in a series of posts written by verynice staff, volunteers, friends, and family to share stories and details behind their favorite models of impact. 

Let’s be honest for a moment— many of us know the term, up-cycle, from those clever DIY Pinterest boards urging readers to turn an old pair of jeans into a tote bag or an empty wine bottle into a pendant lamp (“all you need is a bottle cutter and a butane torch!”). Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest, but the thought of acquiring the materials, the dexterity, and the emotional maturity I would need to bounce back from a potential #pinterestfail after it’s all over just doesn’t seem like it’s worth it.

However, I recently learned there’s more to up-cycling than Pinterest would have us understand. More than ever, companies and organizations are making up-cycling a core part of their business model. For example, the athletic wear company, Atayne, makes its gear out of 100% recycled polyester. The company, TerraCycle, has customers send in difficult-to-recycle waste items, which they convert into products like backpacks and even recycled park benches.

Companies like Atayne and TerraCycle aren’t just admirable from a sustainability perspective, although they are making a positive difference in that sphere as well. By proving that they can make a high quality product with preexisting materials, they are also contributing to an important shift away from a pervasive belief in our culture that new is always superior.

In a sense, up-cycling is almost the answer to another movement that is simultaneously (and quickly) gaining more traction—fast fashion. By empowering consumers to achieve constant turnover in their wardrobes with low-quality, low-cost merchandise, fast fashion companies effectively teach consumers that quantity is better than quality and new is better than old.

The constant turnover of material items certainly isn’t a new or trendy belief in our culture— but I do notice a stark difference between my age group (the older side of Gen Y) and my grandparent’s generation in our attitudes toward our possessions. For instance, my grandmother will repurpose an old dress by altering it and dyeing it a different color. My grandparents also recently got a “new” couch by reupholstering and re-stuffing the cushions in their old one.

I suppose what I really learned is that up-cycling isn’t a recent trend— it’s just a new word for a lost art. At a time when many companies are manufacturing low quality and easy-to-obtain merchandise that we are encouraged to use and replace quickly, we should take a good look at what companies like TerraCycle and Atayane are doing. When more companies embrace this model, we might just see a positive shift away from constantly wanting more and toward valuing what we already have. 

—Renae Getlin, verynice Marketing Coordinator


Models of Impact is a strategic business-design consultancy for social entrepreneurs & non-profit executives. Click here to see a comprehensive map of every existing impact-driven model. 





The Civic Innovation Fellowship
Image credit:  Slices of Light

Image credit: Slices of Light

There’s a famous saying we like to use here at verynice. It goes something like, “I don't know who discovered water, but I know it wasn't the fish.” In other words, those closest to the issue do not often have the necessary perspective to find a solution for it. It’s this idea that has driven verynice’s involvement in multiple Los Angeles civic initiatives over the past several years. Rather than relying on our local government to innovate from within, we use human centered, design thinking principles to help unlock new solutions and approaches to its civic innovation efforts.

verynice has been involved in multiple Los Angeles civic initiatives, including the Great Streets Initiative and the Sustainable City Plan, as well as national initiatives such as the Code for America Accelerator program. Our increasing focus on civic innovation eventually feuled our idea to carve out a position solely dedicated to furthering local civic initiatives— a Civic Innovation Fellowship—  a natural extension of our Entrepreneur in Residence program, which has played a significant role in incubating and launching businesses with young entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. We would still provide the mentorship and support to our participating entrepreneurs, but their projects would focus on civic intitatives and collaboration with local govenment.

We approached several different sectors with our idea, but the City of Los Angeles' Controllers Office was the first to jump on board. The idea behind this partnership is that the Controller’s Office would provide a background in public sector innovation and a knowledge of city issues, processes, and needs. In turn, verynice would contribute perspective from the private sector, using strategic innovation and design-thinking principals. Each of us would support the fellowship by providing training and mentorship and by facilitating the actual creation of the project. Together, we would create an entirely new role for design in government.

We’re proud to publicly announce that our very first Civic Innovation Fellow is David Flores, who brings a background in Urban Planning and experience with the Slate Z Promise Zone to the Fellowship. David will be working with the city's Open Data platform in order to map out unique hybrid data sets. In other words, he aims to tell stories using data— and inspire local entrepreneurs to make change in their community.

We recently asked David to tell us a little more about his background, his work with the Fellowship, and why he feels civic innovation and design thinking are a good match. Check out his interview below: 

Hello, David! What attracted you to apply for the Fellowship? Did any of your previous experience pique your interest in civic innovation or is this a new endeavor for you? 
The Office of the Controller’s ability to reach a broad audience provides the right setting to help the people of the city of Los Angeles. It has always been a passion of mine to bring awareness to problems that affect the city. Through my previous studies abroad in Urban Planning, and my recent work with the Slate Z Promise Zone grant proposal, this endeavor is both challenging and exciting as it provides a great opportunity to help our community.  

Can you tell us about the work you're doing to make the city's data more accessible? 
Over the past few years, the Controller´s Office and the City of Los Angeles have worked on transparency, which includes providing a clear portal to all city records and making them accessible to the public. Through maps, our work will consist of creating a more accessible way to view and understand data. When we analyze data, sometimes all we see is the numbers. Similar to story telling, maps provide the vehicle to produce a graphic representation of data.  

What is your ultimate goal for the type of impact this project will have?  
Our goal is to motivate and attract the involvement of our community to solve the problems that affect our city. By giving the public access to our work, we can create a compromise between our government and the community to produce new opportunities, ventures and solutions for the future. 

How does a design-thinking vocabulary influence or enhance your approach to civic innovation?  
My background in architecture and music allows me to view the process form a different perspective. Working with a design thinking approach challenges me present data on a visual spectrum that will be both informative and appealing.   

Your position has a pretty unique structure because you work with both the Controller's office and the leadership team here at verynice. What are some of the benefits of this set-up?  
The opportunity to work in this environment is both exciting and motivating. Having the expertise of both the Controller´s Office and the leadership team at verynice provides support and valuable advice on a project of such magnitude.  

Thanks, David!

We're looking forward to growing the Civic Innovation Fellowship program and continuing our work with the City of Los Angeles.   Find more about verynice's civic initiatives, both locally and nationally, and our work in general right here.