Career Matters: Entrepreneurs Needed

November 22, 2013

By Alexa Bach-McElrone MEM '03, Writer

Career Matters: Entrepreneurs Needed

Picture an Entrepreneur. 

Did you envision a shade-grown cacao farmer working his land in Costa Rica
or a small-business consultant teaching ecolodge owners about social media? Perhaps you saw Steve Jobs? Or maybe it was a cash-strapped 30-year-old engi- neer or techie ling 17-hour days from a co-working cubicle in San Francisco to make her dream a reality? 
Entrepreneurship takes many forms. Here are four key reasons an entrepre- neurial mindset can help advance your sustainability career: 

1. Sustainability Requires Innovation

By de nition, sustainability has no nish line. That means your knowledge, skills and abilities can’t either. We as a global community need your bright ideas to drive creative leadership and chart a better course forward, and responsible employers (those who share your values) recognize that too. 

Entrepreneurship is more than deriv- ing bright ideas, however. It is the ability to translate concepts into action—to
pair them with the right people (you or someone else) and identify appropriate funding mechanisms (grants, investors or other markets). 

Not every idea is good, but that is okay. We learn best by acting, listen- ing and responding. This nimble intelligence—rapidly learning and growing in reaction to results—boosts your value on the job market, as well as your contribu- tion to true sustainability in your eld. 

2. Gain a Competitive Edge

Entrepreneurship extends far beyond the world of local, mobile, social apps; and it is much more nuanced than building a new business. We need to drive socially- and environmentally-responsible change from within existing entities (sometimes called intrapreneurship) as well as through new enterprises. Employing an entrepreneurial spirit in unlikely areas can give you (and your team) a competitive edge. 

3. Sustainability Needs Proactive Champions.

Most organizations, agencies and busi- nesses are so deep in the trenches that they truly don’t know what they don’t know. In many cases, replicating proven formulas and best practices only perpetuates the problem—best practices are the most successful solutions at this moment in time, but the status quo of our natural and human environments is not acceptable. 

Entrepreneurship examines those best practices—the top case studies in the field—and determines how they could be better. What if every MEM/MF graduate didn’t just replicate best practices, but identi ed and implemented business op- portunities to drive the industry forward? How quickly could we catalyze change? 

4. Make Employers and Investors Drool.

Move beyond selling the ability to ap- ply, manage, direct or execute. Move beyond marketing your success as a compilation of results (e.g., conserving 120,000-acres of land, raising $1.5 million, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million mtCO2e). Learn to identify hungers, create opportunities, drive leadership and take intelligent risks. Your offer will shift from something that can be easily boxed into an hourly rate or salary scale to an intangible value, positioning yourself so you are living your passion, making a difference and getting paid what you’re worth. 

Alexa Bach-McElrone MEM ’03 is founder and principal of Bach-McElrone Consulting, a strategy and communications rm driving innovation and leadership in sustainable business. She created her rst two (and only) jobs as an employee, transitioned to life as a full-time independent consultant in ’08, and later founded Bach-McElrone. She currently is co-founding a new venture in sustainable tourism. 

 


Alexa Bach-McElrone MEM '03 is founder and principal of Bach-McElrone Consulting, a strategy and communications firm driving innovation and leadership in sustainable business. She created her first two (and only) jobs as an employee, transitioned to life as a full-time independent consultant in '08, and later founded Back-Mcelrone. She currently is co-founding a new venture in sustainable terrorism.