By Elizabeth Gore, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Dell
Spending my youth on a horse and cattle ranch in Texas, I never imagined that my career path would lead me from the Peace Corps in Bolivia to leadership roles at the United Nations Foundation and now to my current job as Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence, supporting entrepreneurial growth on a global scale. I mean can a girl with dirt on her boots end up as a woman in heels leading global initiatives?
I was the first woman in my family to graduate from college—enrolling at Texas A&M University with the intention of returning back to the ranch to breed cattle. (Knowing how to breed cattle doesn’t come in handy at the UN but knowing how to herd them does.) There, I soon recognized that the school didn’t offer adequate childcare, and with the school’s first female vice president as my mentor, I was able to raise the $350K necessary to build a childcare center on campus. The experience showed me how we can make big things happen if a community really gets behind an issue and works together.
After that, I was hooked on this idea of community-driven change and the opportunity for public service engagement.
Pursuing My Passion
A&M gave me the opportunity to get a Master’s in this new field I was passionate about, and after a couple of jobs, I decided to join the Peace Corps. Their motto is “the hardest job you will ever love…” and I would say that’s spot on. I went as an agriculture volunteer—Mom, please mail me my boots again—and managed a USAID grant to increase the overall agriculture situation and food availability in the community.
The experience gave me a window into some of the most pressing issues that exist in the developing world. In a tiny village of 35 families, I learned how crucial both public and private sector involvement is in creating a lasting impact. But in that village, and in the hundreds of others that I have visited since, I’ve been so impressed that it’s the entrepreneurs that are starting small businesses that are the local change makers and leaders.
Finding My Life’s Work
Entrepreneurs are driving much of today’s innovation—from solar conduction dryers to air carbon plastic—pioneering solutions to global problems large and small. They’re also responsible for creating the majority of jobs, accounting for 70 percent of net new jobs, and as much as 91 percent in some emerging markets. However, in order to create scale, these pioneers need support from large organizations like the United Nations and corporations like Dell who are providing access to the tools, technology, markets and resources they need to be successful.
Upon returning from the Peace Corps, I was hired by another mentor to join the UN Foundation. (Do they let Texans in the UN? Better buy some high heels). During my 10 years working there, my focus was on building these global partnerships, connecting social problems with businesses and implementing cause marketing campaigns to scale solutions. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs I have ever seen were in refugee camps, in some of the toughest parts of the world. To give you a snapshot of the potential, every day the UN feeds 30 million people, cares for 42 million refugees, and moves billions of dollars in commodities such as vaccines, food and shelter. With the organization’s help, today’s game-changing entrepreneurs can not only scale their ideas to save lives but they also can make millions of dollars—building on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
My partnership work brought me very close to Dell. I began working with Dell while at the United Nations Foundation through initiatives such as the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network and through Michael Dell’s appointment as the UN Foundation’s first global advocate for entrepreneurship. Quickly recognizing the shared idealism between the two organizations and collective commitment to creating a better global climate for entrepreneurs, we worked together with entrepreneurs from New York to Kenya.
Landing My Dream Job
So when I was asked to join Dell as their second entrepreneur-in-residence it was an easy choice and a natural next step. And hey, all roads lead back to Texas, so I was excited to work for a company based in Austin. Mom, I need those boots again.
At Dell, my role is focused on bringing Dell closer to the entrepreneurial community and helping to extend Dell’s global advocacy efforts, encouraging policies and practices that support and enable entrepreneurial growth globally. In order to pave the way for the next billion jobs, we need to enable the No. 1 job creator: entrepreneurs. We have been working closely with the UN on a campaign called “Entrepreneurs UNite,” to rally for support “Sustainable Development Goal 8,” which calls for the support of entrepreneurs by promoting sustained, inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. “Goal 8” is essential because it is a road map for every country on how they enhance entrepreneurship through laws, regulation, market access and more.
Call to Action
“Goal 8” as well as the other proposed 16 goals— combined, they’re the world’s to-do list to tackle extreme poverty, create jobs, curb climate change and put the world on a more prosperous and sustainable path by 2030— will be voted and agreed upon by the UN General Assembly in September. We, at Dell, are asking entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world to join us in recognizing the power entrepreneurship brings by putting your signatures behind “Goal 8” at EntrepreneursUNite.com.
I strongly believe that by working together, we can all make a big difference and it remains my mission to close the divide between the corporate and public sectors to bring profitability and sustainability to global solutions. Whether you are wearing boots or high heels, innovation through risk-taking can save lives when barriers are lifted, and bringing entrepreneurs together as innovative global partners pools expertise and insights to help solve issues.