Social Entrepreneurship

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How a Meal in Ghana Launched My Company

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With My Host Family in Ghana

I was in Spain when I lost my wallet. On the streets of Cadiz, it seamlessly disappeared. As if things could get any worse, my only emergency debit card was swallowed hours later by an ATM. I didn’t enter my pin fast enough. Panic mode. It was too late in the night to have someone from the bank retrieve it. There was no way I was calling my family back home – they were already reluctant of my decision to partake in such an adventure, spending a semester aboard a ship voyaging to twelve countries: why not stay on campus, or study abroad in France instead? “I told you so”, mom would say.

The very next day, we were embarking for Ghana, and I had nothing but $50 in my cabin. Because I hadn’t made any plans and I didn’t know where I would be staying in Ghana, there was no way to have any money wired to me. Amid my personal distress, I rationalized that $50 would be enough for me to have at least two meals a day for the five days I would be there.

 

“It’ll be fine. I won’t starve,” I told myself.

 

I ended up being much more than fine. I had arranged to Couchsurf with a family in Ghana that I only knew through email; there was no WiFi on the ship, so I wasn’t even able to download their pictures. The first time I met them was at the port, shortly after we docked. Olivia, my Couchsurfing host, slapped my hand as I picked at my fingers – the same way my mother does. I was home. For months, I hadn’t really been part of a “home”—sure, the ship was home, but nothing compares to being part of a family – if only for five days.

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Sharing my last meal with the Bennehs, I couldn’t stop thinking about coming back to Ghana. But when? Perhaps never? The rush of emotions led me to a solution for the separation: I thought about recreating our experience by Skyping and virtually sharing a meal. I would collect the ingredients for the recipe — the ripe plantains, the rice, the tomato paste, the beans — and make the meal alongside them. I would then sit on my living room floor and eat with my hands, as if I was there in Accra with them. This would be almost as close as being in their kitchen.

That was the moment that gave birth to the idea for my social venture – KitchenConnection.org – why not open this opportunity to the world? Fast-forward. Four years later, that serendipitous moment of despair in Spain has turned into my entire professional life. Last year, Ophelia asked me to be her maid of honor. Ghana wanted me back after all.

Back on the ship, I created a note on my phone called “A Table for Two,” and every time I thought of something that would work for my then-imaginary foodie site, I wrote them down in the note. Fast-forward. I decided to go back on the ship to back on the ship for a second semester on board, this time focusing on social entrepreneurship courses and participating in as many mentorship opportunities as possible. Fast-forward: off the boat and three years later, we begin our Kitchen Connection adventure.

Why Entrepreneurship?

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Morocco, May 2014

 

After a disagreement with our development team back in October, I began to think about how a whole year of my life had gone by completely devoted to my project. I began to think that at that point I could have been 1/3 of a lawyer, $ ____ wealthier, maybe even a few countries wiser, but instead, I was entirely focused on one goal — bringing this idea to life. In the process, I gained the knowledge of building something out of thin air, managing a tech team (whilst previously having no tech background), and all of the nuances in between.

Anyhow, this is not a story about how or why I decided to pursue Kitchen Connection, as there is an entire story about how that happened, but rather, why entrepreneurship — and back on that topic, when beginning work on a startup, the belief is what will guide you through, not a belief in religion necessarily, but the trust in yourself to push forward, with an unwavering belief in your idea and the belief that society with help to birth and nurture it.

I did do the one thing that I love most in this world (outside of the obvious fam +friends + doggy)— travel. Also in the pursuit of this goal, I explored a bit outside of the US, and it enlightened me in the different reasons why one should travel. After all, without the trip to the Expo in Milan this summer, I wouldn’t have otherwise met as many global foodies. Truth is, I didn’t actively seek to travel there for business. I went to the conference because it seemed inspiring and intuitively beneficial, even for personal pursuits. My intuition (belief) organically led me to connect with the right people that were certainly helpful to nurture Kitchen Connection. They even motivated me to stay at the Expo for one day longer than anticipated.

The ultimate question is in response to this quote by Jim Carrey: “you can fail at what don’t love – so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.” So why entrepreneurship? Because instead of failing at something that I don’t love, I prefer to take the risk at what I love. Because it is you (me). It is a reflection of your (my) ideas, your (my) beliefs, your (my) aspirations, all in one — paired with so much of you (me) that is yet to be discovered.

Every day is a new, exciting and fearful day of discovery, but, as the saying goes, if I do the thing that I fear, then the death of fear is certain, right? On that note, fast-forward 3 years since the initial ‘idea’ that inspired KC, and I’m more resilient than ever before, closer to yet farther from the finish line than I’ll ever be. And while the fear of following through with an idea might die, the ideas themselves are bulletproof (thanks, V for Vendetta) — transcending my lifetime and all that I may contribute to it.

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