Bringing Diversity to Documentary

Logo for Kartemquin's Diverse Voices In Docs programI’m honored to have been accepted into the 6-month “Diverse Voices in Docs” program organized by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago. (see HuffPo article) Think of it as an incubator for emerging documentary filmmakers of color.

We’re now done with our very first session and I’ve been blown away by all the talent in the room. So much experience. So much wisdom. We wasted no time on day one. Tasked with introducing everyone to our works-in-progress within 5 minutes, I took the leap to turn an idea that’s been in my head for months, into reality. I’m excited about highlighting and exploring a much heavily praised aspect of Singapore with folks here in Chicago.

Adventures In Learning

The documentary I’m going to be working on throughout the course of the program and beyond will shine a spotlight on innovation in the classroom, before teens enter university. Areas of interest include classrooms that incorporate social entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, or global citizenship.

Driving Force

The interest in these new curriculums and teaching methods really stem from my experience of growing up in a very “exam-driven” educational system, where school was more about learning to get the good grades than it was about learning… actually learning. I remember feeling like a fish out of water when I first stepped into the classrooms at Northwestern University. “You mean you actually wanna hear my opinion?” And also in constant awe of the number of fellow students around me who truly believed they could change the world.

Research Research Research

I’d like to follow stories both in Singapore and in Chicago. If the above resonates with you, I’d love to chat. In this initial research stage, I’m seeking people who’ve done academic studies on the education systems in Singapore and the US, and those who are directly involved in either education system, whether as a teacher, an administrator, or even as a student with an opinion to share.
At this point, I’m still searching for the right points to cover, characters to follow, and stories to tell. Know someone who fits the bill? Send him/her my way.
Journey With Me
Curious and wanna come along for the ride? Sign up to receive progress updates via my newsletter. :)

Entrepreneurs Unpluggd in Chicago!

The first ever Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event in Chicago, organized by Stella Fayman and Tim Jahn, was a relatively intimate gathering of like-minded individuals, brought together to hear the stories of some of the most successful online business owners around. Since I’m on a journey to starting a media social enterprise of my own, I figured it’d be a really good learning opportunity. The lineup for the night? The founders of,,, and Pretty impressive stuff!

Missed out on the event? No worries. Here’s a quick re-cap of what went down:

Genevieve Thiers – SitterCity Logo

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

  • Started what’s essentially a for parents and caregivers when she saw a pregnant woman walking around campus flyering for a nanny.
  • Startup cost was $12K and it was just her and her laptop for the first 4 years.
  • Marketing your online company has 3 stages: Grassroots level -> Direct Marketing -> Brand Marketing
  • Pitched herself as the “babysitting expert”, which later landed her 6 segments on The Today Show.

YSL: She’s essentially taken what people were already doing, and put the process online. Brilliant.

Dan Ratner – ContactKarma Logo

“Customer = someone who pays you for stuff.”

  • Started a service for finding vendors your friends use. Site’s still in beta.
  • Selling to small businesses is just as hard as selling to big ones
  • Get the customer to tell you what they need
  • Talk about your product. A lot.
  • Sometimes intuition is not the same as reality

YSL: Interesting concept that’s kinda like and facebook rolled into one. Injects some fun into searching for services.

Mari Luangrath – FoiledCupcakes Logo

“People love opportunities to interact with other people with common interests.”

  • Found there was no bakery around that would deliver cupcakes to her without charging exorbitant delivery fees.
  • Started this online cupcake store 1.5 years ago with social media as her only form of marketing
  • Targeted office admins because they wanted to sell by the dozens. Who organizes parties? Who has $$?
  • Hire people who are smarter than you

YSL: Those cupcakes look delicious. Keeping them in mind for my company’s next event! I loved the way they handled a mistake they’d recently made. It’s a great example of what to do.

Ross Kimbarovsky – CrowdSpring Logo

“Look bigger than you are.”

  • Wanted to help small and mid-sized businesses find graphic design services more easily
  • Found first buyers by paying friends to post projects on their site
  • Held a public project where designers were invited to compete to design the crowdSPRING site.
  • Had to very carefully manage the backlash from the design community because they were changing the way the world of design worked.

YSL: I love this. Crowdsourced design services. Just what I’ll need for when I revamp my website! Discovered them when they featured JJ’s List on their blog as one of the top influencers in the world of crowdsourcing.

Matt Maloney – grubhub logo

“Find a good partner who brings different perspectives and skill sets to the company.”

  • Started online food delivery directory in 2004 when he got sick of pizza delivery from this one place
  • Started with 2 people in his house
  • Customer Service must be at the core of his business.
  • In case of a screw up, make the resolution A LOT better than the problem.

YSL: This is the only service that I’d actually used before the event. Definitely made my being sick and unable to go out to buy food a lot easier to manage. Their ads are peppered all over the trains… which I would imagine has paid off well for them, since that’s how I discovered them in the first place.

What a great event. Thanks Stella and Tim for organizing this. I can’t wait for the next one!

The 2009 SVN Innovation Awards

If you were the founder of a socially responsible business that’s still in its early years, what would some of the most valuable resources to you be?

Would it be having an experienced mentor to guide you through building that strong foundation and avoiding common mistakes?

Would it be getting prominent promotion on a website that’ll be viewed by many other leaders of social ventures for increased recognition?

Would it be gaining access to a network of like-minded individuals where you gain tremendous opportunity for collaboration?

How about all of the above? Sound good to you? That’s what the winners of the SVN Innovation Awards 2009 received. Take a peek at how things went at the ceremony where we celebrated the next generation of inspiring leaders.

Produced by Conscious Planet Media

So here’s the good news. You have the opportunity to be a part of it all next year. Details on applying for the 2010 awards will go up on the SVN website. I don’t qualify for them yet, but if you do, it’s definitely worth a shot. I don’t work for the Social Venture Network, but the time I spent at their last conference was a truly positive experience for me. And well, good things should be shared! :)

To read more about this year’s winners, click here.

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Take it from Acumen Fund.

I’ve always believed in the mission and philosophy behind what Acumen Fund does. Am still reading about the road to how the organization started and what fueled their beliefs in The Blue Sweater: a brilliant book by their founder Jacqueline Novogratz. But if you don’t have time to digest a whole book, let them tell you in 1min 35secs.

Jan Schultink from Axiom One puts it well in his post:

“The video manages to explain a completely revolutionary concept to charity. It is not about giving food, it is not about giving the tools to grow food, but it is all about investing in profitable businesses that produce goods/services, create wealth and can grow by themselves.”

Take it from Acumen Fund. They know why impact can be so much greater when investments are made in social enterprise.

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