Courtney Klein rocks! She tackles life with innovation, inspiration and determination. Not only has she started two companies, New Global Citizens and SEED SPOT, each with an impact of social good but she also crushes endeavors like completing an Ironman without being a swimmer, a cyclist or a runner. She always aspires to live in the moment and she inspires others to take action and reach their dreams.
Thank you Courtney for participating in my interview series!
In one sentence, who are you?
A dreamer; one who believes that anything is possible.
What was your favourite toy or game as a child?
Lincoln logs were the best; I remember building these elaborate cities and roadways and having the “Weeble people” cars drive through and move in. I was also a big fan of Connect 4 and Chutes and Ladders – have vivid memories of playing those games with my sister and grandmother.
I believe in the power of people with dreams – those bold enough to do something that no one has done before; those willing to take the gamble to fix problems or build better solutions to societal issues. Thus far, my work in HATCHING a better world has been to empower and support the dreamers of the world.
How to you activate creativity?
Give me a blank sheet of paper and a problem to solve and it comes out – I am very problem/solution driven when it comes to creativity. I try to think like a 5 year old when solving problems – the more adults say the idea is outlandish – the better it is.
What are your passions?
Yoga, exploring new places (the more rural the village the better), writing, speaking to/working with young people, and most recently - painting.
Who is or has been your mentor? What piece of advice did s/he give you?
I have been really fortunate to have several incredible mentors over the course of 31 years. One dear friend and mentor reminded me one day that “There is never any reason to doubt yourself, plenty of other people will do that for you.” It is a mantra I remind myself of regularly.
What is your place of inspiration?
Gosh, being around young people – the next generation. Throw me in a room full of high school or college kids and let me support their ideas and I get all fired up. I also gain a lot of inspiration from meditation or yoga – finding the balance of calm and peace in a world that sometimes feels chaotic.
If you could only have two tools to create with on a desert island, what would they be?
A strong hatchet to build my own set of Lincoln Logs (life size) and a canvas to find natural objects full of color to paint and tell stories with for whomever happened to land on the island next (that’s the optimist in me).
When is breaking the rules okay?
When it helps someone, contributes to the greater good, or shakes things up in a way that positive change is the end result.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in Arizona and while most people may not think of Arizona as the land of innovation and dreams – we brought water to the desert…back in the day – that took some serious gusto. There are also a LOT of things that can kill you in this state…it takes some serious willpower to survive a summer… so I think I people build up a natural tolerance to push through challenges. It is also a small town. While Phoenix is one of the largest cities in the country – the ability to get a meeting or gain access to something of influence is not hard.
Your first foray into business was New Global Citizens. Can you tell us about that?
I entered Arizona State University as a broadcast journalism student – thinking I was going to go on to become Katie Couric. But after my freshman year in college I traveled to a rural village in Mexico and saw firsthand how much of the world lived. I was shocked that at the age of 18 I was never really aware of global issues – and neither were my peers – and even if they were, they didn't feel a sense of empowerment to take action at a young age to create change. So I came back and changed my major to Nonprofit Management and with a $1,000 seed grant my senior year in college launched what is now New Global Citizens to educate and empower a generation of young people to take action towards solving major global problems.
SEED SPOT was your next endeavor and the one you’re currently working on. SEED SPOT is a nonprofit incubator focused exclusively on supporting social entrepreneurs that are passionate about improving the human condition. How was SEED SPOT born?
During my journey at New Global Citizens, I had dozens of mentors and advisors help me bring the dream to life. So when I transitioned the Board of Directors after 6 years, I wanted to help other social entrepreneurs have the same network and support that I did. So in launching SEED SPOT, the vision was to build a community of experts, mentors, advisors, capital, and peer-support to help bring game-changing solutions to life.
What is a social entrepreneur?
We define it as an entrepreneur that is motivated by purpose before profit. We use our social impact scale to ensure that entrepreneurs have identified a real problem and are looking to create a positive social impact in the world with the launch of their innovation.
What are some successful companies that SEED SPOT has helped?
We have worked with 43 entrepreneurs in our full-time program. A few to mention: Stuttering King Bakery – launched by a 24 year old high function autistic adult who is on a mission to employ other adults with autism. TheraSpecs: reducing chronic migraine pain through special tinted eyeglasses - international distribution. Support My Club: a web-based community that fulfills the needs of high school clubs and teams through an online marketplace.
Are there any toy or game companies that SEED SPOT has helped?
Box Play for Kids: converting recyclable goods into fun, new, simple toys. My Max Pack: a monthly subscription box that helps kids develop healthy eating habits. Xplore Box: providing STEM education through monthly subscription boxes delivered to parents & schools.
How do you see SEED SPOT having impact?
Over 50,000 lives have been impacted by a product, service, or technology created by a SEED SPOT entrepreneur. It is incredible to see an entrepreneurs dream come to life that impacts thousands of people as a result.
SEED SPOT also provides workshops for teenagers. Tell us about that.
Yes! We launched a high school program this summer teaching the next generation about social issues and how to create change through entrepreneurship. The ideas and energy of the students were incredible. We ran them through a 5-day/40-hour program that taught them how to identify a problem, determine a customer segment, conduct market research, develop a value proposition, design a revenue model and ultimately pitch their venture in 3 minutes to a packed room of community leaders and investors. They crushed it!
Describe the best day you ever had.
That is a really hard question. Honestly, its days when I feel like I am contributing to the world in a meaningful way without rushing off to the next thing. Days when my cell phone and calendar don’t guide me but the people right in front of me matter the most. It’s hard to maintain that balance. If I had to describe the best day recently – it was watching a high school entrepreneur that we work with at SEED SPOT, Connor Willey, get up on stage in front of hundreds of people and pitch his business venture: Trade My Shoe. It is a website that will allow amputees to trade their shoes with one another around the world. Their tagline is “Find Your Sole Mate” – I mean, come on!!
How do you show others that you believe in them?
I invest my time and put my own relationships on the line to help advance their ideas and dreams.
What is your Superpower?
Galvanizing people around an idea and inspiring them to take action.
What is your proudest accomplishment with SEED SPOT?
Building a community – the number of people that know each other and support each other as a result of SEED SPOT is remarkable. It is the x factor – it is all about people and I am really proud of the community we have built around social entrepreneurs.
I know your specialty is advising entrepreneurs, but what advice would you give an aspiring inventor?
Dream big. Go after it. Do it now! What are you waiting for? Seriously…get on with it! The world needs you.
What are the current trends you see?
Lots of movement in the social impact space. 3.7 Trillion dollars were invested by impact investors last year – that is defined as investors that care about impact in the world as much or more than they care about a financial return. We led the passage of the Benefit Corporation legislation in Arizona and it is incredible to see a movement around Benefit Corporations taking shape nationwide.
What makes you smile?
All kinds of things!
What would your DJ name be?
Oh goodness….probably something terribly cheesy.
What do you do to live a balanced life?
I love pushing myself to limits and that forces me to be balanced in how I spend my time. Last year I finished the Ironman race – I was not a swimmer, a cyclist, or a runner before signing up. But getting out of my comfort zone, committing to something, and dedicating time every day towards it kept me balanced and forced me to get off the computer and cell phone.
What do you dream about?
I look back and can see how my past brought me to this point and how the people I met and experiences I had led me to do what I do now. I always wonder and have day-dreams or speculations about how what I am doing now is preparing me for whatever I do next…and it is exciting to think about where I might go, who I might meet, who I might be inspired by, and what I might experience in the years ahead.
Courtney! You and your work are truly inspirational. I suspect we've only seen just the beginning of the amazing things you will do in the world. Thank you!
HATCH is a community, movement, and a series of experiences designed to ACTIVATE CREATIVITY to HATCH a better world. Founded 10 years ago HATCH is designed to stimulate new thinking, lifelong collaborations, and support innovative thinking with 360 mentorship. HATCH has grown into a global network of innovators, and is expanding into a year round collection of experiences that will take a variety of shapes and forms.