The Dugal Impact Fellowship Program provides a stipend for two undergraduate students to spend their summers interning at early-stage social enterprises, thanks to a generous gift from Ish ’05 and Priya Dugal ’05.
by: Adam Sarsony ’20
Incubators across the world tend to focus on established startups that are past seed stage. However, a group called SEED SPOT has decided to try a different strategy: focusing on seed stage startups, mostly with minority and female founders, and helping them to build social enterprises from the ground up.
This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern at SEED SPOT through a Dingman Center fellowship. SEED SPOT is a social enterprise incubator with offices in Washington, D.C. and Phoenix, providing training and resources to founders of nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission to help them grow and measure their impact. Throughout every level of engagement, SEED SPOT focuses on minority and female social entrepreneurs.
Working at SEED SPOT was an experience like no other—I’ve thought about it as working at a startup that’s in the business of helping startups. The team is small and incredibly passionate about their work. The organization is only a few years old, having seen massive growth since first starting out and only recently adding their WeWork location in DC.
The SEED SPOT office in DC is littered with Mac chargers, marketing materials, books about social entrepreneurship, Harvard Business Review journals, and notebooks that SEED SPOT team members brought back from conferences to share. Working there was just as much an opportunity to access the SEED SPOT library as it was a job (which was perfect for nerds like myself).
I split my working time between writing grant proposals to foundations supporting SEED SPOT’s programs and helping to redesign the system used to track the commitments made to the funders of a program, measure impact metrics for that program, and report those impact metrics back to the funders.
Helping to redesign the system for tracking program metrics was a profoundly impactful experience. On this project, I was lucky to work with a SEED SPOT fellow from Pakistan, who had received a master’s in statistics and come to help the organization redesign its impact measurement and data collection system. Working with and learning from him throughout that project was a positive experience.
Writing grants was not the most glamorous work – it became very tedious very quickly. However, it was also a fast way to learn a lot about SEED SPOT’s work, how they measure their impact on the entrepreneurs who go through their accelerators, and the way that they maintain and develop relationships with funders. As someone who gets inspired by stories of social entrepreneurs fighting problems that they are passionate about, it was also a great way for me to read and write narratives about SEED SPOT’s past alumni (if you want to read about some check out the SEED SPOT website).
Outside of working, I was glad to meet a group of highly successful people at SEED SPOT, who had left careers in banking, design, engineering, and other fields to help make entrepreneurial ecosystems more inclusive. I saw impressive passion in those people and I look forward to seeing where the SEED SPOT team goes from here. I know that their team will continue to expand their services and support to new cities, schools, and entrepreneurs across the world.
Adam Sarsony is a junior studying Finance and Operations Management. He is passionate about social entrepreneurship and leveraging new technologies and resources to generate social good. In his free time, he enjoys running, competing in “Spartan Races”, and writing science fiction stories.