Become A Social Entrepreneur
November 20, 2013 Social-E Profiles
SNHU Social-E Six: Ann-Marie Bland, founder of ThinkGood. This week, SNHU talked with Ann-Marie Bland, the founder of ThinkGood, LLC, which encourages people to think good, do good and feel good and believes that helping others can improve personal well-being.
What inspired your mission?
ThinkGood’s mission is to favorably impact human connections through helping each other, increasing happiness.
My family and I vacation up in Maine every summer at a cottage on a tiny piece of land on Sebago Lake called Frye Island. When I say island, many see images of tropical beaches and extravagant amenities. It’s actually quite the opposite, and why our family has found it to be such a special place. It’s a simple life. Choices are few, pajamas and bathing suits are typical attire, and there’s no clock or schedule. It’s one of the places we are happiest.
One of the first visits, my daughter, husband and I were touring the island on a borrowed golf cart (the preferred choice of transportation), enjoying the views of the lake. Everyone we passed, (and it was many), yelled out hello, waved excitedly, and made you feel as if you had known each other all your life. “Momma? Why are people waving at us? We don’t know them,” asked my daughter, 9 years old at the time. At first, her question didn’t cause me to react. She had a point. I even found it odd. And then it hit me; which did alarm me. On reflection, it made me sad how much our world has changed and how there has been a loss of human connection. The very fact my 9 year old daughter found it strange when strangers acknowledged her. That hit me. It is true, that communication has changed; in the process, human connections are being lost.
I often refer to it as the “perfect storm of the best kind”. This island experience in combination with life events, realigned priorities, and finding others that believed, gave birth to ThinkGood. Technology has done some amazing things for us. But it’s also taken some things away. Was there a way to use technology to bring people together? To bring that human connection back. To DoGood. ThinkGood believes human interaction continues to deteriorate, causing a downward spiral in overall humanity’s’ well being. ThinkGood wants to reverse that trend, through encouraging people to help, look out for each other, and be kind to each other. ThinkGood inspires and encourages all individuals to “DoGood”, works with corporate sponsors who fund various programs, having global reach to their local communities.
It doesn’t have to take much to make a difference in someone’s life and ThinkGood is about recognizing the efforts whatever they may be. They all add up. Society needs a place to help escape the surrounding negativity and focus on the good. ThinkGood refers to themselves as a “’philanthropy for the rest of us.” If each of us do a little, it will change the world.
Individually we make a difference. Together we can change the world.
Tell us a bit about your prior career experience and education. What role does each play in your current endeavor?
The common denominator in all my technology industry experience is I have been in brand new territory. A pioneer, being in the forefront of new business sectors: where there was no right way or models to replicate. ThinkGood is no exception. The social entrepreneur business model and approach is new. Prior to starting ThinkGood, I worked for a social enterprise which taught computer skills to people living in poverty. I found it incredibly rewarding but also a necessary business approach to societal issues. I have worked in mostly start-ups and all for-profit. So wearing several hats and balancing many plates is part of my fabric. I did work for one big company while working at Hasbro, the toy company. But realized quickly that prefer the smaller companies, where you see the impact you have right away.
Life, school, and career all had their individual contributions on ThinkGood. There is no doubt life has been my best teacher. Life and hands on work experience. Some of the most basic skills not taught in colleges. To me, it’s about doing what it takes, getting in, rolling up the sleeves and experiencing things. Taking risks. Making mistakes which I’ve learned is okay as they can be filled with some of the most valuable information.
What’s a typical day like for you?
What a great question! This is one of the things I love about the work I do. There is NEVER a typical day. Every day is filled with new ideas, new people, new challenges and new strategies. I take out the trash, write strategic plans, and talk to country singers who love our mission and want to write music. You name it. The variety makes it interesting, teaching patience and tolerance along the way.
What are the challenges?
Our business faces challenges every day; but right from day one of this company, but we practice what we preach. We look at the good in the challenges, looking and approaching them through a “ThinkGood” lens. Where’s the positive? We remember there’s always a silver lining, and take the challenges as little puzzles we work on together to get it resolved. One of the unique challenges we face as a social impact business is a global misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about a for profit approach to societal issues. Some view it negatively without proper information. When I share ThinkGood’s mission and business objectives many assume non-profit immediately. And when I explain we are for-profit some find it difficult to grasp. Once anyone does any digging its clear why for-profit approach addressing societal issues is necessary and why social entrepreneurism is the future.
What motivates you?
First, taking an idea and making it come true. That motivates, but what’s more motivating is knowing we are making a difference; there’s nothing like it in the world. Every day we positively impact someone’s life, and they let us know. We witness strangers getting together to discuss doing good. We see friendships and bonds made between people that may have never met and the good efforts completed because of the teams’ efforts. We work in an incredibly upbeat, positive environment, which personally “Feel(s)Good”. We have a rule at the company; negative thinking is grounds for dismissal. When at work, we “ThinkGood”.
How do you define success, for you personally, and for your organization?
Personally, success is making an impact and loving what I do. I experience both of these every day. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I admire Huffington Post’s founder, Arianna who speaks of success being more than just power and money. She calls it the” third metric”; well-being. I strongly believe that. As a society, we have forgotten what is really important in life. Our happiness, our kindness towards each other. We have put our efforts into the power and money. And we have lost happiness and connection. For the company, we try to celebrate the little successes which add up. As for business success, I see it as defined if the employees are, happy and feeling a sense of purpose, our advisors and investors are pleased with impact/ROI, and ultimately if we make a difference and touch one person’s life per hour, we have success. When you ThinkGood, you DoGood which makes you FeelGood. Doesn’t everyone want to feel good?