Becky Straw – The Adventure Project

At Oliberté, we believe that the only way to continually bring pride and prosperity in Africa is if it is a joint effort by several persons, brands and partners. “Ambassadors” will feature subjects who are directly or indirectly working with non-profit or social good organizations or those who exemplify a passion for Africa and its citizens. 
Becky Straw is Co-Founder and Chief Adventurist for The Adventure Project, a new non-profit “adding venture” capital to support entrepreneurs in developing countries. In its first 15 months, The Adventure Project has engaged 2,000 Americans to help create 292 jobs in India, Kenya, Uganda and Haiti. Those entrepreneurs will go on to serve over 650,000 people to better health care, food and water. Their goal is to create one million jobs in the next ten years. Prior to The Adventure Project, Becky spent three years helping to launch Charity: Water. Becky has consulted for UNICEF’s Division of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s in International Social Welfare. She currently resides in New York, NY. O: Tell us a bit about your background. Why non-profit as your career choice?  BS: I’ve always felt incredibly lucky to have the experiences and education that billions of people dream about. I want to give others that same opportunity. As soon as I realized how easy it was, I just wanted to keep doing it again and again. I wanted to find the quickest and most cost-effective way to end poverty in our lifetime.  O: What does The Adventure Project do?  BS: We create jobs in developing countries by supporting the best social enterprises and “add venture” to help them scale. They are very similar to Avon models where people get the tools and training to become entrepreneurs. They sell goods and services to people in their communities, earn commission and create sustainable work that positively impacts local economies.  O: In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about Africa right now? BS: That people in Africa need to be saved. Often it is mislabeled as a place full of poor orphans in tattered clothing begging for help. Yes, there is poverty, but it’s only because some people don’t have the same opportunities as you and me. People want to work. They want to care for their own families, send their kids to school, and live healthy lives. Most people living in extreme poverty just need an opportunity. Africa is so much more than poverty. It is a huge continent with amazing resources and some of the fastest growing economies in the world. I see it as a place full of untapped potential.  O: How can people & companies serve Africa better?  BS: Purchasing items and products made in Africa is a good start. I know a sweet shoe company… [laughing] O: What is the biggest challenge of running a Non-Profit Organization?  BS: Managing the workload while keeping operations low. There are never enough hours in the day or enough cups of coffee.  O: What are the biggest rewards of running a non-profit? BS: Meeting people who have become profitable entrepreneurs. My favorite moments always involve sitting around a table sharing stories and hearing how a woman has increased her sales because of X, Y & Z. I thrive off of those conversations.  O: If you could have a 1 on 1 for two hours with anyone in the world who would it be and why?  BS: Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx. [Laughing] I would like to meet her because she’s the youngest self-made female billionaire. I would ask her business questions then I would thank her for slimming my thighs. [Laughing]


Photography and Interview by Nate Poekert.

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