Source | LinkedIn | Zak Essa | Student | Impact Investing Associate | Amani Institute Fellow | South African
Being 22 is confusing and scary. While I am still in denial about it , my years as a student are coming to an end and the ominous inevitability of having to be a part of the churning engine of the world economy is lurking. I know two things for certain. Whatever I do after this chapter of my life must be driven by making the world a better and more equal place for all. And, to paraphrase Daniel Blake, it must be something that I am so interested in that I want to think about it all the time.
At university, we are bombarded by the limitless promises of corporate juggernauts selling dreams of prestige and success. It is so lucrative. I remember walking past posters and secretly thinking that maybe spending my years maximising the profit of a dubious firm is worth the 5 star weekend getaway at the trendiest wine farm in Cape Town. It feels like there are only a few paths sold- corporate success, wallowing in government bureaucracy or slumming it it in an underfunded non-profit.
But, if the last five months I’ve spent meandering around the social sector have taught me one thing, it’s that there is so much more out there. I want to try make this picture slightly less murky and the path I want to take clearer. To do that, I am going to try have a conversation with as many people as I can who are in the business of doing good. The first person I spoke to is Dan.
Dan is the managing director of University Impact, an impact investing fund that only hires students. He never stops smiling and sometimes says profound things unintentionally (see the title of this piece for reference).
In a nutshell, Dan’s story goes something like this: He founded a business called EcoScraps, dropped out of college, sold EcoScraps to a Fortune 1000 company, worked on acquisitions at Scotts Miracle-Gro, became the senior advisor to a congressman and lectured at the college he dropped out of. He has also just turned 31. At this point, I have three things running through my mind. First, I wonder if his jaw hurts in the evening because he is still smiling. Second, he has the perfect back story for his autobiography. And third, how did he do this much in such a short period of time? So, I ambushed him for some advice.
As I said previously, I am somewhat confused but excited about where the mysterious path into the social sector will lead me.