As an undergraduate student at Boise State University, Sienna George ‘20 (MASI) learned to launch her own small social enterprise, which she called, Revealing Kind, which was funded by the sales of Team Kindness baseball caps that were then used to fund “boxes of kind.” Each box contained a kindness curriculum designed for area high schools, where the rate of student suicides had experienced a jarring jump. “It was meant as a tool to help alleviate some of the symptomatic challenges of a much deeper systemic challenge,” she says. After implementing Kind Week in her own high school, George says “a lot of people got really excited about it and wanted to implement kindness weeks in their own schools,” which led her to join Boise State’s Venture College to pursue the idea during her sophomore year of college.
It was George’s first tangible experience in social entrepreneurship, which led her to later address other systemic challenges as Boise State’s Student Body President and Stanford d.school University Innovation Fellow, including instituting the university’s inaugural food pantry and cupboard system, founding and directing a campus sexual assault and consent training program, and co-creating the University’s inaugural Inclusive Excellence Student Council. These experiences (among others), paired with a deep interest in systems design eventually landed her at the Kroc School and its Masters in Social Innovation program. “I always loved social entrepreneurship, but also made my decision based on the peace and justice perspective that was going to be the foundation of everything we were learning,” she says. “I explain my degree now as a master’s in sociology, systems thinking and an MBA in social entrepreneurship – all paired with the underlying importance of approaching our work with empathy and community-centric and systems-design principles.”
In just nine months, George carried an interdisciplinary load of courses that covered everything from systems thinking and social entrepreneurship perspectives to marketing and even the history of higher education – one of several electives she took in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES). It was a project she developed during a marketing workshop at Kroc that indirectly led her to the job she has today with a Boise-based startup called goodbuy (www.trygoodbuy.com), a Google Chrome extension and mobile-friendly small business search engine that makes shopping small, values-aligned businesses accessible and easy in the moment of search. She explains it this way: “Think about those mega-retailers you might shop at. While you’re shopping, goodbuy actually populates your search with the same products you’re looking for, and sometimes even cooler ones.”
George was hired last fall as the fledgling company’s Social Impact Strategist and Community Engagement Lead, fostering relationships with small business owners and facilitating an advisory board that allows goodbuy to clarify the needs and challenges small businesses face, in order to better support them. She credits her time at Kroc with giving her the theoretical frameworks and applied tools, insights, values, and perspectives experiences to apply diverse ways of thinking that she may not have originally considered. “This was something I really valued about the program. Along with systems thinking and innovative frameworks, we also developed an understanding of different models of social enterprise and how they can be applied and adapted to different industries and sectors,” she says. “The multiple perspectives I gained in the program prepared me for the world of the startup, which is fast-moving and requires a high level of adaptability.”
She also has some advice for incoming students. “Look at your past experiences and think about what matters most to you and what you want to contribute to the world. Then look at the course offerings, and think about how you can align opportunities with your prior experiences, while also beginning to broaden your perspective and curiosity to prepare for what you may want to do next.”