American Entrepreneurs on the Cutting Edge of Social Innovation

SAN FRANCISCO - It's said that small businesses are the economic engine of the nation, and the search again is on for those that also are helping in the drive toward a better world. Social Venture Network honors such businesses annually with its Innovation Awards.

According to SVN executive director Deb Nelson, the focus is on the next generation of world-changing entrepreneurs.

"We're especially focused on promoting and supporting women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs of color, and young business leaders," she declared. "These are entrepreneurs who are especially innovative and high-impact, and they're using their businesses to solve environmental or social problems."

Among the past Innovation Award winners Nelson mentioned is Tom Szaky, the founder of TerraCycle, whose mission is to eradicate waste.

"His company is now in over 20 countries and he's diverting billions of pounds of waste, and it's one of the fastest growing green companies in the world," she said. "So we're trying to create a larger ecosystem of entrepreneurs and change agents that are working to transform the way the world does business, and our Innovation Award winners are at the forefront of that movement."

Gregg Keesling Office 550x375 Another past winner is Gregg Keesling of RecycleForce. Keesling's company is helping reduce recidivism in the corrections system by providing jobs and a real second chance to hundreds of former prison inmates.

"I was one of the Innovation Award winners in 2009. It changed my life. It changed us from being this little tiny program," he recalled. "It just puts you on a national stage. So I think that's the big exciting part of knowing the SVN network, so I take my hat off to them for continuing to push."

RecycleForce is taking part in a study on the most effective ways to reduce recidivism. Keesling said early data show a reduction in jail days of around 40 percent for those working with RecycleForce.

Read more about Gregg Keesling in the Indianapolis Star

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