Category Archives: Utah Social Entrepreneurship

Top 3 of 25 Student Entrepreneurs

This past few weeks has been an exciting blur. I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Utah Student 25 Event, where David Kasteler and I placed in Utah’s top 3 student entrepreneurs. Third place isn’t bad for a true social venture to place in a competition like this.

I expect to see more social ventures show up in the future…

It was a lot of fun to see the businesses that were represented there. It was a spectacular event with addresses from the Governor, Steve Gibson, (I’m a big fan of that social entrepreneur), Josh James, and others.

Again congratulations to first and second placers, Taylor Turnbull and Craig Guincho. Both emerging business leaders in the beehive state!
I want to thank everyone who supported and cheered for Worldwide Book Drive!

If it wasn’t for everyone else who made Worldwide Book Drive a reality, it certainly wouldn’t have been able to donate and recycle the millions of books it has to date. Thank you!

BYU Student Entrepreneur Of the Year 2009 (SEOY)

This past week I, (John Keller) had a great opportunity to participate in the BYU Entrepreneur of the Year event. This is the first time in nearly 5 years that I’ve entered a competition like this. Amid building a number of different businesses, it was a challenge to find the time and focus to put together a compelling argument. I feel extremely blessed with a talented and flexible team at Worldwide Book Drive team and an extremely supportive wife to actually help me pull together.

Hands down, one of the funnest parts of the event was getting to know the other emerging Utah entrepreneurs. Tyler Turnbull and Craig Guincho are both very talented entrepreneurs whom I expect to hear a lot more of in the future.

For a social venture to play an integral part of a entrepreneurship competition in Utah is a great accomplishment. Go Worldwide Book Drive!

Community Foundation of Utah and Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year

This past Friday, I had the great opportunity to attend the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year award. It was an inspiring program to see so many talented and driven entrepreneurs who had been successful in their ventures. Perhaps the most inspiring part of the program was how many of the entrepreneurs shared their “big pie” mentality as a driving force for their success.

I had the unique privelage of sitting at the table with Fraser Nelson, Greg Warnock and a number of successful entrepreneurs and humanitarians. 2009, was the first year that Ernst and Young has ever had a Social Entrepreneur category. Although this year it was limited to only 501(c)3 organizations, (I understand their need to simplify, although I feel strongly that sustainability should be a top priority over classification) I was excited to see the finalists gain recognition for their efforts.

As more and more entrepreneurs are looking to tackle social challenges through innovation and sustainable programs, the Utah Community Foundation has certainly done well to provide a platform for this growing segment. As a sponsor of this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, the community foundation did well to stress the need of bringing entrepreneurs to the attention that our skills and talents need to reach beyond a single bottom line.

It may come as a surprise to some people, but Utah is the first state in America to have a social entrepreneurship category for the Ernst and Young Award. Hmmm… That’s a pretty big deal I think. Thanks to The Community Foundation of Utah for pushing for it.

I imagine we’ll hear a lot more about the Utah Community Foundation and things move forward. I also think social entrepreneurship will continue to gain momentum within the Non-Profit and For-Profit arenas.

Healing Health Care, One Person At a Time

When I was kid I went to the doctor because of tremendous pain in my feet after playing for too long. It was pretty frustrating to have to stop playing while my friends went on running around and jumping and tackling each other. –My neighborhood was possibly rougher than most :) I remember begging my parents to help me fix my feet. My mom and dad found a Utah podiatrist in the yellow pages and set up an appointment. After my first visit, the doctor was convinced that my short tendons and flat feet required near immediate surgery. I remember him describing to my parents how he would just need to elongate both of my Achilles tendons with three small incisions. Next he would perform a surgery on my left arch to clear away some worn down bones and possibly try to build an arch.

My parents politely asked for the X-rays and the next week I was in a different office getting a second opinion. This new doctor looked at my feet for about 30 seconds and said, “What you need is a sturdy pair of orthotic inserts.” –That was it. No incisions. No clearing away bones. No weeks or even months of recovery. No life time of dealing with a new arch built by a creative doctor. Just a molded piece of plastic in each shoe. To make a long story short, we tried it out and now more than 15 years later, I’m running and jumping as much as my schedule will allow.

I occasionally think about how life would have been different if my parents didn’t know to get another opinion. What if I would have had surgery? What if there had been complications. Who was that first doctor anyways? Who did he go around giving surgery to and were they happy?

When my wife and I were picking out pediatricians, there were a lot of options. Finding a pediatrician in Utah is easy, but to find one that you know will give you the best possible care can be very difficult. There are a number of different doctor rating sites out there, but I learned about one that was developed right here in Utah and my wife and I looked at it right away to make an educated decision about potentially changing doctors. This site is a social entrepreneurial venture of sorts, that is dedicated to informing the public about doctor’s histories and providing a platform for information to be exchanged in near-real-time with hospitals and doctors and their patients. The site is and with over 700,000 doctors in their database chances are good you’ll find something that interests you.

There’s a video on the site that raises a question I’ve thought a lot about lately. Most people spend days shopping around to buy a car. How much time did you spend finding someone to diagnose your health?

I would personally recommend this site to everyone that has a doctor or knows someone who does… Yeah that’s right. Just about everyone :)

Utah-Ceo Article

Here’s a brief link to an article about John Keller and social entrepreneurship in Utah written up by Utah CEO Magazine.

Despite the extremely light -hearted conversations that I had with Tammy regarding the article. I think it turned out quite fine.

Although Utah CEO Magazine in a relatively new magazine, it’s got a simple format that makes it easy to read and skip the stuff that may not interest you.


Utah Nonprofits Get a New Perspective of Entrepreneurship

This past week I had the great opportunity to attend part of the Utah Nonprofits Association Conference. The West Valley Cultural Arts Center was busy with hundreds of passionate and dedicated individuals exchanging ideas and working to advance their represented causes.

It is my privilege to attend a lecture led by Alan Hall regarding Social Entrepreneurship and Venture Philanthropy. Although Alan didn’t break very deeply into the mechanics of social entrepreneurship, he very candidly addressed the relationship that sound business practices and experienced business leaders play in successful social innovation. For many in attendance, the thought of applying measurable business practices and working closely with entrepreneurs–or even supporting their ventures was almost unheard of.

“I have to make money if I’m going to give it away” was a simple but clear demonstration of the principle of sustainability.

In describing the mission of Grow Utah Ventures and Island Park Venture, Alan stated that he was actively seeking to nurture and develop other entrepreneurs with the same mission to improve their communities and be stewards of their profits for a higher cause.

The Alan and Jeanne Hall Foundation is part of Alan’s balanced portfolio to direct his dollars and attention to sustainable and measurable impacts throughout Utah.

Successful for-profit and non-profit start-ups (and mature companies for that matter) need to run on the same sound principles of putting the customer (donor) first, having sound financial model, develop a robust vision.

Proscenium: A Monument to Utah Venture Philanthropy

So it looks like Sandy City is on track for the new Proscenium complex to move forward.

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the Proscenium project is the significant portion of Venture Philanthropy that it represents. Adding an arts-and-culture zone to Sandy’s down town business center provides not only a incredible opportunity to develop the culture and perspective of Sandy residents, but the center should prove to be an economic powerhouse for the city.

As I sat down with the founder and visionary (Scott McQuarrie) for this project last week–I was beaming with excitement. Scott described the various components of green technology, social improvement and non-profit integration that are going into this complex.

Although a project as colossal as the Proscenium may seem to cast shadow’s on some of Utah’s smaller social venture projects–I believe it’s affects will be quite the opposite. This development will stand as an ensign to other businesses seeking to incorporate socially responsible components as a glimpse of what is possible.

More Than Just Fish Stories…

Social Entrepreneurs want things to be different. Is that too much to ask? I think most people would agree that there are plenty of resources in the world. Most people will also agree that the allocation and distribution of these resources are extremely inefficient. So we want to change it.

Most people will tell you to “Go Fish” when you tell them you want to use business to create a positive social impact. In some cases at least–they’re right.

During my recent expedition to meet with more Social Entrepreneurs in Utah, I had the great opportunity to meet with just such a demanding individual; Ben Nolte, the founder of Big Amazon Fish and Adventure Giving. Ben is an intelligent and personable business man who was intrigued by the challenge of bringing sustainable social change to a segment of the world he deeply cares for: The Amazon. His conquest to raise public perceptions of indigenous Amazon and divert more tourist spending dollars to build social infrastructure has been a risky business.

Re-distributing tourist dollars is a simple but effective idea. According to Adventure Giving, just 1% of the Adventure-Tourist industry could provide more than 60 million dollars for communities in need. — Nice. The cool part is that figure doesn’t even begin to measure the socio-economic collective impact of more people experiencing service and sacrifice for others. —

Things can be different. Don’t believe me? Go fish!

Utah Social Entrepreneuship

A friend of mine at Catalyst Humanitarian sent me an email today to let me know a google search of Utah Social Entrepreneuship brings up John Keller as one of the top results on Google.

Fun novelty aside, (thanks it does help to illustrate the how segmented the industry is for social entrepreneurship in Utah. Social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of all backgrounds for that matter would benefit from a more consolidated social entrepreneurship community in Utah or their respective states. The challenge of developing a lasting venture that has positive social impact is incredible. It is an exciting prospect to think of how various social entrepreneurs could work together to share networks and resources to responsibly and profitably improve their local and global communities.