Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ori Carmel, Founder of Sowen, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Sowen is a social impact consultancy. We harness data and technology to enable companies and organizations that are looking to drive meaningful, measurable social impact while implementing business tools, processes, and results.
Simply put- we use data and technology to solve complicated challenges, simply across the private, public, philanthropic, and academic sectors. We do this by helping leaders better understand their current state, design, implement and then measure programs and initiatives that advance their capacities, capabilities, and solutions.
Tell us about yourself
I started my career working for clandestine intelligence operations for the government, which was incredibly rewarding, interesting, and challenging. Then, I spent the next 15 years in the corporate world in leadership positions in both FT500 companies as well as startups. After a while, something started to eat at me- a notion that there must be more than just making money, at least for me. I looked around, and almost everyone I spoke to articulate a viewpoint where the two elements- doing good and doing well, are juxtaposed. I could not come to terms with this view. I wanted to prove them wrong.
From where I sat, each sector was missing a major component that the others had. I saw great people and activities in the private sector that try to drive social impact get stifled because of a lack of true purpose, vision, and incentive. On the other hand, I kept seeing public and philanthropic organizations fail to implement business sense, processes, discipline, and economic engines to manifest and scale their vision and purpose.
We started Sowen with the idea of becoming the connective tissue and, to a degree, the missing link between the two worldviews. We believe that data and technology, while not the only tool, are critical components in bringing the vision, purpose, and heart that businesses must adapt to thrive and the insight into decisions, processes, and business sense that public sector and philanthropic organizations often lack.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I don’t think we have a single moment that stands out as our biggest accomplishment. We have been profitable from day one and completely independent. We have taken on no external investment, funding, or support and have been able to grow steadily and organically. I guess our accomplishments are really measured in the satisfaction of the 125 partners we have worked with since 2019 and our combined ability to stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, and show the tangible impact we have been able to create, both on their business, as well as towards the social impact goal they focus on.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
We are big on focus. It is an absolute imperative and sometimes the hardest part. For an organization like ours that is experiencing strong growth and demand, it is critical to stay focused on driving the right impact for the projects and partners we believe in most.
We have three rules- our projects must have a social value and an economic engine, and we won’t work with people we don’t respect or believe in. Staying true to that in the face of temptation, opportunity, and the pressure of growing a business is always a fun challenge.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Just start. There’s never a great time. There’s never a perfect moment. You may fail. In fact, statistically, you are very likely to fail. But that is not a reason not to try. I wish I had given myself this shot at 30 rather than 40, but it’s all a part of the journey.
- It’s ok- we are all making up 80% of everything we do. Those who don’t are either not creating anything new, not challenging themselves, or just not admitting reality.
- You have to be ok with ambiguity. Some people aren’t, and that’s totally fine. But starting a business will force you to operate in extreme ambiguity, with no clear-cut answers and no one to ultimately make the decisions for you. Own that. There’s amazing beauty in that.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Anyone who tells you there are magic solutions is lying. The path is hard and full of failures. Try not to make the same mistakes over and over, be kind to everyone you meet along the way, and you will be fine.
Three recommended books to read that (may) change your life:
a. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl- about the purpose and the depth of our journey. Any journey.
b. Thinking, Fast, and Slow by Daniel Kahneman- about how people and organizations make decisions and about how flawed these processes can be.
c. Grit by Angela Duckworth- about the importance of perseverance, persistence, and adventure as a key part of success and happiness.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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