Meet Asha Lannin, 2017 Net Impact Pitch Competition Winner
In this blog post, we interviewed the 2017 Net Impact Conference Pitch Competition winner, Asha Lannin, MBA Candidate, USC Marshall School of Business. For more information about the Net Impact Pitch Competition, visit https://www.netimpact.org/pitch-competition.
Can you tell us more about your winning idea?
Girls are outpacing boys in educational attainment across every socioeconomic level, but women only make up 34% of senior roles in corporate America.
Imagine this: You are a 13 year old girl living in Los Angeles. Automatically, the likelihood that you living in poverty is 30%. Your mother makes $37,253 (the Los Angeles median for women) in a service job, which qualifies you as 1.8 times more likely to pursue the same career as her over any other potential career option. In the media, you see major corporations advertising their efforts to promote management diversity in the workforce, but you don't know anyone in your community with these types of dynamic jobs.
In this scenario, how can you envision yourself in a successful role, without the right vantage point or the right tools? You can't be what you can't see, and you can't see what you can't reach. We launched Bridget to start solving this problem.
Bridget uses video creation to equip teen girls to envision themselves in careers outside their immediate environments. In exchange for a skill-building interaction with a professional woman at one of our partner corporations, our girls report their insights and feedback by creating a corporate social responsibility commercial for that partner brand.
Our team of women from a variety of professional backgrounds negotiates partnerships with corporations that have a vested interest in diversity. Then our programming with a small cohort of 15 girls begins in three phases.
Bridget teams our girls with an LA film crew. The girls drive the process, and produce and edit an impact video from the bridge. They are challenged to identify and communicate the value gained from their interaction. These videos will live on our website—think TedTalks, but for girls exploring career paths.
Each time a video is played, the corresponding partner corporation publicly donates an additional nominal amount back to Bridget programming. This share campaign expands the conversation, and gets the public involved. Our partners receive a branded impact commercial created by the next generation, and our girls build professional capacity and a living resume of experience.
How was your experience at the 2017 Net Impact Conference?
The Net Impact Conference was an experience of a lifetime. My team and I entered Bridget in the Pitch Competition within a couple months of starting business school, and winning the competition has set such an awesome tone for our work.
We submitted a one minute video to apply for the Competition, after going back to the drawing board and using Design Thinking to reexamine the business model I had originally created. This process drew out some great new perspectives. When we were invited to Atlanta as one of the six teams to pitch, I was so excited-- I can’t even explain it! As a founder, it was especially difficult to distill a model that has been years in the making into a four-minute pitch. I am incredibly helpful to my USC Marshall Net Impact team members (Jessica Schleder, Baylis Beard and Xiaojue Zhang) for providing invaluable inputs and feedback throughout the process, and to my boyfriend and everyone else who humored me by listening to and tweaking my pitch a million times.
The other teams were incredible. I was so inspired by the creativity and passion that filled the room on pitch day, and so honored to pitch alongside them. The Net Impact staff were detail oriented, and they did such a great job of getting us all ready for the big day. The judges asked really poignant questions and have helped to focus our ongoing development of our programming. And the audience was so energizing and attentive! I am truly grateful for this experience with Net Impact, and highly recommend it!
How has this experience shaped your future plans?
The experience of winning the Net Impact National Pitch Competition provided me with so much encouragement and feedback. Preparing for the competition involved a great deal of self-examination and iteration. The most impactful way that the experience has shaped my future plans is that after the competition, Jessica Schleder and Baylis Beard formally joined my leadership team for Bridget. I am so proud of and grateful for our dynamic team, which also includes Keshiia Rosenberg Neumen. Our 2018 calendar is full of plans for new bridge events. One of our upcoming initiatives is dedicated to working with a group of teen mothers, and inspiring them with pathways to college and access to other women who have incorporated motherhood seamlessly into successful careers. Stay tuned!
What excites you most about being a social entrepreneur?
I feel like the term “social entrepreneur” has become a bit trendy, but I really do think that social entrepreneurship is the future of innovation and profitability. The Econ Major in me loves the notion that the market will compete out the companies that cannot authentically connect with positive social impact. In my personal experience and from my conversations with other entrepreneurs, we all want to find and create meaning. Millennial and Gen Z consumers are actively looking for brands with meaning, and they want to know the stories behind its discovery. In my eyes, there’s never been a more thrilling time to be an entrepreneur!
What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about making an impact, but is not sure where to start?
That very feeling is what we hope to address through Bridget! We believe that the best way to tangibly nurture your career curiosity is through a face-to-face interaction with someone doing something that interests you. Through our bridges and videos, we hope to inspire more young people to get familiar with the language of connection and inquiry.
I have no special formula for making an impact. But when in doubt, I know it never hurts to: 1.) Be bold. Express your admiration, and ask for interaction. 2.) Prepare. Ask questions that show you are genuinely interested, and that you respect your new contact’s time, and 3.) Demonstrate your comprehension and gratitude.
If you were given an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?
If I were given an extra hour each day, I would probably spend it differently each day! My work with Bridget and my school commitments require that I am pretty regimented about my schedule. There are four things I’d definitely aim to do: meditate, cook, read, and sleep.
Net Impact staff