June 9, 2012:

By: Rena Avramidis

Hey Everyone! Today is Saturday afternoon, which means tomorrow marks one week since I’ve been in the Bay Area after an incredible 5 months abroad and a (way-too-short) week at home in NC.  I think it would be best to start out talking about what I will be doing this summer, and then touch on some other things, namely, how incredible the Bay Area is and how lucky I feel to spend my summer here.  I absolutely know it was the right choice and I feel incredibly blessed and excited for the opportunity to be able to dive into what will undoubtedly be an awesome summer adventure!

Like I mentioned in my blog that I kept while in Barcelona, my time abroad has opened my eyes to the world of Social Enterprise and made me realize that this is where I want to be working.  A large question and idea I hope to delve into this summer is how the  power of business help solve social and environmental problems in a way that does not exploit its bottom line and can still be sustainable and even profitable.  In other words, considering ethical and moral considerations, can a for-profit company still do genuine good?

For the next 10 weeks or so, I will be splitting my time between Berkeley (where I also live) and San Francisco, two dynamic cities that make up the heart of the Bay Area.    Despite their increidbly unique cultures, they  are only about a 25-30 minute train ride apart, making them easy to commute between via train.  In Berkeley I will be working for the Hub Berkeley- a coworking space for change and in SF I am working for YellowLeaf Hammocks and small social enterprise start-up that actually uses the Hub (San Francisco) as their primary office space.

Since it is kind of difficult to explain what exactly the Hub is, let me share you a blurb from their website:  “The Hub is a coworking space, event series and business support tool for a global and local community of changemakers.  Members come to Hubs across 5 continents to collaborate, access market opportunities and capital and scale ideas for social and environmental change.”  Pretty amazing right?  Check them out here:  hubbayarea.com

I am excited that I essentially will be able to see both sides of this new business entity – the company that works to provide this space and an actual company itself.  During my Hub Internship I am working directly with Jeff, who is the director of the Berkeley office, along with one other intern (who is awesome!) to work on events programming and researching and executing a new business model that can then hopefully be used to replicate other Hubs that will be opening up in North America.  (The Hub, which was born in England, now exists all over the world, spanning from Dubai to Tel Aviv!)

In San Francisco, I work with the founders of YellowLeaf Hammocks.  According to their website, the goal of YellowLeaf is to : 1) to help stressed out Americans have fun, relax and tap into their creativity and 2) to foster sustainable economic development for marginalized communities, while simultaneously combating social ills like child labor and deforestation.  Since their birth in 2011, the company has grown rapidly, and since summer is their peak season, I will be helping share their incredible story via writing as well as any other daily tasks that come up.  The exciting thing about a start-up is that no two days are alike and since the founders are essentailly working for themselves, they decide their daily schedules and how to prioritize taks.

Since it was the only the first week, a lot of my time was spent orienting myself with the Hub Berkeley and Hub SF, the people, and the other interns.   I’ve been in a couple of brainstorming sessions and worked on Search Engine Optimization at YellowLeaf.  On Monday I will be helping with my first event at the HUB-Berkeley, which will be on Clean Energy.  Looking forward to sharing that with you all!

The Hub has an Intern Cohort, so there are a about 20 other interns, ranging from all ages (college kids to mid-thirties!) who have been involved in incredible projects and are brought together with their interest and passion in social enterprise.  I finally met them all at an Intern meeting on Friday, and I am blown away with how bright, motivated and just plain friendly they all are.

I have also met a lot of people in the Co-op I’m living at, here at UC Berkeley’s campus.  A co-op is basically a shared, communal living house.  My co-op has about 30 people and we share common areas, a huge, restaurant-style kitchen and a gorgeous garden.   Since it is a cooperative, we also have workshift requirements (3 hours per week). This helps all cleaning / maintenance responsibilities to be completed and keep our home clean and liveable.  It’s such an awesome dynamic and while everyone is really busy with either summer classes, work or internships, there is always someone to hang out or eat with.  One of my roommates and I even went on a run through the Redwood Trails, which was absolutely breathtaking.  We ran through hills, meadows, saw incredible views of the Bay and even wildlife.  It was AMAZING!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!