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Global Ambition

Social enterprise often begins by an individual feeling frustrated by a situation that matters personally to them. Here, in an interview with i-genius, Matt Kepple tells us how his financial inability to sponsor a child in Honduras led to an innovative idea for a new type of charity…

Editor: What has inspired you in your career so far, and what drives you now?
Matt: As a 2nd year student at The University of Birmingham UK I started sponsoring a child in Honduras through my church for £15 a month. Sponsoring a child was something I’d wanted to do since childhood: my parents had sponsored a child while I was growing up – and still do – and I remember my sister and I watching Oxfam’s ‘Just Give £2 a Month’ adverts in our early teens and resolving to give money once we could afford to.

Three or so months into the sponsorship of my child I realised I couldn’t afford the donation so had to cancel. It had been like running another mobile phone and as a student, having one was enough of a cash-flow issue! Somewhere in my frustration over having to cancel I had the idea to get 15 of my friends to contribute £1 a month towards the cost of sponsoring a child. I knew that my friends would be able to afford it and that they’d like the idea of personally helping someone in need. My belief in that idea was my inspiration for the Smile scheme, the pilot of Wahblo which still runs at The University of Birmingham UK, and it continues to be what drives me now.

Editor: Can you explain a bit about Wahblo, and your hopes for it as an enterprise?
Matt: Wahblo.com is a place where people and their friends contribute £1 a month towards a specific charity project such as building a school in Uganda, until the project reaches it’s fundraising goal. Once it does, everyone who’s contributed receives ongoing updates on the project’s progress and their £1 a month goes towards the next project on their Wish List. There are many small charities with the vision to run great little quirky unique projects but which lack the funds to make them happen and the means to increase their awareness and raise the required funds. Wahblo.com gives these charities a platform to present their projects to people who are happy to get involved and help make them happen by contributing an affordable amount.

My personal hope is that every great little charity will be able to realise its ambitions and raise funds for its projects through Wahblo.com. I want people as donors to charity to believe that they can personally make a difference because they know exactly what their contribution through Wahblo.com has helped achieve. Too many charities force people to give by making them feel guilty for not giving and then fail to let people know how their donation has been spent; I want Wahblo.com to make it easy for charities to rectify this.

Editor: What are the plans for Wahblo for the next few months?
Matt: It gives me GREAT pleasure to announce that Wahblo.com is live in April 2007! Between now and then I’m looking for projects for the Wahblo community to support and tying up loose ends with regards to the website and the back-end systems. I’m also on the lookout for slightly crazy but infectiously enthusiastic students who can promote Wahblo at their universities similar to how we went about promoting it at The University of Birmingham UK but with their own imaginative ideas too.

Editor: What does the term ‘social entrepreneur’ mean to you?
Matt: Tying your ambitions into God’s ambitions – or tying your ambitions into ambitions for humanity! I might be passionate about fashion and want to have my own label, but as a social entrepreneur I’ll take steps to ensure that the impact of me realising my ambitions has a positive impact on humanity, e.g. by using fairly traded raw materials. By calling yourself a social entrepreneur you’re committing to always being on the lookout for ways to increase your positive impact. So as that fashion designer, over time I’ll start to use organic processing techniques and recycled paper and green energy in my office. I’ll start donating a portion of profits to charity while using another portion to set up an academy to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into fashion. It never stops! And I think it’s that which makes social entrepreneurs so excited and so exciting. The innovation and creativity required has no end and your impact on the world has the potential to keep getting better and better!

Editor: What do you hope to get from being a member of i-genius?
Matt: Opportunities to become a better social entrepreneur. Either through networking that connects me with future partners and projects, or articles and events that stimulate more creative thinking.

Editor: Where do you see yourself and your company in ten years time?
Matt: Wahblo.com is part of my bigger ambition to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to live social lives. I’d like to see Wahblo.com expand globally and have communities of contributors in several countries. 10 years from now I’d expect that global ambition to have been reached and for other Wahblo initiatives in fashion and music to have taken off and be making global strides too. As for me personally, I see myself alongside my colleagues and employees busy having a great time enabling people to realise their moral ambitions through our and our partner’s initiatives. I’d like to be married by then too, and have found time to learn to drive!


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