A SI360 alum and recent graduate from Fordham University, Dana Nelson works as a strategic lead for Spes Nova, a micro-finance and market development startup that is building a path towards sustainable, inclusive development for artisans around the globe.
Long before college, Dana Nelson always felt the need to become her best self through helping others. During her time at Canton High School, she was a student representative for the non-profit Focus on Canton. After graduating high school, Dana wanted to focus her studies on poverty alleviation.
At first, she believed the only way she could focus on poverty alleviation was through economic and public policy. However, being involved in Social Impact 360 at Fordham University helped her discover ways to alleviate poverty through the private sector. Dana led an entrepreneurship venture Amani, a fair trade business on Fordham’s campus that sold goods made by artisans located in Kenya, Bolivia, and India. After catching a professor’s interest in the project, she was invited to help launch his startup called Spes Nova. She found that helping artisans on their own entrepreneurial journeys through small loans and strategic marketing advice was very rewarding and made a huge social impact.
Dana believes Spes Nova’s social impact is three-fold. Firstly, the startup impacts artisans by helping them access markets and guiding them down a path that will raise them out of poverty. Secondly, it has a social impact on students and universities by providing them a global perspective on business and an awareness of corporate social responsibility. Lastly, it impacts consumers by educating them about the importance of ethical and conscious consumerism.
Spes Nova is finalizing its e-commerce platform, so all individuals, not just students at select universities, have access to their ethical, artisanal goods. It is also expanding to other universities across the globe and is helping those interested to become fair trade certified universities.
Dana is currently an incoming graduate candidate at the University of Cambridge in the Centre of Development Studies. She wants to continue her work with poverty alleviation in developing countries and hopes to work directly with corporations to improve their practices, both on a macro and micro level within the communities they impact.
The SI360 connection
According to Dana, entering Social Impact 360 completely changed her vision of how to address social issues. More specifically, she discovered how the private sector can take action. Additionally, she felt like part of a family within the SI360 community and found many opportunities to connect with like-minded people. Thanks to one of her mentors, she even obtained her first internship with Kenneth Cole Productions working directly on the company’s social impact. This experience also showed her how you can create social good in the business world without necessarily being an entrepreneur.