Chuck Slaughter '90, Founder, TravelSmith and Living Goods
Before SOM, I worked for a micro-enterprise development program called Trickle Up, a small organization with great potential, and great challenges that I didn’t feel equipped to fix. That experience motivated me to return to Yale for a management degree.
Working for Trickle Up also fed a long time passion for travel that began when I lead bicycle trips as a teenager. In 1991, I channeled that passion into a business opportunity and founded TravelSmith. The company grew to be the top brand in travel wear with a $100+ million in catalog and ecommerce sales. After a dozen years building the company, I grew restless and yearned to be back in the social sector. So in 2004 when TravelSmith was strong and the markets were favorable, we sold the business.
Since TravelSmith, while keeping a hand in business as an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital, I have spent much of my time as a social entrepreneur. My latest social venture is Living Goods. Piloting in Uganda, Living Goods is an Avon-like network of village-based Health Entrepreneurs who make a modest living income selling essential health products at prices affordable to the poor. The model synthesizes the best practices from the worlds of microfinance, franchising, and public health to create a sustainable system for defeating diseases of poverty.
In 1989, when I was applying to SOM, the school’s M.O. was teaching a common skill set for managers across the business, nonprofit, and public sectors. In the last 10 years, it’s been fascinating to watch as the founding premise of SOM has played out in society as the lines between the three sectors have increasingly dissolved. You have governments using business contractors as the instruments of public policy, the rise of businesses pursuing social goals, and more and more non-profits like Living Goods, using business models.
Each of these can be seen as examples of the rise of social enterprise, which is fundamentally a synthesis of all three sectors. It’s entirely fitting that SOM should be the leading school in this exciting field. So the spirit and intention of the four-year Goldsmith grant is to make Yale SOM — in the dean’s words — the “world's premier breeding and training ground for effective social entrepreneurs.” It's about training leaders who will take the best of all sectors and build vibrant organizations that achieve public good with purpose, efficiency, and scale.
The flexible grant is available to fund a range of initiatives to support this goal: Supporting faculty research in the field, developing teaching cases in social enterprise, creating an executive MBA-like social entrepreneur’s boot camp, and augmenting the loan forgiveness fund. The school is also considering a world fellows program, which would bring emerging social entrepreneurs from across the globe to SOM for a year. We are very proud to support this initiative that is so much at the heart of SOM’s founding purpose, and that can play a vital role in creating the next generation of social entrepreneurs.