TC-P sits down with Sarah Adeel, the founder and CEO of LettuceBee Kids, an emerging heartfelt initiative that aims to prepare communities to support street children in a connection-based, community centric context. Sarah Adeel is a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate from Rhode Island School of Design, where she was the recipient of the Award of Excellence. She is also a part of the Social Innovation Initiative program and Persuasive speech at Brown University.
What’s the story behind LettuceBee Kids? Your website tells us that your research project at RISD explored family and community structures in relation to the design of orphanages. Can you explain what parts of your research led and guided you in the creation of LettuceBeeKids?
It was the summer of 2008. I was visiting Pakistan for a comparative analysis between orphanages in the developing world and foster care homes in the developed countries. I met Musa in of the orphanages. He was six, pale and wide eyed. Two ladies brought him in one morning. The person in charge was told that he was found on the streets, crying, and that he should be taken in. Upon further investigation, we realized that someone had raped him the previous night and left him limping by the street. When they took him out, all his clothes were blood stained & he was still limping. He was only 5.
It was his expression or a complete lack of it that chilled me to my bones. I was shocked. This experience triggered in me the urge to find a solution to help these children who have no one but themselves. That, I believe was my moment of truth.
I once read, “A life without purpose has no value. A purpose that is focused on oneself has no meaning.” This quote, my experience, a book, ‘The Little Prince’ and my thesis project at RISD, they all came together and LBK was born—that is now bound to help all such children and reshape their futures. To be honest, while I am doing this to bring positive change in their lives, I am just as much wanting to help them to help me, because I do not know any other way to what subjectively can be termed remotely as ‘happiness’ or a life with a purpose.
Tell us about your team.
LettuceBeeKids team brings together complementary expertise in childcare, community participation and awareness, education, start-ups, and sustainable businesses in local markets.
Mohsin Ali Afzal a fellow Fulbright scholar is a MBA graduate from UC Berkeley. He helps Lettuce Bee Kids with the strategic and business planning. Jabbar Bangash who deals with the media and online presence of LettuceBee Kids holds a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from Carleton University along with a Bachelors of Computer Science from University of Windsor. Naveed Alam, a MBA graduate from the Haas School of Business adds value to LBK through his business acumen and financial skills and his two passions – helping children and making delicious sandwiches.
Our board of trustees is comprised of Elizabeth Dean Hermann, founder of the DESINE-lab @ RISD which brings design thinking, practices and outcomes together with innovation and entrepreneurship to address issues of global poverty and social and environmental injustice; Asad Jamal, the chairman and Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson ePlanet Ventures; and Gordon Bloom, the director and founder of the Social Entrepreneurship Collaboratory (SE Lab) at Harvard University where he focuses on the creation and development of social change organizations.
In your website, you described LettuceBeeKids as a social enterprise. Can you tell us about its business model and how you intend to go about fundraising?
One key factor for LettuceBee Kids is to try to achieve a certain level of sustainability and not completely rely on donor funding or philanthropy. A carefully researched support system has been devised that will involve the local community in the upbringing of these children and make these children an integral part of the society. This support system will also make their home, a self-sufficient and sustainable mechanism of survival and self-actualization for them by generating internal revenues In order to achieve that goal, we have several revenue generation activities as part of the LBK eco-system. These include;
- The more you grow the more you grow [LettuceBee Deli]
- The more you play, the more you play [LettuceBee Band]
- The more you draw, the more you draw [LettuceBee Design]
- Adopt a Grandparent [LettuceBee Yours]
Currently we are in the seed funding stage and targeting a select few investors whose vision is aligned with LBK. We are also in the process of finalizing our board of trustees.
How do you go about selecting the children that will benefit from LettuceBee Kids? What programs and mechanisms do you have in place that they stay connected to their communities?
We are currently in the process of documenting and profiling street children. We are trying to get a better understanding of them, their story and their aspirations. Through this first phase, we hope to identify the first batch of lettuce-bee-kids, those most in need and those that can benefit from the lettuce-bee-kids vision.
What’s your plan for scale?
We have some thoughts on scaling the project but right not we are not thinking about expanding lettuce-bee-kids till the first pilot project is proven feasible and successful.
What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Have the right outlook in life with a goal to strive for. Everyone finds their calling at some point in time and when you do, just don’t hesitate to give it your all. Remember that life is all about making decisions, they just have to be for the right reasons. Drink water, eat health, run a little everyday and always try and keep the 3 P’s in sight: perseverance, patience and pursuit of happiness. They will take you places.