MEET Tirza: Bcorp owner and smart tech purveyor
Tirza is CEO and co-founder of the social enterprise, Innovation for People. As the first B-Corporation in Georgia, the company stays close to its name and continues to innovate technology solutions for nonprofit and green businesses throughout the nation. Tirza talks to the FEED about the challenge of staying true to a mission as a social business, and what inspires her to keep going in spite of the challenges.
Tell us about your project.
Innovation for People helps leading nonprofits and social businesses have a greater impact on the world by using smarter technology. We provide them with websites and relationship management systems that help them be more efficient in their work and their communications.
Why and How did it get started?
Chris, the other co-founder, and I saw the potential for social enterprises and responsible businesses to really drive change in the economy and society as a whole over the next few decades. So we wanted to start a business. We really had a sense of the name, and the core values before we even understood what we were wanting to do. The business model emerged out of our own skill set and the needs that we were able to fulfill.
What are the core values of ifpeople?
Initially we wanted to do something that included education, and things that included innovation which we thought of as taking what’s working in one place and applying it somewhere else. We also want to be regenerating systems. We wanted to find some way of making the fabric of communities, businesses and society, stronger, more diverse, and more vibrant. And those are some of the core things we started with. The values have grown from there. Now, we talk about them as being speaking truth, delivering innovation, collaborate, doing good, honoring people, staying flexible, and being accountable. These are really our core values as an organization, which are different than the original ones which were a little bit more about how we wanted to make impact.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do and what you’re trying to achieve?
Building a business is never easy and building a values driven business is even more challenging. Since we wanted to maintain control over where the company is going, we’ve built slowly. It’s difficult because there’s a resources strap since we’ve never accepted funding. We have had to build systems slowly over time rather than just throwing some venture capital at it and springing forward. That’s been challenging. However, I think we’re getting close to the point where we have enough of a foundation and sense of who we are, that we could take funding without losing that.
Learning how to do business and be in business is a constant challenge. I’ve worked through this by paying really close attention to what doesn’t work. Really trying to learn from what doesn’t work and leaning towards where things are working and people are happy. Leaning towards that.
Are you collaborating with anyone right now?
We’re collaborating with Techbridge which is another organization that helps businesses with technology. We collaborate with other BCorps to drive the BCorp agenda. And we definitely approach the other nonprofit service providers with collaboration. We could definitely be doing more collaboration. And I think some of that is just Atlanta’s siloed.
Why do you think Atlanta’s siloed?
It’s historical. It has been siloed by race, class, and geography. I think some of the things that have happened with transportation and geography have enforced siloing along other lines. I think there’s culture too. There are southerners who want to live in a certain way. There are urban people who want to live in another way. There are some cultural things in there too.
What inspires you? Why do you choose to get on this path?
Taking on a leadership role perhaps even before I was ready for it, has demanded that I become a leader. And I don’t know if that would have happened if I was just inside of an organization. If it would have ever broken me out of my shell. Just being at the helm of a business has forced me to become a leader because by default my card says I am one. So there’s that personal growth aspect.
I also really like helping people find work, so there’s a lot of satisfaction in that. I’m understanding more and more that if I just think of my job as helping other people get working effectively and having joy in their work, then the business is great. Its not about me or what I’m doing, it’s about helping other people do things. As I’ve come into that realization and have arranged my work and my work day to be in real service to that, I’m finding more joy in my work and other people are finding real joy in their work.
What projects do you like in Atlanta right now?
Well I love what Rashid Nuri has done with the farm down the street. I love it because having an urban garden of that size and scale right in the middle of a food desert, changes for a whole population their experience with food because they’ll see it. It may take some time untill that change is truly felt, but having food growing right in the middle of a fairly blighted area with no grocery stores just changes the equation completely.
How can interested people get in touch with you?
What FEED’s your soul?
I FEED my soul with Dance, Alon (my son), Pushing myself physically, being connected with the divine.