This week, we’re thrilled to speak with Philanthropist Around Town, Estelle Reyes, Director of Community Engagement at LA Cleantech Incubator, about innovation, entrepreneurship, and finding her path into philanthropy.
1. Can you describe your work with LA Cleantech Incubator?
The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) is a non-profit organization helping to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies by offering flexible office space, CEO coaching and mentoring, and access to a robust network of partnerships and capital. As the Director of Community Engagement, I work closely with our team around launching our Diversity & Inclusion initiative, which is focused on building a more inclusive ecosystem that integrates women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups into the cleantech sector and the overall tech industry.
2. What is Los Angeles doing that is really unique to this city?
The Los Angeles region is already the largest green economy in the nation. There is an unprecedented economic opportunity as the country rebuilds its energy and transportation infrastructure, shifting energy dependence away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy sources.
3. You also started in Finance and navigated back to the social sector. What drew you into this work?
I didn’t always know what I wanted to do and explored possible careers in medicine (premed in college) and finance (Goldman Sachs) before settling into social impact work (First Grade Teacher, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and LACI). In 2010, I participated in a program called Leadership LA, which immerses fellows in the issues and assets that are essential to LA’s future. During this program, each fellow created a personal mission statement to share WHY they do what they do.
My personal mission statement was “To embody a spirit of self-discovery and can empower others to achieve their full potential.”
For me, I knew I always had to focus on how to be the best version of myself in order to bring out the best versions in others. This mission has served as my compass as I evaluate potential opportunities – Does it give me an opportunity to grow? Am I able to make an impact on others?
4. People don’t often think about education when thinking about entrepreneurship. What made you explore this intersection?
With my background in education, I have always believed in the ‘growth mindset,’ and the possibility of learning anything. I believe that there some entrepreneurial traits that are innate, but I believe that an entrepreneurial mindset and skills (problem-solving, flexibility, and perseverance) can also be developed, especially at a young age.
5. An area you’ve discussed previously has been the need to teach entrepreneurship skills at a young age. What do you wish you knew when you were younger?
I wish I knew that I would be able to design my own career, beyond the career examples that I learned in school. I think the beauty of entrepreneurial thinking is that you can create opportunities at the intersection of your passions.
6. For many philanthropists, the work can have disappointments and struggles. What keeps you going despite this?
For me, it has always been about sharing my blessings. I am so grateful for the village that raised me (my family, friends, teachers, mentors, and bosses), and wanted to ensure that I was able to give others the same opportunities I was given. The most fulfilling moments in my life have been witnessing greatness in others.
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