Recently I heard about a farm in Kudappanakunnu, a residential area in India that is planning an entrepreneurial expansion to service both as a working farm as well as a local tourist destination. The 98-year-old farm is planning on adding a few buildings and parks to excite tourists, while enlisting the help of thousands of breeders to help preserve rare cow and goat breeds. Ultimately the farm hopes to popularize and educate the area on farming, which, in turn will help the community.
I’ve never been to Kudappanakunnu, but I know plenty about helping communities. I’ve been very lucky to discover my passion in life, helping others, and have been fortunate enough to make a living by doing just that. When the people at World Entrepreneurship Day asked me to join their advisory board, I was floored. But I quickly realized that it was a one of a kind opportunity to continue spreading my message, and prove that like the farm in Kudappanakunnu, entrepeneural endeavors can change communities, and improve the quality of life.
So what is my entrepreneurial message? Doing good produces results. When I first arrived in New York I initiated my philanthropy work with the Coalition for the Homeless because I wanted to give back. Who would have guessed that I would meet Peter Jennings while delivering food for the homeless from the back of a volunteer van? I was inspired by the experience and created the opportunity to help raise money for homeless charities in my new hometown, Manhattan, by creating two celebrity cookbooks.
Collectively I brought together musical artists that donated personal recipes, including Madonna and Steven Tyler to create my first cookbook, A Musical Feast. A second cookbook quickly followed, entitled, An All-Star Feast, which featured favorite foods provided by famous athletes like Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter. I found I had a natural knack for this work and got a great rush from compiling and self-publishing these two projects which together raised over $200,000!
Having witnessed homeless animals as confidantes to homeless people on the streets where I worked moved me, so I knew that I wanted to help on that front. Being single in New York City left me lonely at times and I thought I might benefit from some four-legged companionship myself! The homeless animals motivated me to adopt Pasha, a Russian Blue cat, from The Animal Care and Control Facility. Soon after, I adopted Lucky, my Maltese. This marked the beginning of my life-long work with animal rescue, from the local stray dog or cat to the endangered whales, both as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
In 1999, I created Animal Fair Media, Inc., the first ever pet/animal media empire including a lifestyle magazine, website, and media company. Over the years, I recruited A-list celebrities, including Beyonce, Mickey Rourke, Charlize Theron, and Regis Philbin with their pets to grace the cover of my magazine to help promote fairness to animals. After years of irreplaceable and rewarding experiences in the animal world, I wrote several best-selling books, including How to Understand Men Through Their Dogs and How to Understand Women Through Their Cats, and even became the face of two pet-centric titles for Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Throughout my career I’ve searched for entrepreneurial opportunities related to my passion and commitment. I created and executed numerous original events through Animal Fair including Toys for Dogs, Paws for Style (the first-ever pet charity fashion show), Mutt Makeover, Halloween Pet Costume Benefit, and Yappy Hour®. My events have been hosted throughout the country and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local animal shelters. In my newest book, It’s a Dog’s World, I spread the world, telling everybody how they can do these events at home, raising money for their own local charities.
Recently I attended an event with the United Nations Office of Partnerships where I found out major corperations were doing the same thing. I learned how Coca-Cola is reaching out and helping to create business opportunities for small mango farmers in disaster-stricken Haiti. To jumpstart the project, Coca-Cola’s Odwalla will be contributing 100% of the mango profits from its Haiti Hope Mango Lime-Aid drink. With the help of the Haitian government, Coca-Cola, the Inter-America Development bank, TechnoServe, and the Haiti Hope Project, the goal is to create 25,000 new jobs and opportunities for Haitian mango farmers. This project not only hopes, but expects to improve the lives of mango farmers by developing a sustainable and new mango juice industry in Haiti. This project proves how a corporate titan can also generate charitable and beneficial acts.
Come join me to celebrate World Entrepreneurship Day with incredible entrepreneurs like Marc Ecko, Esther Dyson, Peter Thum, and many others, on April 14th for a Kick-off at the United Nations. Over 500 international attendees, including business builders, educators, heads of state members, government officials and essentially worldwide change makers will be gathering in the entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit! I hope to illustrate at the event that through inspiration and passion, individuals can create fresh business opportunities and global initiatives while making a meaningful difference in the world from New York City to Kudappanakunnu, India.
Final Tip: For all you creative and busy entrepreneurs out there that want to adopt an animal from a shelter, always take your lifestyle into consideration when picking the type of animal or breed. I didn’t coin the phrase “Pet Lifestyle” for nothing. If you travel often for business, and want to carry-on your newly adopted pet on a plane or train, a smaller animal would be a better choice than let’s say – a Great Dane! But, if you work mostly from your home office and have an open backyard, then bring home a larger breed, such as a Collie, Bernese Mountain Dog, Wolfhound, etc. Make a “Pet Lifestyle” wish list before visiting your local animal shelter; this will help you streamline your final choice. For more information visit: AnimalFair.com and/or WED2010kickoff.org