By: Bianca Buliga, Content Curator
We are thrilled to welcome Kate Glantz as the latest member of our SEED SPOT family, and we are confident in her abilities to create massive waves of change in D.C.’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. But, who is Kate and what makes her tick? I found out that she loves bowling, watches Parks and Rec when life gets too stressful, and really wants to go to Cuba. But there is a lot more to her story.
“I look at Peace Corps as the foundation for everything I’ve done since.”
Born and raised in Phoenix, Kate has lived her life fearlessly. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Kate joined the Peace Corps as a health education volunteer in Tanzania. Although she lived in a remote village off the power grid with no access to running water or Internet, Kate gained a sense of empathy and connection that wasn’t taught in school. She spent her days raising hundreds of chickens with orphans, teaching nutrition courses to mothers, and running a business group to empower local female farmers. “I look at Peace Corps as the foundation for everything I’ve done since – it’s the lens through which I view the world and helps inform almost every decision I make”.
After completing her Peace Corps service, Kate worked in Tanzania with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for about a year before moving to Washington D.C. to work for the Department of State’s Global HIV Initiative. Her move to D.C. was an exciting, but challenging transition – Kate struggled to balance the meaningful work she was doing with a risk-averse culture she knew she couldn’t survive in. After about two years, Kate knew it was time for a change: “My insatiable curiosity and frustration with the status quo were often seen as disruptive and were definitely misunderstood. It was a debilitating culture fit for an entrepreneur. The only problem was that I didn’t know I was one at the time!”
Itching to get back in the field, Kate moved to Senegal for a Communications Director role with Stomping out Malaria in Africa (STOMP), a Peace Corps initiative active in 23 African countries. While in Senegal, Kate really began digging into a business idea she kept revisiting. She wrote a business plan, moved back to D.C. to work at Peace Corps headquarters, and started Heartful.ly – a gift registry for charitable giving. Heartful.ly allows engaged couples to personalize their wedding registry by selecting a specific charitable project that guests can donate funds to. Heartful.ly has been featured in Forbes, the New York Times, Martha Stewart Weddings, and nearly 100 other media outlets.
Shifting away from consumerism towards impact-driven generosity, Kate’s idea for Heartful.ly could be traced back to her time in Tanzania with Peace Corps. At the time, Kate was raising funds to build toilets at the primary school she worked at. “The community pledged 25% of the total cost and I had to raise the remaining 75%. I wrote a grant, but didn’t get a lot of traction because people don’t have a deep connection to toilets or latrines. One of my friends was getting married and I got the idea from her wedding registry. I wanted to make one for toilets – $100 for bricks, etc. It was tangible and people could really connect to it.”
“Celebration became a powerful moment to leverage philanthropy.”
At its core, Heartful.ly was grown through a culture of celebration. Kate recalls how her Tanzanian community of subsistence farmers congregated over a bottle of Coke and a plate of rice for a wedding and felt immense joy. “To me, celebration became a powerful moment to leverage philanthropy and create a legacy to grow along with a marriage”. By creating Heartful.ly, Kate steered her life away from the bureaucracy of government agencies and towards a vibrant and empowering life of her own making. “With every milestone, every setback, and every breakthrough, the color began to return. And with it came colors I had never seen before. My life had more joy and focus and I finally let go of the guilt I felt for not loving the work I was so privileged to be doing in government.”
After almost two years of dedicating herself to Heartful.ly, Kate grew her company through a combination of intuition, hard work, and grit. However, she ultimately came to the realization that she was too early to market and didn’t have the resources to shift the needle on behavior change in an extremely traditional industry. With a program like SEED SPOT, she acknowledges that she could have been more equipped to tackle some core challenges much earlier.
Confident she wanted to transition into the startup ecosystem, she reached out to C’pher Gresham, SEED SPOT’s National Director of Expansion, after seeing a job post on SEED SPOT’s website. Within 20 minutes, they were on the phone discussing next steps! “I now have the privilege of doing what I love every day – nurturing and connecting social entrepreneurs to each other and to resources” And as for Heartful.ly – it’s still organically growing and impacting projects worldwide.
Kate’s vision for SEED SPOT’s future? “I’d like to see SEED SPOT become ubiquitous with social entrepreneurship in D.C. Social entrepreneurs have big, bold dreams, but many lack the basic fundamentals to scale their solutions. I see SEED SPOT as an early and critical touch point in a founder’s journey to scale.”
“Empower the communities you’re serving to make the right decision for themselves.”
One of the biggest lessons Kate has learned: “You need to assess the needs of each community and not assume you know what’s right for them. Lead from behind and empower the communities you’re serving to make the right decision for themselves.”
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” ~Amelia Earhart