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Image credit: William Vasta
Co-written by Vivan Marwaha & Anoush Baghdassarian

On Thursday, April 23, Claremont McKenna College hosted the tenth annual Kravis Prize Award Ceremony. The 2015 recipient of the $250,000 award, which CMC’s Office of Public Affairs has described as “the Nobel for nonprofits,” is Endeavor Global. Founded by Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner in 1997, Endeavor seeks to provide mentorship and help high-impact entrepreneurs across the world accelerate their ventures. Endeavor has helped build companies that, in total, employ over 400,000 people in economies around the world and have generated over $7 billion in revenue.

Not only did Thursday’s ceremony mark the tenth year of the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership, but it also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Kravis Leadership Institute, one of CMC’s eleven research institutes. KLI has made a mark on CMC’s campus through its leadership studies sequence, its leadership development programs like the Sophomore Leadership Experience, and its support for domestic and international internship opportunities.

The Kravis Prize dinner, attended by members of the student body, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees, along with past Kravis Prize winners, was a celebration of the impact of the Kravis Prize, the Kravis Leadership Institute, and Endeavor Global. The dinner began with an introduction by trustee Douglas Peterson ’80 P’14 ’15, who spoke about the 20-year history of the Kravis Leadership Institute.

CMC senior David Leathers ’15, who worked at Landesa, which was founded by the first Kravis Prize recipient Roy Prosterman, then spoke about the huge impact the prize has had on his career. Leathers got the opportunity to work with Landesa after his freshman year through KLI’s partnered internship program. Leathers said, “Landesa was truly the first step in my career, just as its founder was the first recipient of the Kravis Prize. I can’t imagine my CMC career without the Kravis Prize.”

A similar sentiment was echoed by Alia Kate, Associate Director of External Relations at the Development Office. In an email to The Forum, Kate said, “the Kravis Prize is one of those gems that lends itself to the ethos of Claremont McKenna College—at what other leading institution are you able to find rich co-curricular experiences that bring the most inspiring thought leaders of the nonprofit sector into contact with students, faculty, and staff on such a regular and intimate basis? As we start a new decade with the Kravis Prize and as CMC comes into its own as a Changemaker Campus we look forward to the next chapter where we continue to deepen our connection with past Kravis Prize recipients and explore continued collaborations with these bold, visionary leaders.”

The night also featured remarks by Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh and Chair of the Selection Committee Marie-Josee Kravis, who introduced the 2015 Kravis Prize recipient, Endeavor. Mrs. Kravis spoke about the evolution of the Kravis Prize and how the award has touched the lives of 700 million people across the globe. Her speech mentioned the importance of empowering communities through healthcare, education, sports, and, as Endeavor provides, mentorship.

Next on the schedule was the night’s honoree, Linda Rottenberg, co-founder and CEO of Endeavor. The 2015 recipient remarked on the large impact Endeavor has had and on the importance of being recognized by the Kravis Prize. Rottenberg’s speech highlighted the story of a Brazilian woman named Leila, who came to Endeavor with a dream of beginning a haircare business ten years ago. Today, her company Beleza Natural operates 26 salons, employing over 1,000 people. Apart from impacting entrepreneurs across the world, Endeavor has greatly impacted the personal growth of Rottenberg herself. While she touched upon her story at dinner, most of the details and the inspiration were shared at the Kravis Prize luncheon, held earlier the same day.

Rottenberg spoke of her “traditional” background—Harvard undergrad and Yale Law School—however, she broke from that trajectory when she and a friend created the idea of Endeavor one night on a napkin at her kitchen table. She started her talk by saying that people used to call her crazy for giving up all she went to school for and trying to start Endeavor. However, she realized that “crazy is a compliment” (also the title of her new book) because in order to start such a “crazy idea,” you must be courageous and able to work with chaos.

When students asked about her fear of instability in breaking from such a traditional path, Rottenberg said, “stability is the friend of the status quo and you need chaos to break away from that.” She went on to say that what we all are brought up to do is pride stability; “we are told to keep every door open. Why? We need to close doors and embrace risk. It will be hard, but hard is normal. If it were easy, someone would have done this idea before you. You have to take that leap of faith, and once you do that, then it’s all about how you de-risk risk.”

When a student asked what embodies an entrepreneur, Rottenberg answered that they must be both persistent and flexible. In the beginning, the individual must be very passionate about what they are starting and they must talk to everyone they know and get them excited about this—however, there is a point when this passion must cease to be about yourself, and you must move from “rockstar” to “rock band.” Entrepreneurs must be open to change, understand that they do not have all the answers, and know that the team behind them, the “rock band,” can help fill the holes in the business once you become a team. “Storytelling is key,” she said, but it can also be your downfall if it is all about you. Key points like these, coming from someone who once sat in the seats of a premier undergraduate institution like students here at CMC, are important for us to listen to and absorb for any field we wish to pursue in our futures.

Finally, the evening celebration ended with closing remarks by Henry R. Kravis ’67. Mr. Kravis spoke not just about Endeavor, but about all the previous recipients of the award. He stressed the importance of metrics in measuring the impact the organization has on the community it supports. He also spoke about the evolution of leadership studies at CMC, as well as how the subject and the college have grown tremendously in the past 20 years.