Meet Ricky Ashenfelter of Spoiler Alert, Runner-Up for the CommonBond Social Impact Award
This year marked the first-ever CommonBond Social Impact Award for the country’s top MBA social entrepreneur, for which we received over 600 nominations in just a week. Among them was MIT Sloan MBA 2015 Ricky Ashenfelter, Co-Founder of Spoiler Alert and the CommonBond’s First Runner Up. Below, Ricky shares his story and describes the impact on food waste that Spoiler Alert is hoping to achieve.
How has your background lent itself to your goals for business school and for Spoiler Alert?
Spoiler Alert was born from recognition of the staggering amount of food that goes wasted in the United States and around the world. Emily Malina (my co-founder and classmate at MIT Sloan) and I both come from management consulting backgrounds. Our combined experiences in supply chain sustainability in the private sector and technology adoption within the public sector, coupled with our shared interest in and pursuit of social entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan, were really the forces behind the launch of Spoiler Alert. Sloan’s entrepreneurship curriculum proved to be a catalyst for getting out ideas on paper; it served as the impetus to get us up and out into the marketplace to speak with various stakeholders and potential customers throughout the food supply chain.
What do you and Emily hope to ultimately achieve through Spoiler Alert?
The basic idea behind Spoiler Alert is to prevent as much food from going to landfill as possible. No one “wins” when food gets trashed (except perhaps hauling companies and landfill operators). With all the social and environmental problems tied to food systems – particularly waste generation and malnutrition, not to mention financial costs and missed revenue streams – Spoiler Alert simply wants to help businesses, organizations, and people use our natural resources more effectively.
First and foremost, we want to feed people and ensure that perfectly healthy food winds up in our stomachs rather than back in the ground. We are passionate about creating connections between organizations throughout the food system – connections that promote dialogue about sustainability and food waste.
Our vision is much larger than purely social and environmental means, though. We truly want to help companies and organizations save and, in many cases, make money. There are so many great examples of how social impact ventures can be sustainable and profitable at the same time, and we want to develop a platform that enables continuous entrepreneurship by creative minds within food management.
Spoiler Alert Co-Founders Emily Malina and Ricky Ashenfelter at a business plan competition in Wisconsin.
What’s next for Spoiler Alert in 2014?
Our goal for the fall is to complete and launch an initial prototype of our mobile app to select partners in the Boston area. With the statewide Massachusetts food waste ban going into effect in October 2014, we’re excited to offer the Greater Boston Area a solution that supports compliance and creates meaningful value. The ultimate vision for Spoiler Alert is an enterprise software solution delivered in both mobile and web-based platforms, and we hope to use the next year to lock in local and regional partnerships as we test and iterate on the software.
What do you think future entrepreneurs should know about social impact entrepreneurship, and why is a social impact important?
My view of social impact entrepreneurship has always been – and will continue to be – that it can and ultimately must be profitable, ideally through revenue streams tied to value creation, though this can also be a sustainable source of grants and donations. Treat your venture with the triple bottom line in mind. Companies are increasingly being evaluated by various stakeholders on their triple bottom line – not just economic performance, but environmental and social metrics as well.
Social impact fundamentally has the potential to change individuals, communities, and society for the better. It’s exciting to be a part of a movement that enables businesses to be financially successful while making a societal impact as well. Social impact has the power to shift “business-as-usual” by re-engineering that way we deliver goods and services.
For future entrepreneurs just starting out, I would highly recommend you take advantage of all the business plan competitions geared towards social impact. These are great mechanisms to network with like-minded entrepreneurs and investors – allowing you to tap into their expertise, insights, and in some instances, wallets.
What’s your favorite part of being a CEO at a startup?
The most exciting, and also frightening, part of being a CEO is the uncertainty. Each and every day brings with it a new challenge and opportunity; never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in this position a year ago. I’m blessed to be working on this venture with an amazing co-founder who is as gifted at making me laugh as she is at keeping us on track. When you’re such a small team wearing so many different hats (strategy, business development, product design, etc.), it’s incredibly important that you surround yourself with people that motivate your best self and inspire continuous improvement.
How did you hear about the CommonBond Social Impact Award, and what’s next for Spoiler Alert?
The CommonBond Social Impact Award was first promoted by MIT’s Net Impact Club, one of Sloan’s premier student groups focused on sustainability and social impact. I am thrilled to have been nominated for this award and to use it to continue building momentum for Spoiler Alert and food waste awareness.
Emily and I are both incredibly excited to launch Spoiler Alert and love to hear stories of food system inefficiencies or success stories in local communities. We encourage any potential partners, customers, or financial backers to reach out to us at [email protected] and track our progress at www.foodspoileralert.com or @MySpoilerAlert.
Posted origninally by Kaitlin Butler in CommonBond.