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Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University

Impact Entrepreneurs works to catalyze economic, social and ecological prosperity through entrepreneurial action.

The Ecosystem

Impact Entrepreneurs include professors, social enterprise professionals, nonprofits, students and community members, all working towards making social entrepreneurship a learnable skill.

Read about the Staff, Advisory Board, Sponsors, and Resource Partners that make it all possible.

Our Mission

To unleash the promise of business for social impact.

"Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry."

-- Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka

Our Impact

Read the full 2014 report  


Impact Entrepreneurs is directed by a team of Portland State University professors with a passion for showing businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs that they can be profitable and build social change at the same time.

Cindy Cooper

Co-founder and Executive Director
Impact Entrepreneurs 

School of Business Administration, Portland State University

Cindy teaches social entrepreneurship and oversees Portland State University's Impact Entrepreneurs. She is Co-founder of Speak Shop, an award-winning social enterprise that offers live online Spanish lessons with teachers in Guatemala.

Previously, Cindy developed and managed programs for non-profits such as the Three Guineas Fund Social Entrepreneurship Incubator and Net Impact and worked in international marketing at Nike. She has consulted on social entrepreneurship and sustainability to clients such as Nike, Meyer Memorial Trust, Verité and Ashoka's Changemakers.

She holds a Global MBA with distinguished honors from Thunderbird School of Global Management and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Claremont McKenna College with a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish. 

Carolyn McKnight, Ph.D.

Co-founder & Executive Director Emeritus of Impact Entrepreneurs

Carolyn oversees the execution of Leadership Development within the MBA curriculum in the School of Business Administration at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. An acknowledged figure in the area of corporate leadership and organizational development for over 25 years, Carolyn is leading one of the nation's first programs to integrate leadership development and management of innovation into the MBA experience.
Carolyn holds a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree as well as a Ph.D. in mythological studies/depth psychology.

As Founder and Executive Director of Impact Entrepreneurs, Carolyn is pursuing her passion of unleashing the power of business for social impact. Her purpose is to inspire graduate students, faculty, and community members to discover their own passions and to pursue them in ways that create social as well as economic value. Due to her frequent travels for Impact Entrepreneurs, you are as likely to find her in Cambodia, Nepal, India or Thailand, as at home in Portland.

In addition to educating others about the emerging field of social enterprise, Carolyn also enjoys the study of eastern philosophy, mountain climbing, running, and spending time with her dog.

Jacen Greene

Program Manager, Social Enterprise Initiatives
Impact Entrepreneurs 
School of Business Administration, Portland State University

Jacen Greene teaches social entrepreneurship and manages social innovation programs at Portland State University's School of Business. He has worked with social entrepreneurs in the U.S., India, Cambodia, Honduras and Nicaragua conducting training sessions, delivering technical assistance and coordinating capacity building programs. In his previous role as a social enterprise consultant, he helped design Central City Coffee's business model.

Jacen graduated Beta Gamma Sigma with an MBA in business sustainability from Portland State University and magna cum laude with a B.A. in China studies from Willamette University.

Abby Chroman

Project Manager
Impact Entrepreneurs 
School of Business Administration, Portland State University

Abby works with Impact Entrepreneurs helping to launch and manage projects including the Certificate in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship and the annual Elevating Impact Summit. She is also pursuing a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution at PSU. Before joining PSU Abby worked for five years with Ashoka, where she helped select and connect leading social entrepreneurs in the US, and created an online space for social entrepreneurs to collaborate around the world.

Abby received a B.A. with Honors in International Relations from UC Davis, during which time she chaired the California Student Sustainability Coalition and spent 1.5 years in Central and Eastern Europe studying postcommunist transition.

Faye Yoshihara 

Fellow for Social Innovation and Biomimicry
Impact Entrepreneurs 
School of Business Administration, Portland State University 

Faye merges a 20-year corporate career, managing business in Latin America and Asia-Pacific for Nike Inc. and S. C. Johnson & Son Inc. with a decade of brokering cross-sector partnerships and supporting social enterprise development.  Returning to her rural roots, she recently launched Forest Fractal, LLC, a social enterprise dedicated to the restorative economy and now focuses her efforts on rural economic development and experiential learning. As an adjunct MBA and MFA instructor, Faye has incorporated biomimicry into business strategy, design thinking, product design & business operations courses.  Her current interest is an exploration at the intersection of social entrepreneurship and biomimicry to develop market-based solutions to global issues such as watershed health, invasive species and the rural flight of youth to mega-slums.  

Faye earned her bachelors’ degrees in Food Science and Technology and Microbiology from Oregon State University and a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

Alumni Ambassadors

Deidre Schuetz
Co-founder and Co-director, Lanyi Fan 

Patrick Ditty
Heavy Equipment Technician, Peterson Machinery and Undergraduate, Portland State University 

"Social enterprise is important because it can contribute to ending philanthropy as we have known it.  Pure charitable giving is most sustainable when augmented by business tools unleashed for social change."

-- Dr. Carolyn McKnight

Social Innovation Incubator Coaches

Brenda Eichelberger, SII Circuit Program Advisor, is a full-time business instructor at Portland State University. She has been with PSU since early 1997 and has taught a variety of classes in the Management area (Introduction to Business, Personal Finance, Introduction to Human Resource Management, Small Venture Creation and Entrepreneurship). Brenda has managed a small private business college and understands the challenges of businesses operating in the State of Oregon. She specializes in assisting small businesses with business planning techniques and is active in her local community. Brenda holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Business Administration. She is presently engaged in coursework towards her Ph.D.

Tichelle Sorensen, SII Circuit Program Mentor, is an attorney practicing in the areas of business transactions and intellectual property. She currently teaches as an adjunct instructor at PSU in the MIM and MBA programs. Her previous business experience includes marketing and consulting positions in the entertainment industry, strategic marketing consulting in China, and export marketing and sales. Tichelle holds a J.D. from the Indiana University School of Law, a Master of International Management degree from Portland State University, and a B.A. in Communications from Brigham Young University.

Advisory Board

Sutia "Kim" Alter is Managing Director of Virtue Ventures. She has endeavored for nearly 20 years to employ business tools and market-based approaches (social enterprise) in the social sector to create social change and alleviate poverty. Virtue Ventures is a small, innovative management consulting firm committed to furthering the field of social entrepreneurship through action-research, technical services and its own initiatives.

Stephanie Fowler is a psychotherapist and counselor. She and her husband have established the Renaissance Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that focuses grants on education, social services, and environmental and historic preservation. She has an extensive background as a reporter working for Oregon Public Broadcasting, KGW TV, KOIN TV, and the Oregonian.

Irving Levin is the chief executive officer of Genesis Financial Solutions.  He and his wife have established the Renaissance Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that focuses grants on education, social services, and environmental and historic preservation.

David Pollock is a Senior Advisor for Ashoka an organization that supports thousands of social entrepreneurs worldwide. During the past three years he has been involved in recruiting, training, people team performance development and mentoring/coaching. He has a distinguished multinational business career, most recently leading Stormwater Management as President and CEO.

Amelia Pape is a social entrepreneur, intrapreneur, and food justice advocate. She founded My Street Grocery, one of the nation’s first mobile retailers of its kind to address food access in underserved urban communities. Amelia recently joined Whole Foods Market as the company’s first Food Access Coordinator to lead a new social business unit dedicated to fresh food access. She is also co-creator of the Portland Area Food Forum and an advisor to the Whole Cities Foundation. 

Dr. Judith A. Ramaley has been a collaborator on pre-K through 12/higher education initiatives for more than 30 years. She has served as president of Portland State University, the University of Vermont and Winona State University (Mn).  Judith is a Senior Scholar with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a consultant for the Lumina-funded Quality Collaborative, a member of the Board of Second Nature and the Board of Oregon Campus Compact, and serves PSU as President Emerita and Distinguished Professor of Public Service.

David Sawyer is president of Context, a consulting firm with practice areas in strategy, leadership, and culture. Active across sectors, Sawyer has played key roles in a variety of fields: sustainable agriculture, education reform, national service, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy, and the emerging green economy.

Mike Winslow has over 30 years of experience serving as a senior legal and business executive, including overall responsibility for legal matters, corporate governance, human resources, organizational development, communications, strategy, mergers & acquisitions, and external affairs.  He retired from corporate life in January of 2010 and is currently enjoying the pursuit of his life-long interest in art (painting) and will soon begin providing legal and business advice to clients in creative and social purpose pursuits.

In Memoriam: J. Gregory Dees. In 2013 we lost our friend and Advisory Board member Greg Dees. We are deeply grateful to Greg for the work he contributed to building the field of social entrepreneurship and our work at Impact Entrepreneurs.  He was Professor of the Practice of Social Entrepreneurship and co-founder of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Greg published extensively on social entrepreneurship, including two books with Jed Emerson and Peter Economy, Enterprising Nonprofits and Strategic Tools for Social Entrepreneurs. In 2007, the Aspen Institute and Ashoka recognized his pioneering work with their first Lifetime Achievement award in Social Entrepreneurship Education.

"I'm committed to working with Impact Entrepreneurs because Cindy and Carolyn are not just dreaming about social change - they are true practitioners who are moving ideas into action."

-- David Sawyer

Changemaker Campus 

Portland State University is honored to be part of the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, a select group of institutions of higher education that demonstrate commitment and cutting edge approaches to galvanizing solutions to major human and environmental challenges. Ashoka U is an initiative of Ashoka, a renowned global association of leading social entrepreneurs founded in 1980. In partnership with universities, Ashoka U seeks to develop educational experiences that can be world changing. Ashoka believes in an “Everyone a Changemaker” world. At PSU we are fortunate to have tens of thousands of budding Changemakers descending upon our campus each year.

This world-class partnership and lifelong distinction from Ashoka U celebrates the significant contributions PSU is already making through initiatives such as the Institute for Sustainable SolutionsNet ImpactSolutions Generator,Center for Global Leadership in SustainabilitySWEETLab, Impact Entrepreneurs and many others. It also puts PSU in direct contact with leading social innovation practitioners, educators, researchers and supporters around the world so that together we may create the change we seek.

Sponsors and Donors

Our sponsors' and donors' contributions are critical to our ability to conduct and grow our programs. We thank them for their generous support and vision.


Lemelson Foundation

Ater Wynne LLP

Renaissance Foundation

To support the promise of business for social impact, please contact us or donate online.

Resource Partners

Our Resource Partners have enabled us to expand our impact through strategic programmatic collaborations and by providing discounts or in-kind support.

All Social Innovation Incubator members will be invited to complete B Lab's "B Corporation" online certification evaluation and participate in an educational seminar. B Lab is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. A primary initiative is to build a community of Certified B Corporations to make it easier for all of us to distinguish between "good companies" and just good marketing.  By enabling consumers, investors, potential employees, and policy makers to support these high-impact companies we can make sure that these businesses can scale - along with their impact.
intercultural communicatin institute Intercultural Communication Institute is a private, nonprofit foundation designed to foster an awareness and appreciation of cultural differences in both the international and domestic arenas.
We have partnered with Mercy Corps since 2009 to deliver the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, providing capacity-building through business training for the organization's emerging leaders.
Palo Alto Software is a leader in business planning software. Founded in 1983 by well-known business planning expert Tim Berry, their flagship product, the Windows-based Business Plan Pro, has outsold the combined competition for the last decade. LivePlan is the first online business plan software that was created by actual business planning experts. Palo Alto Software provides free access to LivePlan to all SII Circuit Program participants. 
virtue ventures

Virtue Ventures is a small, innovative firm committed to furthering the field of social entrepreneurship through action-research, technical services and our own initiatives. We partner with Virtue Ventures to deliver the immersive India Social Enterprise Tour, aka the "PSU Magic Bus Tour."


Portland State University

"One of the biggest challenges facing social entrepreneurs right now is that the current infrastructure can inadvertently frustrate their efforts to launch and scale solutions to our pressing problems. Social entrepreneurs are therefore also devising the legal structures, investment instruments and other innovations that can help catapult change-making into societal shifts." 

-- Cindy Cooper, Co-founder, PSU Impact Entrepreneurs