Winner, 2013 Faces of Entrepreneurship Award

Dawn Verdick spent 25 years advising mid-to large corporations on turnaround strategy. In 2008, she decided that she wanted to give back. She was at a stage in her life where her work needed to have substance and meaning. She wanted to contribute her talents to making the world a better place.

She called Niña Magsaysay Rosete, someone she connected with at a leadership conference a year earlier and said, “Niña, there are six billion people in this world, there’s no reason for people to feel lonely or hopeless.”

Niña responded, “I have no idea what you’re up to, but I’m in.” The world has many, many smart people but very few who are brilliant visionaries. Niña believes Dawn is one of them. Niña also knew that her talents could serve the vision well and that the combined talents and skills could solve things, innovate and create some really cool stuff. Together they could change the world.

iresult photo-4Dawn and Niña sat down do figure out where to start and figure out what was the problem they wanted to solve. Dawn’s always had an instinctive desire to help those who are most vulnerable. Dawn’s the first to pick up a stray dog in the middle of a busy intersection or help an elderly person with their grocery cart. In today’s world it’s the young and the elderly who are most vulnerable. Dawn says, “When a young person has an opinion, no one listens to them. They are told that they’re too young to matter. When an elderly person has something to say, no one listens to them. Their voices are too timid to be heard yet their depth of experience makes their perspective the most valuable.”

The question that kept popping up in their discussions was ‘why are kids dropping out of high school?’. That led them to develop a non-profit, the Dare to Dream Fund (link), to tackle the drop out rate and help young people connect with their dreams and goals. Her vision for the community was (and still is) to give every young person the chance to attend college.

Dare to Dream worked with local youth-oriented non-profits to publish 527 individualized workbooks for children in the K-5 and 6-8 grade levels that included a goal setting curriculum. The books would start out by asking kids what they wanted to be if anything were possible and progress to what do you need to do to realize the goals. For example, if a young girl wanted to be a doctor, the next step in the curriculum would be to ask why. Once the child answered that, the next step would be to draw pictures as to what qualities they need to do to get there, e.g. hard working, like science, etc… By the end of the book, the children would have a plan to achieve their goals.

Dawn and Niña had two realizations while publishing their books. First, children were very much in touch with goals and dreams. No one ever said that they wanted to drop out of high school. Second, if they were going to have a bigger impact, they needed to help leaders of school districts and nonprofits become more effective. (Because of their backgrounds, non-profit leaders were approaching them with problems to solve.) If they could help a superintendent help 10,000 students or a large non-profit help 1,000 youth, they’d be scaling up their impact.

They came to the conclusion that children aren’t failing for a lack of ambition or goals, but that leadership of nonprofits and schools don’t have the right data to make good decisions that can help stop children from falling through the cracks.

iresult Training“A Superintendent of a school district with 10,000 students is in charge of 2,000 employees and a budget of $500 million. Yet they do not have effective intelligence tools to inform their decision-making. In corporate America, it would be akin to a CEO of a mid-cap public company not having business intelligence to know where their company is headed. We wanted to address that issue and help school and non-profit leaders who impact students’ lives everyday,” said Dawn Verdick. And iResult was born to provide these leaders with meaningful data to drive results to turn schools around and raise money for programs that yield results.

iResults product is a web-based intelligence tool built for principals and administrators. They set goals around data, e.g. daily absences, failing grades, standardized exams, etc. For example, a principal decided that s/he wants to persistent absences (3 or 4 times every 4 weeks) to 10%. The principal logs in to the iResult account. The dashboard shows green if the goal is met that day or red if it’s not. If the goal is red, the principal double clicks on a circle and finds out which students were absent and can take action, such as call each parent or personally make sure the students attend school.

One school discovered that 8 of their 12th graders were persistently absent. The principal had the staff call the student to ask her why she was missing so much school. Turns out that both of her parents lost their jobs and she was staying home to watch her siblings while her parents looked for work. The school then decided to hand-deliver the girl’s lesson plans and homework and the student was able to graduate high school on time.

iResult was also beta-tested in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. The results were that three turnaround schools in the District secured a $16 million dollar Federal School Improvement Grant, increased their Academic Performance Index by an average of 40 points, and doubled the number of students attending college. It was game-changing for the school and life-changing for its students.

Because the company is education-oriented, they want students involved. When they were developing the product, they hired college seniors from California State University, Monterey Bay to code the project, one of which now works for iResult as a programmer.

Through the university, they also met Andrea Nield of CSUMB Small Business Development. Andrea met with the team several times, went over their business plan and business model, and provided networking connection to the non-profit community that’s been crucial to iResult’s success. According to Niña what the SBDC has done is more valuable than monetary capital.

Andrea says, “iResult is an awesome company with huge social impact. Their approach takes a village; it pulls whole community together. Everyone can look at the same student performance information and can easily figure out where the students need help.

iResults is a for-profit social enterprise. The founders want to do something that truly gives back while simultaneously earning a living. Community foundations– organizations whose main purpose is to invest in community – are shareholders in company and receive an ROI for their investment. In a very short period of time the company has grown from one employee with slightly less than $200,000 in revenue to four full time employees, seven independent contractors with more than $1.0 million in revenue.