Rebecca Kousky, 29
Founder and executive director of Nest
Rebecca Kousky always loved art, fashion, and design. While doing work in rural Mexico and India, she became interested in the lives of the women in developing countries. “When women are given the opportunity to create their own businesses and earn a steady income, families are strengthened and communities are stabilized,” she says. Back in the U.S., she earned her master’s degree in social work, concentrating on women’s issues, international social work, and the use of microcredit to encourage female entrepreneurship. After graduation, the then 24-year-old launched Nest using a unique approach she dubs microbarter: “We provide women with loans to purchase the supplies to make their crafts. However, rather than requiring repayment in cash, we encourage women to repay their loans in product, which we market and sell in the United States.”
Is There Anything Kousky Doesn’t Do at Nest?
“I am responsible for overseeing our loan program; managing orders and inventory; recruiting new artists and designers; managing wholesale orders; event planning for fundraisers and trunk shows; extensive travel; overseeing our volunteer program; and maintaining an active relationship with our Board of Directors.”
Where Does She Get Her Drive?
“The women’s stories, and knowing that Nest can have such a positive impact on their lives and those of their families and communities.”
The First Woman Kousky’s Company Helped
“I knew our idea had taken off when we made our first loan to a woman named Meral Tuncer in Izmit, Turkey, who is a jewelry designer. Our facilitator in Turkey told me, ‘When we told Meral how much she was going to make from the earring order, she was so happy. In one week she’s making more than she might make in a month!’ Success is relative, but the first life we changed for the better, we knew that Nest had to continue and grow to keep helping these women.”
Entrepreneurism Runs in Her Family
“Entrepreneurship is in my blood. Both my mother and father are entrepreneurs, and my aunt has her own nonprofit company.”
Her Generation Really Is Different
“We are so integrated into the Web and technology that we don’t see a barrier to working in other places. Technology has made our world much more connected.”
So Don’t Say This About Her Peers
“That we are apathetic and lazy. In fact, there has been a rise in social enterprise. People want to do good and they want to do it on a larger, global scale.”
Kousky’s Surprising Source of Business Inspiration
“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl. Children’s books are always a great place to go for inspiration.”
Can Individuals Really Change the World?
“Yes, but we have to be patient. Don’t spend too much time looking at the distant mountains; you have to look directly in front of you as well. Nest has already improved the lives of so many women, and we have so much more to accomplish. I am confident that our impact will be much broader and greater in the near and distant future.”
She Tells Young Entrepreneurs …
“Pay attention to serendipity. I’m convinced that what seems to be accidental, coincidental, or unplanned really isn’t.”
SLIDESHOW: See all 10 Superstar Entrepreneurs Under 30
Interviewed by Rieva Lesonsky, AllBusiness.com Editor-at-Large