Brittany Ryden, Founder & CEO of La Chispa, a Social Impact Business Incubator

  • Published on:
    April 6, 2020
  • Reading time by:
    7 minutes

Brittany Ryden is the founder and CEO of La Chispa, a social impact business incubator. She helps aspiring entrepreneurs in Mexico and Kenya develop companies that better their communities. 

Prior to La Chispa, Brittany spent 6 years at Bridgewater Associates. She managed their Trading Strategy and Analytics team, as well as worked alongside the CEOs to systematize management. 

Her international and cross-industry experience enables her to bring an out-of-the-box perspective to business strategy and implementation. 

The incubator La Chispa is based in Mexico City, their mission is to enable talented entrepreneurs in underserved areas to develop businesses that have a positive impact on their communities. La Chispa provides training, financing, and access to sales channels.

What do you do?

I´m the founder and CEO of a social impact business incubator in Mexico City called, La Chispa. We find talented, aspiring entrepreneurs who want to improve their communities. Then, we partner with them to make it happen. This includes providing business training, financial support and collaborative sales channels.

What is your favorite part about your job?

I love seeing the personal evolution of our entrepreneurs. We work with a lot of formerly incarcerated youth. My favorite part is seeing their self-identities switch from ¨I’m a former convict¨ to ¨I’m an entrepreneur who is making a difference in my community¨. Once you switch how you see yourself, everything in your life changes.

You’re a busy woman, Do you practice self-care at all?

Yes! 100%! My philosophy is that self-care is a time saver. It puts you in a state of flow so you can do what you want faster. If I take the time to meditate, do yoga or go for a walk, afterward I see my priorities clearer. I also discover solutions to obstacles versus grinding through the fog.

Do you have any daily rituals that you practice to help foster your creativity?

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Joe Dispenza´s method. Almost every morning I do a meditation exercise from his book ¨Breaking the habit of being yourself¨.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

At the heart of my mission, I want to help shape capitalism to be human-focused. La Chispa is helping me learn how to create grassroots socially-responsible businesses. I plan to take those learnings, combine it with my macroeconomic experience from working at an investment firm and come up with policies or initiatives. In 10 years I hope these policies have started to make a difference in people’s lives at scale.

What does designing your own life mean to you after you have decided to work for yourself?

It took me a few years to answer this question well, with a lot of bumps along the way. I used to believe that if I am not struggling, not working harder than my limits, or not in back to back meetings all day, I will not succeed. It’s been a process of shedding that belief, and learning to design my life based on what brings me the most joy in any moment. My ¨check list¨ is now not framed by what I need to do, or should do, but what I want to do. At first that was scary. I felt guilty not grinding through something I didn´t want to do. Then I learned that if I don´t want to do something, it is usually my intuition telling me it shouldn´t be done or there are more important things to do. Now I trust my intuition and get to do a lot more with a lot less.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Close your computer and go talk to customers. The biggest hurdle I see entrepreneurs face is getting stuck in a PowerPoint or planning mode. Your business can start today with 1 customer and 1 slimmed down version of your product or service. Just start, learn and grow one step at a time.

What methods have you used to effectively encourage innovation within the company you lead?

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment. If you have an idea you are passionate about, try it. Don´t waste time theorizing whether it will work. Find the simplest prototype and test it with a customer. If it goes well, keep moving in that direction. If it doesn’t, there is no harm done given the minimal amount of time that went into it. Plus, learning often sparks new ideas and helps you understand your customers better.

Share some tips from your past work experience that has helped you where you are right now.

One of the best principles I learned is that you don´t need to be good at everything to achieve your goal. You need to know what is needed, what you are good at, and find others to fill the gap. As entrepreneurs, we seem to have the tendency to want to master everything. The trick is realizing that to succeed on what matters most, you can´t spend time trying to be good at everything.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

I tried to build myself a house and farm in rural Kenya using the most ¨innovative¨ products designed for the Base of the Pyramid. Let’s just say the walls of the house fell and nothing grew. It was a huge ah-ha moment for me. It helps me see first hand why many foreign-made designs don’t work in local contexts and the importance of enabling people to design for their own context. It was the seed lesson behind La Chispa. The incubator enables entrepreneurs from underserved areas to design their own solutions.

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