These Kids Will Change the World – If You Give Them the Tools

Cole Harmonson

How do you make an impact, when the problem you’re solving is as big as the planet itself?

Gina LaMotte was out to do something that would turn the tide.

There’s an urgency to the state of the environment that requires fast action,” she explains. So she set out to empower the most powerful change agents she knows: kids.

“There’s great power in activating youth around anything. They’re impassioned. They have an idealistic fire and a tendency to advocate, to be champions and leaders among friends and family.”

Now, LaMotte and her team give teachers the tools to be real-life problem solvers and “spark their potential.” Founded in 2008, “right before the economy tanked,” she laughs, EcoRise Youth Innovations develops sustainability-minded, design innovation–focused, social entrepreneurship curriculum. In just eight years, EcoRise’s reach has grown from one Austin high school to serving over 500 schools, grades K-12 and beyond, around the globe.

In the spring of 2016, EcoRise was poised for even greater growth. However, with the coming of summer, their slow season, LaMotte wasn’t sure they’d be able to expand as needed.

“We’d spent months of the winter going into spring becoming increasingly anxious about our financial health going into summer, which is a slow time for us. We had cash-flow issues and pending contracts, but no cash-in at a time when we wanted to hire and scale.”

To loan… or not to loan…

A mutual friend introduced LaMotte to me, strongly suggesting that LaMotte pick my brain about financing options.

“I didn’t have any expectations going in,” LaMotte said. “We’d never taken out a loan before. As a nonprofit, we’re used to donations and earned-income, but never debt. I just thought we’d meet and perhaps I’d ask for advice.”

When we met, it was a kindred spirits moment. Gina later said that I was a “member of the tribe” … which I’m pretty sure is a good thing.

Before we met, LaMotte had no idea about what we’ve been building around our social impact initiative, Far Reaching.

“I’d never seen a financial institution do that kind of thing. They’re being a model for others in their industry.”

For her, that sealed the deal.

“You want to do business with people you look up to,” she says, and I couldn’t agree more – I have enormous respect for what she’s doing.

Carving a New Path…

We really wanted this relationship to work – even if it didn’t fit the model of our usual deals. Gina & EcoRise are doing something incredible – and we loved the way they approached their business, using an earned-income model and smart philanthropy.

We also share an enthusiasm for promoting entrepreneurship among young people. In the months to come, we look forward to working with EcoRise to introduce more students to the possibilities of entrepreneurship, whether through volunteering or mentorship.

For LaMotte, working with us means expanding the business as planned, and an invaluable peace of mind.

“We might not ever need to use the line of credit, but that safety net is there,” LaMotte says. She describes the relief of no longer needing to crunch every number to see how far in the red they are.

“Now, we feel we have friends who have our back. That’s unheard of in our world. For that, I’m enormously grateful.”


Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call. 

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.