What do a glass-blowing studio, a network for MBA’s, and a network for business-women have in common? Plenty.
On a chill night, a warm glow emanates from Glassybaby, a hotshop in Madrona that produces 550 Glassybaby candle glasses and drinking glasses every day. Lining the windows are sets of coordinated holiday-colored Glassybaby, sporting cheeky names like “Two Front Teeth,” “Ice Ice Baby,” “Naughty and Nice.” Two men blow glass while a party carries on around them.
Inside the radiant space are gathered a group of people who form the Seattle chapter of an organization called Net Impact. They, along with a group called Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future, are holding a joint annual holiday party, and they chose to spend it here at Glassybaby for the second year in a row, because Glassybaby represents so many of the values these two networks hold dear.
Net Impact aims to “tackle the world’s toughest problems by putting business skills to work for good.” Founded in 1993 by MBA students, Net Impact is a 501c(3) non-profit with more than 300 chapters and 30,000 members on 6 continents. The Seattle chapter was founded in 2007, with over 100 members and events involving local businesses such as Starbucks and Alaska Airlines. The organization is “all about sustainability,” says Julia Maddox, a Board Member, “local connections, social entrepreneurship, corporate responsibility, global networking, career opportunities, and knowledge exchange.”
Maddox adds that Net Impact seeks to help businesses become more sustainable, emphasizing that any type of business can work toward this goal, whether the business is related to fashion or something historically old-fashioned like utilities.
“All of these organizations can have a positive social impact,” she says. Indeed, “It’s almost a pre-requisite nowadays to be sustainable, even if a company just has one sentence on their About page.” But Net Impact seeks to work with businesses “that go beyond the call of duty.”
Glassybaby is one such company. Founded by Lee Rhodes, a three-time cancer survivor and mother of three young kids, the company gives 10% of its revenue to “organizations that support people in all kinds of need,” including the Rainier Valley Food Bank, the American Red Cross, and the National Veterans’ Wellness and Healing Center. In addition, Glassybaby sometimes hosts non-profit shindigs in its space, or hands-on glassblowing classes. As much as possible, glass is sourced locally. Even Glassybaby revenue from this soiree will go to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Another company represent tonight and allied with Net Impact is the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF). Joyce LaValle, a Co-Convener of the Pacific Northwest branch, explains that “the WNSF is open to collaborating with other organizations. We’re working towards the same thing, so we like to have non-competing events.” She speaks to the crowd, gathered around the glassblowing arena, explaining that 20 years ago, in New York City, several women started meeting for lunch. As their meetings grew into a network, another chapter opened in Atlanta. 60 women showed up to the first event, held at Georgia Tech. When LaValle retired, she moved to Seattle and invited several women to the Go Green conference as panelists. Afterwards, 75 woman came onstage to give the panelists their business cards.
Off to one side of the room is a table with light refreshments and miniature cupcakes. The catering was provided by Bean Sprouts, an organization that promotes healthy food and habits for kids, and teaches cooking classes. The tasty cranberry/curry chicken finger sandwiches were, in fact, made by kids!
So what do a glassblowing studio, a business network, and a women’s network have in common? Like candles in the night, these organizations spread light and warmth throughout their community, one flame at a time.