PSS

Entrepreneurial Empathy

by Avery Share ’15

Armed with a “fire” to make a difference in people’s lives, Drury MacKenzie ’03 has dedicated her entrepreneurial drive to finding a business solution for one of the most pressing issues in underdeveloped countries across the globe – finding reliable sources of energy.

“My first entrepreneurial experience was in the Peace Corps,” says MacKenzie, who, after graduating from William Smith, was assigned to a rural mountain area in the south eastern part of Haiti. “With no outside money or investments, you have to be resourceful and make stuff happen.”

MacKenzie has been working to “make stuff happen” ever since her service in the Peace Corps was cut short due to a coup that required evacuation from the region. Since then, she has returned to Haiti on her own “too many times to count,” as well as worked extensively in Africa and in nations around the world to bring innovative energy solutions to areas with poor infrastructure and unreliable energy.

Haiti, in particular, has been the focus of much of her work.

“The country just kind of drew me in,” says the cum laude economics major. “Haiti was a very big part of who I’ve become since I left HWS, and it was also the inspiration to go to business school and start my first business, RenewEn, which was focused on Haiti and other developing countries.”

Founded in 2009, RenewEn was born from MacKenzie’s idea to bring a pay-as-you-go energy system to homes and businesses in the off-grid market in Haiti. To turn her idea into a tangible product, MacKenzie attended IE Business School in Madrid, Spain and then hired an industrial design lab in San Francisco to design what is essentially a “smart battery system” that can be charged by anything from a diesel energy system to a solar panel.

“I wanted an energy system that would be appropriate for Haitian needs and their infrastructure,” MacKenzie says. “It’s one thing to be an American coming in and saying, ‘This is what they need,’ and it’s another to look at the reality to see what people really need and what’s appropriate.”

Today, MacKenzie is still working to bring reliable energy to underdeveloped countries, while also focused on strategy research consulting through her new company, Pando Synergy LLC. Pando Synergy leverages technology to leap-frog incumbent fixed infrastructure in hopes of democratizing access to basic services while empowering small businesses and consumers to save money and resources.

And it’s this lesson that MacKenzie wants the next generation of HWS entrepreneurs to learn. As part of the Colleges’ Centennial Center for Leadership’s 2015 Stu Lieblein ‘90 Pitch Contest selection committee, MacKenzie made sure that those who participated in the entrepreneurial competition realized their potential to turn their ideas into something lasting.

“It was amazing to see these students thinking about making something happen, and then going through the process of how to actually make it happen operationally and strategically,” MacKenzie says.

“I discovered my passion for social entrepreneurship at HWS, and since then,” she says, “I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of making a difference.”

 

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.