/Impact Engine

About Impact Engine

Impact Engine is a 16-week accelerator program that supports for-profit businesses addressing today’s societal or environmental challenges. We empower entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors to make a collective impact on society by applying smart business principles to the world’s greatest problems.
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Chuck Templeton’s Challenge to the Community at Impact Engine’s Demo Day

This post is adapted from Chuck Templeton’s speech at Impact Engine’s Demo Day on January 15, 2014 at Untitled Chicago. Demo Day is a showcase of our startups to community and business leaders throughout Chicago and beyond.
Why we are here.
We are here today because we know we can help build a better world. Too many people go to bed hungry, our food is too carbon intensive, our education system is not meeting the needs of our kids, there is too much wasteful consumption, our communities are not designed for the future in front of us, too many people eat alone, too much human capital is rotting away in our jails and prisons, our energy is too dirty, our existing resources of clean water are diminishing, there is still too much poverty, and our stable climate of the past 10,000 years is changing. We are here because our ecology is the foundation of our economy. We are here because people deserve to live with dignity.

We are here because there are entrepreneurs here and they see challenges like the ones I listed above as opportunities. They see weaknesses in the status quo and they see ways to use new business models, or new technologies, or new social norms as a force for positive change. Entrepreneurs see we can do better than we have so far. They see ways to disrupt the current mindset of mission OR money with mission AND money.

We are here because there are investors here who see the same opportunities. They see a way to make money AND solve some of the biggest challenges of our time. They are here […]

By |February 25, 2014|
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5 Impact Organizations to Watch in Chicago

For me, one of the main benefits of working at Impact Engine has been learning about the myriad businesses and organizations trying to make their mark on society. And I have to admit, in my short time here, I’ve been surprised by the sheer number of mission-focused organizations that are cropping up—and succeeding—right here in our own backyard of Chicago. This fact was reiterated for me at Technori’s recent impact-focused pitch event in October. Since then, I’ve been researching other startups, nonprofits, and hybrid organizations throughout the community. Here are five that caught my eye and why:

Founded by a local art director, Chris Tag, Defy creates durable and fashionable bags and apparel from reclaimed materials. Not only does Defy create beautiful bags and apparel that help the environment, it employs local craftspeople, designers, and seamstresses right here in Chicago.

The Rundown
Sector: Fashion
Business Model: For-profit
Year Founded: 2008
Twitter: @DEFYBAGS
Reasons to Watch

I’m interested to see how or if Defy will scale. The company’s bags are all hand-crafted locally, but with the support of prominent figures like Jason Fried of 37signals, I wouldn’t be surprised if the company’s audience grew to a more nationwide scale. And as more bags are made, the more repurposed material will be diverted from landfills and put to good use.

MightyNest handpicks products to help families build non-toxic, eco-friendly, yet stylish homes. Additionally, MightyNest equips customers with the knowledge and gear to live a healthy, active, mindful life.

The Rundown
Sector: Health
Business Model: For-profit
Year Founded: 2009
Twitter: @mightynest

Reasons to Watch

MightyNest is in an interesting position by catering to family needs. Since many of its items are kitchen […]

By |December 3, 2013|
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15 #Socents to Follow on Twitter

“Who should I follow on Twitter?” This is a frequently asked question among our impact entrepreneurs, especially with the start of a new program. Not knowing where to start, like who and what to follow, can be the biggest hindrance to getting engaged with social media. With this in mind, we created a handy list of impact entrepreneurs, companies, and organizations that we enjoy following on Twitter to share with our program participants. And since we’re in the field of doing good, keeping this list to ourselves was not an option.

Tips for Keeping Track of Content
Some people refer to Twitter’s newsfeed as a fire hose, with tons of tweets being spewed towards users from every direction. And there’s no hierarchy in the Twittersphere: each tweet has equal say. Whether it’s the President of the United States of America or a friend from college, they’re going to show up in the same newsfeed.

Luckily Twitter has a way to combat this: lists. You can make as many lists as you want to organize the people and groups that you follow. For example, a news list for newspaper and magazine accounts, a comedy list for consistently good laughs, and maybe a restaurants list, where you can find deals and updates from your favorite local establishments. So after reading through our suggestions below, head over to Twitter and start a socents list for easier viewing.

Another way to keep track of content is through hashtags, and the top hashtags to follow in the impact space are #socent (meaning social entrepreneurship) and #impinv (meaning impact investing). Keep these streams loaded into your Twitter search for frequent updates […]

By |November 4, 2013|
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The Rise of the Impact Entrepreneur

When I was taking the ‘L” home a few nights ago, pondering on what I would say today, I thought about the last 12 weeks and what I witnessed firsthand. Watching these eight entrepreneurs grow, change, and test the bounds of what business could be, I realized that I had a front row seat to something special: The Rise of the Impact Entrepreneur.

So who is this Impact Entrepreneur?

Are they an entrepreneur that went through Impact Engine? Well, yeah, but they are also the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of entrepreneurs that have not ONLY decided it’s no longer enough just to make money, it is ALSO no longer enough just to address an environmental or societal issue. They must do both.

The Impact Entrepreneur talks about building a sustainable company, but not purely in the green sense. They know they need to build companies that are long lasting, that will be financially sustainable through time.

They see it’s not just that government and NGO’s aren’t big enough to tackle all of the challenges we face, but that they can make money while solving these challenges using new and innovative business models.

They understand that to be sustainable means that they need to be competitive today, and being competitive today means they will need to hire the best talent, and increasingly that talent wants to work in companies that have a mission they can align with.

To be competitive today, they need to build companies that are moving away from dependence on the carbon-based fuels that traditionally powers businesses.

To be competitive today, they need to make products that improve the health of their customers, instead of making them obese or sick […]

By |December 7, 2012|

Chuck’s Signature Goatee

A guest blog post from the team at Raise5:

Since our first encounter with Chuck Templeton, we took note of his unique goatee. Along with his entrepreneurial success, his beard is a very defining feature of who he is. This is what made him a great candidate for a “hair portrait,” a unique style of portrait art pioneered by Stephanie Barstow where only the subject’s hairline and facial hair is drawn. When asked why Stephanie goes out of her way to provide her work on Raise5 she said:

“I was an art major. And one thing my professor reiterated to me over and over again is to never stop making art, despite how busy you get… I’m always striving to make new art, despite my busy schedule.”

Stephanie is the essence of Raise5, she is a talented person who refuses to give up on her love of art, and with the Raise5 community buying her services with a charity donation, she has a reason to keep on doing what she loves. Raise5 takes her raw talents and turns it into a valuable service for the buyer, money for charity, and revenues for Raise5. Now that’s an arrangement that has everyone smiling.

By |October 8, 2012|

Recap: Impact 1 Launch Party

Well, it finally happened. After months of planning, networking, coordinating, and stressing, the Impact Engine is up and running.  And boy, do we have a great group of entrepreneurs ready to change the world. We kicked off our first week last Monday, September 10th with an awesome Launch Party event at 1871. The bash, which was sponsored by CDW and SonicWall, gave potential mentors and partners the opportunity to meet with our companies and to learn more about Impact Engine and its mission. Below are some highlights from the event. We’re excited (and anxious) for the next 12 weeks, and we’re grateful for the support of Chicago’s robust entrepreneurial community. We would not be here without all of you. Many thanks. Photos by Steve Stearns.

Managing director Chuck Templeton speaking to Launch Party guests.

Our first class of entrepreneurs, Impact 1, being introduced at the Launch Party.


Eileen Murphy, founder of


Alan Hurt, chief technology officer for Light Up Africa, explaining his business to attendees.

Ameet Mehta, co-founder of Azadi, with David Gardner of Colorjar.


Mike Tang and Shayan Nahrvar of Raise5.


By |September 17, 2012|

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