Where do you live? New York, NY
What is your profession? Founder & CEO of SMPLCT Lab
How did you decide to start your company and what’s the story leading up to this? In 2012, I returned to my native country, Lima, Peru with one purpose, to challenge myself and live on less than $2 a day. For 3.5 months I lived in rural, urban communities and villages where I learned from my neighbors the value and simplicity of life. While living in Peru I collaborated with nonprofit ODS, PCP Bank of Peru, ALAS Peruanas Engineering University, and a for-profit recycling venture in Pisco, Peru, to launch a program on revitalizing and educating a community that was affected by a 7.6 earthquake on recycling and sustainable living. This inspired me to pilot SMPLCT Lab which focuses on creating cross cultural collaboration between communities, design low-cost solutions for those living on less than $2 a day; and educate society on sustainability. SMPLCT Lab (pronounced “simplicity”) is a design lab that creates sustainable products, services and experiences for people and planet. We are a multi-disciplinary team from diverse backgrounds creating cross cultural collaboration between communities; designing low-cost solutions; and educating society on sustainable living. We partner with visionary leaders, corporations, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations to evaluate problems, spot opportunities, and work together to create environmental and social change. We work across a broad spectrum of industries, including education, energy, healthcare, media and technology. Using human-centered, design strategy, fieldwork, storytelling, exploratory design, and prototyping — we deliver products, and experiences that change not only the way we tackle local and global challenges but break perception on poverty.
What did you study in school? I studied Journalism. I am lucky I get to still become a journalist when I am on the field as an entrepreneur. I get to listen to stories and learning from the communities in hopes of creating collaboration and opportunities. Ever since I can remember, I was told stories of a life I once lived. A life of a Peruvian child whose parents could hardly make ends meet. A child who was given a chance of a future thanks to the power of entrepreneurship and resiliency. I have my parents and everyone who I have met along the way to thank for what I have learned and accomplished thus far. This is where my passion of stories comes from. And to be a journalist is all about listening and taking these stories — it is such an honor to be trusted by individuals who just want someone to listen to their story.
Has anyone been a mentor to you? What role did they play and how do you feel about mentorship now? My first mentors were my parents because thru them I learned what entrepreneurship looks like and what it takes for anyone even an immigrant to thrive in a new world. My 2nd grade religion teacher became another great mentor of mine. Even on her last days on earth, she somehow left me wanting to learn more about life and about myself.
What’s the hardest thing that you’ve had to deal with in your career so far? The hardest I had to deal with has been not loosing the hustle in what I do. Life is messy, and that’s to be expected. I focus on making sure my determination if always half full if not at 100%. “How bad do I want it?” I have to ask myself this over and over. Because eif my heart and soul is not there than why am I even doing it for. You gotta have passion in what you do. My passion is entrepreneurship.
What has been a really rewarding moment in your career? The small moments throughout my career have been the most rewarding. Each time I am “highly recommended” by a friend or stranger for a new job. Or when my parents ask me “How are you doing with you startup?” which to me means they care and see how important my startup is. Those small things have been the most rewarding.
What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? I would love to continue growing my Company, the team, the projects we do in different communities all over the world and maybe who knows move somewhere new and last but not least continue exploring the world and what it has to offer.
What’s something you want young women to remember when thinking about their future? Go and take risks. Make mistakes. Fall in love with the work you do. Be bold when it comes to things you deserve. Be selfish with your life because at the end it wont matter what your parents wanted you to become, or others wanted for you. What matters most is what you want in life and who you want to be.
What’s one thing you want to try to make an impact on in your lifetime? Poverty. I came from it and know others can too.
Where can people find you on online if they’d like to connect with you? I am @CynthiaHellen everywhere — facebook/twitter/Instagram