Turning Frowns into Smiles: The Social Entrepreneur’s Way

cole johnson-1


My name is Cole Johnson, and I am the founder of the CUBE ventures Freedom Code and The Looma Project. Freedom Code’s mission is to provide sustainable employment for women living at risk of trafficking or prostitution. We partner with organizations that provide holistic development, and we help expand their economic arms by training women to produce scarves. The Looma Project is a digital storytelling platform for organizations like Freedom Code that want to feature the people behind their products.

What I would like to share today is a brief story that has recently inspired me.

I strongly believe that reading books is a key to success in any field, and I am trying to be more intentional about setting aside reading time. The other day I picked up a book I’ve wanted to read for a while, Truett Cathy’s Eat Mor Chikin. I’ve only read a few chapters, but it has already changed the way I envision myself as an entrepreneur.

Despite the fact that I consider myself a “social entrepreneur,” a role whose primary purpose is to serve our world, I often find myself overlooking opportunities to perform small acts of service on a daily basis. It’s important to be responsible in managing strategic plans and to-do lists, but it’s easy to get so caught up in task managers that I miss opportunities to serve. However, in reading Eat Mor Chikin, I have been inspired to improve in this arena.

Truett Cathy is a man with far more strategic plans and to-do lists to manage than myself, and yet he rarely misses an opportunity to serve. The opening chapter of his book is titled “Unexpected Opportunities,” and in it Cathy shares a number of stories in which he was presented with unexpected opportunities to serve. One of my favorite stories he shares relates to his desire to turn frowns into smiles. Cathy tells the story about how he was once was on a plane that was grounded for a number of hours before the pilots announced that everyone would have to de-plane. Naturally, most passengers were frustrated, including Cathy himself. However, instead of joining in the grumbling of everyone else aboard, Cathy asked the flight attendant to announce that everyone would be receiving a “Be Our Guest” card, redeemable for one free meal at Chick-fil-A. The action was small, but you can imagine the impact it had on overall morale.

I have a long ways to go in seeking out these unexpected opportunities. However, Cathy has already inspired me to take action. Yesterday I ran into a friend who came up $600 short for a mission trip, found out his dog has cancer, and had his computer stolen—all in one week. Remembering the plane story, I stopped by his room later that day to drop off a check to help cover part of his mission trip. I asked him to treat it as anonymous, so I haven’t heard from him, but my hope is that it encouraged him to smile in the midst of a lot of frowning. It was a small step, no doubt, but it reflects the mission behind who I want to be both as an individual and as the founder of Freedom Code and The Looma Project.

I hope that this post encourages you to serve in unexpected opportunities, and I look forward to sharing more about Freedom Code and The Looma Project in the near future!

Best wishes,

Cole Johnson