Empowering Entrepreneurs: Interview with Rob Howard of Brooksource

Jul 30, 2020 9:00 AM ET

Brooksource is a proud event sponsor of the Whole Planet Foundation Virtual 5K that raised $63,000 to alleviate poverty around the globe.  On June 27, 2020, fifteen hundred participants joined Whole Planet Foundation’s Power Your Purpose Virtual 5K to run, walk, bike or move for microcredit.  Registration fees, donations and sponsorships from this online event will fund more than 360 microcredit loans through Whole Planet Foundation, creating 1,900 opportunities for low-income entrepreneurs and their family members to change their own lives through entrepreneurship.  Rob Howard of Brooksource shares his experience and inspiration.

Q: What is your story with Brooksource and why are you interested in helping entrepreneurs?

When I attended the University of Wisconsin I saw how hard it was to start a company. During this time, I helped launch an organic soda company and in my last year helped launch a platform for people to assign ownership to their online and digital assets. Neither had extraordinary success, but both taught me key lessons around the importance of funding and supporting entrepreneurs. The world moves forward with their bold and risk-prone efforts.

After college I joined Brooksource to help launch their Milwaukee office and was naturally surrounded by more entrepreneurial spirits. I was able to start our Brooksource (Eight Eleven Group) office in Austin in 2015, and by being obsessed with optimism, being open to change and good old-fashion grit, I was able to spread our company roots here. I now run our national retail strategy.

Q: Why did partnering with Whole Planet Foundation align with your goals to make impact?

Before working with Whole Planet Foundation I was contributing to smaller local groups, but didn’t feel the scale of the impact I was after. When I learned about Whole Planet Foundation to me it represented a path to give opportunity to masses.  For example, with the Power Your Purpose Virtual 5k we were able to create around 362 loans for folks to support or start their business. While all businesses funded may not succeed, this is certainly a chance to find out if some can. The most important piece is that these loans go to those who need it most - people with systemic poverty stacked against them.

Q: What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to embed a cause in their business strategy?

I think there are a lot of companies that find a cause, but just dip their toe in with their involvement. I struggle with this a lot as well.  Just like anything worthwhile, you don’t truly get to see big outcomes until you commit for extended periods. So, as I look in the mirror with what I plan to focus on, it will be a few focused causes that go very deep but not very wide.

Q: What is your 5-year dream? 

While there are lots of different causes where I have invested my time, I have always felt my ultimate goal is to impact the sustainability of our planet. As a consumer and modern human, I have a footprint. Right now my interest is in sustainable packaging for products - seems be the fastest way to limit plastic and make an impact that everyone can get behind. If there is any silver lining to COVID-19, perhaps it has showed us we need to work together to solve issues. Hopefully it is preparing us to unify and do something even bigger like protecting our earth.

To learn more about how you can support entrepreneurs through Whole Planet Foundation, visit wholeplanetfoundation.org.