Tina Hovsepian is a textbook example of a young, passionate social entrepreneur. She came up with a great idea while she was still an undergraduate studying architecture at USC: a collapsible, portable, recyclable shelter for the homeless. Born and raised in LA, Tina was used to seeing people sleeping on the streets without shelter from the elements, and knew that she had the skills to provide a solution to this immediate need. After creating a prototype “Cardborigami” shelter and testing it out on Skid Row, Tina started getting interest from buyers—people who worked with the homeless as well as groups who provided disaster relief.
But getting interest turned out to be the easy part. Attracting funding, as is the case with many nonprofits, was a challenge. “LA has a huge population of nonprofits and you have to really stand out from the pack to get the funding you need,” says Tina. “Fast Pitch helped us create a very strong case for support.” Cardborigami was a finalist at LASVP’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and presented in front of over 1100 people. Her experience at the Fast Pitch turned out to be incredibly useful training for a year packed with presentations and speaking engagements for the young architect, who since the Fast Pitch has presented her idea everywhere from the Pepperdine business school to the Occupy Wall Street encampment to NPR. Tina says that since the Fast Pitch, “I know how to articulate the Cardborigami concept, and be simple and effective. It also really helped my public speaking skills.”
In addition to the increased exposure, the Fast Pitch led to several useful connections for Cardborigami. Tina’s Fast Pitch coaches Richard Hansen and Mark Loranger have stayed in touch, as has Fast Pitch coach and LASVP Partner Nancy Hammerman. Nancy helped Cardborigami obtain skilled volunteers through the Harvard alumni “Harvard Serves” program, and Mark, the CEO of local homelessness organization Chrysalis, has been a useful connection to the community that Cardborigami aims to serve. Fast Pitch also led to Cardborigami’s participation in the Annenberg Alchemy program, a major help to the organization as it started to build its board of directors. “Annenberg Alchemy was a great opportunity that we wouldn’t have even been aware of without Fast Pitch,” says Tina.
Recently, Cardborigami has locked in a local LA-based manufacturer, and with the cost at only about $20 per shelter, it seems that we will see Tina’s invention in use very soon. You can sponsor one here. In addition to being one of the first organizations in the U.S. to receive funding from the pioneering microfinance organization Kiva, Cardborigami is looking forward to launching with a bang through a City Council sponsored pilot program in Venice Beach.
Tina’s big dream is to use the manufacture of Cardborigami as a tool to help employ the homeless, adding a long-term strategy to this short-term necessity. “We need more compassion for each other to solve this problem,” says Tina. “Even before launching, I think we’ve accomplished something by breaking the typical stereotype of homeless people and telling their story.”
Carborigami is now seeking individuals to join their board recruiting task force. Members of the task force will nominate potential candidates for the Board of Directors and help with reviewing the organization’s bylaws. If you or someone you know is interested to be on Carborigami’s board recruiting task force, contact Tina Hovesepian at email@example.com.