Partner Q & A: Brad Sparks

August 29, 2012

Brad SparksLASVP Partner Brad Sparks is the Director of KPMG International’s Global Green Initiative, the firm’s global climate change strategy. Brad has been part of the LASVP Partnership since 2008.

Q: What is your role with LASVP? Why did you get involved in this area?

Brad: I currently serve as Treasurer. As a CPA, it is a bit of a natural fit. And with my current role at KPMG being focused entirely on sustainability, it’s an opportunity to continue to think about the accounting and finance issues I dealt with previously.

Q: What is your favorite LASVP Investee/Fast Pitch Alum organization?

Brad: My favorite Fast Pitch organization is Food Forward – it is such an obvious opportunity, but was completely overlooked until someone took the time to try to do something that makes perfect sense.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?

Brad: I don’t get stuck…believe it or not, LA does have some public transportation exceptions that work and I take a 20-minute commuter express bus from El Segundo to downtown each day. It is half the time and saves me from paying $10 a day parking. So instead of listening to the radio, I spend my commute reading the Economist.

Q: What is your favorite place in LA?

Brad: It’s my town – El Segundo. Basically, the town is Mayberry in a big city, with parades, a Main Street, and now both a fantastic brewery and beer garden. My wife, Maureen, and I basically don’t drive on the weekends – spending our time enjoying the Gundo.

Q: Which nonprofit organization do you wish everyone knew about?

Brad: GRID Alternatives – it was a Fast Pitch program in 2011 and I love what the group does – putting solar panels on low-incoming housing. Basically, it is a renewable energy twist on Habitat for Humanity and the additional bonus is that it uses the process to train people to become contractors for solar panel installations.

You can read more about our Partners here on our website.


Fast Pitch Storytellers: Rick Nahmias and Food Forward

June 19, 2012

Rick Nahmias of Food ForwardRick Nahmias is the founder of Food Forward and represented the organization at the 2010 Social Innovation Fast Pitch competition. Rick’s great pitch won the $5,000 Innovation and Impact Award and the $1,000 Audience Favorite Award.

The Food Forward model is brilliant in its simplicity. In Southern California, an overabundance of fresh citrus fruit growing on private property goes to waste, while thousands of people go hungry.  Rick Nahmias, the founder of Food Forward, created a fresh solution to this problem: mobilize volunteers to pick fruit and donate it to food cupboards and homeless shelters, where the hungry could have access to it. “It’s a very simple process,” says Rick. “But crazily, it’s very innovative in our world.”

This great idea made a big impression at the 2010 Social Innovation Fast Pitch.  Food Forward took home the award for Innovation & Impact and the Audience Favorite award.  One individual in the audience was so impressed by the pitch that they threw a fundraiser for Food Forward which earned $15,000 for the organization.  Rick’s Fast Pitch coaches were so enamored with Food Forward that they joined its Board of Directors.  Another spectator invited Rick to speak at the TEDx USC conference, where he reached an additional 1,200 people with his innovative idea to feed the hungry.

Rick testifies to the fact that Fast Pitch offers participants more than just a one-time pay-off.  “SVP almost feels like a new extended family,” he says.  Through Fast Pitch, Food Forward has fostered long-term connections with people who really believe in them and are willing to do all they can to help. “Having that expertise very generously offered to us is great,” says Rick.  Food Forward’s win at Fast Pitch has also served as a ‘seal of approval’ that has helped the organization be taken more seriously, resulting in more funding, which turns into much needed resources like harvesting equipment, automobiles, and warehouse space.

Since Food Forward was founded, volunteers have harvested and donated 897,488 pounds of fruit and vegetables.  To balance that scale you’d need about 80 African elephants.  That’s a hefty pile of food, all going to the people who need it most.  “It’s a simple equation,” says Rick.  “Harvesting food, fighting hunger and building community. SVP has helped us do all those things.”

You can find out more about Food Forward by visiting their website or following them on Twitter @foodforwardla.