Interview: Akin with Dustin Haggett.
We sat down with Dustin Haggett, CEO & Founder of Impact Hub Salt Lake City. Impact Hubs are part innovation labs, part business incubators located all over the world, focusing on social impact.
We chat with Dustin about social entrepreneurship, future business trends and spontaneous surfing trips to Japan!
Can you give us a basic overview of what Impact Hub is?
Impact Hub was founded in London, in 2005, and originally was just a group of like-minded entrepreneurs all working on different projects that positively impacted the community. They felt together—with a stronger network—they were more powerful.
One thing I found interesting with the Hub is how members become bolder when they are part of a community.
Folks came to London from all over the world to see what was working, and it spread to where we are at 15,000 members across 80 major cities now.
How did you get involved with it?
I was attending Presidio Graduate School [located in San Francisco, CA] and working on an MBA in Sustainable Management. I love that program; they did a lot of work at the Impact Hub there.
You joined as a member; most people would come to a city and just join again, what made you decide to turn that into a business for yourself?
I read a book called Natural Capitalism; it had a big impact on me. The author, Hunter Lovins, talks about how our whole economy is supported by the natural resources that we have. I found out that Hunter was teaching at Presidio, and that was a big reason I went there.
We are hitting up against a lot of constraints in natural resources and our generation will see a lot of issues because of that. I felt like I wanted to do something more meaningful with my career; I think a lot of people of our generation feel that way. Doing something meaningful is important.
You are not native to Salt Lake City, so what made you choose to open an Impact Hub there?
I moved here when I was 18. I did my undergrad in finance and economics at Utah State, and I love Utah. As soon as I moved here I knew it would be my home base. I planned to move back after grad school.
[A lot of people might not know that] Utah is the most charitable state in the US as far as charitable giving. We are very entrepreneurial. We have a big tech scene here, and we have been dubbed the “Silicon Slopes.”
How do you see the future of social entrepreneurship? Will it grow alongside mainstream business or will it become mainstream business?
I think it will become mainstream business. Look at the history of the corporation. Limited liability was a thing that governments would have to charter you for, and they started doing that when companies were working on public projects like the railroad.
After a while, it just became the norm. Now your company can do anything, and you are not personally liable. Some great things have come from [limited liability] but there are also negative results, and I think we are starting to realize that as a society.
Benefit corporations are becoming more mainstream and will become even more so. I think in the next 10 years we will see more tax breaks for socially responsible companies.
As a surfer, you travel a lot around the world. Impact Hub is growing worldwide, how do you see that continuing?
Every community, no matter where you are in the world, faces similar challenges; feeding our people, water, providing jobs—it’s helpful to get to know other comminutes to see what is working for them.
For example, here in Utah we have a big problem with air quality, with inversion, because of our geography. Mexico City has very similar geography. We learned they started a campaign called ProAire in the 80’s, and they have cleaned up their air quality so much.
About a year ago, I was able to host a roundtable down in Mexico City through the Hub network with Gov. Herbert (governor of Utah), some local business leaders from here, and some people who are influential with ProAire. We had a learning session to understand what they did there and see if we could bring it back to Utah.
So if people around the world want to get involved with Impact Hub, what should they do?
Go to impacthub.net and see if the hub is in your city. If your city has one, go on down there and sign up. Get to know the community. There are folks working on all sorts of different issues; for sure, you will find something interesting.
And if there’s not a hub in your city, find out how to create one.
Do you have any travels or projects coming up?
I am going to Montana with my family next week. Then I am going on a surfing trip to Japan. I haven’t planned it all; I have no idea where I am going. I just know I am going to Japan and going surfing.
Do you think it’s important to balance work with travel?
Yeah that is one thing that’s awesome about owning your own business; you work a lot more than a lot of people think but you have flexibility, which is nice.
Photos courtesy of Impact Hub SLC & Dustin Hagget @dustinhaggett