Own Your Brilliance—Empowering Students to Use Their Brilliance to Impact the World


Elisabeth Ayres is the Co-Founder and Director of Own Your Brilliance


Tell us about your business.

“Our Company is called Own Your Brilliance, we are a for-profit, for-purpose company, and we are a social enterprise launch-pad. We help students that have the passion to impact the world in a positive way, brainstorm how they are going to do that.”

Own Your Brilliance holds events called “Impact-a-thons” where they have students come together and ideate around the world’s most pressing issues and the United Nations sustainable development goals and then form a business plan that provides a solution to those issues.

“We help them flush-out their business plans over the next couple of weeks and help them get connected to people in our networks who we call our “Venture Consultants” who have agreed to work with the students on a pro bono basis to help the students come up with a solution to their issue. After that, once they have proof of concept, we help them crowd-fund for their company. We take the ideas students come up with to impact the world meaningfully and help them turn these ideas into a fully flushed-out, funded business.”


How did Own Your Brilliance get started?

“My friend Eli and I would often have conversations about social enterprises and how we really wanted to make an impact on the world.”

Elijah Johnson created Own Your Brilliance as a blog in 2014 and not too long after, Own Your Brilliance was born.

“Eli and I jumped on a call together and discussed how we weren’t fully satisfied with our daily jobs and although we loved our work, we wanted to feel like we were making an impact on the world. So after a lot of ideation, we were able to co-found the company with our other counterpart, Joshua Chacko, and bring on the rest of our amazing team—who all live in different parts of the world, actually! What’s so great about our company is that there is no way it could have happened in any other time but the digital age. Our team actually met for the very first time at our first event.”


What makes your company a leader in your industry?

“We are addressing a need in the market. We’ve found that a lot of students coming out of graduation have this passion for social impact, but don’t really know what to do with it. We want students to have something to really channel their drive and their passion. As a team, I think we all wish that something like this was available to us when we were at our universities, so we love providing students all over the world with this opportunity. A lot of the programs that offer start-up weekends are often very expensive, elitist, and therefore inaccessible to students in developing countries, for example. We want our program to be accessible to all students—not just those in the United States.”


What is the biggest obstacle Own Your Brilliance has had to overcome from conception to the program it is now?

“I think the hardest thing we have had to deal with and still have to deal with is the time difference because our team is all over the world.”

Own Your Brilliance has team members in Singapore, South Africa, Canada, and across the U.S., so trying to find a time to meet virtually that works for all of them was hard.

“Now, it’s probably that we are not in the same area. We are growing very quickly and moving very quickly and that is amazing, but being in different time zones and areas is making it a little more difficult.”


What key qualities do you look for in team members?

“People who have the passion to impact the world in a positive way. We want people who are hungry and willing to work to address these issues. I think all of our team is so driven and dedicated and we are always looking for more people like that.”


Who or what has influenced Own Your Brilliance to want to make social change?

“I think the reason that we focused on social enterprises and we want to make this change is that there is sort of a stigma around social enterprises. Most people misconstrue them as a non-governmental organization (NGO) and a social enterprise is for-profit, for-purpose. We don’t have to just give money to a program, we can make a profit so we can sustain this relationship and so we don’t have to apply to grants often and always. We see that companies that are social enterprises often don’t say that they are a social enterprise and one of the biggest drivers for us is that we want to change that stigma.”


In what ways do you personally want to impact the world?

“There are many causes that I care deeply about, but one of the ones that make me so incredibly angry, and I think we should all be working to solve is that it is 2016 and many people in different countries do not have access to clean water. I think that by now we should have come up with a solution to this problem, and we need to care more about it. Other than that, I’m very passionate about working with students. Apart from Own Your Brilliance, I work in the corporate world, so I find it so refreshing to work with students who are so passionate and see a world full of possibilities. I find it fulfilling to help them find causes they care deeply about and find ways to solve those issues in a way that is sustainable for them.”


What words of advice do you have for others looking turn their concept into a business?

“Never stop talking about it. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, anyone about your company and what you’re doing.”


To learn more about Own Your Brilliance and all of the cool things they are doing, be sure to check out their website: http://ownyourbrilliance.co/oyb/


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Contributed by: Super Julie Braun Written/Edited By: Alexandria Rae Martinez, PR Agent