Schwab Social Entrepreneur Gets Big Bump From Beyoncé

Every year, the Schwab Foundation handpicks a class of social entrepreneurs who it sees as working to bring about transformative social change in the fields of education, health, environment, and enterprise development. The winners are included in the foundation’s existing network of social entrepreneurs, have access to pro-bono consulting services, and have the opportunity to win scholarships to executive education courses at top schools such as Harvard and Stanford. Additionally, the winners are invited to regional World Economic Forums and are highlighted in meetings with heads of state and corporate leaders.

That kind of access and attention is a big deal. Schwab puts its chosen social entrepreneurs on the fast track.

A case in point: In 2013, Jane Chen, cofounder and CEO of Embrace Innovations, was named a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur. Chen’s company, Embrace Innovations, caught Schwab’s eye because its products offered an inexpensive and easy way to help thousands of premature babies born in developing countries survive and thrive. Embrace Innovations’ low-cost infant warmers feature a human centered design that keeps vulnerable babies at the ideal temperature and are easy to use by both healthcare workers in the hospitals and moms at home.  

Although Chen’s company hit some design roadblocks along the way, after working the kinks in its products—like taking out the temperature dial and replacing it with a green ready-to-use light—Chen was invited to speak at TEDWomen, where she was approached by a couple of head honchos at Gucci. That meeting garnered her an invitation to the luxury brand’s Chime for Change anniversary event, at which an announcement was made that a mystery donor was cutting check for $500,000 to be split between four companies. One of those companies was Chen’s Embrace Innovations. It didn’t take long to discover that the mystery donor was none other than the Queen Bey herself.

Beyoncé supports a number of charities and is the cofounder of Chime for Change, which focuses on raising money for education, health, justice, and female empowerment. Her gift to Embrace Innovations will allow Chen to extend its pilot program to additional countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. The money will also help to bring Embrace’s products into seven more countries.