As Local As It Gets: Meet Our Hillbrook Entrepreneurs

by Annie Makela, Founding Direct of the Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Over the past several weeks, I’ve seen so many examples of the ways that the spirit of social entrepreneurship is both deeply rooted and ever-growing in the Hillbrook community. Eighth graders in the Social Entrepreneurship + Leadership class have exemplified the scholarship of the discipline as they sharpen their academic skills by applying systems thinking, critical lenses, and creative vision to real-world issues. Students Olivia ‘24 and Zoe Shy ‘26 and their mom, Lisa, folded me into wonderful, thought-provoking conversations as they began their own business. Eighth-grade teacher Kate DePalma shared her entrepreneurial journey and business side hustle as a candle maker through a video at Flag. A collaborative project in our sixth-grade Identity and Impact elective led to the creation of a local shopping guide to promote small business support here in our own community. Student Chloe Scott ‘23 and I exchanged emails about Fair Trade ingredients and website design for her baking ventures. Brothers Weber ‘20 and Tyler ‘22 shared the creation of their jewelry company. Sloane ‘23 and I co-hosted a Scott Center Pop-up Impact Lab to make holiday cards for members of the Uplift community. The Scott Center community expanded as I taught 47 middle schoolers from across the country as part of our course designed in partnership with the NNSP, and as these students shared their fresh entrepreneurial perspectives with me and their peers.

The list could go on and on and on! As we often say at the Scott Center, there is no limit to the number of ways to be a social entrepreneur, and our community continues to prove this point time and again. In celebration of the amazing work being done by those around us, this December newsletter is dedicated to sharing just a few (out of many!) examples of how members of the Scott Center community are flexing and strengthening their entrepreneurial muscles. We’ve listed some of our amazing employees below, and you can check out this month’s Student Voice piece to learn more about some alumni and student entrepreneurs! We hope you will consider supporting their endeavors. 

As we wrap up this calendar year, we at the Scott Center want to celebrate our community’s collective bravery, resiliency, and ability to see the world as it is, imagine what it might be, and partner with our communities to reach beyond ourselves and make a difference in the word. We look forward to continuing to share this journey with all of you in 2021.

Kate DePalma: Scented Designs

Kate is an eighth-grade English teacher at Hillbrook and a strong advocate for small, local, and women-owned businesses. She has worked with and supported many Kiva entrepreneurs in the San Jose area.

“I started Scented Designs at first as a way to repurpose old materials like bottles or t-shirts and turn them into something usable again (the original name of my company was Kate’s Delightful dECOr). One of the ways I’d reuse old bottles was to cut them and then pour candles in them; I’d also go to thrift stores and find old mugs & teacups to use as one-of-a-kind candle containers. Over time, I started focusing primarily on candles and grew the business to include other candles lines. I love my work with Scented Designs because it’s a way for me to be creative while also introducing people to the eco-friendly nature of soy candles.”

Erin Bowdish: Sprinkle Kindness Co.

Erin is the Director of Communications at Hillbrook and cares deeply about sustainability and small artisan businesses.

“At Sprinkle Kindness Co., we are committed to living with courage, kindness, and to remember that we all can make an impact on the world, regardless of our age. All materials for my pieces are sourced from small shops, minority- and women-owned businesses, and we use an eco-conscious production practice and packaging every step of the way.”

Paul DiMarco: No Time to Waste

Paul (Mr. D to students) is a PE educator at Hillbrook and has been dedicated to service work and community engagement for many years. His entrepreneurial experience launching No Time to Waste has inspired many Hillbrook students to think deeper about food insecurity and food waste right here in Santa Clara County.

“With so much surplus and so much need in our community, we hope to reduce our carbon and poverty footprint by using goods, rather than wasting them.”

Violet Daane: Manuella’s Chili Powder

Violet is a second-year Resident Teacher on the fourth-grade team. She cares deeply about the San Jose and Silicon Valley entrepreneurial community and connecting it to social impact initiatives, especially those that support women and girls.

Manuella’s Chili Powder was created by Violet Daane’s Mother and Great-Grandmother after realizing there was no authentic Mexican chili powder on the market in Los Gatos. After months of experimenting, they finally created the perfect powder — one that is aromatic, deep, and savory. To support local women, all profits from the sale of Manuella’s Chili Powder will be donated to Next Door Solutions, an organization based in San Jose focused on ending domestic violence in the moment and for all time.”

Jannet Saxena: Sumsaara

Jannet was our Social Entrepreneur on Campus in 2018 and inspired many students to combine their artistic talents and interest in sustainability. Her business has grown to include many more products and we love cheering her on and supporting her entrepreneurial endeavor that started locally at San Jose State University.

 “Sumsaara means the never-ending cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth… We try to echo this in our personal philosophy by combining functionality and aesthetics while using renewable, sustainable, and recycled products as far as possible. In short, it must be beautiful, functional, and environmentally responsible”