September 13, 2002 - Puget Sound Business Journal: Mali RPCV Kirsten Gagnaire starts Social Enterprise Group

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 09 September 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: September 13, 2002 - Puget Sound Business Journal: Mali RPCV Kirsten Gagnaire starts Social Enterprise Group

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, September 17, 2002 - 6:29 pm: Edit Post

Mali RPCV Kirsten Gagnaire starts Social Enterprise Group

Read and comment on this story from the Puget Sound Business Journal on Mali RPCV Kirsten Gagnaire who started her own consulting company, Social Enterprise Group whose clients are mostly clients nonprofits, including the Plymouth Housing Group and Choices Education Group at:

Gagnaire combined social issues with business venture*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Gagnaire combined social issues with business venture

Kirsten Gagnaire, founder and principal, Social Enterprise Group LLC

Steve Wilhelm Staff Writer

Kirsten Gagnaire's business card is punctured with a square hole.

Next to that is a half circle, half a round peg.

There's a metaphor here about round pegs and square holes that mirrors an internal conflict Gagnaire struggled with for years until a breakthrough moment, one sunny June day in 2000, that led her to start the business she operates today.

Prior to that she was torn by two seemingly discordant parts of her psyche.

On the one hand was the social activist with a teacher for a mother. Gagnaire volunteered in soup kitchens and hospitals when she was young, and then with the 1990 Goodwill Games when she was in high school. She then went on to serve in the Peace Corps in the African nation of Mali, after college.

On the other hand there was the business person. Her father ran a hardware store, and then her parents started a travel agency together. Gagnaire joined a business organization in high school, and went on to earn a degree in international business from Seattle University. After her stint in the Peace Corps she worked three years for KPMG Peat Marwick as a consultant.

"I knew I wanted a career in business, but there was another side of me interested in social issues," said Gagnaire, now 29. "I felt, 'Why am I into this whole corporate thing, when I really care about human issues?'"

The answer came like a thunderclap that sunny June morning: She could do both at once.

By July Gagnaire had cut back to half time at KPMG Peat Marwick, to start her own consulting company, Social Enterprise Group. By October she was running her company full time from an office in Pioneer Square. Painted on the door: "Good business and social conscience are not mutually exclusive."

About half of her clients are nonprofits, including the Plymouth Housing Group and Choices Education Group. She helps write business plans and do strategic planning.

Gagnaire's company has grown. She now partners with Leslie Hay and the two hire an array of contract consultants, who keep the company flexible and supply specific skills as needed. Her family is about to grow as well. Gagnaire is about to have her second child.

Vital statistics


Book on your nightstand: "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle and "Birthing From Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation" by Pam England and Rob Horowitz

Favorite movie: "The Full Monty"

Favorite musical artist: Almost any girl band over age 25 (sorry, no Britney Spears here!) I especially like Beth Orton, Joan Osborne, Tracy Chapman, Natalie Merchant, and really old stuff like Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf

Favorite escape: Swimming on my master's team or in Lake Washington early in the morning, and getting a massage

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