The Global Good Fund Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurs: Insights from Zhihan Lee

Jan 13, 2017
Global Good Fund Fellowship
Global Good Fund Fellow and CEO of BagoSphere, Zhihan Lee (with microphone)

The Global Good Fund Fellowship (GGF) is a program that supports the leadership development of young social entrepreneurs from around the world. The 15-month fellowship pairs fellows with executives who serve as coaches and mentors. GGF fellows also gain access to leadership assessment resources, a network of peers, sector expertise and targeted financial capital. Here, Zhihan Lee shares how to GGF Fellowship helped him as a young social entrepreneur and CEO. 

1. What inspired you to apply for the Global Good Fund Fellowship?

I am the CEO of BagoSphere, a social enterprise in the Philippines. We have an award-winning Job Preparation Program that selects and trains high potential youth and connects them with high-growth industries like the outsourcing industry. By partnering with employers and a competency-based approach, the program allows youth to gain full-time employment within 2 – 6 months.

Like any entrepreneur, my journey has been difficult. Amidst the constant pivots and leadership hurdles, I found myself to be under a lot of stress. Burn-out was in the horizon and I knew that something had to change. My mentors and investors are great people, but with the exception of a few, they are mostly people that focus on the business. I found I lacked a listening ear and mentor to help me address the personal struggles I faced daily – How can I be a better person? A better CEO? How do I deal with my stress? What are my innermost fears? It can be overwhelming at times, so I was looking for a coach – someone that could help me understand myself better. I found GGF when a fellow social entrepreneur in the Philippines posted about her experience on Facebook. It was GGF’s customized leadership development program that stood out for me. I applied and never looked back.

2. What are some of the benefits of the fellowship and how has the fellowship helped you advance your social enterprise?

The Global Good Fund has clearly differentiated itself to be a leadership development enterprise built by and for social entrepreneurs. A key component of the fellowship is the one-on-one coaching sessions with seasoned executive business leaders. GGF first paired me up with a Leadership coach, Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-author of the bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want. She was instrumental in helping me identify the key areas of growth and helped shaped my leadership development plan (LDP). Based on the LDP, they connected me with Brock Leach, the retired CEO of Frito-Lay North America and Tropicana—a PepsiCo company. Brock and I have been in touch frequently over the past few months and I am enjoying the mentoring I receive from him.

Fellows also have the privilege to attend the Annual GGF Summit. After a few days hanging around GGF folks, ambassadors, fellows, and even Goldie Hawn, it was not the impressive list of accolades and titles that made it memorable, but the generosity and gratitude that everyone brought to the summit. And more importantly, we define success as more than just the success of our business. Steph Spiers, an amazing fellow of GGF 2016 shared a quote attributed to Mother Teresa, “It’s not about how many things you accomplished, but how much love you put into what you did.” Entrepreneurship is brutal and all of us hold very high standards for ourselves. The quote reminded me to be kinder to myself and focus on the relationships rather than the accomplishments. Many summits and conferences focus on the business venture. GGF has done an amazing job in refocusing attention on the human aspect of entrepreneurship. My mentor, Eng Tong Tan, always asks, “Where is the human being in business today?” and encourages combining qualities like leadership and mindfulness into daily practice.

2016 was a most challenging year for BagoSphere, and without the mentorship I have received from Brock and the others on my board I would have been a nerve wreck. It is hard to quantify how GGF has advanced the business, but it appears in various ways; for example, I now have better relationships with my loved ones, a more balanced life, and a healthier, high-performing team culture. I feel I am performing better now than a year ago.

Global Good Fund Fellowship Zhihan Lee
Zhihan Lee (second from right) with his Global Good Fund Fellowship mentor Brock Leach (second from left)

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Global Good Fund Fellowship?

The application process consists of a written application, a video application, and interviews. Interviews are less than an hour, and there’s not a lot of time to go through your entire story or background. My advice would be not to sell too much on how GGF can help take your social enterprise to the next level, but focus on how you have been coaching your team or have been coached by other senior people. The recommendations are also important, so I would make sure that to find people that have worked with you before and also carry a good reputation.

In all, they are looking for people who have the potential to achieve big impact, and have a clear vision of doing that. Because the program helps to shape and support the individual, there is a lot of emphasis on leadership, and being coachable and open to feedback. My advice is to speak from the heart.

Interested in applying? Bookmark The Global Good Fund Fellowship to your ProFellow account.

Zhihan Lee is the CEO of BagoSphere, a social enterprise that gets rural and urban talents into jobs through micro-funded education in digital and soft skills in the Philippines. He spent a year in a medical-tech start-up in Stockholm, and studied entrepreneurship at the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship & The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). Zhihan then ventured into rural India to work with a social enterprise involved in rural IT outsourcing where he started BagoSphere. He graduated from the National University of Singapore in the Engineering Science Program. He was the Singapore Ambassador for the Thousand Network – the leading global network of innovators under 30, and is currently a 2016 Global Good Fund Fellow. Zhihan enjoys nature and plays the piano and trombone.

© Victoria Johnson 2017, all rights reserved.