Shyam K Iyer founded SKI Charities after the Great Recession in 2010. As a finance professional, he also juggles overseeing his charity with managing a finance company “that invests in frontier markets.” Prior to founding SKI, he has amassed a great deal of experience and knowhow in the finance industry, having worked as a “hedge fund analyst, management consultant, and strategic advisor to Fortune 500 companies.”
Before founding SKI Charities, as well, Shyam Iyer had already dreamed of founding a charity which would financially and economically empower the people who have been left behind and isolated from the world’s financial system. His experience, traveling around the world, helped him build a global network to realize this dream. As of today, SKI Charities has already empowered “hundreds of females and their families in the developing world.”
When the Great Recession struck in 2008, Shyam Iyer realized that finance could empower people and help them find opportunities, especially people who are most in need of financial and economic empowerment. He wanted to use the finance industry to deliver positive outcomes for people in need.
Currently, Shyam Iyer and SKI Charities are active in Zimbabwe and Chile. The charity provides microfinance initiatives through SKImfi in both countries. In Zimbabwe, SKI also provides scholarships (SKIpgo), with plans to expand this scholarship to Chile in the future.
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Shyam Iyer: I am a finance professional who founded SKI Charities in 2010. I started this nonprofit enterprise in order to redefine the perceptions of finance and charity in serving vulnerable populations in isolated parts of our world. Alongside my work overseeing SKI Charities I manage a finance company that invests in frontier markets. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur I worked as a hedge fund analyst, management consultant, and strategic advisor to Fortune 500 companies.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Shyam Iyer: The challenges of entrepreneurship were many, starting with obtaining funding. To build SKI Charities from scratch I dipped into savings and raised small donations through our website. Through careful financial management and the pro bono work of attorneys and professionals who shared our vision, we survived the first year and have been building upon that foundation. The key to start-up success is involving like-minded individuals to both finance and operate the organization.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Shyam Iyer: The key to successful networking has been to listen to all sides, brainstorm potential solutions that address concerns while also maintaining respect for cultural markers such as age and experience, and communicating the need for compromise on behalf of the team and community served by our charity. Early on I experienced a few funny and awkward situations as I presented my idea to cultures that were new to me. For example, an important social custom overseas is to accept hospitality and engage with respect and patience and understanding of the challenges inherent to life in their country. Through trial and error I learned to try the local food, seek out conversations with varying members of the community, and take the time to sit and listen.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
1- Know yourself: is it right for you to take the lead or involve a team member?
2- Know the team: who can handle the task? Will you be able to balance their autonomy with thoughtful guidance?
3- Know the mission: the team is more than just a group. We are a family who seek to count on each other and help each other grow. There is no way to achieve this without delegation.
4- Know the task: SKI Charities was faced with a dilemma. While I was traveling far from operations, we were faced with an official challenge to our legal standing. I quickly decided that one of our field officers, with a background in administration and business, would be ideal to communicate our needs with an attorney and the government. Only she could handle this particular task, and delegating to her was ultimately successful in maintaining our operations.
5- Know the long-term effects: you are grooming your team to take greater and greater responsibility. It will make our organization sustainable and continue its mission well into the future.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
Shyam Iyer: Delegation was at first a challenge for my type A personality but once again I had to step out of my comfort zone to make the project successful. When I began SKI Charities Corp. to serve the economically excluded, I found no existing organisation that was doing the same. Having no template or beaten path, leaving my comfort zone and learning to trust others in building a sustainable organisation was the only answer.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Shyam Iyer: You can find me on:
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!