Featured Alumni Scott Orn

April 2011
 

Scott Orn '07
Co-founder
Ben's Friends

What attracted you to the SEEK Program? If you graduated from Kellogg prior to SEEK being offered as a major, what drew you to courses relating to CSR, social responsibility or nonprofit management?

My mother owned her own business for 25 years and one of the things I learned from her was that building a trusting, loving work environment greatly improves the lives of all the employees. They contribute more and feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That feeling translated to her customers and the greater community. Everyone associated with the business benefited. I saw how she did it and I knew it would be an important part of my business life. I took the SEEK classes at Kellogg so I would know how to foster the same atmosphere.

What value did you get from your experiences with the SEEK Program, or in courses relating to CSR, social responsibility or nonprofit management at Kellogg?

One of the reasons Kellogg is such a special place is that the social impact focus of these programs pervades the entire campus. It’s present in every class and of course my fellow students were deeply involved in many different organizations giving back. I became so indoctrinated in the culture that running an organization that gave back to the community became my default mindset, not an option I might pursue because of a cost/benefit analysis. Pure and simple, it’s the right thing to do, so I did it with my fellow classmate, Ben Munoz.

How have those experiences been helpful to you in your daily life, both professionally and personally?

The positive reinforcement ever present at Kellogg and training on how to structure and manage an organization like Ben’s Friends has made it all possible. We have 8,500+ members and over 50 volunteer moderators. It’s taken every ounce of my Kellogg training to make it possible.

What is the name of your current organization, and what does your organization do?

I co-founded Ben’s Friends along with my 2007 classmate Ben Munoz to build online patient support for people with rare diseases. We started after Ben suffered an AVM, similar to a Brain Aneurysm, and nearly passed away. Thankfully Ben had emergency surgery and survived, but while he recuperated he was very lonely, isolated and couldn’t find information related to AVMs because they are so rare. We started a support site for AVM patients called www.AVMSurvivors.org and we saw the huge impact we were having on the patients’ lives. We launched a couple more networks for people with rare conditions, and then a couple more and so on until today we have 24 networks and serve 8,500+ patients. The networks are growing so fast we can barely keep up, but every morning I wake up to 20 or 30 messages from members thanking me for our efforts. Those messages make me smile.

Please briefly describe your position or role at your organization.

I’m the Co-Founder which means I do a little bit of everything. Ben and I co-manage the volunteer moderators and I focus on new distribution channels and partnerships for the networks. Ben and I still greet every new member personally. That’s where the real magic happens.

How are you applying the skills/knowledge you learned at Kellogg in your career?

My day job is at Lighthouse Capital Partners, a venture capital firm. My training at Kellogg improved my ability to evaluate technology and organizations but the biggest boost Kellogg gave me was understanding the psychology of entrepreneurs and of course the incredible Kellogg network which helps me with due diligence along with finding people who are well suited to work or do business with portfolio companies.

On Ben’s Friends, my night job, Kellogg made it all possible. First, Kellogg brought Ben and me together during the first week of school. The organizational behavior training has made managing the huge volunteer network possible. Kellogg classmates have donated tons of energy and expertise to help the patient networks keep growing and we also couldn’t do it without the financial contributions of my classmates. Last year we did a fundraiser that yielded $10,000 of working capital that kept the networks going. The majority of the contributions were from my Kellogg friends.

Generosity and a focus on giving back is a core part of the Kellogg culture and curriculum. Without Kellogg, we never would have helped so many patients in need.