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  Jill Gordon
  Jill Gordon '80

Hair and CARE strike the right style

Salon entrepreneur Jill Gordon '80 teams up with humanitarian organization for social change in Peru

For many Americans, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left an indelible mark and changed how they looked at the world. Such was the case for Jill Gordon, a Kellogg School entrepreneur who began seeking a deeper understanding of global connections among nations.

She says she realized how events on the other side of the planet could have a real impact in her life. The attacks served as a catalyst to get Gordon '80 involved in helping improve the world — before problems like poverty and intolerance led to a spiral of violence that too often met with more violence.

"My philosophy is you can't win world peace by throwing more soldiers at it. You have to be the good neighbor," she says. "You can't defend every bridge and tunnel against terrorism. You can't win by gunpoint. You've got to win the hearts and minds."

To do so, a necessary first step seemed lifting people out of desperate circumstances, and so Gordon, co-founder of the KidSnips salon chain, began looking for partnership opportunities with organizations that were already making a positive difference. That's when she discovered CARE.

"Having the Kellogg MBA mindset and thinking about efficiencies and how to leverage resources helped me perform my philanthropic due diligence," says Gordon, who examined many organizations to identify the best performers.

Gordon traveled to Peru last year with CARE, founded in 1945 to provide relief to survivors of World War II.  Today, the organization's mission is to serve the world's poorest communities, according to the CARE Web site ( Joining hundreds of members, Gordon wanted to learn more about the organization's effectiveness.

She says she feels strongly aligned with the model that CARE provides and now is among those lobbying Congress to highlight the urgency for more U.S. involvement in supporting the efforts of these organizations like CARE.

"CARE comes into a community and trains indigenous people to address issues affecting the economy of daily lives," says Gordon, who traveled with the Chicago CARE Women's Initiative (similar groups are found in cities across the United States). "CARE is about teaching sustained values."

In one situation, gold mining in Peru had left the region's water sources polluted with mercury. The Peruvian government responded by installing a filtration system that includes clay pipes, a collection pool, filter screen and chemicals to absorb the mercury and distribute the water. But this was only a temporary fix that left residents high and dry, explains Gordon.

"The problem was that within a couple of years, the clay pipes would break down, and the government didn't maintain or repair the system," she says.

By increasing the ability of local communities to help themselves, CARE created a co-op village water system to provide villagers with a way to purify their own water. "Everyone pays a nominal fee, CARE provides an engineer, and the Peruvian government pays for a collection grid and purification chemicals," Gordon says. "It's effective and technologically simple."

CARE is also shaping Peru's future through other endeavors. These include creating strategic alliances among private enterprise and impoverished artichoke producers; strengthening milk and cheese production; and enabling families to generate income by rearing cattle. 

Back in the U.S., Gordon's own entrepreneurial venture is doing well. She continues to manage KidSnips, a salon that caters to children under 10, offering DVDs, video games and toys to entertain clientele while their hair is cut and styled. Gordon and Kimberly Lee Stolze '80 founded the company in 1999. The pair recently opened their eighth store in the Chicago area.

"We're going strong, despite increased competition from national chains and our biggest competition, a local franchise," says Gordon.

But Gordon plans to act both locally and globally, continuing her relationship with CARE, for which she is a member of the Chicago charter. The Kellogg alum is planning a trip to India with the organization in September.

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