Fellow Update: Priya Haji

Today, 1993 Echoing Green Fellow Priya Haji launches SaveUp!, a new organization that rewards users for increasing savings and reducing debt. We asked Priya to guest blog about her journey in building an innovative, impact-driven career.

My career path

Since I was a little kid—I was always for the underdog, and found myself focused on the issues of justice and opportunity. It must have been the influence of my father and grandmother, who both taught me the importance of improving the world. The first social venture I started was in high school with my dad—we created a free health clinic in my hometown of Bryan, Texas—and it is still there serving thousands of people.

After graduating Stanford, I co-founded with David Lewis Free at Last, a community-based substance abuse and prevention program in East Palo Alto, CA. With the incredible support from Echoing Green, Free at Last was able to grow to a multi-service agency with over 60 employees and serves 3,000 people a year. Also, it became a national model for substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS prevention for African Americans and Latinos.

World of Good was my next venture that I created with one of my best friends, Siddharth Sanghvi, from business school. World of Good is a branded marketplace for fair trade and sustainable goods made by women in 55 developing countries around the globe. We built partnerships with great retailers like Hallmark, Disney and Whole Foods and then the company became part of eBay in 2010 where it’s growing today.

Throughout my whole career, I’ve built organizations that create positive change. With my new venture, SaveUp, I hope to help Americans working to succeed financially during this economic downturn.

Being a social serial entrepreneur

My entrepreneurial imagination gets motivated by seeing how I can help people through an innovative use of business or technology. Like I mentioned before, my dad and my grandmother are my inspiration—my grandmother was part of Gandhi’s movement in India, and she showed me the importance of a commitment to improving the world. My own twist is that I like using business and technology to create good—like World of Good and now SaveUp—but the principles are the same—to help others.

Launching SaveUp!

In the current economic environment pretty much every American is trying to increase their savings and reduce their debts. My friend (and co-founder) Sammy Shreibati and I started wondering how we could make that easier in a different way.

SaveUp is the first, free nationwide rewards program that helps Americans succeed financially and is available to Americans that bank at almost any bank or financial institution in the US.

Unlike traditional rewards programs that focus on driving consumer spending, SaveUp rewards users for performing positive financial actions, such as contributing to their savings or retirement accounts; paying down their credit cards, mortgages or other loans; and engaging with SaveUp’s financial education content on the site. The credits users earn can be redeemed for chances to win instant prizes and entries into weekly and monthly drawings. SaveUp’s prizes range from the exciting (retail gift cards, consumer electronics) to aspirational (luxury vacations, home or wardrobe make-overs) to life-changing (a new car, money for college tuition or debt pay-off, or a $2 million jackpot).

Imagine one deposit in your savings account could make you a millionaire? Today it could if you are using SaveUp.

Try it yourself: Echoing Green readers can earn 100 bonus credits when they sign up here.

Advice to the 2012 Echoing Green Fellowship applicants

Be yourself and let your passion show. So many people try to be perfect or try to be safe from rejection or failure, but I hope that you put yourself out there. And in the Echoing Green process that sincere passion is recognized. And whether you become an Echoing Green Fellow or not, focus on your dream and stay committed to making it happen! The world needs your passion and hard work.