Joanna Berwind on Amplifying Students’ Voices

Students speaking with Joanna Berwind at a Babson gathering

Joanna Berwind lights up when discussing her work helping Babson College students find their voice and personal motivation as they carve out a career path.

Berwind, who co-chairs the board of her family’s investment management company and directs a social impact organization, meets with students as Babson’s Disruptor in Residence at the Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship, offering insights into business and working with family.

Portrait of Joanna Berwind
Joanna Berwind, co-chair of the board at the Berwind Corporation, is the speaker at the 2022 undergraduate Commencement ceremony.

“When I’m in a Babson classroom with these students, I’m at the intersection of three things I love very much: entrepreneurship, family business, and amplifying the voice of young people so they can recognize their own choices and opportunities,” Berwind said.

Berwind meets with a group of eight Babson students up to twice a month, sharing her expansive insights about business, family entrepreneurship, and impact investing while providing advice for students at the start of their careers.

“It energizes me to be around young people who are wrestling with many of the things I grappled with as a younger professional,” Berwind said. “Being in the room with them and learning from them, it’s really so much fun.”

Berwind will be sharing her insights with a much bigger audience May 14 as the speaker at Babson’s Class of 2022 undergraduate Commencement ceremony. She also will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws.

“I’m honored and humbled, frankly, to get the invitation,” Berwind said.

A Family Affair

Berwind’s experience with Babson students comes on top of the work that she and her three siblings—Graham, Jessica, and James—do running the family’s fifth-generation Berwind Corporation. The Philadelphia-based investment management company has diversified since it began in 1886 to include a multinational cross-section of industries.

In 2017, Berwind and her siblings established Spring Point Partners LLC (SPP), a social impact organization that invests in the transformational leaders, networks, and solutions that power community change and advance justice. Using a combination of grantmaking, impact investing, and professional and organizational development, SPP partners with individuals and institutions in youth development, human-centered learning, animal welfare, water sustainability, and opening pathways to prosperity.

“My advice is to know yourself. I think it’s much more useful and much more gratifying if you know who you are, and you’re leading from the inside instead of trying to be somebody you aren’t.”
Joanna Berwind, co-chair of the board at the Berwind Corporation

“Our generation made a commitment to creating social value in addition to economic value, and we hope to inspire other family businesses to recognize the importance of both,” Berwind said of SPP.

She added that she owes much of her success to her family and friends. “I might be the one up at the podium during this (Commencement) speech,” Berwind said, “but my siblings and so many others who helped me will be there, too, because we did all of this together.”

Find Your Voice

The work the Berwinds did to pursue their passions aligns closely to the thought leadership at the Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship.

“As a young person from a family whose business was thriving, the most important resource that I did not have was a sense of who I was, a sense of my own agency, a sense of making my own choices about what I wanted,” Berwind said.

After an intentional journey of self-exploration in adulthood, Berwind developed her full voice and now finds herself better equipped to support the enterprise.

“By no longer trying to wear shoes that don’t fit,” Berwind said, “I actually am freed up to apply my own creativity and independent thinking.”

Roughly 50 percent of Babson undergraduate students come from a family business background. In the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, that number rises to 60 percent. But, speaking from her experiences with family entrepreneurship, Berwind said, entrepreneurs of all backgrounds should take some time to figure out what motivates them.

“My advice is to know yourself,” she said. “I think it’s more useful and much more gratifying if you know who you are, and you’re leading from the inside out instead of trying to be somebody that you aren’t.”

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