Accomplishment Highlights:

  • Youngest ever minority CEO of publicly-held company
  • Companies have raised, been sold for, and earned over $1M
  • Bestselling author
  • Business Week 25 under 25 and Inc. 30 under 30
  • Recognized in top national press
  • Businesses that are changing the world through innovation, improving the environment, and helping the world’s poor.
  • yellow square
  • Alexandra Mysoor
  • Jake Nickell
  • Hezekiah Griggs
  • Elizabeth Davis
  • Jeremy Johnson
  • red square
  • Hiten Shah
  • Duane Spires

Rebecca Kousky

Rebecca Kousky became the founder and Executive Director of Nest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of women in developing countries, when she was 24.

Expanding upon the proven tool of microfinance lending, Nest gives small loans to women to build or maintain art or craft-based businesses. But unlike traditional banks, Nest allows loan recipients to repay their loans in crafts they make, which are then incorporated into Nest’s own line of merchandise, created exclusively for them by some of the country’s top designers and artisans. Additionally, Nest partners with other domestic designers who dedicate a percentage of their sales to Nest’s microlending program and many advise loan recipients on building their businesses.

Nest and Rebecca have received global attention, including appearances on CNN and Fox News and in publications as diverse as the Turkish Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Martha Stewart’s Body & Soul. Rebecca herself has received numerous awards, including being named one of St. Louis’ “30 under 30,” a prestigious recognition of successful young people.

More about Rebecca

Biggest obstacle overcome...

Suits and various other authorities constantly telling me I’m too young or inexperienced to do what I want to do...even after I graduated with my MBA and started 2 companies! The haters are always going to be there, so I've learned to just ignore them.

Biggest mistake you've made in business...

Getting a big head when I made a little money.

Biggest vice...

I’m decisive to the point of impulsiveness. Once I decide on a course of action, I want to proceed right away. Sometimes it’s best to spend some time thinking first.

Biggest advice for others...

Don't spend too much time looking at the distant mountains; you have to look directly in front of you as well. I tend to get caught up in the big picture; for example, where I want to be in ten years, but what is most important is the first step you take toward getting there. Details and baby steps—that’s my advice.

What do you do for fun when you aren't working?

Practice yoga. I am a certified yoga instructor. In college, I taught yoga at an inner city after-school program for teenage girls to help them gain self-confidence and improved body image. I also used yoga as a rehabilitation tool for disabled children when I worked in India and I taught yoga to elderly men and women, to help them retain both mobility and mindfulness. I still maintain a personal yoga practice; it helps me to stay calm, centered and focused.

Most embarrassing business moment...

We had a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. and I was to speak before the group. I had a terrible head cold and (regretfully) still thought it wise to enjoy a glass of wine before taking the stage. The combination proved dangerous, despite my confidence. I stood there facing the crowd and was silent—no words would come! Finally, after a full minute or two of silence, I managed to mumble 30 seconds about Nest and sat back down. It was awful …and embarrassing!