Andreas Souvaliotis: Alumni Gallery inductee
Andreas Souvaliotis, MBA ‘89, will be inducted into McMaster’s Alumni Gallery on June 3. He’s an entrepreneur and the founder of Social Change Rewards.
I remember always standing out as the different one, the rebel, the exotic one. I was a relatively new Canadian back then and I always found ways to incorporate my unique life and cultural experiences into our life on campus. I remember offering up my dad (who lived and worked in Greece!) as a resource for our international labour relations course … our professor, of course, immediately took me up on that offer and a few weeks later I found myself listening to my own father who was standing at the front of our class as our guest-lecturer! It worked beautifully for everyone: my classmates thought it was so awesome to get such a different perspective; our prof was thrilled; my dad felt uniquely useful and proud; and, of course, I was just gloating!
How did DeGroote prepare you for your career as a CEO and entrepreneur?
The program gave me the confidence, discipline and well-roundedness that were so critical for my career. I remember one of our professors once telling us about one of the most important and basic habits in the life of any well-rounded business leader: reading an entire newspaper every day! I went home that evening, got a subscription to the Globe and Mail and here I am, almost thirty years later, still inhaling the whole paper every day. And that was the beauty of the diversity of the lessons we were gaining through our MBA at Mac: from the most basic habits to the most sophisticated courses and case studies. It was truly balanced learning.
Share with me the desire to take an active role in social entrepreneurship and start Green Rewards.
In my book and in my speeches I often refer to Green Rewards as an opportunistic accident. I never set out to be a social entrepreneur per se. The opportunity to create the world’s first eco points program, right here in Canada, was mind-blowingly exciting and perfectly capitalistic, and it was only after I got into it that I realized how much more rewarding and “real” it is to have a business that generates both financial and social returns at the same time. And of course now there is an enormous wave of new and emerging business leaders out there who only want careers that create the same kind of blend of economic and social value, so it seems the world was perfectly happy to move in the same direction as I did!
What has Green Rewards and Social Change Rewards meant to you? What does it mean globally?
Green Rewards will always be remembered as my first shy move into the world of entrepreneurship. It was a crazy, beautiful, rich, intense and rewarding ride. It became a media story and people still talk about it. It was truly my ‘first born’. Social Change Rewards is the much evolved, much grown-up, much more intimidating and global and impactful version.
With Social Change Rewards we are truly working to change the world. Not just the shopping and lifestyle habits of Canadians; not just the lives of Canadians; but, truly, the lives of potentially billions of people, well beyond our little country. We’ve started from Canada, for very obvious reasons, but we now have something that can be easily replicated and used by governments in many other nations. And we’re feeling very Canadian-proud about it!
On Wednesday June 3 you will be inducted into McMaster University’s Alumni Gallery. What does this honour mean to you?
The simple fact that McMaster University has chosen to honour a social entrepreneur makes me very proud of my old business school. Our world is changing. The more progressive schools now recognize that the most effective leaders of the future will be the ones who set out to build wealth by changing the world, not the ones who try to change the world after they’ve created their wealth — and I am so proud to see McMaster join that community of progressive schools. I hope my induction creates even more positive, entrepreneurial, world-changing inspiration among today’s students.
Any advice for current DeGroote students & our alumni?
Think differently. Don’t conform. Don’t follow yesterday’s patterns and don’t gauge your success by yesterday’s standards. The world and its values have never evolved as fast as they’re evolving now, so make sure to catch that awesome wave and stay on top of it. There has never been as much opportunity for real leaders and changemakers.
Andreas Souvaliotis, MBA ‘89, will be inducted into McMaster’s Alumni Gallery on June 3. He’s an entrepreneur and the founder of Social Change Rewards.Other stories tagged: alumni, alumni gallery inductee, alumni profile, entrepreneur