In 1992, Eric Hansen – a fourth generation Coloradan who grew up in Boulder, and an alumnus of CU Boulder with a degree in Central and Eastern European Studies – began working in Russia. A decade later, he co-founded the nonprofit Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) purposed to accelerate entrepreneurship there.
“In my 17 years at CFE, we made a significant impact on developing the entrepreneurial economy of Russia,” says Eric, who is fluent in Russian, and who also earned an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. “Russia is basically the first-world islands of Moscow and St. Petersburg, surrounded by a sea of shrinking villages and stagnant cities. The most rewarding aspect of my work was helping entrepreneurs across Russia build great companies, and create jobs and wealth in their local communities.
“I met an inspiring young woman who started a business selling honey gathered by members of her family and other locals of a shrinking village – creating economic opportunity where there was none. I partnered with regional entrepreneurship development nonprofits that were fighting a brain drain of talent from their communities – but hindered by miniscule budgets and uninspiring initiatives – by providing access to funding and international programming that showed nascent entrepreneurs a path were they could build growing, dynamic businesses in their own cities.”
Adds Eric, reflecting on his pro bono engagement with SVP: “I believe my accumulated experience is directly transferrable to the needs of local nonprofits.”
He continues, “Although I visited my parents here while living abroad, the Boulder I returned to last year is dramatically different than the city I left almost 30 years ago. So when I came home, I had to look for ways to establish my personal network, while making a difference in Boulder County. I met with SVP Partner Peter Spear, who encouraged me to learn more about the SVP model. It really resonated with me, and I was impressed with the broad scope of SVP’s Resource Teams.
“Prior to her departure, [former CEO] Jennie Arbogash introduced me to several other Partners, and I heard their passion for SVP’s mission. I became intrigued with the idea of leveraging the knowledge and experiences of skilled volunteers to strengthen nonprofits from within, and I wanted to be part of this group of great people and contribute to their work in helping and learning from the community.
“It’s basically a continuation of the work I did to help nonprofits in Russia – just in Boulder County.”
Indeed, Eric’s expertise in programming, best practices, and introducing community stakeholders to new approaches is sure to help individual nonprofits better deliver on their missions toward sustainable, long-term change, countywide. Specific to the sector, Eric brings demonstrated success in strategic planning; partnerships; board management; program development; grantmaking; budgeting and fundraising.
Additionally, managing a nonprofit in highly volatile Russia positioned Eric as uniquely experienced to assist Boulder County nonprofits struggling during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“After I joined SVP on April 1, I accepted an invitation to serve on the COVID-19 Strategy and Planning Task Force,” he says. “We often had crises in Russia due to extreme currency fluctuations, and international political conflicts between Russia and the West. This taught me to be very skilled at rethinking budgets, calming funders, informing and managing the board, and pivoting our strategy to survive.
“These are the exact skills that Executive Directors of local nonprofits need during this pandemic.”
Also since returning to Colorado, this tireless builder of entrepreneurship ecosystems volunteers with CU Boulder’s Entrepreneurial Mentor Network, where he offers assistance to local entrepreneurship development organizations; as well, he’s a Senior Advisor to the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), helping to develop programs that support and connect entrepreneurs in more than 170 countries.
Most important to Eric, though, is showing his wife and two boys – all born and raised in Moscow – the beauty of Colorado.