Amanda Armstrong, HBA ‘10, has spent her entire career advocating for social impact and sustainability. Amanda currently owns and operates Athari, a social enterprise and career coaching business that empowers women and youth to build careers with a positive impact in the world.
From an early age, Amanda Armstrong, HBA ‘10, was set on making a difference.
Discovering the path to social entrepreneurship
Amanda has been involved in leadership, mentoring, and volunteering for social good since high school. While at Ivey, Amanda was forced to reflect and determine which of the various career paths offered aligned with her values. She ultimately decided to specialize in entrepreneurship – specifically entrepreneurship for social good.
A pivotal moment came when Amanda secured an internship with a women’s entrepreneurship project in Kenya. Living in a small, low-income community in rural Kenya, she witnessed the harsh realities of extreme poverty and the challenges faced by the local population in accessing opportunities and financial freedom.
“Once I had that first three-month experience in Kenya using my business skills and my business education for good, I knew that this was going to be my future. Social entrepreneurship, using business for good. This is what I'm going to do with my life.”
Breaking barriers for women
In 2018, Amanda founded Athari, which means “impact” in Swahili, the national language of Kenya where Amanda now lives and where her career in international development and social entrepreneurship started.
Athari is a career coaching business and social enterprise whose business model is rooted in social impact and sustainability. Amanda adopts a tiered pricing system where women of colour in low-income countries benefit from half-priced coaching, and women and single mothers in Kenya earning less than $100 / month receive free coaching services.
So far, Athari has coached over 400 women–and thousands more through workshops and group coaching– to build confidence, land their dream job interviews and dream job offers, and achieve significant salary increases. Some of her clients have landed multiple job offers, achieved salary increases between $10,000 - $50,000, and two WOC who are newcomers to Canada doubled their salaries.
Amanda helps women build their dream life and dream career – especially those who face multiple barriers in their job search including young women, women of color, women with disabilities, newcomer women, women in low income countries, and women and non-binary folks who identify as LGBTQ+.
At the heart of Athari’s social impact mission lies its Student Scholarship Program in Kenya. Athari commits 100 percent of its profits to funding scholarships for children and youth who are out of school, helping them access education. Amanda also offers the Scholarship Students free coaching, mentorship, resources, connections, and access to therapy through Kenyan mental health professionals. Amanda cites this as her “most powerful” project as it is a sustainable solution to poverty.
Amanda attributes her passion for social entrepreneurship to her summer internship in Kenya through Ivey and Western University’s non-profit organization Western Heads East. She remembers taking the course Co-Creating Value in Emerging Markets. This further stimulated her interest in low-income developing markets in Africa, Asia, and South and Central America.
Amanda’s experience in the student exchange program also allowed her to learn from other business students with different backgrounds, cultures, and languages. She cites Oana Branzei and Tima Bansal as the “leaders in social impact at Ivey” that she drew inspiration from.
Prioritizing your values and passions
In an ideal world, Amanda sees every business and organization prioritizing people and the planet. She dreams of a world where businesses are making a positive impact in every single aspect of their organization, eliminating harmful practices, treating employees with respect and dignity, and embracing sustainable, zero-waste solutions. Amanda firmly believes governments, consumers, and communities should hold companies accountable to ensure they are not causing any harm to people, animals, or the planet. Doing something positive for people and the planet without causing harm should be a basic component of every single business and organization.
Amanda advises students looking to enter the social impact and sustainability sectors to explore, network, and identify a specific passion or niche they have. Whether that be social finance and impact investing, environmental sustainability and climate change, promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, or something else, Amanda says there are unlimited opportunities in all impact sectors and industries for students to get involved.
“Go out there and explore as much as you can. Ivey has an amazing alumni network, so put yourself out there and network like crazy. Remember to be intentional about who you work with. Don’t settle – go after your dream jobs and be picky about who you choose to spend 40 hours of your life with every week so you end up at a place where your values and passions align.”
To connect with fellow alumni, join Ivey's LinkedIn Sustainability Community.