Scaling Mountains to Get to Scale

Letter from Executive Director, Sachi Shenoy

I’m not a marathon runner. Or a triathlete. Or a mountain climber. In fact, you could say that my only “extreme” passion is my obsession with fighting poverty at Upaya. 

That being said, 2015 was my Everest.

When we started Upaya nearly 5 years ago, I knew this would be the hardest work I'd ever done. What I didn’t know was that in 2015, earthquakes, floods and fires would threaten our own offices and our partners', and that our team would be challenged by life-threatening illnesses and staff transitions.

Even in the face of all this adversity, even with this mountain to climb, 2015 has also been our greatest success. Thanks to our team’s dedication and tenacity, we:

  • Doubled Upaya’s investment portfolio! (10 partners and counting...)
  • Attracted 5x in follow-on investment capital
  • Had our 1st exit (and capital reinvestment)
  • Doubled our job numbers: Upaya’s partners are now employing 2,329 individuals

The tough stuff is not often featured in year-end letters from small non-profits, but I think it’s an important story to tell. It is not only authentic, it exemplifies our spirit of resilience and teamwork. These are also the same traits we admire in our portfolio partners and their employees. Our newsletter includes profiles of two other fearless individuals: Jamuna and Wilma. I hope you read their stories. Their struggles and successes continue to fuel my commitment to this work, and have helped me raise the bar for 2016.

Next year, our goal is to double our outreach once again, and create over 5,000 jobs in 2016 for families like Jamuna’s. As I share these aspirations, I also extend my deepest gratitude. This work wouldn’t be possible without our very dedicated “base camp” team: You! I thank you sincerely for making this rocky year one that ended with such celebration and victory.

So, I take back what I said. I AM a mountain climber. At Upaya, we all are. We are the risk takers. The do-ers. The believers that it can be done.

Thank you for being a part of this hard, beautiful, life-changing work.


Sachi Shenoy
Executive Director


December Newsletter: 1,139 Jobs and Counting!

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Today, I am proud to share Upaya’s latest milestone - as of this week, our five LiftUP Project partners are collectively employing over 1,100 people!

Combining the continued growth of our early partners with the addition of Samagra and Tamul Plates to our LiftUP Project, Upaya has seen the number of people employed by its partners more than double since the spring.

Click here to read Upaya's quarterly newsletter and learn more!

October Newsletter: Committing to Job Creation

Two weeks ago I was honored to represent Upaya at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative! We received widespread praise for our work -- so many attendees were impressed by what our partners have accomplished, against great odds. At the meeting, Upaya made a Commitment to Action to create dignified jobs for the ultra poor, primarily women, in India by October 2014 by doubling the number of enterprise partners in our LiftUP Project network.

Click to read the full newsletter.

July Newsletter: More Than a Job

The past few months have marked an exciting period in Upaya's evolution - our team has had the opportunity to share our story with some incredible groups, we have forged new partnerships to expand the breadth and depth of our work, and our partners have been acknowledged broadly for their successes. 

Click to read the full newsletter.

December Newsletter: "Building Bridges Out of Poverty"

Looking back at 2011, I am struck by all that Upaya has been able to build since our early summer launch. In that time, we’ve built a strong pipeline of potential partners with great ideas and amazing passion for helping the ultra poor. We’ve built a stellar team in India and the US that will fuel those partners’ successes. We’ve built an online presence that empowers individuals to support entrepreneurs they believe in. And we’ve built a base of financial and intellectual support that will be the bedrock of everything we do from this day forward...

Click to read the rest of the newsletter.