Sandee Kastrul, founder of i.c.stars interview with Amanda Brinkman

Small Talks features insider expertise from successful small business owners. This video series highlights how real entrepreneurs overcame their most pressing challenges, so you can apply the insights to your own business.

Since 1999, i.c.stars has been training and connecting adults from underserved communities with technology jobs. “We find talent, we train talent, we put talent to work,” says founder Sandee Kastrul. As someone who has witnessed the positive change that workforce inclusivity can make, she encourages businesses of all sizes to invest in diversity.

“There are a lot of times when I talk to small businesses and they say, ‘Later on, as we get bigger, we’ll think about that diversity piece.’ I think that that’s a mistake,” Kastrul explains. She believes it’s important to hire people from diverse backgrounds right out of the gate.

How businesses benefit from a diverse workforce

1. Adversity creates resiliency and problem-solving. The students at i.c.stars primarily come from low-income communities. To achieve success, they’ve had to overcome a level of adversity that would be discouraging to many people. “Overcoming adversity creates resiliency, and that resiliency makes for amazing technologists, amazing programmers and fantastic entrepreneurs,” Kastrul says.

2. Diversity provides multiple perspectives. You can’t just have one way of seeing the world and expect to meet all your customers’ needs. Having a unique perspective and point of view can help businesses gain market share and distinguish themselves from the competition. 

3. Diversity is the key driver of innovation. “Diversity is the primary driver of invention,” Kastrul says. “We can’t begin to solve complex problems until we have diversity of thought. And that’s not just race and economics; it’s really about the way we see the world through the set of experiences that we’ve had.”

Watch the full video for more insights from Kastrul.

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