Sharon Feigon Gets Going
I-GO co-founder and DePaul alumna applies entrepreneurial approach to sustainability
I-GO CEO Sharon Feigon (MBA ’88) used her entrepreneurial know-how to establish a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to get around the city.
I-GO, Chicago’s local car-sharing business, was established almost 10 years ago to provide urban commuters an alternative to owning a car. “The idea was to see if we could convince people to sell their cars or decide not to own a car,” says Feigon. “We provide low-emission cars all over Chicago.”
The project began in 2002 when Feigon was manager of research and development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit organization that fosters urban sustainability across the country, starting I-GO, and, when the project proved a success, Feigon decided to stay on as the CEO.
Since its startup, I-GO has surveyed customers and found that 73 percent of its members either sell their cars after becoming a member of I-GO or have postponed the decision to buy a car. Feigon hopes that more commuters will turn to walking, biking and public transportation as alternatives.
“We want to reach our financial goals as well as our social and environmental goals,” says Feigon, who says she gained the necessary financial experience to run a company while in DePaul’s MBA program.
“I had worked in the non-profit world for quite a while,” she says. “I decided to earn my MBA because I thought the classes would help improve my skills with finances and marketing.”
After immersing herself in the business world, Feigon found the key to running an environmentally friendly business: identify the economic benefits within the social benefits.
“It costs over $7,000 a year to own and operate a car,” says Feigon. “If a car-share member occasionally used public transit, that cost is going to be cut in half. The economy is rough. People can save that money.”
Feigon has developed a close relationship between I-GO and the DePaul community. The university offers I-GO discounts to DePaul students, faculty and staff, and many commuter students use I-GO to get to class.
She hopes that with fewer cars on the road, the city can reduce its carbon footprint. “Climate change is real, and it’s having a larger impact,” Feigon says. “Car sharing allows people to do their part environmentally without sacrificing anything.”
Addressing this issue through business is the perfect marriage of Feigon’s interests. “I like the combination of it being a business [and environmentally sensitive]. I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I like to make it work,” she says. “I feel very lucky that this work can improve the quality of life in the city.”
DePaul Theatre Alumna Completes Edes Prize Year
The $30,000 that up-and-coming director Rachel Walshe (THE ’08) received as a 2010 recipient of The Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists could not have come at a better time: early in her career. And that’s the point.
The Edes prize is a no-strings-attached financial boost intended to give promising young artists the wherewithal to spend an entire year focused on making art and establishing themselves professionally. It is awarded annually to recent graduates of arts programs at four Chicago-area schools: DePaul University, Northwestern University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.
Samuel Edes and Claire Rosen (LAW ’32), who practiced into her 90s, were well-known in Chicago arts circles as patrons and collectors. They immersed their only child, Nik B. Edes, in the arts from an early age. In fact, well before he turned to a law career and ultimately took over the reins of his parents’ foundation, Nik worked on and off stage in the theatre, ballet and opera. He knows firsthand the struggle many young artists face just starting out.
“The foundation’s board and I thought it would be worth taking a chance on artists of all genres at the very early stages of their careers,” Nik says. “That’s when it is the hardest for them.”
Walshe, a mother of two, couldn’t agree more. “For an artist, just to be relieved from the stress of feeding and housing your family can be life-changing,” she says.
Although Walshe is just starting out in her career, she’s no beginner. In Chicago, she made a name for herself as a director of plays by and about women at DePaul and with the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, where she earned a best-director nomination in the 2009 Jeff Awards for “These Shining Lives.”
Walshe also became increasingly aware of gender inequities that exist in the theatre world. “People think that the theatre is open and progressive,” she says, “yet women playwrights and directors are produced and hired at a fraction of the rate that their male counterparts are. It’s alarming.”
The Edes prize helped Walshe put two and two together. “I thought, wow, I’m so passionate about women in theatre; why not spend a year trying to raise my professional profile while pursuing a cause I care very deeply about?”
And that’s exactly what she did. Walshe relocated to her native Rhode Island in 2010. With support from the Edes prize, she continued to develop her skills in the role of visiting artistic director at Providence’s Perishable Theatre, which is widely known for its annual International Women’s Playwriting Festival as well as its regular program of new work by women.
Walshe’s new title opened doors, enabling her to network with other women directors and playwrights throughout the country. In addition to producing the theater’s 15th women’s playwriting festival, Walshe directed Carson Kreitzer’s “1:23,” a harrowing work taken directly from the confessions of two women convicted of killing their own children.
“The Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists gave me a sturdy launching pad,” she says. “I’ve been invited to direct a number of plays throughout New England–my home–which is very exciting. I feel blessed and very charged that my year was so successful in that respect.”