Kimbal Musk will be the keynote speaker for the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership’s Summit 2015 at the David Lawrence Convention Center.
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In 1999, brothers Elon and Kimbal Musk sold their online publishing venture to Compaq Computer for more than $300 million. A big chunk of the proceeds went to other investors who held a stake in the startup, Zip2, but the Musks — in their mid-20s at the time — walked away with enough cash for Elon to launch a business that later became the online money transfer system PayPal.
Younger brother Kimbal invested in PayPal but didn’t get involved in its operations. Instead, he went to cooking school.
He doesn’t regret taking a different path than his brother, who generates headlines as the outspoken billionaire chief executive of high-profile ventures SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
After finishing his studies at the French Culinary Institute in New York, now called the International Culinary Center, Kimbal Musk opened his first restaurant in Boulder, Colo., with the ambition to cook and serve locally sourced ingredients.
That concept took off and now he has eight restaurants in the Denver area and Chicago.
But he has discovered his true passion to be philanthropy, through which he has helped to create 200 outdoor school gardens to encourage students to grow and eat healthy food.
“I think it’s the most rewarding experience of my life,” Mr. Musk, 43, said in a recent phone interview from his base in Boulder, where he runs The Kitchen family of restaurants and his nonprofit, The Kitchen Community.
On Oct. 15, he will be the keynote speaker for the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership’s Summit 2015 at the David Lawrence Convention Center.
Instead of the typical breakfast-through-afternoon business event, the nonprofit summit will hold registration at 11:45 a.m., start with a welcome performance by Attack Theatre at 12:30 p.m., and conclude with cocktails and a rooftop reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The afternoon will include sessions on public safety, health policies, sustainable urban growth, poverty and workforce development.
The partnership is a coalition of more than 400 nonprofits located in 12 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to its members, the partnership has invited for-profit businesses, elected officials, foundations and students to participate in the summit.
Mr. Musk’s message to the audience, he said, will focus on how for-profits and nonprofits can combine efforts for meaningful outcomes.
That’s how The Kitchen restaurants spawned The Kitchen Community.
After creating his restaurants, Mr. Musk was supporting school gardens but became frustrated at the sluggish rate at which they were opening and becoming available to children.
“So we decided to do it ourselves,” he said.
Since The Kitchen Community was formed in 2011, it has built over 200 Learning Gardens in Colorado, Chicago and Los Angeles — primarily in high-risk neighborhoods. It plans to add 100 gardens at schools in Memphis, Tenn., by next year.
The nonprofit develops lesson plans that incorporate science and garden management into the time students spend in the gardens, “so it’s a very smart way to get the gardens taken care of by the kids,” Mr. Musk said.
Younger children take the food home or create markets at school to sell their produce, while high-school age students may sell to local restaurants to gain insight into business and entrepreneurship.
Beyond teaching children lessons about food and business, Mr. Musk said the gardens encourage the students and their families to be more aware of the benefits of healthy eating. “We’ve seen them increase their intake of vegetables,” he said.
Take carrots. “If they grew them, we will see them [eat] a lot more of those than peas that they didn’t grow.”
Mr. Musk counts his older brother among the business people who inspire him and he serves on the boards of SpaceX and Tesla.
The South African-born brothers “get along better every day,” he said. “Because we’ve been doing so much together for so many years, it’s easy.”
To register for the summit, go to www.gpnpsummit.org.
Joyce Gannon: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1580.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.