Social Enterprise Greenhouse names Julie Sullivan Owens new CEO

PROVIDENCE – Julie Sullivan Owens, who oversaw Social Enterprise Greenhouse during its recent transitionary period, has been named the organization’s CEO, the nonprofit announced.

Owens, who served as Social Enterprise Greenhouse’s interim CEO and senior adviser from August 2022 through the end of the year, and then again for the last month, takes over the role following a brief tenure by social impact partner Hina Musa.

A Barrington resident with more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, Sullivan Owens lived throughout the U.S. before moving to Rhode Island eight years ago.

Musa, who had previously worked at the national and international level, was named CEO in January and left the nonprofit in March for reasons Social Enterprise Greenhouse did not disclose.

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While Owens primarily worked in the health care sector during her time as a consultant, she said Social Enterprise Greenhouse quickly became her favorite client to work with after she was introduced to the organization. 

“It’s a really exciting time here,” Owens told PBN. “I get to go home every night feeling optimistic, and I think that’s kind of the core reason for me.

“We all read news about the challenges we’re facing in the world, and that can be overwhelming,” she continued, “but seeing the positive change [from] entrepreneurs and small businesses we’re working with shows that societal change is possible.” 

Owens also started her own business several years ago, though she later put it on hold due to family obligations and the COVID-19 pandemic. But that experience, as well as past consulting work with new and scaling businesses, gives her a greater insight into “the trials and tribulations that come along” with entrepreneurship, she said. 

Owens, who has an MBA from Northwestern University, also sits on the Barrington Education Foundation’s board of directors.

In a joint statement, Social Enterprise Greenhouse co-chairs MJ Kaplan and David Melançon called Owens “a relentless optimist on a mission to find the good, partner with other changemakers, and work towards a more inclusive and innovative economy.

“Her prior work with SEG, coupled with her success as an entrepreneur, will provide her with a great foundation for long-term success as SEG’s chief executive,” the statement continued. “We look forward to seeing Julie grow the organization, develop new programming, and expand the reach of proven initiatives.”

As CEO, Owens will lead a team of 18 employees and hundreds of volunteers in support of entrepreneurship initiatives.

In the near future, the nonprofit will partner with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Black Business Association, the Center for Southeast Asians, Hope & Main and the Multicultural Innovation Center to direct the Community Navigator Pilot Program. The initiative, backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, will connect under-resourced and underrepresented entrepreneurs with capital – the most commonly voiced challenge facing the Ocean State’s entrepreneurs, Owens said – and other resources for business growth.

Additionally, Social Enterprise Greenhouse is partnering with the United Way of Rhode Island Inc. on the Nonprofit Innovation Lab accelerator program.

The nonprofit’s shifting leadership over the past few months followed the departure of former CEO Kelly Ramirez, who co-founded Social Enterprise Greenhouse in 2009. Ramirez left the nonprofit last August to lead the newly established Donald Ryan Incubator for Entrepreneurship in the Arts & Sciences at Providence College.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.