LindawithStudentThis is part of an ongoing series of interviews I am doing with women entrepreneurs, and part of the kickoff to a series on social entrepreneurship.

Recently, I spoke with Linda Mornell, (pictured at left with a Summer Search student) the founder and former CEO of Summer Search, an educational and character building program that gives low-income students the opportunities and support to transform their lives. Linda, A former psychiatric nurse, spoke about the challenges of starting a non-profit organization, which now has seven offices. She also addresses the potential hazards of being too invested in your company.

What is Summer Search?
Summer Search essentially became a leadership and character development program. We look for kids who shows signs of altruism. The alumni are incredibly self-aware and empowered individuals who are very committed to their own personal growth and helping others.

I got the idea in 1989 and the first group of students in San Francisco went out in the summer of 1990. I was 45 years old and my youngest had just started college. It began during a transitional part of my life.

What was your strategy for making your idea work?
As I reflect back nothing seemed to be on purpose. It was just so random and chaotic. I was a nurse. I followed orders. I never thought in a million years that I would be an entrepreneur. I had no idea what to do with these kids. There was one program, Global Routes, that wanted one student to go to Bali. So I put him on a plane over there, to the horror of his school teacher. It was his first time ever on a plane. I hoped for the best.