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Maggie’s life work at Digital Union is to joyously help companies marry profit and purpose. The formula is simple: customer mission + social mission = social impact business. A great day means working with business leaders to model what positive power a company has when it serves between living and giving, consumption and contribution, and leverages the might of the private sector to build conscious communities.
Maggie is also Founder of DiscoverHope, an international development nonprofit creating opportunities for women in developing nations to build prosperity through microcredit loans and educational training.
Maggie is addicted to organizing and enjoyed her role as C.O.O. of Consuela Inc., an Austin based fashion apparel company that fuses fashion with worldwide art aesthetic.
How did you get started?
DiscoverHope really set the grounding for my current journey with Digital Union. It was that damn still small voice in my head; the one that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. It’s the voice that likes to plant possibilities and ideas in your mind. If you ignore it, you wonder your whole life long, “What might have been?” Maybe it can be called God, Spirit, Universe, or any of the things I believe are all the same great thing. What I did know was this small voice came to me for months in 2003 every day amidst my silent morning: “Go see con otros ojos.” And yes, the voice was half Spanish, which I figured was comical inspiration.
I remember the first time I heard it, the phrase meant nothing to me. “Go see with other eyes?” It certainly didn’t sound like a slick business plan. So I kept asking for more. For months, images and thoughts started to form in my head until I finally had the answer: I needed to leave the boundaries of the United States to see myself from a different perspective, to see with “other eyes.”
The eight months of trip preparation was alternately filled with doubt and excitement. I gave the organization I respected a long notice to have months to train my replacement. I paid off all my bills and sold my car. I gave away all of my stuff to people who needed or wanted it. I experienced so much initial fear in letting go of things that had seemed so important to me. Yet once they were out the door, I realized how little I needed them. On the day I left, March 2, 2004, I officially owed nothing and had no money to my name–a perfect zero.
I knew what I wanted and what I had been directed to do: I wanted to explore the change-agent in me. I wanted to know about myself from a framework of newness that didn’t include the comforts of my own culture. I wanted to see myself as a person who could truly seize the opportunity to affect change in the world.
What motivates you to do what you do?
My personal life mission is to inspire greatness in people. I’ve heard many people scoff at the phrase “be the change” as if it is unobtainable. I didn’t and still don’t see it that way. We have the opportunity to change this world every day! Changing the world is possible and easy for all of us—it means you follow your bliss by giving your greatest strengths to the world moment by moment. When you do this, others do everything in their power to help you succeed because they are magnetically drawn to you. This means you inspire everyone you know to do the same, as they want the same feeling for themselves. Then they create their own paths and draw people to them. All of this equates to affecting countless people who are just like us. We change the world together. Trusting my vision has framed my life with transformative and positive power. I want my life to be a living expression of hope. Even when the days are difficult (and they can be), I recall the magic in cultivating mastery in people to grow and help them step out of their boats to create vision. This lifts me again. And again.
What 5 words best describe you?
Funny. Inspired. Determined. Passionate. Open.
What differences have you seen in the women you work with since you’ve started working with them?
My very early days in Peru in 2004 were accented by powerful women making the most unselfish of choices to raise their children on $2 a day. Amidst hundreds of life-changing conversations, one unmistakable pattern I won’t forget was that every woman spoke of her absolute willingness and desire to give her family a future. Give me a handUP, not a handout. Give me the power to make a sustainable life for my children.
We are all teachers and trailblazers. The women who participate in our project sizzle with the spirit of transformation. The story of a Quest is etched into our very tissues. Why do we love stories of the Quest so much? The Odyssey, the Journey. We are fascinated by trailblazers, we are magnetized by people who encourage us because they strike that chord within our own hearts. We have a common story: our hearts are waiting for a call to action.
DiscoverHope creates dignified solutions for women in poverty through our Microcredit Plus Model to step into their call to action. By combining loans with learning, we provide access to credit as well as access to knowledge. We believe that women in poverty have the potential to lead and to take charge of their lives. The impact of these efforts positively affects communities for generations, creating a legacy of hope. When I see a woman sitting with her young children in a training class where she is empowering herself or accepting a microloan that won’t compromise her safety but lift her family, I know she has stepped through the doors of opportunity and forever changed her future path. Since 2008, DiscoverHope has provided thousands of loans and has funded over 3500 development trainings related to business assistance, literacy, computer, and artisan skills.
The most important lesson you’ve learnt from your work?
The most important life and business lesson I’ve learned from this work is to express absolute authentic gratitude for people. Gratitude is the affirming life vitality for everything. When you give it…life works.
What advice would you give to other women interested in starting their own company or non-profit?
Create a “rock star” team of advisors you can ask for help. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. As powerful women, I think we can make the critical mistake of taking everything on and not admitting when we don’t know the path. You’d be surprised how much people want to help mentor and give advice, connections, and ideas when you approach them with authenticity and passion. Don’t go it alone!
How have you raised funds? Have there been difficulties or challenges you have faced and if so can you share more information?
Raising money is about relationship cultivation, bottom line. We’ve used every fundraising method in the book: special events, mail drops, capital campaigns, sponsor levels, trips, grants, meetings and more. People give when they feel connected. Asking for money takes the effort and time to develop relationships with people and to understand what makes them ignited inside and out. One of my favorite questions when I meet people is “what are you passionate about?” You’d be surprised at how far this simple question takes you on the path of really getting to know someone. The best donors are lifelong advocates for your cause and passion. If you invest it what matters to them, they will invest in what matters to you. The second best question I ever learned to ask when you are ready to ask for money is” “would you be willing to…” This phrase is direct, but it allows potential donors to not feel cornered into a decision. It allows them choice. You’d be surprised at how often people say “Yes I am willing” or “I can’t do X…but I am willing to do something else.” Be versatile in your asking. Develop ways that people can give once at a level that is tangible for them and that has a direct measure or tangible output that relates to this money. Build the relationship ad you will see the contribution and interest increase over time. Now, if someone can’t or won’t give, you can’t take it personally. I learned early on that it is not about me, it is about what ignites them. Finish with Gratitude even if someone isn’t prepared to give. Tell them you appreciate what lights them up and where they want to put their time, talents, and treasures.
Where do you see your venture going in the next 5 years?
This is an exciting time in our evolution for DiscoverHope. In 2013, we began the transition to local ownership of the DiscoverHope so that the women beneficiaries of our program will own everything in the next several years. In the next couple of years to come, our goal will be to create the truest form of sustainability by engaging, teaching, and empowering the local community to own and build the project for long term. Our view has always been that good international development means you give the power to local people to facilitate their enterprise when they are ready. Sustainability for us is not only about finances; it is about community well-being and leadership from within the villages. Stay tuned for the model unfolding as we teach locals to manage and direct the microcredit and education components of our program.
For Digital Union, I think that all companies need to pay attention to the idea of effectively building their bottom line while also creating a better world. The old paradigm of business as a profit-only endgame is evolving quickly and drastically. Consumers are becoming more aware that the private sector has an important role to play in contributing to solutions around world improvement. At the heart of the issue is social technology, including social media and smart phones. Both have given citizens and consumers an unprecedented power, voice, and ability to organize themselves around shared values. The Shared Value Initiative, a global movement supported by the Clinton Global Initiative and worldwide trailblazing companies and organizations, realizes the critical opportunity to create shared value between business and society. In his book World Inc., globally renowned corporate governance strategist Bruce Piasecki summarizes that fifty-one of the world’s top 100 economies are now corporations and more than 40 percent of world trade now takes place within multinational corporations. Indeed, we are reminded us that fixing our world is a shared responsibility and that businesses can be even more powerful than governments in creating local and global solutions.
One person you admire and why?
I admire my Mom. She is a mother of eight (rebellious) children and now grandmother to 25. Her voice was always one that told her five daughters to blaze our trails. She is the most unwavering example of Love that I know. Through tears, fears, and joy she has been the most prominent unconditional fan of my life (even when I am sure I was breaking her every nerve). Even now that I am 40, I see her look at me with eyes of compassion and worry and pride just as when I was eight.
What does success look like to you?
Success is about asking yourself what kind of legacy you want to create in your life. I challenge myself to think about “living between the hyphens”, this time between when we are born and pass away. We come to life with nothing. I see we leave with nothing we acquire here. So then, life is about giving. Life is about the reverence of giving. I want to create my own footprint on this world. I want to enjoy the ability to create authentic magic in my life and in others’ lives. You know what….? The purpose of life is to break your heart wide open.