Charlotte – Takeaways

Valrie Grant and Marie Wieck

Valrie entered the program running not one, but four separate businesses, including a café for her GeoTechVision employees. It was clear from the start that she needed to figure out how to prioritize. She spent the week with her mentor Marie concentrating on identifying her true passions and focusing on which business is performing best. They put the strategic planning workshop to immediate use by defining a set of SMART goals. “It will allow Valrie to really focus on getting the company to a point where she’ll still be involved, but all of that day to day management she can seed off,” says Marie. It will also serve as a road map to expansion into emerging markets and diversifying a client base beyond governments. Valrie is ambitious – by the end of the year she hopes to be in three new markets with an increase of US $3 million on the books.

Sandi Kronick and Kathy Parks

“I’m a banker, what do I know about family farming?” Kathy Parks had no idea what to expect when she was paired with Sandi Kronick, CEO of Eastern Carolina Organics. They quickly bonded during strategic planning and financial management sessions throughout the week, with takeaways Sandi will be able to implement right away. GAP came at the right time and offered an opportunity to take a step back from the work and focus on the mission and vision. “My challenge is we’re a cottage industry – we can’t compete with the big guys,” says Sandi. With a new focus on values, support for family farms and food access, she’s going to embrace sharing those messages throughout company communications, including social media. She’ll also consult with marketing experts in the grocery sector and explore new partnerships to help her business grow.

Rana El Chemaitelly and Terri McCullough

Rana El Chemaitelly joined the Global Ambassadors Program in Charlotte looking for guidance on some big changes on the horizon. When Lebanon next holds Parliamentary elections, Rana will run for a seat. To make that happen, she needs a succession plan for The Little Engineer, the company she created to engage youth in science and technology. Going strong for eight years and now with a presence across the Middle East, she faces the daunting challenge of expansion while – at the same time – grooming a team to take over. Working with Terri and zeroing in on an action plan was critical. “I’m going back home, and my business plan is ready,” says Rana. Her objectives are to find more donors, partner with more schools and create more pilot programs. Rana is unstoppable: “Every challenge is an opportunity – an opportunity to go and raise my voice. This is what I learned and this is how I go forward.”

Patience Magodo and Dawn Chanland

“You found me at the right time.” These were Patience Magodo’s words for Vital Voices when contacted about her acceptance to the Global Ambassadors Program. She was ready for personal development and GAP was a perfect fit. Mentoring expert Dr. Dawn Chanland, her Charlotte-based mentor, recalled their first meeting, “I quickly realized just how incredible she is, and how the mission of her organization is equally as incredible.” After 23 years at a global bank, Patience turned to social banking for smallholder farmers in rural Zimbabwe, working toward social and financial inclusion for the bottom of the pyramid. She is the founder and managing consultant at Tafadzwa Ne Chiedza Development Trust, and her goal for the week was to focus on resource mobilization. She leaves the week armed with a financial plan and appointments with a virtual mentor to keep her on track. Patience also left her mark on Dawn, who said to her mentee that after 25 years of mentoring and academia, “the experience that I have had with you has been the most important to me.”

Norm “Anak” Bunnak and Debra Moore

Seeing children in rural Cambodia get a chance to go to school is the driving force behind Norm “Anak” Bunnak and VillageWorks, her social enterprise that empowers women and marginalized communities through fair trade certified handcraft. “I’m a bureaucrat. I learned the meaning of ‘social enterprise’ for the first time this week,” says her mentor, Debra. But her skills in strategy and operations were invaluable in helping with Anak’s market expansion plans. She’s now cultivating mulberry, kapok and lotus in her own community to provide a sustainable source for natural fibers that go into the beautiful scarves, bags and accessories in her product line.  In parallel, Anak will look for new funders to help grow the NGO side of her enterprise, which helps vulnerable members of the community gain independence through meaningful, fairly compensated skilled work.

Josefina Urzaiz and Karen Starns

Josefina came to Charlotte with a clear goal: Build a sustainable, global brand for her company, Hammock Boutique, and her nonprofit, Fundacion Cielo. Both are committed to ending the inter-generational poverty cycle in the Mayan communities of the Yucatan, where Josefina grew up. She worked with her mentor, Karen, and they kept coming back to the notion that global change and success is achieved when people come together. Josefina’s slogan, “Unite and conquer” will go far in contextualizing the value proposition of her business and nonprofit. “Josefina hopes that by the start of next year that she is able to establish a sustainable brand not just in Mexico, but around the world,” says Karen.

Karen Bennetts and Oulimata Sarr

“My primary goal was to create and develop a financial toolkit,” says Karen Bennetts, owner of Charlotte-based branding agency Little Red Bird. Paired with Oulimata of Senegal, a senior UN Women official and World Bank veteran, she was in good hands. Together, they targeted two SMART goals – to increase the overall profitability of her company by 50 percent in 2017, and to focus more intently on product development. They set up a detailed budget using Microsoft Excel, with plans for monthly check-ins on the numbers. “I came to share my time and the little that I know in finance with Karen,” says Oulimata, “but I am leaving totally enriched by the experience – the whole group, we all connected.”

Juna Mathema and Moira Quinn

Juna Mathema of Nepal co-founded Blitz Media in 2002 and today it’s a top advertising and research agency in her country. She came to GAP matched with Moira Quinn for guidance on improving business operations and takes away new skills in financial management, thanks to trainer Judson Russell, taking to heart his mantra, “You don’t have to love your numbers you just have to know them.” She also wants to do more advocacy for women’s economic opportunity. Trainings in “intentional networking” will pay off as she dedicates more of her time to advocacy for women’s empowerment. While in Charlotte, Juna was already brainstorming ways to replicate a model of the Global Ambassadors Program back home. With Moira this week, she says “I rediscovered myself.”

Ibilola Amao and Michelle Moore

When Michelle Moore met her mentee, Ibilola of Nigeria, founder of engineering consultancy Lonadek, she was struck by how much the discussion revolved around her personal passions – women, youth and STEM education. Michelle wondered – what about the business? It quickly became clear that Ibilola needed help with a plan for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the company so she could begin to step away and focus more on serving women and youth. So they created a roadmap for achieving that goal. First on the list is a multi-generational plan to hire a CFO and general manager for Lonadek by the end of the year. That will pave the way for a new social enterprise to emerge, Cedar, which will channel Ibilola’s true love for connecting women and youth to science and technology. “I have clarity and vision for my life plan,” says Ibilola.

Melissa Bodford and Dilek Dayinlarli 

“When I first saw her bio, I thought – how am I going to help Melissa? She’s an execution machine.” Dilek was immediately impressed by the way her mentee is disrupting the giving space by eliminating the friction in mobile donations through her start-up, uBack. There’s work to do – building out the team, refocusing on strategy and market analyses and managing burn. Melissa’s GAP experience was transformational and she’s gained a new network of powerful women who have her back – “I’m inspired by the women here and how they’ve been advocating for themselves. I always believed this but I didn’t have a voice to do it.” Now she does – and we can’t wait to see her upend philanthropic giving as we know it.

Brenda Harris and Nigest Haile

Brenda Harris, founder of BPN Healthcare Concepts in Charlotte, was paired with Nigest Haile of Ethiopia. Despite the geographic and cultural differences, the two immediately clicked and couldn’t have been better matched. “I didn’t know where I would be, I didn’t realize the status of my company,” said Brenda at the start of the program, when she sought guidance on developing stronger staffing and human resources practices. Nigest offered a fresh perspective on what it means to be successful, helping Brenda to refine her mission statement to support her vision and end goal for her company. “Nigest has made me take a step back and look at everything,” Brenda says. She’s on her way back to the office with an action plan for better employee engagement, salary and staffing structures, and planned market expansion to reach 25 states by the end of the year.

Apra Kuchhal and Catherine Horne

Apra came to Charlotte with a well-thought out plan for her hospitality business in India. What surprised her mentor Catherine Horne were the second and third enterprises she wanted to focus on, a family furniture business and a nonprofit organization, WE CARE, an initiative to promote women, youth, art and culture. “I learned so much,” says Apra. “I learned the art of saying no so that I can better achieve my goals.” Through one-on-one mentoring and consultation with financial mentors and trainers, Apra will go home with a new business plan to increase revenues for the hospitality and furniture companies. She’ll do this by reallocating management resources, using social media more effectively and reducing her own time in the businesses. This will free her up to spend more time working on WE CARE and empowering women in India.

Photography: David Hume Kennerly