Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
My most recent entrepreneurial initiative was the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra. While not originally my concept, I was enamored with the idea and joined the founders from their first rehearsal to build a strong volunteer corps, robust programming, and solid programming. What was a hodgepodge of community members and students has grown into a solid and competitive core of 60 volunteers making NOVO the largest community orchestra in the region. While originally under the umbrella of a local university, NOVO is now an independent nonprofit and has since raised thousands of dollars for local charities. While I have since stepped down in order to focus on my work with Mama Maji, I still remain active as an adviser.
While many years after its founding, my initiative as an intrapreneur within Louisiana Green Corps was vital from moving the organization from diminishing survival capacity to a growing organization. Brought on to work in fundraising, a week after I began, the Executive Director informed me she was quitting and there was nobody to replace her. With a disengaged Board, a program staff of two people and no experience in fundraising, I rebuilt the development department, renewing and expanding our existing funders, repackaging our programming, and bringing in over $600,000 in funding. A year and three months later, a new Executive Director was hired, new staff was brought on, and we doubled our programming.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?
Collaboration has become a foundational value for Mama Maji. In developing a plan, the first question we ask is who among our partners would have resources that could expand our impact. The second question we ask is who else works within this sphere with whom we can partner. We believe in the power of collective impact and strive to embed it as the foundation of every fundraiser and every program. Since our launch, we have developed partnerships with 40+ organizations including Rotary, Acumen, Tulane University, and the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health. These partnerships are in different stages. The synergy between Tulane University and Mama Maji allows for a deep partnership. Tulane contracts with Mama Maji to provide trainings in public speaking, community mobilization, and storytelling with the knowledge that our trainings receive 96% approval ratings from their students (the highest they have for any community partner on record) and the fees they pay go directly into supporting similar trainings in the developing world. In addition, we partner directly with the professors to integrate our curriculum into their courses, creating a growing synergy in our interests and impacts. Project Lazarus is an HIV/AIDS focused nonprofit in New Orleans that has provided considerable advisement, support, and event space for Mama Maji while BloomingLily Foundation recruited Mama Maji to partner on the distribution of water filtration systems and specialized training in business development and crowdfunding at their health fair held in Kochia, Kenya.
Our Board of Directors also serves as key advisers and mentors for our work. One of our Board Members saw the potential in the crowdfunding campaigns we were putting together and was the adviser and connector that brought our programming into the classrooms at Tulane University. We have a number of advisers in fundraising that have helped us cultivate relationships with key foundations, including Rotary International. Our Board of Directors is also actively cultivating new advisers and mentors for us as we expand outside their expertise into new territories, including an introduction to a renown entrepreneur experienced in scaling social enterprises.