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[E4C13] How to Discover Your True Calling & Turn It Into A Viable Social Enterprise – UniversalGiving


Pamela Hawley is a seasoned social entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in the social enterprise sector. She is the founder & CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning social entrepreneurship organization that helps people give to and volunteer with vetted, quality opportunities all over the world. Unique to UniversalGiving, it takes no cut on donations — 100% of donations go directly to the cause.

Prior to UniversalGiving, Pamela co-founded the Full Circle Fund’s Global Economic Opportunity impact circle. As the current co-chair of the circle, she helps support and strengthen channels for economic opportunity and empowerment, both locally in the Bay Area and internationally.

Pamela also co-founded VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit that has matched more than 4 million volunteers. Soon after in 1999, she launched VolunteerMatch Corporate, a customized version for corporations. Under her management, more than 20 Fortune 500 companies became clients, which contributed to 43% of the organization’s sustainability.

In this insightful interview, Pamela shares with us how she discovered her true calling and offers practical advice on how aspiring social entrepreneurs can do the same. She shares:

  • Whether or not you need real-world work experience before starting your own organization.
  • How to identify and vet the best, most committed talent to join your team, using 3 key criteria.
  • How to get your first clients when you have none, and what you need to do to cultivate your business relationships.
  • Ways in which you can start a business that expresses your life purpose, when you have financial commitments and a family to care for.
  • Ways you can test financial models as a side-hustle, using a phased approach, with a team.
  • How to get started finding venture capital funding.
  • How to go about starting a new business – and raising money for it – if your previous venture failed.
  • Strategies to approach previous investors for funding on your new business, even if you lost their investment the last venture.
  • The powerful inner mindset shifts you need to make in order to truly offer your greatest service in the world.
  • What it takes to get into a social enterprise incubator or accelerator, and how to evaluate whether one is a fit for your company.
  • And much more!

Mentioned in this Podcast

Where to Find UniversalGiving


Lorna: Pamela, I’m so glad to have you back on the show; I’m really excited to explore with you, the process of uncovering, or discovering, your life purpose. I recently listened to a teleseminar by Jean Houston, who is one of the founders of the Human Potential movement, and she has a process of how to discover your life purpose, so I’d love to also go through your methodology as well, since you are a seasoned social entrepreneur. So let’s kick off by starting with who you are, and what you do.

Pamela: Well, my name is Pamela Hawley, and I’ve been a social entrepreneur for… goodness, I think more than 15 years now, and I had to fight hard for that pathway to do what I love to do, and I currently run, and founded, UniversalGiving; it’s a website that helps connect people to quality, vetted giving and volunteer opportunities all over the world. A hundred percent of your donation goes direct to the cause – we don’t take a cut. And then our second service is going into companies, and helping them with their CSR programs. And they pay us to do that, and that helps us sustain ourselves financially, and that’s our business model.

Lorna: So is this organization, UniversalGiving, a reflection of your life purpose?

Pamela: Absolutely! It’s a complete germination, continuation of my life purpose, and I will say that doesn’t end. I also have other goals, Lorna, so those hoping that you find the magic bullet, and you’re done… that’s not going to be the case. However, loving what you do, and striving to find that, if you can – even if it’s on the side, or full-time, or whatever you can do – it’s important to have that element in your life.

Lorna: So, I would say that a lot of people in the world really feel that they have this greater gift that they want to share, and they feel called to find what purpose they have on this planet; like what is the, y’know, overall purpose or destiny of their life, really, and so in many regards, the ability to discover your life purpose is an incredible blessing, and I’d love for you to share with us how you came about discovering your life purpose, so that we can inspire people to do the same.

Pamela: You know, I have to say I stumbled a little bit upon my own life purpose; we were on a family vacation in Mexico, and at the age of 12, I was walking down a cul-de-sac very near a market place, and I saw all these begging, starving children, and that was unacceptable to me, and from that period on, I started to volunteer. So I knew that cause and giving back and all that was very important; however, finding the pathway to becoming a social entrepreneur was incredibly difficult and challenging – it was not an established market place. Now you have classes at universities – you have so many ways you can get involved; you can get degrees, you can go to conferences on social entrepreneurship, or on pretty much, y’know, any passion that you have.

So what I would say, for me, the first thing you’ve got to do is get out of your head, and into the world, and that’s the big ‘I’ word. You’ve got to involve yourself. And one of the things is to involve yourself in an unselfish way, so the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ of involving yourself in an unselfish way can’t just be, “I wanna go do this, and find out just what I want to do”, you’ve got to give along the way to finding out how you can give, and find your right purpose, and so part of that magic is going and finding things that you love, or elements of it that you love, and part of it is realizing things that you just don’t want to do. And that’s valuable as well.

Lorna: So, from that “Aha!” moment that you had in Mexico, how did you bridge the moment of knowing that you wanted to be involved in service, and give back to the world, and then transforming that desire into a viable business that supports you financially?

Pamela: [laughs] You know that sort of process is definitely the process, and I’m most grateful for it; there are a lot of components to that. First, what I did was that I met with industry leaders. There wasn’t a clear pathway in social entrepreneurship, so whatever your pathway is, if there’s not a clear way to go about it, then go meet with industry leaders. I flew out to go meet with Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka back in the 1960s – he clearly was a pioneer in social entrepreneurship; I met with him, he offered me a job – that would have been a great avenue but I was too entrepreneurial, and wanted to start UniversalGiving, so I turned it down, but he would have been a great person to work for.

Find someone, even if you want to start something on your own; find someone that you can work for, or resource, or have as a mentor, or someone who can guide you, or someone who can make recommendations in for you, or even refer you to other places. You’ve got to start on that pathway to involve yourself. And first of all, get matched up with the key people that are experts in your arena.

Number two…

Lorna: So let’s bookmark number two but I want to go back; Bill Drayton’s a real influencer – how did you get his ear and his time?

Pamela: You know, I was so excited about this, and I think it just wasn’t even a possibility in my mind that I wouldn’t be meet with him – it just wasn’t possible. It didn’t even occur to me that he wouldn’t meet with me, and I say that very humbly, but I felt like a part of the social entrepreneurship family, and I think he saw how I got it. He saw how I got it. And I think I actually wrote him a personal note because I also knew from friends that he was not on email at the time, I don’t know if he is now – I don’t ask him because I figure that gotta talk about other things that are better with him!

But y’know, writing a personal note is a wonderful way; emails – we have so many you get deleted, a ‘phone call – hard unless you can leave a voicemail, and they can hear your warm voice on a voicemail. That’s a good way too. Make it personal; and it doesn’t need to be like sending someone a whole bunch of balloons but I’ll tell you, one of my favorite people is Dustin Farivar. He had interviewed me, and said, “How do I get involved in socially-conscious work?” I spent time with him, and I’ll take a call from anyone – even if it’s for 15 minutes – just to help them, and he wrote me a beautiful thank you note, and I still keep it, and he sticks out in my mind. Of the hundreds of people I’ve talked to, I remember Dustin.

Lorna: Wow, so you basically just sent Bill Drayton a letter – a snailmail letter – cold?

Pamela: I did not type it up. It was hand-written, and then I also went to people – I kept watching for people – “Do you know him? Do you know him? Do you know him?” and asked for recommendations in. So it was a real cross-pollination effort; I can’t say it was just one thing… but I went and met with as many people as I could, and as people heard my vision, I didn’t even have to bring him up – they would say to me, “Oh, you need to meet Bill Drayton”.

Lorna: Wow, I love your hustle and your perseverance. Fantastic. So, point number two that you were going to talk about…

Pamela: Volunteer, internship… you’ve got to get in there, you’ve got to get into the involved side of it. So first of all, talk to people, make sure that you’ve got their buy-in, they want to help you, they’re thinking of you, they’re connecting you up with people via ‘phone, email, Facebook, whatever it might be, and then two – start volunteering, interning, or accepting a job with someone. It’s so helpful to have that, and to really get that experience because it’s one thing to say you want to do something but it’s another thing if you say you have actually done something. Even if it’s not paid, you can volunteer on the side; you can do it full-time, you can do it for part-time – there are so many things you can do, and I’ll tell you that speaks volumes. When I see something on someone’s résumé that they say they want to do it but they have no experience in that area, it’s not that I think they can’t do it, but often what happens is you get into it and you go, “Oh gosh, that’s not really exactly what I want to do, I actually want to do this, but boy, I’m glad I did that because it helped show me that I didn’t want to do it”. So, practical experience speaks volumes, you need to have that.

Lorna: Well, you know, it’s so interesting because entrepreneurs just really want to work for themselves, so how valuable do you think working in the industry first is, to then starting your own venture?

Pamela: I think it depends on your skills and your experience and your instincts. I think, for me, I was a very scrappy person that could put together an organization on basically no budget, and because I had such experience in volunteering and had given back so much in volunteering for so many, many years, I knew how to mobilize and inspire, and utilize volunteers. So that was natural for me. So you have to look at the things that are natural for you. It was natural for me for me to be scrappy, it was natural for me to start things – I’ve been doing that since the age of 10, when I had my first little business out of my room called Pam’s Place, where I sold glittered pencils to my dad – and so, y’know, I was already thinking about starting businesses, I was already entrepreneurial, that was already my set.

There are other people I talk to that say they want to start an organization but feel they can’t do it unless they have half a million, or feel like they want to do it but they don’t know how. And when I start to get concerned is when they ask me operational questions stuff like, “Well, how do you find someone for this?” Wow, you go on the Web, you talk to friends, you gotta be someone who’s a talker, getting out there, connecting people, and finding out these answers. You have to have a passion for making your idea come true because I’ll tell you, many people have said to me, “I had that idea too”, yeah but did you have the idea, and then also the effort and energy to go figure out how to do it? You have to have a passion, not only for your idea, you have to have a passion for implementing your idea. So that’s where, if you feel like you don’t have the passion for implementing it, better to join a larger structure first.

Lorna: Okay, so you mentioned that you have a service-oriented side to UniversalGiving, I’m curious to know how exactly that works, so that you are able to basically, support your goal of being able to pass a hundred percent of the donations that donors provide – or give – to UniversalGiving, straight onto the project that they’re supporting.

Pamela: So there’s several elements that are important when you’re creating an organization, and you want to make it sustainable, and we believe very much in a diverse pathway to our financial sustainability as a non-profit. So I’m going to answer this from a couple of different vantage points.

Number one is that we have a tip on our site that if you donate, if you want to voluntarily give an extra donation to UniversalGiving, you can do so. So if you’re giving $25 to feed a family in Sudan, you could give an additional donation of $5 to UniversalGiving if you wanted. We also fundraise, and then we also have our corporate service.

So, with the companies, we go in and consult with them, and we help them with their corporate social responsibility, and they pay us to do that. So that’s part of our business model.

But another part of our business model, which you’re talking to, is about our workforce. We do have paid people on our workforce, absolutely, and that’s important, and where they’ve got to that position of being paid is most of the times they come on as volunteers, interns, or what we call returnees. Now these returnees are people who are accomplished professionals; there might be one… for example, Amy [0:15:28 Mock ?]. She’s incredible – she’s an engineer but she wanted to learn about corporate social responsibility, so she joined us as a returnee because she’s not someone fresh out of college, and she’s devoted to us but she’s a returnee because she’s got experience but she doesn’t have any experience on the CSR front. So now she gets experience, meeting with companies, being on the ‘phone with them, having interviews with them, helping close partnerships – a very prolific role. She’s getting real-world experience but she’s doing this as a returnee on the side so she can learn, and potentially get paid to do something like this in the future.

Now, a lot of people on our team are paid, and they were first a returnee, or they were first an intern. Other people were interns and returnees, and then they had this one experience and they decided to continue to volunteer with us, or they left to move on to other experiences.

So you get your interns and returnees in, you make it a great experience for them, get them on the ground running, giving them real-world experience that’s caring enough, the right thing to do. Second, it’s support your organization’s goals; then you see is there a good fit here in skills and culture and values that they, and you, want to convert to paid.

Lorna: Cool. I love that approach, definitely. You’re able to then identify the most dedicated, passionate people. And those of course, are always the ideal employees you want to have on your team.

Pamela: You know, you just hit on a really important point, Lorna – and you haven’t even asked this yet – but the point is we believe in being 99% politics-free. Of course, nothing’s ever perfect but having management issues drags an organization down, and we don’t tolerate it. So for us, what we try and do is instead of having an interview that’s very much like a blind date – people can be amazing interviewers but you really don’t know what’s going to happen until you see them on the ground, working for you, three months, six months, nine months, and even a year in, there can be surprises. So the best thing is to really get that track record, not just for yourself but also for them; how do they operate under pressure? Are they happy doing what they do? I mean, I can see a lot of people who join us from a for-profit world, and they come in with a mistaken notion of what they think it’s going to be like, and I’ve figured out the top three things that make people happy in their jobs, and I’m watching for those when people join our organization, to see if they fit with it.

Lorna: What are those top three things?

Pamela: Are you gonna ask me that?

Lorna: Yes!

[Both laugh]

Pamela: So here are the three things – and of course there’s more – but number one is a lot of times, people join because of their vision. Let’s say before, they were selling routers, which is a good thing – we appreciate routers, we need routers to do internet and all of that – but let’s say they weren’t passionate about that in sales and they want to do something where the vision seems to be more philanthropic, well UniversalGiving fits that bill but then they come to the organization and they don’t like their day-to-day…that will not work. You cannot just be inspired by a [0:17:8 far ?] vision; I encourage people to say, ‘are you inspired by the vision and the leadership of the team?’ You gotta have that, that you’re inspired by that.

Number two is that you have to be able to also to be inspired by the day-to-day; what is your to-do list look like? So when you come in and you see your to-do list, what does that look like, when people are looking into their day-to-day when they start at eight or nine in the morning?

And then the third is people; you need to feel really, really positively that you enjoy working with the people.

So it’s vision, it’s day-to-day, and it’s people.

Lorna: Okay. So, going back to the day when you just got off the ground, and understand that you have this for-profit, or service-based revenue model with your organization, did you already have an extensive network of CSR connections – social responsibility connections – in the corporate world that you knew you could go to with confidence, that they would hire your organization ?

Pamela: Well, I have to say this; you know, relationships are incredibly important, you always want to have very solid strong relationships, always in life, no matter what arena you’re in. It’s really important to take time, to take care, you have to be passionate about relationships, about having relationships that are warm, that have integrity, that are mutually beneficial and caring about the other people.

But I will say you also have to prove yourself again and again. And we have to go back to my days at Volunteer Match because from Volunteer Match, I built up an extensive network of corporate connections and relationships… but how I got those relationships at Volunteer Match was I literally printed out the Fortune 500 list, and started making cold calls. That’s what I did. So I made those cold calls. You might be called to do that in your life, and you have to be excited about it. You have to give the call-in and say, “What is the value you’re going to be providing to someone?”

Having said that, when we started UniversalGiving, it was different because… we’re not doing the same thing that Volunteer Match – Volunteer Match has a great application that allows people [0:24:21 to the companies ?] to come in and have a private label – we don’t do that: we come in and we do international consulting on CSR, on strategy, operations, and NGO vetting. That’s a different model. It fits within an application model but we don’t run an application for companies.

I didn’t want to compete with Volunteer Match, so I set up something different because I love both organizations, and I was a co-founder of Volunteer Match, and now a founder of UniversalGiving, and it’s important to honor those respective organizations.

But when I got into Universal Giving, I am now putting for something that’s different. So they know my name, that’s good; they know I have a track record, that’s good; but I have to put for something different, and I’m competing in a different realm – same realm of CSR but a different product. So you need to prove yourself again.

The second thing that happens is contacts change businesses and different companies, and they move here and here and here – you have to stay on top of that. So someone who I might have known at Symantec might have moved to AMD, might have moved to Apple, might have moved to Adobe… have to be able to stay on top of that, and it’s very important to stay on top of those relationships. You can’t take it for granted and just say, “Oh, I had this relationship, so I got in”, you have to prove your value.

Lorna: Wow, so essentially you got your first clients by cold-calling the Fortune 500 list?

Pamela: 1996, that’s what I did.


Lorna: I love it, I love it – you’ve got the hustle, girl! Hustle is pretty much the number one characteristic that defines all entrepreneurs, whether social or otherwise.

Pamela: You’re gonna get it done. At the end of the day, you’re gonna get it done, and you’re not going to accept a ‘no’. And there are definitely some hard times as an entrepreneur when you face ‘no’s and one of the things that I’ve been so grateful for is that when I hear them now, I don’t take it so personally. I think before, I was like, “ Oh, my gosh, how can they not see this? Global poverty is definitely… needs a solution, and I wanna help be a part of it. How can they not think that a) that’s important, or b) some people thought is there even a market place for it?” I was astounded. But see, that’s part of the thing about being a visionary; having the vision early. Ten or 15 years earlier. Now pretty much everyone has done something internationally, especially in California in the major cities and metros, but y’know, 15, 20 years ago when I was writing the business plan, that was not the case; when I wrote the business plan for this, gosh, maybe about 12 years ago, it was around 9/11, right before it, and it was not popular.

So often too, you have to think about this, if you have to be something that’s a little bit more gentle, where something is already readily accepted, it’s better to join an organization rather than to start something up. You’ve got to expect those ‘no’s, and stay peaceful, and humble, and confident, then you are headed on that right pathway to achieve your vision.

Lorna: Yes, being able to maintain confidence in the face of rejection and ‘no’s is very character-building.


So a lot of people feel a yearning to do something that has lasting value in the world, an endeavor that allows them to give the best of themselves but they struggle to identify what their life purpose is. Now, for me, it took a powerful life-changing experience in the Brazilian Amazon that really brought me to the level of knowing that I wanted to be of service, and discovering a way that allowed me to serve that was both a fulfilling expression of my unique creativity, talents, and strengths that had the potential to reward my efforts abundantly. But a lot of people don’t really have that ‘kick in the pants’ transformative experience, so if you were to just guide them through a visualization process, or a process of self-inquiry, and how to find their true calling, so that they know then what to do next in their first step to get involved the world, how do you help them identify what they are passionate about, and especially find a true calling that is financially viable?

Pamela: It’s a very good question, and there is no one right pathway, Lorna, but I will say that you’ve got to keep uncovering the pathway bit by bit by bit.

So for example, for me, even though I knew I wanted to be of service, I was very confused about to how to go about it. There just was no clear pathway, and I was so upset; you know, here I’d graduated from Duke, cum laude, and my friends were becoming doctors and lawyers, and MBAs… and there was a path – they had a degree at the end of that path, and I was, like, “There is no degree at the end of that path, how do I get on the path? What is the path?” You’ve got to create the path. Sometimes you’re going to have to create the path. And even sometimes when you’re on the path, you might need to go off on a little bit of a… a little bushwhacking run, off into the side, into the weeds, and come back onto the path later. It’s not something that’s always set in stone but you need to take that first step, of getting back to the ‘I’ of involve. And really involving yourself.

So, for example, I actually started to study myself; I went and I took personality tests, I took Myers-Briggs, I went and found out what my fortés were, I went and I did Richard Bolle’s ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’; I had all of these colors and circles talking about my gifts and my talents, and what I love to do. It was really hard because even after that, I still wasn’t clear.

Then I started a gift basket business, where I was putting together gift baskets, and I wanted to go in and sell it to companies, and give back a portion of the donations to non-profits. So 15, 20 years ago, very philanthropically advanced by some people’s views, about having social responsibility embedded into my company from day one. Well, I chickened out, I got nervous, I didn’t have a business partner, and it never got off the ground. It was a huge disappointment. I woke up at three or four in the morning, I knew I couldn’t do it, it was a dead end.

So I faced a lot of cul-de-sacs, and I never really talked about this before but you know, I got some criticism from my speaking, and people said, “Oh, it was so clear to you and you knew since the age of 12, and it’s been so easy for you”. And I was like, wait, wait, wait! I’m a super-positive person but there’s a lot of challenges that went into me finding the right thing, and some seemingly cul-de-sacs that made me realize some really important things. So for example, team is really important. Unless you want to be a solo person, team is very important. So when I stopped that gift package business, it was because I realized I need a good team – I don’t want to do this on my own.

So you might find some dead-ends that way; study yourself, find out what your good qualities are, involve yourself in something… and after that, I actually did go get a job. I went and I got a job, and I worked in PR for a while, and then I worked in broadcast journalism because I thought I wanted to change the tenor of media news, just like you are! So that was a strong calling but once the internet came, ohhh, that was a chunk I didn’t see before.

Now, there’s nothing I could have done about that, Lorna, but the thing is if you study yourself, and you compare yourself, and then you watch the world and see how things in the world can aid your vision… all of a sudden, I was, “Wait a minute, I can help people – not just one person volunteer, I can help thousands!” I didn’t know about the internet at age 12, it didn’t exist, so sometimes when you take two steps towards life, life will take two steps back towards you.

So I guess what I would say is; study yourself, prepare, plan to even do business planning on something you might not even want, it will start to get you on your pathway. And then sometimes you’ve got to go work at a company, and do it on the side. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Lorna: So, of all these different tests that you took in order to get to know yourself, which one did you find to be the most effective? Myers-Briggs?

Pamela: [Laughs] You know, it’s funny because I definitely changed with Myers-Briggs over time, and I can’t remember all of the other ones that I took but I do still take them from time to time because I think we progress as we continue in life, and things change and different parts of us are emphasized.

You know, not any one of them was more helpful than the other; I think what it was was just constant, constant learning about yourself. And the other thing I did a lot was I journaled a lot; I needed to get my thoughts down, I wanted to know more about what my strivings were… I was just looking back on some of my journals when I was 22, 24, and they’re all this unbelievable, unsatiable desire – got to serve the world, or I cannot survive. It was non-negotiable; I was like, I know I also have a strong faith, it was like, I know God, or Divine love, or whatever you wanna call it, had a purpose for me, and I kept asking for that.

So I studied, I did my homework, I kept asking God for that; I would go out there and volunteer, I would go make a living because I wasn’t getting paid to start a business or wasn’t getting paid at the time. So I was scrappy in bringing it all together, and then eventually there was that opportunity to co-found Volunteer Match, and it was with a partner.

So that was an evolution; by the time I co-founded Volunteer Match, I was aged 26, my first epiphany moment was aged 12, so that was not a fun process. So when people say it was easy for me, I went like, well, I had a good 14 years to reach my first vision but even then Volunteer Match wasn’t international, so it wasn’t my full vision – I had to wait again another six years.

So, for those of you who think it’s immediate, good for you, I congratulate it, I want to hear about it, I support it, but it’s not always that way. You need to enjoy life along the way, and realize beautiful things happen along that journey, even if you’re not doing exactly what you think you want to do.

Lorna: I was having a conversation with another internet entrepreneur who is also based in Chiang Mai, about the idea of leaving a legacy, and discovering your life purpose. He hadn’t really thought too deeply about what his life purpose or his legacy he wanted to leave behind would be, because he was saying, “I’ve achieved abundance. My business is good, I’m really happy and confident, so what next?” And so I suggested that why not create something that has lasting positive value in the world? He noodled on that, and wasn’t really sure about how to identify what that was.

And so, what I remember my personal mission that I discovered in the Brazilian Amazon in 2004, it was a vision that was bigger than me. It was a vision that I had even though I had no idea how to accomplish. And that was to leverage innovative technologies to preserve indigenous wisdom, so that these ancient wisdom traditions could continue to benefit the modern world.

At that time, I knew nothing about the internet, I didn’t know anything about technology, but that vision has carried me for years, and it has unfolded in so many exciting and wonderful ways, because it was bigger than me. So in the journey of pursuing that guiding light, so many people came forward, so many experiences happened; I learned all about technology, I got online, I’m a media producer, and I’m also in the process of producing an album for a shaman from the Kuna Quinn tribe, who has great music and great lyrics and with traditional [0:31:11 island ?] Portuguese, and all of this is going to be done through these technologies, like a Crowdfunding platform, and then publishing to Bandcamp.

This is all very exciting but my advice to him was, pick a vision that is bigger than you, that will carry you, like a vehicle, through this pathway of life.

Pamela: Beautiful advice, I think that’s lovely, I’ll take it too!

[Both laugh]

Lorna: So, you did the whole side hustle thing for a while because of course before discovering that financially viable idea, you still have to pay your bills and rent and all of that. Do you have any advice for people who are stuck in jobs they are not passionate about but have financial obligations or family they need to support, and how can they transition to creating a financially sustainable business that expresses their life purpose, as opposed to fulfilling their life purpose on the weekends while stuck in a soul-leeching job for five days a week?

Pamela: It’s a very good question, and I do honor very, very much the people who have financial commitments, families… those need to be honored.

You know a lot of breakdown we’ve had in the non-profit world results from the fact that families haven’t been able to stay together and stay supportive, and therefore Social Services have to come in. And that’s not good.

We want to make sure that our number one commitment to our world and our communities is our families. I know I treasure mine. My father and mother just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, I’m extremely close with my sister, Alison, and my brother-in-law, Stu, and their three children. Family’s number one. And so I always say that to people about finding their passion; either make sure you take care of home first, that’s really important and it can’t be overlooked. The second is that when you’re in a job, and maybe it’s taking away part of your energy, but you also have financial commitments and a family to watch out for, I very much look at a phased approach.

Let’s say you all of a sudden decided to abruptly leave your job, or even do it in a very planned way but you don’t have a good [0:33:13 enough stake ?] to do it, or maybe your kids haven’t gone to college yet, or whatever it might be, the ensuing stress that you provide to yourself and your family may not be worth it for you to follow your calling. Your calling should be found – it might have some pressure to it, yes, but it also has an exhilaration to it. So be very watchful about that. I think that when you do have those commitments, what’s very helpful is a phased approach.

I understand that people don’t want to necessarily do it on the side but you can start testing out financial models on the side. For example, my brother-in-law, he creates this amazing toffee – he just makes it every year for his office, he’s incredible, he’s incredibly passionate about it, and it may be something that he may be able to start a business with on the side. He’s not leaving his job immediately to go do that, but it’s certainly in his mind, and I know it’s in his mind. Perhaps he’ll consider a phased approach to doing that, and if not, he’s got the joy of giving back; excellent toffee to so many people who appreciate it so much.

So first of all, get involved in your passion, even if it’s not financially sustainable. Second, start to make some baby steps towards it – it doesn’t even matter what you’re doing, you can make baby steps towards that… You did, you started to do the same thing too, just even by producing these videos. With UniversalGiving, I worked out of my home, and I started building the website. I didn’t have money to do it but I started building it.

So that’s that phased approach of starting to do it, so you don’t create ensuing financial stress. I strongly suggest you do that; I suggest you get a team of like-minded people because what happens if you can get, let’s say, four other moms who are also [0:34:47 split?] with kids, or two dads and two moms, or whatever it might be, and come up with a clear definition of responsibilities, and gather your team of two, three, five, ten people, clear responsibilities, clear rôles, and start to see – is each one of you willing to put in 10k so it’s all equal? Is each one of you willing to put in 10 hours a week? And then start to create that kind of collaborative, or do it only on your own and move toward that model.

The trick is that if you start to add more people then you’ll have to have much bigger financials at the end because you’re trying to get everyone out of their day jobs, into meaningful work. But the point is that you need to phase it in.

Or, the other thing you can do is this traditional venture capitalist way; come up with your business plan, which you should have anyways, come up with your [0:35:34 data ?], which you should have anyways, and you start to go to shop it, and see if you can get funding. One of the best ways to do it [0:35:41 had ?] VC funding before, go to angel investors – they can write a check right on the spot. If you don’t know who they are, ask your friends, ask your colleagues, invest in going to an angel investor conference, because even if it costs you $500 to go, they will be candid with you, and they will tell you why or why not they think your idea will work.

So there are ways, and the pathway may not be easy, but it’s definitely possible.

Lorna: It’s really interesting because a lot of… y’know, me being a bit of a media hub, I get people asking me, “Where do I get funding from? I want to find venture capitalist funding for my organization, for my awesome project”. And it seems like everyone that I’ve spoken to pretty much says start with your own network first, because it’s typically… there aren’t really so many opportunities unless you’re a certain type of company, like an innovative technology company that’s solving a really critical problem, or issue, but it’s much harder to get funding – venture capital funding – cold, and pretty much the route to funding comes by word of mouth and introductions through your immediate network and beyond.

Have you found this to be the case? Or have you found places where people will fund your project, based on its vision and its business plan, rather than based on the relationship to you, or who they believe you to be. I’ve heard it said that people – that investors invest in people, not ideas. What are your thoughts on that?

Pamela: For sure, oh my gosh, absolutely. That’s one of the things when we look at our NGO vetting model – the vetting procedure that we look at for our non-profits. We take into account leadership because one of the things we do is we base it on what venture capitalists do, which is, they look at a business plan and if they like it, the next thing they say is “I want to meet the management team”.

People are all-important in a venture, and you’re going to find some people who have a foundation that absolutely matches the same interests but there isn’t a good click or a good synergy there – you gotta let that go. Then you might find other people whose foundation doesn’t even support at all what you’re doing but they might be like, “Wow, I really like your vision – that’s me”, and they might be persuaded to fund you.

Definitely go to family and friends for the first reason only in your initial network, is to show that you’ve built up that buy-in from people. Let’s say they even give small amounts – you can still show that 20 people gave to you. And second, you show that you made the effort to outreach to them, and they committed to you, even if it was small amounts. Obviously it’s better if you have more people and bigger amounts, but you definitely want to do that so you get some quick funding to help you. I certainly did that. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to help get off the ground, and to help pay our engineers who had been working partly pro-bono, and then partly were being paid. So I think that’s important first of all.

The second, I think, is you then want to be open to the fact that there can be great synergy with a lot of different people, and they might be people you haven’t met before. Go to conferences – you definitely want to go to conferences, and make sure at those conferences that you are open to meeting these new people and networking. It’s a great, great pathway that you’re able to do in order to meet people.

So be open to the fact of both people you know as well as meeting new people.

Lorna: Great, I love that advice, thank you so much. Very actionable, y’know, it was very clear; I think a lot of folks get really stressed out about not knowing where to start. So thank you very much for sharing that advice.

Pamela: Yes.

Lorna: Now, the words, ‘serial entrepreneur’ have a certain appeal, yet there’s a tendency to assume that ‘serial’ refers to a series of successful exits, rather than failures. So, do you have any advice for people who want to start a new business, after failing a previous venture?

Pamela: First of all, with serial entrepreneurs, I don’t think a serial entrepreneur is better or worse than someone who sticks with something. I’m a serial entrepreneur in the sense that I might have a lot of small ventures but I’m someone who likes to stay committed to my original vision – I don’t like to move off of it. There’d only be some major reasons as to why I would move off of it, and so for me, international is very important with UniversalGiving, and that’s why I started UniversalGiving.

I don’t really see myself as a serial entrepreneur on the main stage; I do have a lot of side projects that I start up – little things that don’t take a lot of financial wherewithal because I see solutions that need to take place in our community, and I see problems that need to be solved, so I’m always thinking about those challenges and wanting to help meet them, even in small ways.

So my mind doesn’t think that way. If you – quote, unquote – fail, you didn’t really fail as long as you look at it, what we call at UniversalGiving, as an LL… a lesson learned. So there is no failure or mistake unless you repeat it.

The thing is, you need to come in when you go in and get funding in your second round or your third round… you need to be super-confident, you need to be generally confident to say, “You know, I went to that venture and you know, this is where I missed”, or actually don’t even do that – start with the positive; “This was really great, we got traction here, our project was really successful, this was good… but we found out that our manufacturing costs were way more than we had planned, there were strikes in Bangladesh (or whatever it was), and we originally forecast $8 per hour and it ended up being $15 per hour. We found out it wasn’t viable”. Or, “My partner left and I felt like I wanted to do it with a partner”.

There are reasons why a venture – quote, unquote – fails, but it’s not really failing; you might have had a different marketplace circumstance, or you might have had a partner leave, or a lot of other things. So first, start up as there’s gotta be something positive about your venture. Something. Have that self-reflection; say these are the positive – top three positive things I learned, and here are the top three positive things that I know I’m not going to do on my next venture.

Any venture capitalist, angel funder, any advisor will be so impressed with that self-reflection; they’re going to say, “Wow, this person really understands what the positives and what the challenges were – they’re not going to repeat that again”.

Now, if you do do it a second time around, and you do repeat it, then it is a mistake, and I don’t know what the advice is to give you to go around the third time! Maybe you have to self-fund it that time.

Don’t be embarrassed about something that doesn’t seem to go right, the way that you want, that happens a lot in entrepreneurship but you need to get back up again, and get up again and create something different.

There’s a very well-known internet entrepreneur who has just started something else – his app has just got horrible reviews… does that mean he’s a bad visionary? Does that mean he’s a bad entrepreneur? Not at all. He’s working out the kinks; I suspect he’s going to have them worked out soon. I suspect he’s taking in a lot of consumer feedback, and I bet that if he either cleans up whatever is not working well, it’s going to change… or two, he’ll realize and he’ll morph his venture into something else that does work.

So often, if something doesn’t seem to working right, you’re gonna have to abort it. You can morph it into something else, and take a little bit of a tangent. So first of all, I’d recommend you to not give up initially – there might be a way to morph it, there might be a way to exit and sell a portion of it. And third, I would say, understand yourself, understand where you could’ve done better in that venture. Be positive and go in confidently, and make sure you know your answers on that new business plan – make sure you know it back and forth… no questions can go unanswered.

Lorna: It’s really interesting, the process of going through a failed venture. When I think about a good friend of mine, actually, who has turned into a personal development – I don’t know, he wouldn’t be thrilled with the term, guru – but he’s become an Amazon best-seller, with a self-help book… a little self-help book he put out, thinking he was only going to sell maybe 10 copies but it became a huge hit. It’s called ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It’. His name is Kamal Ravikant, and he talks about in this book how one of his ventures – his company was basically going down in flames – and how he had to look his employees in the eye, and tell them that he was laying them off. And how he had to look his investors in the eye, and tell them that he’s lost all their money… and some of these investors were friends of his. What a difficult process that was to do. So, what say you go through that, and y’know, you’re watching a new venture – how do you convince other people to take you seriously, especially if you’ve lost all the money your investors invested in your previous business?

Pamela: Well, I think that can certainly be a challenge, and that’s hard. But with some of the investors, they understand that, and should understand that; a lot of venture capitalists know that if they have ten deals, they expect eight to fail, and if they get two major winners, that’s great. People know when they’re investing, that they go into risks – they key thing there, Lorna, is that you need to be up front about it. You can’t just be, “Everything’s great, everything’s great… oh, I lost your money”. You know, that’s where you keep them apprised of weekly or monthly or quarterly updates, depending on your relationship with the investor. Keeping them apprised is very important, and that makes sure that you maintain a relationship. What you don’t want to do is surprise people, so if they gave you $200,000 or $2m, to say everything’s great, or to say, “We’re building, we’re building” but you know that certain things are not going that well – it’s better to be up front and say “We’re facing some challenges”.

Seasoned venture capitalists and angel investors also know there’s going to be challenges, so if there aren’t any challenges, they’re kinda like, “This is kind of strange – it’s great that you can have amazing success, but there’s always something you can work on”.

So I would say apprising them along the pathway is very, very important. Then when you go back in – I’d go to a mix of people, I wouldn’t go to the same people – you need to evaluate each relationship on a case-by-case basis, and perhaps you sit this one out, or you ask them at a later date. Let’s say, for example, you might do one of the following…

Let’s say you had two investors that you weren’t sure that you should re-approach again – you might go get new investors, and then come back after two major things have happened: number one – you have other investors showing support, and number two – you’ve piloted this new product and you’ve shown some success with it. Then you can go back to the people who funded your initial failed venture, and say, “Thank you so much for your support of me; this time around, I’ve actually got new people who get it and are excited about it. And number two, I want you to know that I’ve already piloted it, I’ve launched it, and here are the success factors. I’m now asking you to come back in again because I’ve got some proof of concept”. That’s where you really need to go if you’re going to go back again.

Lorna: Wow, I love it – that’s so ballsy, but it’s great. Thank you.

So, I think, one of the most important aspects around the process of picking yourself up after failure and launching a new venture is how you reconcile your inner experience, and build up your own self-confidence in yourself? Do you have any advice on doing that? I mean, okay, the external strategies are definitely important but it’s really hard to do that if you’re kind of dying inside, and you feel like a fraud… so how do you build up that personal strength again, so you can look these investors in the eye, with confidence, and say, “Hey, I’m coming back to you for your support again”?

Pamela: Well, it’s hard. There’s definitely times when I’ve been shaking in my boots, and times when I feel… y’know, times early on when I felt uncomfortable, and you don’t know – and no one wants to be turned down – and sometimes you’ve got to make requests that way… but that’s a part of life. You need to be confident and be grateful and humble for the qualities you have, and you also need to be very firm and very strong, and be committed to that vision.

Now, I will say, there’s a lot of preparation that you can do in advance of that meeting, and I don’t just mean on the business plan. You need to have your own informal network around you – of people who are loving and supportive, and not just people who are a blind stamp for you. People who understand your vision and believe you can achieve it, and they love you. They’re not on your board, they’re not on your advisors; they may be friends, they might be people from Church, they might be someone from the industry… but it’s people you can call, and you can open up with, and you can be [0:47:56 vulnerable ?] with, and say, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so nervous going to this funder tomorrow, but I think I’m prepared; I’m going to do the best that I can”. They’re going to support you, they’re going to love you, and you need those people around you… that informal network.

I actually have a spiritual board of advisors; they think positive thoughts for me, they pray for me, they help me, and I’m grateful for them. They’re not on my letterhead, no one knows their names. I also just have an informal network of wonderful friends that I talk to as well too. You need to have people that you can speak with and talk to about these things – if you don’t, you bottle it up, and that might come out in your meetings.

And then when you go in, as with anything in life, I mean, think about it – most of us play sports at some time in high school or college… probably really nervous before that track meet, or that big basketball game, or before ballet, or whatever you did. But y’know, that’s one of the great things my Oma did, my beautiful grandmother was one of the first women’s [0:48:53 libbers ?] at Juilliard, and she said to me, “It’s okay to have the butterflies honey, but just make them fly in formation”.

[Lorna laughs]

So you had the pressure, Lorna – people are gonna have the pressure, I still have the pressure, but you need to make those butterflies fly in formation, not scattered all over the place, frantic… if you are, you need to calm down, take a walk, or postpone that meeting.

You go in with confidence and peace about it. You go in also with the following thing in mind – it can’t just be your agenda; you’re going in to help create this vision and idea that you have in your heart, and find the right people who want to support it. It cannot just be, “Oh, my gosh, I need to get something from this person, an extraction”, no, you’re going in to create a relationship, and you’re confident and humble and peaceful. When you go in to create a relationship which is, “I want this person to be excited to give to me too, and I want them to feel a part of it, and I want them to feel partnership, and I want them to feel apprised, and part of my progress”. You have to think, ‘win, win’.

It’s the thing for me when I get up and do improv; you know, my grandmother also taught me this, she said, “Stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about loving the audience”. And that helped me tremendously. My mom does that very well as well too. She’s a professional flutist, and she just gets out there, and with her excellence… and I know things might not always go the right way, or someone might miss something – you would never notice it with her, she’s a consummate professional. She is there to give love and joy to the audience.

And I mean, one final note on that, that’s one thing we learn in improv; let’s say that something isn’t going well, the worst thing you want to do is let the audience see that. Now why? Because, that could be considered authentic but what you’re actually doing is if you think something’s not going right, and you all of a sudden are an improviser on stage, and you go, “Uh oh…”, you know what you just did? You just made an audience member feel really, really uncomfortable, whereas on stage, you just go, “That’s right! I’m the doctor… that I… was… in a… previous lifetime. I’m a doctor!” And even if you’d made a mistake, and someone called you a teacher, well now you’re a doctor-teacher, or now you’re a doctor-teacher-PhD that teaches new teachers who teach doctors. You make it fun; “I know someone said I was a teacher but I said a doctor, not… I kinda made a mistake…” No. You go in confidently, and you make that mistake a gift, okay?

So that’s a thing where you have to figure out how to serve the audience. And your audience here might be a party of one but you need to go in confidently, humbly, and go in serving that other person; loving that audience member, loving your investor. It’s got to be right for them and right for you – this world is not all a one-sided economy, ever.

Lorna: There’s something that I would describe as a bit of an alchemical shift in a certain way, where it can feel like such an exhausting burden if you’re coming from the perspective of you having to accomplish this big thing, and, “Oh, my God, am I gonna succeed or fail? There’s so much work to do. Will this person help me, an’ all that?” Kind of like a selfish approach to why you’re doing a certain thing, but what you’ve just described touches upon something that I’d like to invite our listeners to consider; is the idea of letting your life purpose, or letting your bigger vision, or letting the universe operate through you. And so when you connect with that bigger vision, that bigger intention, and you feel like the support of the universe wanting to help you in this endeavor, but then also recognizing, or grounding yourself, in that humility in terms of shifting away from that ego-based of ‘this is me accomplishing this great thing’ to, ‘I am a vehicle for this great thing to be accomplished through me, and I’m looking for other people that share that vision’. It’s a very powerful place to be, and I think that it makes everything so much easier; it creates a flow, it creates a certain sense of ease, and less striving. And you can actually accomplish a lot more.

Pamela: Absolutely you can, you do accomplish a lot more, and there’s a lot more joy to it, and it’s important to have that joy in whatever we’re doing.

Lorna: Absolutely. So, I’m a bit envious of people, who seemed to know at birth exactly what they wanted to do, and seemed to enter that fast track of mastery in that endeavor from grade school to shining light in their industry. That wasn’t me, and I get the sense from you, sharing your history and background and social entrepreneurship that it wasn’t you either. I mean, it seems like we’ve both had pretty meandering career paths, where we’ve tried a lot of things and reinvented ourselves many times, and I can say for myself that that process was really brutal.

For example, when I switched from the non-profit sector to high-tech, I’d go to these networking events but y’know, people often in these environments relate to each other, based on their job rôle… like, “What do you do? Are you a UX designer, or a database programmer?” Or they relate to the company that you work for, “Oh, so and so works for Cisco”, or another recognized company.

Now, I remember how vulnerable I felt when I was trying to get people to take me seriously – enough to get me a job. And it didn’t matter how many white papers I’d read online – no one wanted to hire me unless I had industry experience. I went through this process when I was in my early 30s.

So, what advice would you give to somebody who has discovered their true calling to do something that they’ve never done before, never had any industry experience in, in a field where they don’t know anybody, and they’re in their mid-30s in an age where it’s really kind of unattractive to get the unpaid internship? Do you have any advice for a mid-career changer?

Pamela: I would argue with the fact that it’s unattractive to have the unpaid internship; I mean, we go back to some of our people they’re doing it at night, and you really can’t get out of that element of getting experience. Experience is important, so that could be anything from offering on the side, to help a conference convener to help organize a conference… First of all, it’s smart – they will take some of your pro-bono help… You can help understand more about the industry, you can help gain contacts with people that they’re outreaching to [0:55:17 regarding ?] the industry with, you help them market it, or help to outreach to people to get them to come. That is something that can help you connect up with a lot of people.

Second, getting into an internship, you can do something like that, five hours a week, it’s not a lot of time. You need to demonstrate getting experience, actually showing that you have the experience of doing whatever your calling is. So I don’t really know how much you’d get around that.

The other way is taking the education route. Taking classes, getting in there with like-minded people – you might start ventures together, that might be helpful – but you might also take the academic route, and helping to teach about your chosen passion as well too.

I don’t really know, I’m not usually stumped with a question, but you need to get in there. It goes back to what we talked about at the beginning, which is to be unselfish and to be involved, so you’ve got to think about, ‘how can I serve the world?’, and then you’ve got to take a step to be involved.

Even if you don’t have to do that, I still recommend it because you want to build up this cadre of experiences, of saying, “Oh well, I did this”, or, “Actually, when I interned here, I returned here, and I did a returneeship here, I learned so much here”. People will be impressed by that.

You could go to a seasoned entrepreneur who’s got ten years’ experience but if you’ve interned at three different organizations, and you can say, “Oh, well guess what? You know, my passion is being in fundraising and development – by the way, I’ve done fundraising and development at these three organizations”, that social entrepreneur might not have that experience – they can see you with three [0:56:40 months’ separate ?] experiences as incredibly valuable to them, coming into them and saying, “I can tell you how to do this, based on my other experiences”.

So you don’t always have to have been around in the industry for 15 years, you can go and get these micro experiences that can be tremendously valuable, and not take a lot of time. But you do need to build up that experience. And it doesn’t even have to be that you have to go work unpaid full time, but do get the experience.

Lorna: Say an entrepreneur comes up with a business idea that would qualify themselves as a social entrepreneur – what resources would you point them to?

Pamela: I would point them to Bill Drayton, just to understand the history of social entrepreneurship. There’s definitely the Social Enterprise Alliance, that’s a very strong conference as well too. And then, I think you have to find them – there’s a lot of different conferences you can look at, depending on what your passion is. For example, there’s indigenous grass-roots conferences, there’s one on social entrepreneurship that has more to do with Corporate Social Responsibility, you’ve got Jeff [0:57:42 Skolls’ ?] conference in the UK… all of them – you’ve got so many resources. Fifteen years ago, when I was starting out, there were none of these conferences – so have your pick, and go to these conferences, and study, study, study.

Also, same thing you can do is on the academic front; Stamford, Harvard, Duke – all have very prolific, strong social entrepreneurship events. You could definitely get in there. Go to lectures, study the papers that they have on them, understand them. You’ve got the world at your feet on social entrepreneurship, and oh, my gosh, on Facebook as well too.

So, there’s so much out there – it’s such a blessing, and so exciting to see, so much out there – get in there! Go to a meet-up on social entrepreneurship, listen to people, talk to people about your idea. You need to get in there and start talking about it, involving people who’re like-minded as you. And even that’s going to provide you with so much positive energy.

And keep in mind what I was talking about earlier; you take two steps towards life, life will take two steps back towards you. I didn’t sit there, and go, “Shoot, c’mon God, please create the internet because I wanna start UniversalGiving”. I didn’t know about the internet 15 years ago but once it happened, I went, “Wow, I can start volunteering, and I can create an organization to help thousands of others volunteer and give”.

Well I didn’t know that at the time; you have to start on your pathway not knowing all the variables. Now, I say that cautiously because if you can know the variables, you should know the variables, but sometimes you won’t know them all and you need to start on your pathway, and life will come back towards you too.

And of course, you’re on a journey with this; you’re with friends, with family, you’re with your informal advisors who are supporting you, make this enjoyable for yourself – you don’t have to be a loner out there. Sometimes it’s hard – make sure you have those networks of people who love you and support your idea, and encourage you on this beautiful, beautiful pathway of self-awareness and realizing who your true self is. And what you said at the top – doing your purpose, find your purpose – that passion and purpose, and living it. And it is a process.

Lorna, I am not done with mine; I have grander goals that I’m thinking about – I’m starting to embark upon them on the side, and I’m grateful for it. We always have to be striving for that next venue.

Lorna: The social enterprise sector is such an interesting space, and as you’ve mentioned, it’s really grown to a huge degree over the past decade. Now we see so many different kinds of companies trying to address social and environmental issues through creative business solutions; however, it appears that only the most innovative of these purpose-driven companies actually qualify to be accepted by social venture incubators and accelerators. Can you help de-mystify the world of social venture incubators and accelerators, and what it takes to be accepted?

Pamela: It is very competitive and there’s a lot of forces that have to come together, and the first thing that came to the top of my mind [1:0:40 improv ?] is that it has to be a hot idea. A lot of these ones that make it into these incubators, they have a lot of synergy. The incubators need to make sure; number one, that their investors and advisors synergize with the new idea, so if the idea’s really neat but they don’t have the investors and advisors to help them, it’s not really a good fit. So you might have a really great idea, and some people at the incubator might really like it but they might be, “Gosh, we’re tech-oriented, you’re not – great idea”, and they might recommend you to someone else. So just because you go through that process, you might get recommended into something else.

But you do have to make sure – your idea needs to be very, very compelling. And usually, really, really, innovative and different. It has to be a game-changer, it has to be a life-changer, not just a nice-to-have, not just a good thing to do, not a copy-cat – even though you might feel as though you have some version that’s a little bit different – it needs to be a real game-changer in order to get into them.

Second, having relationships helps. Third, seeing that the skills you need is available on their advisors’ skillset – that’s going to be important. And then, fourth, have to have to have really, really good communications. How you market yourself, your [1:1:49 deck ?], all of that, how you present yourself as an individual – and your company – is going to be paramount.

I often relate this because I love holding dinner parties for people, and welcoming people of all different backgrounds, and you can cook an amazing meal but if it doesn’t look good, people aren’t going to eat it. So you need to make sure that your idea is awesome, and the way you present it is awesome as well. So communications, marketing, the way you present yourself and your idea has to be top-notch as well.

Lorna: So what about the rest of the social entrepreneurs that aren’t the most game-changing, innovative companies, where do they go?

Pamela: There’s a lot of meet-ups you can be a part of, there are Facebook groups, there are social enterprise groups that you can be a part of – just because you get into an incubator does not mean that you won the world. You’ve still got to prove your idea, and there’s a lot of pressure having incubator support behind you. So I wouldn’t be concerned so much about that, I don’t really think that’s an issue. You’ll find a way to get it done – if you’re scrappy, you’ll make it happen. Being in an incubator, just like getting venture capital funds, does not mean you’ve won; it’s a big step and it helps you but you need to make sure that you’re willing to do this at all costs… it doesn’t matter what support you get or not, you’re gonna make it happen.

Lorna: Do you know of organizations that provide seed funding for start-up social entrepreneurs? Especially organizations willing to fund start-ups that have not quite reached the mezzanine level – a level where they’re actively in business, and serving their constituents?

Pamela: So, are you asking for one that’s a peer start-up, like barely started at all?

Lorna: I think maybe, just started but not quite at a robust level.

Pamela: I still think that a lot of the great ones out there – Draper Richards Foundation, Echoing Green… MacArthur Foundation’s probably a little bit longer road on the entrepreneurship but you want to get in there early anyways, because a lot of them want to be a part of an early idea, and they may fund you early on. Or, if you do have your start-up business off the ground, then that’s very compelling to them, and they’ll think, “Oh, I can see the successes, I want to get involved”. So I still think a lot of those are really helpful. You look at Y Combinator, that’s probably even a little bit more competitive. They’re all going to be competitive – giving any type of foundation funding or incubator funding is going to be very competitive. That’s why, again, I think the angel investors are so great because they can write a check right then – they’re individuals who don’t have to consult with anyone else, and if they like your idea, they can then fund you now. How do you find them? There’s a list of angel investors, there’s conferences, you need to network, and all of that, and there’s definitely ways to go about it. Angel investors are like that in a way – they’re that, they’re investors, they’re an investor who is an angel who can very quickly help shepherd your idea [1:04:32 – unintelligible garble] all these other things. So I still think you should go to the traditional realms because them knowing about you, they might recommend you to some other people too. But then, go the scrappy way too, and go to individuals.

Lorna: So, we’re about coming to the end of our segment; I always love to end with this question, because being the successful entrepreneur is usually a road that is populated with a few potholes of failure, and I’d love to ask you what your biggest business failure was, and what lesson you learned from this experience, so that our listeners can avoid this massive pothole in their journey of entrepreneurship.

Pamela: That’s a really good question, and the first thing that came to my mind really was that gift basket experience. Here I had been working in a catering company where it was a café I had gone to train with, and they also had catering on the side, and I was put out on the street to go do catering, and to help sell it in to major law firms and businesses and accounting firms downtown in LA, and I was successful in doing that, and I thought, ‘well now I’ve all these relationships with the law firms and accounting firms, I’ve seen them get gift packages and gift baskets – I’ll create those gift baskets. I went to conferences, and snuck in, and was able to get into [1:5:51 trails ?] for the gift baskets, I figured out the best Mylar paper and ribbons, I had a business plan, I went to USC Entrepreneurship School – I got a certificate at night in entrepreneurship – I was doing all the right things; I had a business plan – I had all of that. But see, I never got it off the ground – it was a failure because it happened that I did all this planning, I was totally ready to go but I didn’t have a team, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. And I didn’t want to do it on my own. So to me that was a failure; it was very depressing, it was a very low time. I’d devoted a year of my life, preparing to launch this business that basically never even got off the ground. And it was solid – it had solid metrics, it was possible to do it but I just felt overwhelmed by doing this on my own.

And that was a big, big failure to me. And a lot of people were disappointed, a lot of my friends and family; they wanted me to be happy, they wanted me to find what I love to do, and here I was, I didn’t know what my next thing to do, and then the next thing I tell them is that I’m co-founding an internet company – Volunteer Match – that helps match up volunteers with non-profits… “What does that have to do with your last venture?”

So they knew it was in a rôle of who I was but boy, it was confusing, and they stuck by me. But a lot of them were scratching their heads, I have no doubt. But as we know, Volunteer Match became successful from that. You’ve got to get up again, you need to start again, you need to realize what those lessons learned, and I will never forget that – with that gift basket business, the importance of team. I had done everything right; I had a little bit of seed funding, I was being super-scrappy, I had a business plan, I had gone to the conference shows and trade shows, I knew who I was going to sell-in to, I knew they needed gift baskets for their clients, I knew my whole sales channel, everything, Lorna, but I didn’t have a team. And I did not want to do it without a team.

That was a huge self-awareness for me, and the next time I went to my next venture, I had a team. And when I went into UniversalGiving, I had a team. You might be a real go-getter as an entrepreneur but you need to understand always, the importance of that team.

And so that was big for me, that was not a particularly happy time of my life – it was a very, very tough part of my journey. I felt so lost, I felt so upset, I just couldn’t muster it to make this happen. But soon after, probably about a year later, there was the opportunity of volunteer match, and I was very grateful.

And so stay humble, and stay listening, take your lessons learned, know why something didn’t work, understand yourself, and then start again. And chin up, and start again. And that’s what we all have to do in life. If we make a mistake, if we have a lesson learned, you’ve got to pick yourself up, be honest, be humble, and continue forward on the pathway of progress. And we can all do that. And it’s up to our mindsets and our hearts every day to say, “I can start again. I might have made a mistake, but I’m gonna start again, this moment, today – there’s a new opportunity to put forth my beautiful qualities, so that I can serve the world”, and be humble, and confident, that you have a unique way to serve the world. And you can do it.

You can, and I’m grateful to be here today, and whatever lessons learned I have, I hope I keep having that chin up, and say, “I can do it”, and I’m gonna continue to serve the world, with the radiance and joy and positivity that I have on this pathway of social entrepreneurship.

Lorna: Thank you so much for sharing with us your deep experience in this sector, and all your great advice. How can we best stay in touch with you?

Pamela: Thank you, Lorna, it’s a pleasure working with you – thank you so much.

Lorna: What’s your Facebook and your website?

Pamela: It’s universalgiving.org, and social media, is facebook/universalgiving, and also for myself, I also have a Facebook page for Pamela Hawley, and we also have Twitter accounts for UniversalGiving and for Pamela Hawley as well. And then my blog, Living and Giving, which is on WordPress.

Lorna: Fantastic, thank you so much.

Pamela: Thank you.

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