How I Became an Entrepreneur in Middle Age
The story of my business is my story too.
When I was in second grade, I decided I would become a teacher when I grew up. My teacher that year was Miss Donnelly, and she made learning empowering and fun. She would divide the class into teams to work on projects. I was usually the team leader and found myself trying to motivate the other kids using her tactics. I was a good imitator. It worked, and I thought I was destined to teach.
When I was in fourth grade, I decided I would become a writer and a teacher when I grew up. My teacher, Mrs. Lentz, told me I had a real talent for writing. It was the only thing I did better than Kelly N., who I believed to be the teacher’s pet. So I wrote. And I read. I read more books that year than any other student in the class. One hundred and fourteen books. The more I read, the better I wrote. I believed I was destined to write. And teach, of course.
These decisions, made when I was eight and 10, were not fleeting. I went to college and majored in education. I took writing classes, too. Journalism and creative writing. Feature writing and advertising. My writing teachers asked why I was an education major when I was so clearly drawn to writing. My advisor asked if I really wanted to teach, because the market was flooded with teachers and I obviously loved to write.
I had never heard of public relations, but after exploring new majors, decided this was the career for me. I started volunteering with a local nonprofit while in college, and sought work with a nonprofit after graduation, because I felt I could make a difference. However, the need to save for a house and a family pushed me into the for-profit world of. Over the next 25 years, I went back and forth from nonprofit to for-profit organizations. Along the way, I learned about fundraising, business development, employee engagement and organizational change. I wrote and I mentored and I even taught.
But I wanted to do more. I had a vision for a company that valued doing good as much as doing well. One that would work with mission-driven leaders, bridging resources and goals. I had worked as an independent consultant in the 1990s, before, during and after a divorce. My business grew and I thought about building it into a company but, as a single mother of two young daughters, I did not want to devote the time I knew it would take.
After my daughters grew up, I started revisiting my vision. I had the time, and I had the support of my family. My daughters were great influences on my decision. (I'll cover that in another post.) I shared my idea with a few former colleagues and they generously shared feedback.
On January 8, 2013 my vision launched as Prosper for Purpose. One of those former colleagues who provided initial feedback was part of the company for more than a year. Since then, other former colleagues have joined 'Prosper.' We are now a small but talented team helping organizations do well and do good by creating successful brands. I think my second and fourth grade former selves would be just fine with that.