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Magic Money: Financial Innovation and Impact Investing with WeTheChange

Since launching in 2018, Vista Global has been a dedicated member of WeTheChange, a community actively working towards an equitable and just economy for all. 

The WeTheChange declaration, crafted by women CEOs of Certified B Corporations and other purpose-driven enterprises, fosters collaboration and commitment to our shared values and principles. Signatories of this declaration personally, and on behalf of their companies, pledge to uphold these ideals, reflecting our core values and the B Corporation community’s commitment to the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.

WeTheChange hosts monthly member meetings, focusing on topics that align with our mission. Our Spring 2024 offering introduces the Impact Finance Center “Magic Money: Financial Innovation and Impact Investing” learning series. The Impact Finance Center is on a mission to channel $1 trillion into social ventures by leveraging the successful model pioneered in Colorado. It aims to transform interested individuals and organizations into impact investors, while also building community platforms like Impact Days and the Impact Investing Institute, to foster a vibrant ecosystem for financial innovation.

In the April 24th meeting, Dr. Stephanie Gripne will interview Colleen LaFontaine, who has extensive experience with The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, to discuss the practical use of impact investing tools for profit maximization. To finish the series on May 29th, Dr. Gripne will conduct a 90-minute session on reenvisioning your business’s financial strategies.

Become part of the innovative WeTheChange community as a Collaborator, Changemaker, or Catalyst by visiting WeTheChange Membership, where you’ll gain full access to our insightful monthly meetings.

If you’re not ready to commit to membership, you can still attend each meeting by registering for a one-time fee of $25. To register for the April 24 meeting click here. To register for the May 29 meeting click here.

Together, let’s forge a path towards a just and equitable economy, empowering women-led businesses and communities that drive  meaningful impact.

Finding Our Way from Distrust to Connection

In the wake of multiple acts of excessive violence against humanity, including the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I know I am navigating the feelings of despair, hopelessness, fear, and emotional numbness.  

All of this is on top of more than two years of the pandemic. How do we find our way out of such darkness?

Over these past two years, I have relied on my training in Conversational Intelligence® to guide me and clients toward conversations that move from distrust to connection. 

I think about the wisdom of Judith E. Glaser, mother of Conversational Intelligence®  who sadly departed the physical world in November 2018. What would she be offering us at this time? 

Her work is based on decades of research on the neuroscience of conversation. 

“To get to our next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversations.”

Our brain is wired to determine whether the information we receive makes us feel like we are “In or Out” of a social group. In .07 seconds our amygdala makes this determination and either pumps cortisol to position ourselves for survival OR pumps oxytocin and moves us to a state of safety and connection.

 I came across this article written by Judith in 2017, offering a few steps to move from dis-ease to ease through connection.

      • Invite to connect: If you are sensing a disconnect, move toward the other person. How can you move toward them without stress to activate positive energies?
      • Mind-and Heart-Map: The heart connection is vital for relationships. It is the gateway of your emotions. If you feel excluded, judged or rejected, your neurochemistry changes. You will see reality as unfair, harsh, and critical. Conversely, when you feel included, you see reality with possibility and optimism. You look for good things to happen. When you reach out to connect, you are remapping your mind-heart connection.
      • Conversational Agility: When you sense you are moving toward stress and distrust, you can use the tools of Reframe, Refocus and Redirect to move toward a mindset of connection. Reframing takes a difficult situation and turns it into an opportunity. Moving from what was lost to what did you learn from that loss?  Refocusing allows you to move from a place of being stuck to a larger topic where there may be connections you had not seen before. Redirecting moves you from a place of being stuck to a place of new possibilities.

It only takes .07 seconds to move in either direction. With awareness and practice, you can move toward positivity and optimism. To learn more about the tools of Conversational Agility, check out this blog post or listen to this episode of Minutes with Mary.

What it Takes to be a Solopreneur: Know your Strengths

When I started my company in 2011, it was not because I had a grand vision of starting a company. It was because I wanted to continue doing what I loved doing for the previous four years in a new location.  

I would call myself an “accidental entrepreneur”. I had been working at a national management consulting firm supporting nonprofits and foundations and I decided to move to give a long-distance relationship a chance. A bold move but I knew in my heart, it was the right decision for my overall happiness.  

When the firm said that they weren’t interested in keeping me on, based in a different location, I made what I thought at the time was the most rational decision. Keep doing what I was doing under my own shingle. And Vista Global was launched. 

I was fortunate to have had the experience growing up in a family business, understanding what is required to keep operations running smoothly. I also learned a lot by being a Senior Associate in a small firm, learning what is required to bring in business, write proposals, manage projects and keep clients happy. 

In addition, I possessed the natural talents to get things done! I learned this through taking the CliftonStrengths assessment. The CliftonStrengths assessment has been used by more than 27 million people globally to identify natural talents. It provides a deep understanding of 34 themes of your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving in four domains:

      • Executing: Help you make things happen
      • Influencing: Help you take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard
      • Relationship Building: Help you build strong relationships that hold teams together
      • Strategic Thinking: Help you absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions

I took the CliftonStrengths assessment in 2012 and learned that 5 of my top 10 themes were in the Executing domain. How does that relate to being a solopreneur?

When you start your own business, you do everything – business development, service delivery, project management, bookkeeping, administration, marketing. Unless you have start-up capital, you are bootstrapping until you can generate enough capital to contract for support services.  

Understanding where you have natural talents and where you may need additional support is important to set yourself up for success. 

If you have thought about starting your business and aren’t sure whether it is the right path for you, I would love to connect. After celebrating Vista Global’s 10 year anniversary, I know it was the right path for me. But it isn’t necessarily the right path for everyone. 

To hear more about my journey as a solopreneur, listen to this episode of Minutes With Mary.

The Great Re-evaluation as an Annual Practice

Earlier in my career, prior to starting my own business, I had a fantastic mentor/sponsor, Aaron S. Williams who shared with me his annual year-end practice of reflection to prepare for the next year of career development.  He asked himself five questions to help determine if it was time to make a change: 

    1. Am I learning at my job?
    2. Am I making a difference?
    3. Do I like the people I work with?
    4. Am I having fun?
    5. Does this current job continue to contribute to my long-term goals?

If the answer to any of these questions was “no”, he knew it was time to make a change. In addition, he shared the practice that you should always be looking for your next opportunity. Not to mean that you shouldn’t be content in your current role but to mean that you never know when your talents could be maximized in a new way.

This approach to integrating work into life has stayed with me for more than 20 years. It supported my path to make job changes and career changes. It led me to start my own business and become a certified coach. 

Arianna Huffington wrote a recent post on Life-Work integration, highlighting that what is really at the heart of the “Great Resignation” is a “Great Re-evaluation”. The pandemic has been a jolt to the previously unquestioned construct of work driving our lives in the United States. 

We see the negative consequences of this drive to work excessively in poor health indicators, including burnout and mental health crises. Half of the American Workforce report that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.  April is Stress Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness of the impact stress has on our lives and ways to manage it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In Europe, there are significant differences in the relationship between work life and personal life. Europeans do not attach their sense of purpose as strongly to work as do Americans and are said to be happier, healthier and more productive. 

One unexpected result of the pandemic is that it has challenged assumptions about the role work plays in our lives. The pandemic forced us to blur work life and personal life through working from home, which allowed us to see that we could have more flexibility in managing our productivity. It gave us back those hours of commute time to use as we choose. It may have also raised our awareness on how happy we were in our current job because the added stress of the pandemic forced us to pause and re-evaluate all aspects of our lives.

As a coach, I support many leaders who are at a crossroad asking themselves, “What next? I know what I am doing right now isn’t right but I don’t know what to do.” Throughout the pandemic, I have supported leaders in their “Great Re-evaluation” to move toward life-work integration.

If any of these questions are surfacing right now, you are among millions. Let’s connect to chart a path to life-work integration that allows you to say yes to those five questions!

To learn more about the career journey of Aaron S. Williams, check out his recently published book, “A Life UnImagined: The Rewards of Mission-Driven Service in the Peace Corps and Beyond”.

What Can Stop the Great Resignation? Answer: Focus on women-friendly practices and purpose

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, I wanted to call attention to the crisis being experienced by women in the workforce as a consequence of the pandemic. 

Since the pandemic started more than two years ago, we have seen the global workforce change in ways we couldn’t imagine. Many experts believe that hybrid work is here to stay and we have seen the highest resignation numbers in U.S. history. The current workforce wants more than a paycheck. This is as much an economic issue as a social issue.

We have been hearing about the Great Resignation but there is little reported on the extreme impact it is having on women. The pandemic has exacerbated existing stressors, as mostly women took on additional childcare and family responsibilities while maintaining full-time work, now working from home.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, nationally more than 2.5 million women left the workforce during the first year of the pandemic, compared to 1.8 million men. Women have returned to the workforce at a slower rate than men. According to the Center for American Progress, in an October 2020 report, if moms do not come back into the workforce, it will cost our country $64.5 billion. 

It doesn’t appear that they are coming back yet, with employment numbers continuing to plummet. In March 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 10 million mothers living with their school-age children in the United States were not actively working.

In a December 2021 report published by Milwaukee-based Kane Communications Group assessing the state of Working Women in Wisconsin, they found that employers that attract today’s working women offer benefits such as paid parental leave, family-supporting programs and flexible work schedules. Beyond flexibility, 88% of the women polled said they wanted to work for companies that are purpose-driven in addition to producing high-quality products and services.

In a December 2021 national report called, Surviving Pandemic Motherhood there were five key recommendations that employers can do to attract and retain working moms.

What must employers do to stop this workforce crisis? 

    1. Provide increased opportunities for remote work and flexible schedules
    2. Create workplace culture that supports working parents
    3. Offer childcare subsidies and/or work-based childcare solutions
    4. Provide resources to support mental health
    5. Ensure equitable opportunities for advancement combat workforce discrimination against mothers

What is your company doing to create an organizational culture that supports working women? We can and must turn the Great Resignation into the Great Transformation of the workplace. 

Black History Month: The Daily-ness of Practicing Anti-Racism

Pictured: bell hooks and john.a.powell at the Othering & Belonging Conference in April 2015

February is Black History Month which as stated on the Black History Month website, pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. That struggle continues today.

Recently, I watched the Keynote Dialogue of bell hooks and john.a.powell at the Othering & Belonging Conference in April 2015. bell died suddenly on December 15, 2021, however she is heralded as one of the preeminent feminist voices of our time. Her call to dismantle “imperialist-white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy” is through a path of love and the willingness to embrace all the conditions of the world starting with water and climate justice.

Throughout the conversation, bell and john touched on many concepts related to activism, belonging, feminism, climate justice and anti-racism. Several themes stayed with me as a white woman committed to dismantling “imperialist-white-supremacist-patriarchy”.

bell started with love, “if you have love, you have belonging” and with belonging it prepares you to live well and die well.  Before we are able to love, we need to heal the trauma that we all experience and that starts with family. To do the work of dismantling systems with others, we have to be in good spirit within ourselves.  

bell challenged us to do the work! Asking, “what are you doing in your daily-ness of life in service of anti-racism?” 

In this month of paying tribute to African Americans, join me in a commitment of daily action in service of anti-racism. You can start with healing trauma within your family through daily acts of caring, compassion and loving kindness. Or, explore 15 tools for White Anti-Racist action. 

bell reminded us that humor has to be part of this revolution! Thank you bell for your life’s work in daring us to create lives of political and spiritual liberation through healing, radical joy and redemptive love.

How do we unplug when we are always plugged in?

Before the pandemic, researchers were already reporting the detrimental effects of extensive screen time. Then life went to another level with video conferencing and zoom fatigue. Now we have reached crisis levels with respect to mental health. We must reclaim time in our days, weeks and year to disconnect from technology to allow our brains, bodies and spirits to refuel.

As a consultant who has worked virtually for almost 15 years, I learned early on that I had to establish practices that helped give my brain and body rest on micro, mini and macro levels.

Prior to the pandemic, I wrote a blog called Three Steps to Managing Your Energy. I just read it again and it still holds true. However, now I need more of every step to counter the cognitive load of zoom fatigue.

Unplug daily: I still charge my phone in the kitchen and don’t look at it until after breakfast. I also block one hour as zoom-free every day and I leave the computer off one day on the weekend.

Walk the dog, or just walk: My day starts with a dog walk without technology. It helps me ease into my day slowly and gather my thoughts to start the day.

Go to your happy place: As November rolls around every year, I start to feel a deepening need for pausing and recharging. This is something that I have been attentive to for the last five years. 

In the Midwest, the sun starts to hang lower in the sky and the days get shorter. All of these changes affect my energy level so I intentionally plan a break to spend time in a sunny place for at least a week. 

I block my calendar a year in advance so the time is protected and usually go to Hawaii to connect with the earth, moon, sun and water. It fills my spirit, mind and body.

Generally, I take this time alone to reflect on what I want to celebrate for the year and what intentions I want to set for the coming year. The sun brings warmth to my heart and clarity to my mind. 

I just returned from Hawaii and was fortunate to be there during the November 18-19 partial lunar eclipse. Being in Hawaii allowed me to watch the entire process of the earth’s shadow falling on the moon. This was the longest lunar eclipse over a 1,200 year period. To witness an astronomical moment such as this gave me pause to evaluate what is important in life.

Photo Credit: Mary Stelletello

Every day the sun rises

Photo Credit: Mary Stelletello

And every day the sun sets

Photo Credit: Mary Stelletello

As humans, we can choose how to honor each day and what mother earth has been offering us for millennia.

So when you feel like you can’t unplug, take a breath and think about ways to start your day in a different way. From there, it becomes easier to reduce the amount of time in front of the screen to refuel your energy tank.