INTRO to this series of essays
Essay #1:  My mini-bio (my why)
Essay #2:  My social entrepreneurial journey
Essay #3:  Caregiverism


•  Social entrepreneur before it was cool

•  From ET to Caregiverism

•  My evolution, coming full circle

In writing what is essentially a mini-biography in order to share my story and my "why" as requested,  I looked at my journey in a way I had never done before. I recalled events I haven't thought of in decades. It was gratifying to connect the dots between experiences in childhood to my passions in adulthood. This process helped me see the lessons gleaned and the beauty in lifelong frustrations – largely centered around my path as a social entrepreneur -- and appreciate what I have accomplished and, quite simply, appreciate who I am more than ever, including the fact that, yes, I am visionary and I not only envision and write/talk about it, I DO. 

In this specific essay I won't delve too deeply into personal aspects, nor the activism which runs parallel to my social entrepreneurial path, but instead focus on summarizing my journey as a social entrepreneur as succinctly as possible.

* * *

It began in Dallas in the mid-80s...

A few weeks ago, in speaking with my daughter about a relatively new online venture, Taskrabbit, it brought home how far ahead I have been all along. I've grown accustomed to people looking at me with a deer-in-the-headlights expression when I try to explain or even show them what I've created over the years; inevitably, years later, they get it, only after seeing others doing exactly what I had much earlier.  With the advent of the Internet, the time decreased to me being only about five years ahead of the pack now; time now seems to be collapsing, with everything happening much more swiftly.

In writing these essays which are essentially sections of a condensed autobiography, I have grown more comfortable with my role as a visionary. That may sound arrogant, but it's simply the truth. I've finally made peace with the loneliness of that path and how that loneliness and not being understood has led me to doubt myself along the way. I'm sure many reading this can relate.

Back to Taskrabbit. It's an online platform where people who need errands and other simple tasks and odd jobs done connect with the people who will do it for them, for a fee. It's a big deal now. Great idea, right? Well, I created that same idea back in 1985 – pre-Internet, of course -- when I was in Dallas. It was the first business I ever created, after realizing the traditional corporate path was not for me. I was targeting yuppies -- professionals who didn't have time to go to the dry cleaners, unpack their new home, stay home to wait for the cable guy, etc. I called it Executive Timesavers (E.T.): If you can't phone home, phone us!  (The movie E.T. was very popular then.)

The next venture, upon moving to New Jersey around '87, was my first social entrepreneurial enterprise.  The name was "Simply One," referring to my strong belief in our interconnectedness. It was the first organic, socially and environmentally responsible mail order gift basket company. Every item in the gift baskets were not only healthy, they were all socially and environmentally responsible. Every product was very carefully selected. This was long before "green" and being socially responsible as a consumer was in the public's awareness.

As a research geek, I loved the process of finding items to include. (As you can imagine, the Internet was perhaps THE best invention ever for a nerd like myself! My goodness, what I could have accomplished had it come along much sooner!) I worked with such mainstays as Greystone Bakery (which was fairly new at the time) and local cottage industries creating organic, cruelty-free body, baby care, and other assorted products. How items were crafted and distributed – from start to finish – was very important to me. How matters.

Over the years social enterprises came along and specialized in more niche markets:  eco-friendly gifts (without a focus on collaborating with other social enterprises or a focus on social responsibility), or socially responsible gifts (without a focus on eco-friendliness). Even now it's rare for an enterprise to combine all aspects of awareness and responsibility as I did with Simply One.

I have never been successful at niche marketing because I am passionate about inclusivity and keeping the larger picture in mind with everything I do. Granted, what I am passionate about and have created thus far may be considered  a niche enterprise in and of itself, since most consumers – certainly not until recent years – have rarely considered any level of responsibility and mindfulness regarding their purchases.

I don't recall how it came about, but around 1990 I was in touch with Ted Danson's conservation organization, the American Oceans Campaign (now Oceana). I had just learned about the Oscar and other award show "swag bags." Did you know that at the 2015 Oscars, for example, the gift baskets the nominees and presenters were given are worth around $165,000?!

I had been in contact with American Oceans regarding injecting responsibility into the whole swag bag industry. I envisioned any items included as having more meaning on multiple levels by being socially and environmentally conscious and simultaneously raising awareness about a multitude of issues.

24 years later, it doesn't seem anything has changed. (As I wrote and researched various things in the writing of this essay, my excitement about reviving my social enterprise merchandising initiative grew.) 

North Carolina, Publishing & Wishables

During the time of Simply One we moved to North Carolina. All was going well and, while pregnant with my first child during this move, I still had every intention of continuing the gift basket venture. I was receiving wholesale orders from hospital gift shops and trendy eco-friendly and organic stores and businesses.

Then a significant life event happened:  My first child, Joshua, was stillborn. Full term. (Click here to read blog post explores this life event.)

Needless to say, my life changed in an instant. Everything stopped. Traveling and doing what was necessary to keep the gift basket business going was not an option; I went to the gravesite every single day for 16 months, until my daughter, Taylor, was born. 

Isolation came suddenly and unexpectedly. Though new to the area and with no family nearby, we had made friends with couples in childbirth classes, maternity yoga, etc.  All of the couples were expecting around the same time. When Joshua was stillborn, it was like we were lepers, which I actually completely understood, even at the time: No one wants to consider the unimaginable, and I, especially, was a mirror of the unimaginable.

After Taylor was born, I did writing, editing and transcription from home to put food on the table. I had worked for McMillan while in New Jersey to generate an income while starting Simply One, so this was a natural and welcome way to generate an income and still be the primary caregiver for my daughter.

Still, creative, entrepreneurial ideas always nagged at me. When I would see a need for something – a product or service – my mind naturally wandered to imagine how I could fulfill the need.  

As I became more fully engaged in the publishing industry, I tried to get others interested in the concept of a publishing cooperative, but that was an uphill battle, to say the least, back in the late 90's; it still is. (Funny, as I write about my journey, I see how things have changed, but also recognize how much many things haven't, specifically as it pertains to our culture and what we are comfortable with and how we perceive things.)

Prior to having Taylor, and even before starting Simply One, I had always been enamored of unusual, thoughtful, meaningful gifts, but once Taylor was born "stuff" did not appeal to me at all. Even if the materials used were recycled and eco-friendly and/or benefited a social enterprise, unless it was a utilitarian, truly necessary item, I just didn't want to add to what I viewed as obscene consumerism. 

I was more focused on teaching Taylor the value of openness, honesty, compassion and empathy. I was focused on being there, fully present, with her. My intention was to empower her, in every way. Granted, the business of survival did mean I worked a lot, but I was so fortunate to have been able to work from home. 

Then, in 1998 I had a dream. No, I mean I literally had a dream. This dream was delightful!  This is a very long story, so I won't get into details, but suffice it to say that a series of dreams led to Wishables.

Wishables is (I'm using present tense as I still adore this creation!) about empowering children, of all ages, inviting them to imagine and dream and create a new world….to believe in the power of a heartfelt wish.  But it wasn't focused on the typical wishes – a doll, a bike, etc.; the intention of Wishables is to encourage discovering the core value, the core intention of our wishes and learn about gratitude in the process.

From the website (which I plan to update soon!):

Wishables is an original character-based children's property, which spans TV/video, interactive media, publishing and extensive merchandising categories. The message presented with these entertaining, endearing, enlightening characters is to inspire children (of all ages...from 1 to 101), encourage them to focus on what they do choose to experience, and help them believe in their heartfelt wishes. Children intuitively embrace their dreams and eagerly imagine the possibilities ~ the World of Wishables simply aims to strengthen and reinforce this knowing, remind them that their power lies within, and encourage awakening to the magic that is all around. In addition, all messages ~ educational, social, environmental, etc. ~ can be conveyed through Wishable storylines in witty, touching, engaging ways!

The unique, sparkly, fantasy-like appearance transcends issues of race, culture and belief system. Wishables embody angelic, fairy-like qualities, so there is wisdom and compassion combined with joy, laughter and fun! This, combined with other features, sets Wishables apart from anything currently offered in today’s marketplace. Wishables is truly an ideal global brand.

There is the potential for multiple spin-off Wishable series and product lines (imagine Wildlife Wishables). The Wishables line is truly endless ~ the possibilities are endless ~ as there is no end to things for which one can wish! Please join us in introducing Wishables to the world…….the time has come!

An entire product line was developed. A prototype for the doll was created by former Hallmark creatives. The opportunity to license Wishables presented itself, but it would have been limited to the Christian marketplace only, and I was not okay with such a limitation. I continued to explore licensing opportunities: bedding, clothing, gifts and accessories…whatever you see Frozen characters on.

Networking and making the "right connections" was problematic. I didn't know anyone in those industries, not personally. This was at the beginning of more widespread online interactions; many companies and connectors didn't yet have an online presence. In my experience, until online connections became commonplace, it really was about who you knew, not what you knew.

It quickly became evident that my "how" (everything created with at least an intention and attempt to be eco-friendly and socially responsible, benefiting many people and communities along the way) was not of interest to these large manufacturers and retailers. They had zero interest in doing things differently. It was strictly about profit. I wasn't surprised, of course, but I had hoped I could be part of transitioning that industry into being more responsible. While cause-related marketing (with genuine intentions, not a PR stunt) was still relatively new, I wanted to go way beyond that.

Of course, cause-related marketing did eventually become commonplace and, as is fairly typical with the free-market-profit-at-any-cost system, many large companies began to advertise that their products and services were eco-friendly but, when investigated, they really werent. They spent more money and time on trying to convince customers they are eco-friendly than actually being eco-friendly (known as "greenwashing").

Creating the Wishables product line on my own would have entailed hundreds of thousands of dollars that I did not have, nor could I access such huge sums.

My dad was quite upset with me; he thought I was foolish for not taking any of those licensing deals. He knew that ideas flowed from me like an Artesian well, so he felt I should have conceded and moved on to create something else more aligned with my values. Yes, such deals would have changed my life (and my daughter's life) financially, but I've always been serious about the integrity thing. Don't get me wrong – I am far from perfect and no doubt have veered from my values at times, but I was setting an example for my child.  I still don't know whether or not it was a good example, as that's quite subjective, but it was one I could live with and do not regret.

Craigslist  >>> Wishadoo

As I continued to do the work which put food on the table, I also continued to develop Wishables and a few other projects. I also proceeded, as I had for years, to educate others about the potential involved with worker- and member-owned cooperatives.

Thanks to the world now being at my fingertips as more and more content and people went online, I ramped up my networking and connections exponentially over the next few years. While earlier I felt hindered because I didn't have connections, that frustration morphed into me becoming the connector.

I love it when I can connect people in order to relieve someone's suffering, increase someone's joy, or further their dreams in some way.

After 9/11 I, like so many others, found myself in more extreme survival mode for many reasons. I had been using Craiglist quite a bit in the early 2000's, and one day realized that I could be of service in a significant way to others and help connect people, one on one.

The seed for Wishadoo! was born.  (Click here to read My Wishadoo Story)

My vision of Wishadoo! went beyond the wishlist, known as a "craigslist of compassion".

I wanted to develop genuine connections and work toward building community – virtual and in person. I wanted to empower people and didn't want anyone to feel isolated and alone, when they don't choose to be.

Acknowledging and being acknowledged has always been a big deal to me. I've learned the importance of this over the last eight years at Wishadoo!; being acknowledged – to know that someone acknowledges that they exist in this world – is often the most profound way I and others have been able to be of service and help to empower others.

Many have been helped over the years (medical and dental issues, pets relocated, staving off foreclosure and homelessness; connecting to find a place to live and get help in new areas, even employment; funding several dreams). Wishadoo! was created before the niche fundraising platforms we're familiar with now became prolific. Working within existing communities where a level of trust was already in place worked best. Eventually as more people in the other communities got to know me and trust me, they started to do what I always hoped: Check Wishadoo’s wishlist regularly to see if they can help anyone else, including complete strangers.

The kindness and generosity at Wishadoo! is not always in the form of money. In fact, I prefer to keep money out of it when possible.

It has always been a priority to find existing help and resources in order to avoid reinventing the wheel. The existing resource aspect quickly became a focus. I learned that there was great need for ONE comprehensive directory. I could not believe a comprehensive social services resource directory didn't already exist, especially given the plethora of data now online!

I thought I hit the Holy Grail when I discovered the 211 Initiative. I wanted to collaborate and partner with, which I was delighted to discover and used it as much as possible in trying to find resources to help people who found their way to Wishadoo!. I was in discussion with members of their steering committee, who saw the tremendous potential in working with Wishadoo!, as I provided  a referral resource when nothing else existed for their clients and could collaborate by helping to maintain their data and ensure it stayed  up-to-date.

There were limitations though, as not all areas have 211 networks and some are much better than others. In working with them over several years, it became apparent that a truly comprehensive, streamlined resource may not be possible. Each 211 network is a separate, independent entity and they saw themselves in competition with other 211 networks. Organizational data is viewed as money. Everyone is competing for money, which isn't news to anyone reading this, no doubt.

After pursuing other avenues of collaboration to make such a directory possible, I decided to add it to my list of projects rather than continue to wait another five years (See video: Find Help|Find Good Directory Project.)

The internal competition is not unique to what has become known as the nonprofit-industrial complex. I see the same inefficient competition, versus collaboration, even within the "new economy" movement. I find fragmentation so inefficient. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I seek to consolidate information and projects so that we can learn from one another, not compete.

Acting as a "sherpa" at Wishadoo -- connecting people and finding existing resources -- was almost instantly overwhelming. I was so busy that following up with people who have been helped was impossible; forget creating engaging videos showing Wishadoo’s successes as so many organizations do. There was no time. The constant needs of the many grew as the safety nets disappeared; Wishadoo! became a full-time job. Finding ongoing, reliable volunteers was a significant challenge, as there was a decent amount of training involved with being a Wishadoo! sherpa. Plus, those most interested in helping were in survival mode as well, with each day presenting new challenges, impacting availability and reliability.

In spite of all of this, as I did the work of Wishadoo! I gradually developed several spin-off projects, in addition to the directory.

Giving voice to the suffering of so many at Wishadoo! needed to be balanced. I wanted to inject more hope and joy. Wishadoo! was indeed created with joy in mind; a space to give voice to our heartfelt wishes and dreams, not only dire survival needs.

My mantra, as you may have already noted, became "reduce suffering, increase joy." As I curated inspiring, optimistic articles, stories and projects to share at Wishadoo!, I gradually created it as a separate entity.  Our Community Good was born, with Local Good to be developed.

Each of these initiatives are pieces to my larger puzzle, with several waiting in the wings. In order to consolidate and have one portal for this work, Our Good was established as an umbrella entity. I have a plethora of ideas I'm passionate about further developing:  Six Degrees of Good; Wishabees (Wishadoo! for children); various co-ops (an animal lover co-op, a publishing co-op, a fixer collective cooperative; an activist co-op); a UN Charter for Animal Rights and much more.

With Our Good, I thought I was ready to move forward to find collaborators to move everything  forward -- and help others’ projects and initiatives in the process.

Then a huge aha moment came about in late 2014; it took me by complete surprise, but it really is perfect.

Whereas I thought Our Good pulled my puzzle pieces together (and it does in many respects), it turns out that a word I had been using quite a bit throughout 2014, describing the transformation and evolution I envision, is what really pulls things together: Caregiverism.

Now that I have shared the story of my entrepreneurial journey thus far, I’d like to introduce you to Caregiverism and explain why I believe this is a uniting factor in a Coalition for Good. 


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