Alumni Voices, Impact House

Six Things I Learned from Global Social Impact House – Cayla Mackey

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Meade


Being a part of Global Social Impact House (GSIH) 2016 has not only shaped my venture, but it has shaped my life, and it has shaped who I am. I’m the CEO and cofounder of Unicorn Goods, a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to reduce animal suffering by selling and promoting animal-free products. Unicorn Goods is my fifth venture. I previously started the world’s first magazine distributed by bicycle and the South’s first certified organic restaurant.

When I arrived at GSIH, I was burning out. I had been playing around with my venture for about a year, and things had gotten stale. I was grasping at straws, trying to figure out what to do and where to go next. I had the absorbing feeling that I did not know what I was doing, and it was paralyzing. GSIH was my Hail Mary.

I’d like to share six things I learned that pushed me from stagnancy to action.

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(1) Never let a dream die a quiet death.

My venture was a dream that I was letting slip away. I realized that I was holding my idea close to my chest to prevent other people from knowing if I failed. But, ironically, this technique didn’t give many people the opportunity to support my idea. I was shooting myself in the foot by playing it safe. GSIH helped me realize that in order to see my life in the future, I needed to decide what I wanted to do in the present. I could “fade away,” or I could take flight and risk going down in a blaze of glory. I would never have gotten off the ground had I not decided to take flight. This meant going public with my venture and starting to actively promote it, regardless of how uncomfortable it was for me personally.

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(2) Know yourself.

I learned what I need to sustain my entrepreneurial journey by listening to myself. I was forcing myself to live the stereotype of the extroverted solo entrepreneur, and it wasn’t sustainable. The myth of entrepreneurship is that the entrepreneur is a lone wolf, a strong leader that wanders out into the desert and returns having changed the world. I realized that this myth was preventing me from asking for help and giving myself what I need to thrive. I personally need three things:  alone time, other people, and a support system. I wouldn’t have known what I needed to succeed had I not known myself first. Once I knew what I needed, I could go get it.

 

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(3) If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

Self deprivation is for the foolish and the short-sighted. In order to be a successful social entrepreneur, you have to be a strong and consistent leader. You need to take care of yourself, your team, and the community you’re serving, but it starts with yourself. You need to be the rock that the company is built upon, as well as the architect. Burnout is the biggest reason companies fail. Not money. You need to be actively combating burnout by taking care of yourself and listening to your mind and body. From GSIH, I learned how to recognize when I’m feeling mentally and physically fatigued and over-socialized. I learned how to act on the recognition of those feelings and withdraw when I’m feeling overwhelmed and depleted.

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(4) Own it.

The biggest barrier to the success of my venture up to that point was me. It wasn’t other people, circumstances, or deprived opportunities. I was holding the idea back by not fully committing to it. I owned up to this fact, and I began to own myself and my venture fully. After GSIH, I went all-in with my venture. I returned home and immediately left my full time job to commit to my venture full-time. This would never have happened had I not first become comfortable telling people about my venture. At GSIH, know more about debt consolidation to be able to return home and make those big, scary decisions to move my venture forward.

 

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(5) Fail fearlessly.

By holding my idea close to my chest, I was protecting myself from other people knowing if I failed. But, ironically, no one can support something they don’t know about. I needed to be vulnerable enough to succeed. The same vulnerability that would enable me to fail would also enable me to succeed.

 

 

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(6) Lean into the discomfort.

Being an entrepreneur is uncomfortable, but being a social entrepreneur is like walking around naked wearing your emotions on your skin. As social entrepreneurs, we are dealing with the world’s biggest and most disturbing problems: poverty, inequality, and unnecessary death. But we can not run away from the discomfort. We have to lean in and embrace it in order to fully do the work.

 

 

 

Now get out there and do the things you know that you can do!

 

Written by Cayla Mackey; Edited by Cosmo Fujiyama & Ashton Yount; Photography by Eva Cruz

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