MPWRPeople, a nonprofit that educates and connects leaders to empower the people, organizations, and communities they serve, officially began legal formation at the very end of 2022, by filing the application (Form 1023-EZ ) with the Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service Tax Exempt and Government Entities in the middle of December. The application process with the IRS defines the beginning of the legal formation, but where did the idea of MPWRPeople originate? (Now, bear with me. As I write this blog, I am envisioning this as the introduction to a future movie about MPWRPeople. For me, I can hear Oprah narrate the intro, but feel free to choose the voice of your favorite narrator.)
The idea for MPWRPeople emerged from working with a variety of small business owners and nonprofit leaders. A number of years ago (I am refraining from stating the actual number because that will give away my age, and my age is unlisted.), I was working as a marketing consultant for a media company. Over the course of a couple of weeks, the media company trained me to:
- Set up at least 5 exploratory meetings with new prospects each week.
- During the exploratory meeting, learn as much about the business as possible. Find out their goals, KPIs, and challenges. Practice active listening and ask a lot of open-ended questions. Then, schedule a second appointment with them to present a marketing plan that may or may not include media.
- Follow through and show them the marketing plan. Allow them to ask questions. Don't keep talking. After they asked their questions, ask for the sale if the plan included the media I represented, and ask if I could connect them with the other resources (way beyond media) mentioned in the plan to help them reach their goals or solve their pain points.
Not only did I sell media effectively this way, but I also built trust with my clients. I even got my first marketing consulting side hustle gig while doing this job. However, what stood out to me from calling on all of these small businesses and nonprofits was that no entity existed where they could get ongoing advice, education, and the connection they needed to run their business most effectively. They all seemed plagued with a revolving door of eager salespeople offering them the magic bullet to achieve their goals or solve their pain points, but they didn't know whom to say "yes" and "no" to. Oftentimes, they would turn to me for guidance, even outside of the marketing realm.
During this time, I was also working on earning my MBA, and I had what I like to call a "lightbulb moment". This lightbulb moment struck me like a bolt of lightning, "Why not create a hub where nonprofit and small business leaders can get the support they need to run their businesses, including education, advice, and connection?" You may be thinking, "What about the centers that the government funds around the country?" I thought about that, too. In fact, I helped start up and direct an SBA-funded Women's Business Center, as well. The Small Business Development Centers, Women's Business Centers, SCORE, and other entities provide fantastic services. However, all of these government-funded centers focus on small and medium businesses.
My idea centered around the notion that there needed to be a hub that would assist nonprofit, micro-business, and small business leaders, especially those who are typically underserved or marginalized, through each stage of growth of the business. The hub would empower the entity continually throughout the entity's growth, and the hub would remain right at its side for as long as it chose. Furthermore, the hub would feel like an extension of their team providing not only education, connection, and advice, but coaching, as well. From working with so many small business and nonprofit leaders I realized that one of the biggest challenges they face is their own self-limiting beliefs or challenges. To really help leaders of nonprofits and for-profits grow, a three-pronged approach is best: education, coaching, and advice.
In addition, I believed strongly that there needed to be an entity that worked with for-profits and nonprofits. Too often these types of entities operate separately in silos. However, each of them is a business at the end of the day, with only a few differences. Also, they need each other. Both types of entities empower the people, organizations, and communities they serve, and when they collaborate together, magic happens, catalyzing even more empowerment for people. These entities empower each other.
This light-bulb moment became the focus of one of my MBA projects. I built a business plan around the concept, and I am proud to report that I received a 4.0. Alas, I cannot find my paper, but the idea remained alive and well with me throughout my career, and I remained steadfast that I would open such a hub when the time was right.
In 2018, I began to get my plan in motion to launch this entity, but I did not find the ecosystem to help support this entity until 2022. Even though a number of years have passed, the needs of the nonprofit, micro business, and small business remained strong. While the government-funded centers continue to provide excellent services and play an integral role in economic development, a need remains for another resource and strategic partner to help educate and connect leaders of nonprofits and for-profits to empower the people, organizations, and communities they serve.
- The SBDC's mission statement reads, "Represent the collective interest of our members by promoting, informing, supporting, and continuously improving the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network, which delivers nationwide educational assistance to strengthen small/medium business management, thereby contributing to the growth of local, state, and national economies."
- SCORE's mission statement reads, "to foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education."
- Women's Business Centers are designed to "assist women in starting and growing small businesses, as well as "level the playing field" for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world."
- Veterans Business Outreach Center is a program that offers resources to veterans who are interested in starting or growing a small business.
In 2022, I knew I wanted to call the hub MPWR, but I needed to be a little bit more descriptive with the name. I was having a bit of a block. Joe Romello, MPWRPeople co-founder, asked me, "Who are you really trying to empower? People?" I exclaimed, "By George, I think you got it! At the end of the day this organization's mission is to help people! MPWRPeople is the name!"
I have a vision for MPWRPeople, which I behold fervently and see vividly. Through MPWRPeople and its partnerships (including government-funded organizations, associations, chambers of commerce, nonprofits, foundations, and companies of all sizes), I envision a future where all leaders have access to inclusive education, connection, and advisory support, and where nonprofit and for-profit leaders connect to empower the people, organizations, and communities they serve. Thus, the tagline...