Friday, April 29, 2011


Mary Page - a lively Kenyan
woman now living in San Diego
Jambo! I was surprised to be welcomed with this Swahili greeting right here in San Diego by a Kenyan woman named Mary.

I was at the
San Diego Microfinance Summit yesterday, wandering through the vendor marketplace and sampling various ethnic foods from local restaurants run by new Americans from Ethiopia, Vietnam and Mexico. Mary smiled warmly and invited me into her stall to look at the jewelry she was selling. A black bracelet caught my attention, but I’ve been trying to reduce unnecessary spending, so wasn’t planning to buy anything. I changed my mind as this charming woman started sharing her story with me.

She had fled civil war in Liberia and come to San Diego with her husband a few years back. Sadly, her husband passed away soon after arriving, and she needed to find a way to support her children. She was connected with a local organization that extended a loan to her to start a small business. She began selling African art and jewelry in order to share the warmth and richness of African culture with Americans. And every item sold not only helps her make a living to support her children here in San Diego, but provides jobs for women in Kenya so they can support their children as well. In the middle of sharing her story, Mary exclaimed “Praise God for this beautiful country. May His blessings pour out abundantly on this country and its people for taking us in and giving us opportunity.”

I was moved by this woman. Her smile was infectious, her spirit of gratitude was inspiring, her warmth was delightful and her hard work was paying off. I didn’t have to get on a plane to go see the power of small business transforming lives like I have so many times in the past. I simply had to look in the right place, right here in my own backyard. I walked out of her market stall with my heart full and a lovely black bracelet on my wrist - a tangible reminder each time I wear it of this remarkable woman who was given a hand up and is gratefully extending that warm hand to others.

Who has given you a hand up in life, or opened a door that has led to greater success? Why not take a moment to express your gratitude to them, and then extend that hand up to someone else around you.

And if you’re in the San Diego area, look for Mary’s stall at the North Park Farmer’s market or check out her web site

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reason #1 - A Rwandan Widow, Mother, and Restaurateur

She was a shy woman with an infectious smile and an inner strength that defied all reason. She was a widow, and now a single mom. She had lost her husband and two of her children during the Rwandan genocide. As she tried to pick up the pieces after that devastating time, she began to look for ways to make a living to feed her remaining children, along with the orphaned neighbor children she had taken in. She was a good cook, and so started selling some of her meals.

She heard about a program where she could access a small loan to expand her businesses, and decided to start the first restaurant in this deeply rural Rwandan village. With her small business loan of $200, she bought a large pot, a bag of rice, a table and a few chairs, and launched her restaurant. Her restaurant quickly became the popular spot to be, and she was able to easily pay back the loan from her proceeds. She took out another loan to grow her own vegetables, and then another one to buy a cow so she could make fresh butter and cheese to serve in her restaurant. She began hiring other women in the community. She eventually turned her original small house into the restaurant, and built a much larger house for herself and her children to live in.

As I sat in her small restaurant, I was amazed at the resilience and strength of this woman. I asked if I could take a picture of her in her kitchen. She agreed, and then began laughing when I showed it to her. She had never seen a picture of herself! She asked me if I would take a picture of her eating the food that she cooked for her restaurant customers. She was so thrilled to see herself in her restaurant kitchen, eating the food that she made. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I asked her what her plans for the future were. She told me (through an interpreter) that there were many humanitarian organizations that worked in this rural area, so she had decided her next business loan would be to launch a catering business to serve the humanitarian workers!

Her life has been restored after unspeakable devastation. Her children and the orphans she took in eat well, go to school and can go to the doctor when they need to. They have hope for a brighter future because of their mom’s courage to step out and do something no one in her village had done before. She inspires me. If she can boldly start a restaurant in rural Rwanda, I can boldly start an organization in urban San Diego that will help more women like her launch ventures that will change the trajectories of their lives for the better, whether here in the USA or there in Rwanda.

What will her story inspire you to do?   

Erase Poverty. For Good. Really?

Is that a fairytale? Or a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”?
Is it unrealistic or achievable ?

Well, anyone who has had the incredible privilege of seeing a life, a family, a community, a country transformed through the power of entrepreneurial hard work will tell you it is achievable. And small loans are the catalyst to launch business success, whether here in the USA or abroad in places like Rwanda or Cambodia.

We have everything we need to erase extreme poverty forever in our lifetime. We just need to connect the dots and focus our efforts in ways that are sustainable, not increasing dependence on aid. Yes, the poor will always be with us. But we have the ability to change the definition of poor worldwide, not just in the USA. We can move the needle on this, giving people in some of the poorest places on earth a chance to live. And work. And hope. And dream.

This blog will be a window into what it’s like to take massive action towards a vision that could change the world as we know it. It may not always be pretty, but it will be authentic. You’ll be able to find out the latest developments, celebrate with us and discover how to join in the journey.

I’m writing this blog for you, but I’m also writing it for me. Moving towards an audacious dream is daunting. And I want to keep the stories of the people that inspire me at the forefront of my mind. They are the reasons why I get up in the morning, and stay up late at night to launch this dream. Over the coming weeks, I’ll introduce you to some of them.

This venture may be led by me at this moment, but it is a journey that includes millions of people like you who are participating, supporting, caring, sharing, and committed to making the world a better place.

Our lives are forever entwined. And this is our story. Let’s write it together.