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The Healing Path of Career Polygamy

Sally Mundell is the founder of The Packaged Good, a non-profit focused on cultivating volunteerism in children. Located in the suburbs of Atlanta, the Packaged Good offers families the space and programming to assemble care packages for various non-profit community partners. The packages include anything from toiletries to school supplies, as well as personal notes of encouragement and care. The Packaged Good opened its doors in July 2016 and has produced over 16,000 care packages during its first year of operation. It also became a great source of healing for Sally and her kids after a tragic loss.

You recently gave a talk at an Emory University Alumni gathering titled “The Case for Career Polygamy: Turning Passion Projects into Profit.” What’s a career polygamist?

The title came from my frustration that LinkedIn only allows you to list one career path on your profile. When I list my career path, I have to choose between my start-up career and my work in the non-profit world. It’s unfortunate, because ultimately I don’t fit into one profile. I am equally invested in both my career and my passion work.

What’s your story? What is your passion work?

I had always worked in the start-up world, helping build businesses from the bottom up. I had a particular career trajectory and worked my way up to an executive position at Spanx, helping Sara Blakely develop the e-commerce side of the business.

Four years ago, my husband, Grover, passed away just a few weeks after getting suddenly  sick. This was a critical point in my life and the lives of our two daughters who were 2 and 5 years old at the time.

When Grover was sick, he knew that he might not survive, probably before I did. He shared with me that he wished he had done more to give back to the community. At the end of his life, Grover had this clarity and he said, “Don’t wait.”

Initially, I was just focused on getting through the grief and taking care of my girls.   As a single parent, I had to find ways to give back in the community together with my kids, or it would never happen. I was surprised to learn that there are almost no volunteer opportunities with little kids. Now, my passion work revolves around creating the space and the programming for families to volunteer together with their children.

How did you come up with the idea for The Packaged Good?

After Grover died, my kids and I often went to the Purple Hippo, a local art studio for kids. It was a place of respite for me when I needed a break.   Just as I was formulating my thoughts about a non-profit, the Purple Hippo was moving to a new location. I loved their space and concept, but assumed that I couldn’t afford the rent.   I decided to meet with the landlord who believed in my idea and wanted to help. It all lined up. I thought of the concept for The Packaged Good in January. By February, I was incorporated. The storefront was opened for business by June. I didn’t wait. I moved fast!

What was the adjustment like moving from a place where profit rules to a non-profit start-up? How do you measure impact today?

Instead of valuing money, the focus has shifted to valuing people and measuring how people’s lives are transformed by their volunteer experience. In the first year, we have made and delivered 16,000 care packages. I often get letters and messages of gratitude from people who receive our packages. There is an impact on our entire community.

Research shows that the more kids volunteer, the less they are susceptible to making bad choices. Volunteerism cultivates empathy and a sense of responsibility. For me, personally, volunteering has been a path toward healing and I am able to share that with others. When I talk about my pain, others feel more open about sharing their pain. It’s all about connection, despite differences in background and culture.

What does being Jewish have to do with your non-profit venture?

Of course, there is the underlying value of tzedakah that runs through what I do.   Interestingly, I became more connected with the Jewish community as the result of starting The Packaged Good. It was a path toward integration. Being Jewish is all about supporting each other. The more I was healed, the more I could connect with others and give more.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you started The Packaged Good?

Yes. Don’t focus so much on what can go wrong. Have a start-up mindset and do not be afraid of creating new models. When I first started, people would scare me with worst-case scenarios or say things to me that would deter me from going forward.   I wish I had pulled them aside and said that I was not going to worry about that right now.

What have you learned through the experience of launching a non-profit, while working and single-parenting?

First of all, I learned that you need space and time to be creative. It wasn’t until I shifted my schedule to working part-time that I had the mind-space to actually come up with the plan for The Packaged Good. You have to have time to work on your inspirations.

Secondly, I have had to shift my strategic planning away from 5-10 year goals toward more manageable plans. I have had to let go of having answers for everything and become more comfortable with not knowing. Now, I am more open to the unfolding of the experience. When I first launched, I did all of the administrative and staff work. I had five people on an executive board. Over the last year, I have hired an executive director and my board is a diverse thinking group of 20 people with varied talents. I could not have predicted this development at the beginning.

I am constantly networking and I throw a wide net without a purpose in mind. It amazes me how many unexpected connections I make with surprising outcomes. For example, I was introduced to someone who is a day-trader by profession, but his personal passion is video streaming and online video sharing.   He is now creating much of our video content and helping us with Facebook Live.

How do you take care of yourself?

I grew up in a “do-it-yourself” household and asking for help was viewed as weakness.   It took me a long time to get comfortable with asking for help. I have had to get really good at formulating requests and allowing people to support me.

Running a non-profit is a lot of hard work. To get people involved and passionate takes tremendous effort. Volunteer burn-out is a real thing. I have learned to raise my hand and lean on my board. We recently hired an executive director to run the day-to-day operation, so that I can focus on marketing and brand-development, which is ultimately what I am good at.

Do you have any advice for social entrepreneurs?

It’s all about collaboration. There is not need to replicate what someone else is already doing. Partnerships are key.   For example, we have partnered with Pebble Tossers, a teen volunteer program that has become our source for teen participants. We also partnered with Creating Connected Communities, which helps Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids in Atlanta organize meaningful mitzvah projects.   It’s easier for us to plug into their programming, than have to create it from scratch.

What do you think Grover would say about The Packaged Good?

As a surviving spouse, my biggest challenge has been to keep Grover’s story and values alive for my kids. My kids are getting to know what was important to their father. The Packaged Good is a model of volunteering that is sustainable for families with kids. It shifts the experience from showing up to volunteer once per year, to having an engaging space where they can make a difference on a regular basis.   I don’t know if that is what Grover had in mind, but that is what is sustainable for our family.

Marita Anderson is a chaplain, freelance writer, educator, and parent.
She currently lives in Atlanta.

613 Seeds of Social Entrepreneurship in Chicago: Bringing Advertising to Nonprofits & Other Ideas

613 is not only the number of mitzvot that we find in the Torah or the number of seeds that we find in the pomegranate, a symbol of fruitfulness, knowledge and wisdom, but it is also the name of the JCC Chicago’s social entrepreneurship incubator, Seed613. Seed613 promotes social entrepreneurial initiatives designed to meet the needs of the Chicago Jewish community but also the community at large, moving forward.

This year’s cohort of 17 passionate social entrepreneurs presented their ideas during the Launch Night (May 17) to a packed house at 1871 Chicago, home to nationally recognized accelerators, industry-specific incubators, and tech talent schools. The ideas for social enterprises ranged from throwing parties with a purpose, sophisticated dining for networking, wearable technology in healthcare to ventures in real estate and Jewish programming.

Having spent the past 10 years working and volunteering in non-profit sectors, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous projects and leadership seminars, but none of them was quite like Seed613. With its hands-on approach and focus on the development of an actual business plan for a venture with a social dimension, this highly selective 12-week bootcamp provides fellows with the real-world skills leading to putting their business and financial plans into action and bringing their ventures to the market.

When I applied to become a Seed613 fellow, I was working on a few non-profit projects for which entrepreneurial skills would be very handy. However, at the same time, I had long wanted to develop a project of my own and Seed613 seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn the business ways. I didn’t come with a precise idea and the fact that I was expected to bring that non-existent idea to life in 12 short weeks came as a surprise to me at first, but then quickly turned into a great challenge.

What I had, though, when I joined the bootcamp was a great passion for arts, advertising and causes, so I merged them all together. I decided to focus on helping non-profits promote their causes by connecting them to millennial artists – and this is how creative: for good came to life. Advertising is an expensive enterprise, even for businesses, but non-profits, which often have very limited marketing budgets, struggle with producing visually appealing imagery that would help them raise awareness about their causes and generate broader support. I am glad I was able to participate in Seed613 and help me bring creative: for good to life.

Katia Kobylinski
Katia Kobylinski is an avid brand strategist & social entrepreneur. To merge her passions for causes, stories and arts, she founded ‘creative: for good’ – a virtual ad agency that connects millennial artists and nonprofits for advertising for the good – at JCC Chicago’s start-up incubator Seed613. Katia loves city life, hummus & company.

5 Eli Talks Every Jewish Entrepreneur Should Watch

Navigating the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is quite the challenging landscape. What makes you unique is that you are navigating this world within a world–the Jewish world. There are many great resources out there to learn from. So today we bring you five great Eli Talks for all you innovators and change-makers of our community.
 

1. Lisa Lepson—Dreams, Risks, Patience: A Recipe for Jewish Philanthropy 

“The waiting is the hardest part. But, argues Lisa Lepson, that’s often exactly what world-changing ventures need to make their impact. Blending Jewish history and text with personal stories and insights from the field, this talk encourages philanthropists to rethink the constant drive for metrics and deliverables and have a little…patience.”

 

2. Daniel Libenson—The Jewish Innovator’s Dilemma

“Dr. Daniel Libenson discusses how patterns of disruptive change affect Judaism, and how we can harness those patterns to improve areas of the Jewish community.”

 

3. Lisa Colton—Innovation, Revolution and Tradition

“Lisa Colton shows how Judaism works as an ecosystem, and discusses the importance of when and where we align ourselves, considering the extreme rate of change in today’s world.”

 

4. Rabbi Josh Joseph—Failure, To Launch: The Upside of Falling Down

“Our fear of failure is holding us back, argues Rabbi Josh Joseph. We need to look at failure as the price of pushing for growth and development, he says. Linking ancient Jewish sources with Michael Jordan, Rabbi Joseph asks us to think about what we would do if we weren’t afraid to fail.”

 

5. Felicia Herman—Empowered Philanthropy

“Give strategically, and you’ll have more impact. Give together, and that impact is amplified. Felicia Herman of Natan Fund shares the model for better giving.”

 

As a Jewish entrepreneur you have an additional layer of meaning and purpose to understand in your endeavors. The content of these talks will aid in your progression towards your goals. Whether it’s learning patience, transforming with change, conquering your fear of failure, or embracing collaboration in giving, you will gain a better understanding of how to succeed as an entrepreneur in your Jewish community.

 

Shani
Shani is a photographer and content creator from Los Angeles. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Communication degree, which she puts to good use by connecting with all the incredible Jewish organizations and the people who support them. With a deep pride in her Jewish roots and an Israeli background, Shani hopes to share the power and potential of Jewish innovation and connection with the world.

Technology Works Best as a Blank Communal Canvas

We are Jewish leaders caught in a paradox. The instruments and modalities we are using to reach people to whom we want to connect are becoming so ensnaring and so encompassing that leaders are becoming fixated on the tools, themselves. In all of our attempts to find outreach strategies that work, we are so hungry for “likes” that we are forgetting what feeds the human soul, including those who do not sit at our tables (the fact that we measure outreach by length of “our” tables as opposed to who is not seated at them bears just as much reconsideration).

Technology works best as a blank communal canvas

Technology, for all its attempts to include and speak the language of others, has become deeply rooted in mono-communication, our own communication, that we are trying to keep up an image of “looking” engaging versus keeping our eye on where the community is and isn’t. We try to successfully bring people to us through our Facebook and Instagram feeds, but we so often come up empty.

And yet there is meaningful work being done in many online communities to unhook us from the notion that we should merely be hooking people in. Take a moment and browse the online shelf of RitualWell.org and access the multitudes of people’s prayers, intentions and holy reconstitutions of Jewish liturgy and life cycle. As a blog post was titled at My Jewish Learning recently, it is not only about the Jewish holidays, but celebrating “the Jewish intervals.” This provokes the question: what is the method behind our media or, perhaps, more Jewishly, what is the meaning?

I am pleased to not only be part of the RitualWell community, but to also belong to an online Jewish young professionals group, Kitchener Waterloo JUnite, that has gone from being curated by a group of dedicated (and, frankly, amazing) volunteers to being entirely open to all members posting and sharing their needs, as per these members’ requests. Recently, mothers have also reached out, sharing their photos and scheduling meet-ups while other young professionals, including singles, have sought out and found new roommates.

Right here, community is unfolding because we have let go of the tools and let people have a stake in – or, perhaps, merely self-define – a blank communal canvas, from which to create their Jewish life and the life of their community. Those amazing volunteers I mentioned will always be resources and welcome supports for our growing Jewish community, though we have fundamentally changed our response to people, by inviting their participation and input directly. This doesn’t mean we don’t have standards or roles or even ethical responsibilities, rather, we all share the journey of making our Jewish community blossom.

For those of us desperately seeking the right way to engage Jewish community members, the ultimate tool of Jewish communal survival, I’m afraid I can’t provide a solution. But I can share an anecdote from our tradition:

As it happens, the architect of the Tabernacle was neither prophet nor priest. Rather, he was descended from the House of Judah,  a house traditionally associated with Jewish leadership and, later, the monarchy. But this man was no monarch. He was a 13-year-old artisan named Bezalel.  And when Moses tried to construct the Tabernacle in a way that was inconsistent with G-d’s instructions, he kindly pointed this out. For this, Moses called him the “Shadow of G-d.” A 13-year-old showing the way forward to the greatest prophet who ever lived.

If this isn’t a model for meaningful social media use, than I don’t know what is.

Devon Spier
Devon Spier is a rabbinical student and spiritual entrepreneur. Over the last decade, she has made her home in the small suburban shtetl of Kitchener-Waterloo, where she supports the leadership of Jewish young professionals, children, new mums and donors so that they may lead in innovative ways that raise up the institutions to which they belong.