…A Mission and Vision: From concept to formation, to implementation, chances are your dreams are going to grow. At The Cultivated Group, we believe that if your dreams include only you, they’re too small. If that’s the case, you’re going to need more incredible, intentional, aligned, passionate, and purpose-driven people around you and in order to move things forward, effective communication will be critical.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Mishler of The Cultivated Group.
Born and raised in the rural Midwest of the United States, Emily Mishler is an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in the start-up world, and heart for philanthropy. She is the driving force behind The Cultivated Group and the world of Esmè the Curious Cat — on a mission to ignite and empower individuals and organizations to: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Specializing in business development, creative strategic planning, and fundraising, Emily launched her first company at the age of 22 and has since raised and distributed over 20M dollars of private investment for private clients, for-profit entities and NGO’s.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Absolutely! It’s a pleasure to be here — thanks for having us. I’ve always had a knack for adventure, an insatiable curiosity, a creative flair, and a heart for helping others — and my career has absolutely been an extension of that. I grew up on a farm in the middle of the rural United States. We lived very modestly and simply — serving others and giving of what we had was ingrained in our family’s “culture” from a very young age.
I grew up in a very small town in the middle of the Midwest United States. I come from a family of farmers and values like hard work (sometimes to a fault), exploration, diligence, tenacity, and grit were instilled in me from a very young age. Those rural “roots” were a piece of the inspiration behind our companies’ name: The Cultivated Group.
Hindsight tends to be 20/20 and all the dots tend to connect looking backward and that’s certainly a trend amidst my own eclectic career path. While I studied Communication and Design at University, helping others through different opportunities was always a focal point. A series of decisions that I perceived to be big risks (at the time) and chose to jump and lean into, whilst always keeping my eyes and ears open for possibility and opportunity were huge contributing factors as my career and life’s mission has continued to unfold. Doors and opportunities presented themselves, to which I bet on myself and said “yes” (albeit sometimes with a bit of fear!) and based on my passions, experiences, and drive to influence the world for the better — stumbled into corporate philanthropy as a career. In August of 2018, I completed a MBA with a concentration in Philanthropy and shortly thereafter, began a new chapter of life in travelling the world and running my own location-independent, impact-driven companies.
Proudly housing four separate companies under the “Cultivated” umbrella, we’re redefining business as usual for businesses all over the globe (and even in outer space!). Each subsidiary equips organizations and individuals with the tools, skills, resources, frameworks, and funding they need to function fully as profitable, healthy businesses. Our team connects the business brain to the servant-leaders’ heart that’s at the forefront of the business of doing good. The work The Cultivated Group focuses on is all impact-based, which means at the end of the day our goal is to make the world a better place and use businesses and the influence we all have in our day-to-day lives to be the vessels for doing so.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
Thank you very much! This is a great question. From my experience, cultivating the ability to listen to ourselves and others; exercising courage; and leading with curiosity (rather than judgement or projection) have been instrumental. When you’re first beginning a journey of growth, there can be a lot of “low-hanging fruit” and a lot of quick wins. The more you grow, learn, and become — the most imperative self-awareness and personal responsibility will be. The challenges you will face and opportunities you’ll have to demonstrate the level of character you’ve achieved will be directly in proportion to the three traits I mentioned. Lean in and buckle up — the journey is yours for the making!
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
Looking back, it’s fascinating to think about how “perfect” I believed I needed to be in order to move forward on things. It was a belief system that was rooted in a lot of fear and feelings of inferiority, which really caused a lot of stalling and paralysis in my personal and professional life. Sometimes when we try things that we’re not ready for, we fall down and develop a little proverbial bruising and sometimes scar tissue. When it “hurts” to get up as a result of those bruises or scar tissue, we can be afraid of moving forward and trying again. Until we’re aware of it and decide to make different decisions, the things we fear (even if it’s success!) can hold us back from really accomplishing our goals and making our dreams happen. Looking back, the lesson is that our greatest obstacle is ourselves and that we can do anything we put our minds to!
I used to be much more externally motivated — and an emphasis on physical appearance accompanied that in my experience. Since my perspective and outlook has shifted, so have my priorities. The way I relate to beauty now is majorially internally driven. You know when someone is absolutely on fire for what they’re doing and their eyes sparkle? That is beauty. That internal radiance that comes about as a result of alignment — that is what I look for. Yes, a certain amount of grooming and physical polish goes a long way — but it pales in comparison to the connection and radiance one can have when they’re confidently moving in the direction of their dreams and bringing others along the way.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact? What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is one that’s provided a lot of inspiration and a discerning lens as the journey of my life has unfolded. In fact, through our companies at The Cultivated Group and through The Elevated Method, we’re redefining the phrase “business as usual”. We believe doing the right thing is always the right move to make and through our clients and our work, we’re activating and empowering the change they wish to see in the world. Our companies and team are on a mission to bridge the gap between the great ideas, access to opportunity, and taking action to change and preserve this beautiful world in which we live — one challenge at a time. Our focus isn’t overnight success: our focus is the consistency of thought and expansion of dreams and resources. This, when applied over time through massive action, creates sustainable systems that influence positive and inclusive change: we empower and equip our clients to become forces for good in this world. We use a combined approach of both services and products to equip our clients with the tools and skills they need and an extra set of hands (in some cases) to be able to make thoughtful choices when building, stewarding, enhancing, growing, and scaling their businesses.
The way we’ve structured the organization and its impact — the ripple effect is limitless.
I also don’t believe there was one, singular “tipping point” or “aha moment” for me to jump into this line of “work”. It was much more of a slow drip over a few years that compounded to the point I knew if I didn’t lean into the adventure of discovering and uncovering what was possible when it came to fulfilling my own potential, I would always wonder. That pursuit of fulfillment and sharing that with others is “truly living” to me. I also had positioned myself through education, exploration, and intentional preparation to be able to “lean in” to this life shift rather than maintaining the “formula for life” many of my peers seemed to be following.
The decision to “step up and do it” was simple, clear, and made with ease. It was not easy, but it was a decision I made with ease because I had taken the time to prepare and consider what my options truly were. The subsequent decisions that reinforced that position have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my life! These decisions and this journey into the road less travelled takes a lot of courage — more courage than I’d ever employed to date at that point — and this adventure has empowered me to become the person I’ve always dreamt of being. I also realized that in looking back, all of the dots connected seamlessly. Whether I knew it or not at the time, I’d been preparing myself for an adventure and “leap with faith” for a very long time — it took reflection and a lot of intentional healing to be able to recognize that.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefited from your initiatives?
A few years ago, I founded a group of impact-driven companies called The Cultivated Group. Proudly housing four separate companies under the “Cultivated” umbrella, we’re redefining business as usual for businesses all over the globe (and even in outer space!). Each subsidiary equips organizations and individuals with the tools, skills, resources, frameworks, and funding they need to function fully as profitable, healthy businesses. Our team connects the business brain to the servant-leaders’ heart that’s at the forefront of the business of doing good. The work The Cultivated Group focuses on is all impact-based, which means at the end of the day our goal is to make the world a better place and use businesses and the influence we all have in our day-to-day lives to be the vessels for doing so.
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
Thanks so much for asking. From my perspective, two main factors that distinguish successful starts from unsuccessful ones are the ability and strength to employ agility as-needed and a resounding undertone of grit and tenacity. In my opinion, becoming a successful organization does not require difficulty — it can be handled with elegance, ease, and simple solutions. However, sometimes to get to that point, it can be a learning and growing process — and that’s life. Both of those factors require one to lead with curiosity, trust yourself, trust your team, and the deep understanding and confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles and challenges — remaining on the end-goal despite turbulence.
Rather than focusing on a tech stack, resources, degrees, or capital — I believe for this conversation more so than those assets, it’s incredibly important to talk about the kind of leader and person you’re becoming — and the kind of company you’re building. The character of the leadership and organization, and how that’s reflected through deliberate, aligned action. Especially at the beginning, the people involved are your most important asset whether they’re internal or external stakeholders. And in order to create things with other people, that requires us to communicate effectively, efficiently, and infusing our communication with the kind of energy we want to build and nourish the company with. The way I see it, five things that will really help in the long-run to create a highly successful philanthropic organization are:
- A Fluid Framework™: A business plan doesn’t have to be formal, long, scary, or set in stone. Many of the folks we chat with don’t have formal business education and what’s great? You don’t need one to build a business! A business plan helps to communicate with stakeholders where you’re at, who’s on board, where you’re headed, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll need throughout the journey and upon arrival. We have a thorough (and fun!) workbook to get you started: here!
- A Mission and Vision: From concept to formation, to implementation, chances are your dreams are going to grow. At The Cultivated Group, we believe that if your dreams include only you, they’re too small. If that’s the case, you’re going to need more incredible, intentional, aligned, passionate, and purpose-driven people around you and in order to move things forward, effective communication will be critical. Two incredible tools to communicate and align your team are your mission and vision statements. These communicate why your organization exists (mission) and what you will accomplish (vision). As we worked with clients, we recognized that this isn’t as common-practice as we’d hoped and to fill a growing need, we put together a few free resources at The Elevated Method — one of which is a Mission & Vision Statements Guide!
- A Strategic Plan: 5–10 years down the road, do you know exactly where you’ll be? Good, us either. Building out a strategic plan isn’t about mapping out every single piece of the company’s journey you’re building, but it is about orienting your compass to True North, plotting out the next few moves (years) of the journey on a map, and communicating that to everyone who needs to know. This provides a pulse on the direction you’d like to go, and a basic framework of how you plan to get there with measurable success milestones along the way. Curious? Here’s a quick template to get the juices flowing!
- Perspective: It isn’t always luxury travel and glamour at the beginning of the journey. As you learn and grow, your dreams, goals, metrics, and self will continue to elevate. Even if things get weird, challenging, or downright depressing: you have a choice. You always have a choice. Every second of every day, you get to choose how you respond to every situation you’re presented with and in that, there is so much power. Lean into the perspective and understanding that you have the power to choose how you respond to each situation that is in front of you, and you have the strength and ability to make that choice in the direction you want to go and build. Suffering is not a prerequisite for success. Choose the kind of adventure you want to have!
- Accountability & A Board of Directors of Advisors: As you’re building your dream, self awareness and development is key. Developing, deepening, and growing into a relationship with yourself — an understanding of yourself, your preferences, what you’re good at, what you’re not, and who you need around you to transform is the difference between learning and dying at some points. A community of mentors advisors who have been where you want to go and are willing to aid you in shortening the curve can be an incredible tool in helping to keep you accountable and on-track. They don’t need to be industry-specific, although sometimes that’s helpful, but they do need to have the capacity and ability to be radically honest in their communication with you, and a desire to help you grow and learn. Check your ego at the door and buckle up because if you lean in, you’re about to embark on one of the most challenging and fulfilling journeys of your life!
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
Despite its severity and devastating nature, the pandemic also provided us an opportunity to slow down, and required us to be in one place. We’ve learned to ditch the distractions and lean into introspection, reflection, and learning in a more concentrated and insulated way than we ever had before. The pandemic has introduced an element of equanimity to the way we define success that we weren’t truly aware of before.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
I believe in our lives, we’re given the opportunity to learn, grow, and become through each situation we’re presented with in our lives. In fact, we are presented in our lives with the exact lessons we need in order to become more able to fulfill the purpose of our lives. For me, it isn’t so much about coping — but it is about the deepened understanding and Trust that comes with learning, evolving, and tuning into my life’s purpose. Opportunities like these are where we are given a chance to build the “muscle” it takes to become: to learn, stretch, and grow.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d absolutely love to have lunch with Sara Blakely and her husband, Jesse Itzler. Not only have they both been incredibly successful individually, the pair seems to have “figured out life” too. Raising a family together, encouraging one another, and making the world better along the way. I’d love to be able to learn from and create with them!
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
The Cultivated Group
The Elevated Method
Esmè the Curious Cat:
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.
About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success from Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.