The Story Exchange, Gail Romero, Collective ChangesYour Name: Gail Romero

Business Name: Collective Changes, a provider of women’s business mentoring programs

Type of Business: Global Mentoring Nonprofit

Business Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Twitter   @gmr56

Reason for starting
Having worked in corporate America and the nonprofit sector and spent over 20 years as a consultant to the nonprofit sector I read the book by Jim Clifton – The Coming Jobs War and realized that if all the corporations in the world had full employment we would still not have enough jobs. Jobs are what predict social, economic and political security globally. Clifton (Gallup Poles) realized that to achieve social, political and economic stability we had to have more jobs and entrepreneurs are the ones that need to act – yet most women globally do not have the same opportunities to access support for entrepreneurial activities. Yet in 2010, 104 million women in 59 economies – which represent more that 52% of the world’s population and 84% of world GDP started and managed new business ventures. Most of these without the benefit of solid business plans for growth and marketing. So I connected with the #1 mentoring software company and asked if they would partner with us. They donated the first $75,000 of software. We have developed the business plan templates, marketing plan templates, cash flow analysis templates, the webinars, and business videos to support learning. We then connected with university alumni groups and corporations (87% of all women believe that their company should give back to global women’s empowerment – 2011 survey) to find the mentors and started a Linkedin Group – Collective Changes to bring potential mentors into a dialogue. We went to ministers of finance and commerce to find the women in BRIC and CIVETS nations as well as the African Union to locate the mentees. The incredible Chronus Mentoring software pairs up the mentors with the expertise with the needs of the mentees. They can discuss and gain direction from their mentors, find similar business types around the world to collaborate, meet with peers virtually, share stories and gain business networking opportunities – all online, virtually 24/7. The data is captured by the software as to the business plans, implementation and success of the mentoring process. The mentees eventually become mentors through this program so the cycle is eventually self sustaining in communities and regions. Could we have made this a for-profit business? Absolutely, however we wouldn’t be capturing the largest audience that could benefit the most – those women in developing nations who can have the biggest impact on their families by providing better education, food and healthcare.

How do you define success?
We define success as the day we can impact 1,000,000 women – the goal is 2020. We want to see the women who typically do not have the networks or the education find the resources and the mentors to grow businesses and jobs. The side benefit of this is that empowered women who have jobs actually have a better chance of reduced gender based violence and see an increase in their family income by 4.5% and an increase in their nations GDP estimated by UNDP study by up to 7.5% with reduced gender based violence.

Biggest Success
So far there have been three – the first was the day the business plan was completed and I forwarded it to Ambassador Melanne Verveer along with 10 other global leaders. She sent me back a note saying I was on a roll – and to go for it! The second was the day we partnered with the #1 mentoring software company in the world who donated the software for us to start our organization. The third was being invited by the former President of Bulgaria to the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation this June 18th to sit on a panel to talk about women’s empowerment and entrepreneurial necessity for the 21st century.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The top challenge is we are a nonprofit and funding is always the critical issue. Both my colleague and I are CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executives) so we are pulling out all the stops, using our education and experience and calling on all of our previous partnerships to raise the necessary funds. We are also in the process of engaging with a number of top corporate foundations for multiple year support.

Who is your most important role model?
Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Melanne Verveer – both of them have staunchly supported women’s empowerment, gaining a voice and making a difference. They both began Vital Voices – an inspiring organization that supports the empowerment of women around the world to impact their own lives and take charge where they can to change the world.