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Name: Marina Nash

Company: The Agora Projects, a series of solar-powered community centers for the developing world

Industry: Social Enterprise

Location: Boulder, Colorado, U.S.

Reason for Starting: I want to develop creative solutions for recurrent global issues. As a sculptor and visual artist, what I love most about creating monumental pieces is how they change any ordinary space into an inspirational place where people want to gather. I began to research how our physical environments impact our health and well-being. I worked diligently as a designer on my own for  2 ½ years before entering The Agora Projects  into an international design competition. As a sole competitor against some of the largest architectural firms in the world, I was shocked to learn I was a finalist; the validity and necessity of the project became very clear. The only way to change the collective narrative of a people is by providing them with information, encouraging education and responding to their immediate living needs. The Agora is a solar powered community gathering place that provides off-grid solutions for specific community needs, i.e.: a power station that provides 2KW/Hr, portable waterproof batteries, water filtration and irrigation systems. The project houses wifi-enabled tablets within its structural pylons, inviting self-organized learning. It is a classroom without walls; it is the 21st century library for communities worldwide.  The Agora Projects are comprehensive impact-driven solutions to many of today’s global issues.

How do you define success?: I believe that success is a life-long journey, and the achievement of a desired or envisioned outcome. It does not necessarily mean winning or being victorious over something, but it is more about  courage and persistence in pursuit of a goal regardless of obstacles. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Biggest Success: When I began my graduate studies, I applied for a position as a stone carver at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Little did I know that all the carvers were Italian men. My broken Italian got a smile, but the master carver still said, “This work is impossible for a woman.” I wrote letters, left messages and showed up again. A few weeks later, I received a letter inviting me to a short trial period to see if I could survive. Despite the physical challenge of the work and the misogyny I faced every day while working there, I was elated at the opportunity.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?: Personally, my biggest challenge has always been asking for help and fundraising. I am learning to confidently present my passion and fundraising needs for The Agora Projects.  I plan to take a public speaking course this winter to help me overcome my stage fright. I believe that nothing of great importance can ever be achieved alone. I have been blessed to have this opportunity for growth through invitations to speak about my startup, and I am learning quickly.

Who is your most important role model?: My inspirational models are usually people who have overcome adversity in their lives by changing their belief systems, persevering and sharing their strengths with others in need. My mother, Maria Andreadakis, is one such example. Others who come to mind are Maya Angelou, Halle Berry, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, etc. Trying to create a comprehensive list would be impossible.

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Edited by The Story Exchange