Let’s Kickstart What We Want to See in the World

0bcfabd Published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 16, 2014.

In the not so distant past, access to capital was extremely difficult. It didn’t matter how brilliant your idea or project may have been, the reality was that a select few people held all the cards in terms of financing, and whether you were trying to record an album, start a company, make a movie, or write a book, your project lived and died by those select few gatekeepers of capital. But no longer! We’ve seen the rise of the phenomenon known as crowdfunding, and last year I wrote about crowdfunding and highlighted Catapult, an online crowdfunding resource for backing projects that support women and girls across the globe. Now it is time to share the story of a particular Kickstarter campaign, one that could not be nearer or dearer to my heart.

The back story: It’s no secret that I love superheroes. I’ve written many times about my love of superhero movies, my obsession with Wonder Woman, and my frustration with Hollywood’s inability to get Wonder Woman to the big screen. This love of superheroes began as a child with my weekly dose of the Saturday morning cartoon Super Friends, but as an adult, my passion for superheroes was ignited in 2001 when I read an article by Tom Peters in Fast Company Magazine: “50 Rules of Leadership”. The last rule was left blank, inviting readers to come up with their own rule of leadership, and after thinking it through, I wrote in, “Be A Superhero.” I typed up this statement, and a colleague of mine added superhero visuals around it, in which Wonder Woman was prominently displayed. The finished product remained on my desk until I left that job, and it is currently hanging in my home office, reminding me every day to be a superhero and to strive to be the best I can be.

30327d3That colleague’s name was Dawn Nadeau, and just this week she and her partner, Julie Kerwin, launched a kickstarter campaign to support their new company, IAmElemental, that will produce a series of female action figures that represent The Elements of Power. These elements form a new version of the periodic table, and are based on the idea that we don’t need a radioactive spider to bite us in order become powerful; we are all already powerful, and that power comes from within. The action figures will be released as a series, with each series consisting of seven figures that each represent an element of a particular power. The first series is that of Courage, with the seven elements being Bravery, Honesty, Energy, Persistence, Enthusiasm, Industry, and Fear. Should these prove successful, IAmElemental has plans for many more series that when combined will create a periodic table of power.

What is potentially revolutionary about IAmElemental’s toys is that these figures do not have set origin stories, but instead encourage kids to create their own stories based on their own ideas and the powers they see within themselves. 0c7b276As the Kickstarter campaign states, IAmElemental believes that kids “are not only capable of creating their own stories, but that story creation is a vital part of their emotional development.” In other words, these action figures are meant to be more character than characters. It’s an amazing example of the power of play, and how something as simple as an empowering action figure can have a huge impact on a child’s imagination. It also helps that these action figures look amazing, and for once, offer realistic body sizes and ratios that stand in stark contrast to the female action figures currently on offer, thereby making them every mother’s dream come true for their impressionable daughters (and sons!).

So why did Dawn and Julie decide to start this company? Because as mothers they were frustrated with the lack of quality superheroes and action figures on the market for girls. Although my baby just turned 14 years old, I remember feeling the same way when she was younger. That is why I know this company will be successful. Smart, intelligent, let’s get it done women are creating something that they would want to buy, and know their friends would want to buy as well. They are not waiting for the market to give them what they want, they are creating the goods themselves. This is what is at the heart of the growing trend in women’s entrepreneurship, and platforms like Kickstarter are helping their dreams and hard work become a thriving business.

3ef8b00Needless to say, I immediately backed this campaign, not only because a dear friend started it, but because I want this product to exist. I know so many little girls who all have birthdays coming up, and this is a gift I can’t wait to give. A set of female action figures that helps us find our superpowers! Are you kidding me? Aside from a pint sized Wonder Woman t-shirt, this has ‘Jacki gift’ written all over it. And I’m not the only one who believes in this project, because just three days into the campaign, it met its initial goal of $35,000, and as of this writing, it’s 193% funded and climbing. Let’s not stop there. Join me in supporting these two incredible women and turn it from a campaign into a movement, and prove to the powers that be that there is a market for empowering female action figures and superheroes. Let’s bring the GIRL POWER to these GIRL POWER toys. And better yet, let’s bring the GUY POWER too.

If this project does not ring your bells like it does mine, consider supporting another project. With over 4,700 hundred live Kickstarter projects at the time of this writing, and more being added every day, there’s a project out there to suit everyone’s interests. And that’s just on one platform! Regardless of what project you ultimately decide to support, the important thing is that platforms like this are democratizing capital and I love it. While unlocking bigger pools of capital is still challenging, the proof of concept that success on kickstarter demonstrates offers a big head start, so let’s all support the projects we believe in and help make dreams a reality. Now that’s the stuff of superheroes.

Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore


Rising International and Using Our Financial Power for Positive Change

Carmel-JudOn March 19th, I was honoured to give the keynote speech at the 5th Annual Hands of Hope Luncheon for Rising International. Rising International is an incredible organization that seeks to eliminate extreme poverty in the world through the economic empowerment of women in some of the world’s poorest countries.

I love the layered effect, the wave effect, the ripple effect of this organization’s work. The women who create the product, called Rising Artisans, create beautiful homemade crafts providing them with money to support themselves and their families. The product is then sold  by Rising Representatives in the United States, most of whom are  from low income backgrounds themselves. Women like me, like you, then host the parties where the Rising Rep presents and sells.  The monies raised support Rising’s minimal, and I mean minimal, infrastructure costs, the sales representative, and the producing woman. Meanwhile we get to buy really cool goods and feel great about it. This is what you might call a win, WIN, WIIINNNNN. ( you can also buy direct from their web-site.)

Through this partnership, Rising International is building a community of women who are taking charge of their lives, and are helping each other to rise out of poverty by becoming economically self sufficient. Founded by Carmel Jud in 2003 ( pictured) , Rising International looked to the business model of Avon, where 5 million women generate $10 billion in revenue every year by selling Avon products. Imagine the economical and social impact of 5 million women selling products to benefit the world’s poorest women. The possibilities are endless and paradigm shifting.

When Carmel asked me to give the key-note speech, how could I say no?  My remarks followed the logic model of the TED Talk I gave last year. In this speech I talk about the reasons why there is no better time than the present day to address the gender inequalities that exist on every level of life in every country in the world, and do something about it!  While there are many reasons for why now is the right moment, the four primary points I address are:

1) The fact that there is a growing body of research that shows that gender equality is good for economic development, peace, and sustainability. We case has been made! ( see my resource section)

2) That men are recognizing the benefits and importance of gender equality and are joining women to create positive  change. Gender inequality is no longer framed as a women’s issue, it as a human rights and economic development issue.

3) That technology is now playing such an important role in both communicating need, and enabling action.

4) The fact that more and more people are using their money and resources to advance the causes and values in which they most believe.

With all of these factors combined, there has never been a better time to enact real and lasting change for the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

My speech went on to say that money should not be viewed as a symbol of power, but rather as a powerful tool for social change. Money is not the end game, it is the means. It is high time we rethink about the role that many plays in our lives and in our culture in general.  I asked everyone consider how they are using their financial resources to serve their values and vision.

It is well documented that women make the majority of purchasing decisions in households in the United States. This is why billions of dollars are spent every year in ad campaigns that are targeted directly at women. Imagine how quickly things would change if we were to use that incredible financial power to support women and women’s leadership? If, for example, women were to put their purchasing power behind companies that had a critical mass of women on their boards, and stop buying products from them if they don’t, imagine how quickly corporate boards would diversify.   If you think that is a good idea but are asking yourself how would I know that? Check out Women on Boards 2020 and their corporate directory.  An IPHONE AP is coming!

What I hope people took away from both my speech at Rising International, and from watching my TED Talk, is that a world where women and girls enjoy more equal status at all levels of society is a world that is not only attainable, but one that we all have the power and resources to make happen, today. How we use our financial resources: our giving dollars, our investment dollars, our spending dollars, are key to this vision. When it comes right down to it, there is simply no good reason for the stalled progress of the past decade. It is time for NO EXCUSES, let’s work together for change.

Generously said from Carmel..

Jacki Zehner, CEO of Women Moving Millions delivered the keynote address for our Hands of Hope Luncheon on March 19th. We’ve been producing this luncheon event for 5 years now, and this was by far our most successful event ever.  Jacki’s message was powerful: that we must more fully use our financial resources; our giving, spending and investing dollars, in greater alignment with a vision for a more just and equitable world.  Event attendees have been calling and emailing our office expressing their excitement and conviction for joining Jacki in supporting and empowering women and girls. Jacki Zehner is a powerful speaker with a powerful purpose who is transforming lives, and we are deeply grateful she shared her passionate message at our event.

Adding a GENDER LENS to Your Holiday Shopping!

If you have not yet seen my recent TED Talk on gender equality you can view it by clicking here. I am in TED recovery mode… I have to write that blog!

More importantly  – Happy Holidays! It is that time of year where we pause to buy special gifts for those important people in our lives.  It has become a tradition for me to give you  ideas for great gifts that also make a difference for women and girls around the world.

With women controlling an estimated $20 trillion globally in annual consumer spending we have a lot of  power in our pocket books. Now let’s use it!  Imagine the possibilities if we used our holiday purchase power to support women owned businesses and to align our purchases to support our values. Below please find my ‘best of’ list to do good while buying great gifts!


Same Sky a trade-not aid- jewelry initiative that employs and empowers HIV positive women in Africa as artisans. Trained as artisans, SAME SKY women earn 15 to 20 times the average Sub Saharan wage to hand crochet beautiful glass bead jewelry. Sold online and in stores like Bergdorf Goodman’s and Neiman Marcus these beautiful pieces are stylish and support a fantastic cause! I just hosted an event for Same Sky here in Park City and it was awesome.  Warning some of these are high-end items but well worth the money.  I just bought a pair of these silver cuff links for my hubby, but sshhhhhh don’t tell.

Plum Alley is a site where you can buy products from female founded companies that represent substance and discipline in creation and beauty. Products for sale on PlumAlley.co include housewares, jewelry, art and more. Each product they feature is chosen to honor the values Plum Alley believes in, supporting female founded companies. I love this wrap bracelet  in gold for $145. Present for Jacki? Anyone? Anyone?

Rising International promotes ownership of craft-based business for women in impoverished areas. Some of the items Rising promotes are traditional crafts that are passed down through generations, like the baskets made by Ugandan women who have lost their children to AIDS. Others are new craft lines created for the Western market; among them are silk purses woven by widows in Cambodia. Visit their online store to shop by country or items such as housewares, gifts, accessories and apparel. Again a personal favorite is this FREEDOM necklace for $55.  A few lucky friends are getting this from me this year!

Shoptimize.org  is a shopping website exclusively featuring products from women-led companies  and has lots of options for everyone on your holiday list. Shoptimize not only advances women-led businesses but they also give at least 1% of their after-tax profits each year to nonprofit organizations that advance and empower women and girls.

Prosperity Candles empowers women in places of conflict to create independent candle enterprises that enable them to move beyond survival and to thrive. Very affordable gifts for everyone and could make a GREAT corporate gift!

Nomi Network is an organization creating economic opportunities for women at risk and survivors of human trafficking by equipping them with skills to produce goods for the global market place. They sell a variety of products but my fav is a tote bag that says “Buy her bag and not her body.”

Shopping For Change was developed to empower talented artisans, predominantly women living in impoverished communities, with the means to transform their standards of living in economically sustainable ways.  In addition to paying the artisans up front for their creations, shopping for change splits the net proceeds from your purchases in two ways: they fund Community Improvement Projects abroad with a focus on clean water, health care, and education; and afford you, the consumer the ability to direct net proceeds to the nonprofit organization of your choice at checkout.

Vida Dulce   features fairly traded handmade items by the Mayan living in the Guatemalan Highlands. A portion of proceeds benefits Pueblo A Pueblo, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to better and empower the lives of Mayans living in the Guatemalan Highlands.

Gifts That Give is a shopping site where you can choose from over 100 upscale brands with $1 of every $5 dollars going to any cause of your choice. This is a for-profit company that works with the non-profit community to help drive revenue on behalf of customer causes.


If the above is not enough…..

This holiday catalog put together by 85Broads and Plum Alley is a shopping resource guide of all women owned businesses.

Check out this article in Forbes “Bill and Melinda Gates Propose the Five Most Impactful Charities for Holiday Giving” for their list of charities.

Visit feminist.com and see their market place for a huge list of women owned businesses.

You can also visit my Pinterest page for more women owned businesses, and books written by women.