Susan Davis, Capital Missions Company, West Chicago, Ill.:
As my 50th birthday was approaching, I felt a strong urge to clarify what my special expertise was, the unique contribution I could make with my life. I grew up with a mother who was a volunteer and a dad who was a highly ethical businessman. Both had very satisfying lives, and I wanted to combine their experiences in what I did with my life. Encouraging socially responsible business was the way I found to do that. As soon as I graduated from college, I began helping to start companies that solved social problems. Later, I branched into creating business leadership networks. I started the Committee of 200, a network of businesswomen with multi-million-dollar companies, who wanted to be supportive of each other as entrepreneurial models.
When I took a position at Harris Bank in Chicago, I created other networks. My heart was still in socially responsible business, but I was divorced and had two young children to raise. After nine years at the bank, I decided that I was either going to get involved in socially responsible business or leave and do it on my own. I designed an initiative for socially responsible investing at the bank. However, before it could be implemented, the bank went through a huge downsizing. Clearly, it wasn't the right time for my proposal. That left me with one option.
In June of 1990, I left the bank to start my own company. Capital Missions Co. would be an expression of my deepest beliefs, hopes and dreams. The time was right for another reason as well. I believe in family first, and to me it would have been putting my kids too much at risk to start my own business much before I did. Moving in high-powered business circles for quite a few years had been grueling enough, even with excellent, live-in housekeepers. Now that my children were ten and thirteen, they still needed my time and attention, but to a different degree than when they were younger.
After leaving the bank, I intended to spend the first three months planning. I got a really good designer to do a beautiful logo. I found a space in a temporary employment agency run by two successful women downtown. I found another woman who owned a public relations firm and shared my values. We put out a press release saying I would be doing consulting in the field of socially responsible business. Many articles about the opening of Capital Missions appeared.
I never did have time to do a marketing plan. The first week I was open, two people showed up, and each took up half my consulting time for a year -- one wanted a network of socially responsible investors, and the other wanted a network for influential people in sustainable agriculture.
My whole life has been about this kind of synchronicity. I believe that higher forces are at work, and if we just stick to our values, things work out fine. For example, a few years after Capital Missions had gotten off the ground, a friend asked if I wanted an investor, because he knew someone who was interested in my business. I didn't have any immediate plans for expansion, but the values of the potential investor matched mine as closely as anyone's could. So I accepted the money and put it in the bank for a year until I decided exactly how I wanted to expand. At that point, I brought someone in to share the CEO spot with me and used the funds to finance that.
When I started Capital Missions, I felt that it was my destiny. I used to be anxious, questioning whether I was doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life. But looking back now, I can see that all my experiences have exactly prepared me to do this work. That perception has led to a great deal of joy. When you finally find the reason why you're here, it's an ecstatic experience, and it continues to be for me.
Adapted and excerpted from Women's Ventures, Women's Visions
Copyright 1997 by Shoshana Alexander
Reprinted and excerpted with permission of The Crossing Press
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