When someone shows you who they are — believe them. It is a very eye-opening experience when you first realize that those you may encounter in the business world are not as sincere or as ethical as they may first present themselves as.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Scott-Kolakowski.
Stephanie Scott-Kolakowski is the founder and managing director of Grow Hub GR, a female-owned business incubator and community networking space. Previously, she founded Grow Business Today and Projects for Purpose, a 501c3 organization designed to empower the leaders of tomorrow by positively impacting youth in local communities. Through technology, collaboration, education and social innovation, Stephanie envisions a world where every child has equitable access to higher education and opportunity for social capital.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I think one of the most interesting stories is about how our company actually began. I started Grow Hub GR and Grow Business Today just prior the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Figures show that there have been millions of women that have left the workforce or have been displaced during this time, and I was one of them. At the time, I was the corporate director of sales for a national media company and my position was unexpectedly eliminated. I was completely caught off-guard and blown away by this. It was a time in my life where I needed to make a decision about what was going to be the best choice for my daughter and I, and after much reflection I decided to channel my energy and push forward to build a company that was as focused at making an impact as it was making a profit. This is something that I felt was lacking in my corporate position that often focused first on growing market share and revenue, and not truly benefitting our society.
I believe that God was with me every step of the way and if it wasn’t for my faith, and having my position eliminated, I am not sure I would have had the courage to launch my own company. I think launching a start-up in the wake of a pandemic definitely was an interesting time for me and my family.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
Even though I am not sure it was necessarily funny at the time, when I look back, I think what comes to mind is that I didn’t truly value myself or my abilities as much as I could have when I started. I think that a lot of people who identify as go-getters can relate to this. We are here to help. We want to help. Sometimes, our desire to help is so overwhelming that we forget that this business also needs to feed our family. Early on I was working on a project where I continually advised board members on the do’s and don’ts of social media. Specifically, recommending that they do not post certain things on the organization’s social media channels. Without sharing too many details, these board members didn’t take the advice and it ended up resulting in bans from Facebook and costing individuals a lot of time and money to rectify the situation. The best thing about mistakes is that they really are learning opportunities if you allow them to be.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I learned to trust my intuition, my gut and my feelings. I know it sounds so basic, but trust is so important. It is necessary to trust others if you want to be successful in life. But, in addition to trusting others, always trust yourself. Trust when someone shows you who they really are, because more often than not when you see someone’s true colors it is eye opening.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Grow Hub GR, and its parent company Grow Business Holdings, LLC are committed to impacting people, planet, profit and purpose. I believe that by focusing on these four areas, we can help others align their core values to do social good and highlight this social good through effective marketing and media efforts. Since our founding, my team and I have helped companies receive grants to provide clean drinking water in Guatemala, supported organizations that are building infrastructure in Kenya and assisted local churches in developing children’s ministries throughout the world.
We see so much negativity in our world, our company tries to first see opportunities for the positive. It is amazing how much of an impact you can have on someone’s life simply by being encouraging and supportive. We take chances on people. We help them learn how to align and invest in their neighborhoods and communities. Our organization aims to be a collective, community space. And, just as I have helped shape and create this space, I try to always help others create their unique spaces as well.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Recently, Grow Hub GR hosted an inaugural community event entitled United in Purpose. During this event, we showcased local artists of color from our communities and highlighted their efforts to promote kindness, inclusivity and unity. It turned into a beautiful event that provided a stage and a platform for minority artists and allowed those in attendance to learn more about the inspirations and struggles that these artists have experienced. While this story doesn’t necessarily relate to a single individual, it impacted many individuals. I feel that is what is ultimately my goal, to make a difference in as many lives as possible. A sense of community and belonging will ultimately start with us as individuals, but it can quickly grow as we impact others. That is the social impact that I strive for.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First, I think it is important that society needs to create a space for others. It is important to believe in the power of diversity and diverse ideas. I believe that to truly have a strong economy, we must first have a strong community. We must be willing and able to work together with others and welcome their differing ideas and perspectives.
Secondly, we need to achieve greater equity in our government and political representations. When we look at the percentage gaps right now, I read someplace that approximately 79% of politicians are male. How can we bridge this gap? How do we increase the number of political leaders who are minorities? These are the conversations we need to be having. These are the conversations that can ultimately lead to sustainable pipelines for employment and thriving communities.
Thirdly, we need to have more women in positions of influence. It has been proven that women leaders are highly skilled in creating safe workspaces and we need that. Women leaders are strong mentors and visionaries. It is important that we begin to have equal perspectives at the table when decisions are being made. Our society often talks about the need for equality and equity, but we need to start implementing what is talked about. Whether it begins with the private or public sector, it needs to soon begin.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I believe that leadership first starts with being humble. It’s knowing you do not have all the answers and being willing to hear the voices and ideas of others. That’s a necessity. Leadership is also the ability to help others come together and unite for a bigger purpose. Personally, I enjoy seeing the potential and value in someone. It is such a fulfilling experience to learn about where someone wants to be tomorrow. Hearing their goals and dreams, and then helping them get there. Leaders put the right people in the right seats and then empower them to be great and align their talents and purpose to benefit others. Leadership is not necessarily having all the answers but having the willingness and perspective to roll up your sleeves and help find the answer.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
First, I wish someone would have told me to focus more on living and aligning with my purpose. And, once you find that purpose help others discover theirs. During my career I have been fortunate to work with many younger people who are just starting their careers and it is so fulfilling to help mentor them in various ways and share knowledge I did not have at that stage.
Second, when someone shows you who they are — believe them. It is a very eye-opening experience when you first realize that those you may encounter in the business world are not as sincere or as ethical as they may first present themselves as.
Third, always get it in writing. Whether it is for a business contract, lease or loan, it is great to have trust and hope … but business is business.
Fourth, I wish I would’ve known how important it is to not let the highs get you too high and the lows get you too low. This is so true, especially in entrepreneurship. The peaks and valleys can be both amazing and daunting.
Finally, it is okay if you don’t’ have all the answers. As a matter of fact, you should not have all the answers if you are always learning. If you are not learning, you are not growing. Align with others who may have different knowledge and skill sets and empower them and yourself to excel.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I just had a very powerful conversation with a community leader about how society needs to put aside individual differences and focus energy on uniting for a larger purpose. In communities throughout our country there are certain neighborhoods that are typically underfunded and underserved. There are communities with higher poverty and increasing crime rates. In our schools there are serious inequities. In certain communities art, music and sports are very marginalized. There is definitely a mindset regarding defining schools that are haves and have nots. This isn’t right. Students in well-funded school districts have an enormous advantage over children in districts that are having programs being cut. Why can’t all students receive the same mentoring and support to achieve their dreams?
There are ongoing committees and discussions and phone calls talking about what people don’t have and what people cannot do. But, what if we all were in the same room talking about what we do have available and how we can build it to become even greater? Let’s start talking about how we get creative and how we get it funded. Let’s push forward and not constantly get stuck in a back-and-forth argument. I would love to see a movement where people align for a larger purpose and combine resources to encourage unity and entrepreneurship throughout an entire community. Let’s prepare our young people to truly become the next generation of leaders by instilling in them a sense of purpose, pride and unity that will positively impact our world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is from Sheryl Sandberg. She said, ‘We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.’ I absolutely can relate to this statement and sincerely believe in this. There are so many things in our society that we are not aware of until we step out of our comfort zones and experience life through someone else’s shoes. At Grow Hub GR, I have had the opportunity to meet so many community members from so many different walks of life. I am fortunate to learn of their backgrounds and hopes and struggles. Those are experiences I carry with me every day and it inspires me to help drive change.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would really enjoy the opportunity to meet with Milind Pant, CEO of Amway Global. I believe he is a very extraordinary person, and my family actually has a unique connection to Amway and its products.
My grandparents were first generation Italian immigrants and I remember as a child walking into their home and there would always be a bunch of people and a bunch of Amway products. My grandfather used to use the phrase ‘All the way with Amway!’ and I remember thinking to myself what in the heck is Amway? At the time as a child, I didn’t know what that meant. Now, I have a deep appreciation for what Amway has been able to build and inspire others to build to better their lives.
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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!