My mother is not only my friend and my mentor, she is also an indispensable partner in a nonprofit organization that I started in the summer of 2006. I am deeply grateful every day for her presence, for her help, and for her encouragement, because it looked for a time a few years ago that I would not have her around at all.
In 2004, my mother was diagnosed with a rare form of life-threatening cancer. It was a frightening and trying time for all of us, as any family that has had this experience can attest. We were not certain she would be able to endure the brutal treatment of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation, and there were times when things looked pretty grim. Even her doctors were worried, but to our delight, she survived the cancer and has continued to gather strength through the long, difficult road to recovery.
When--after graduating with a masters in Social Work from Washington University--I had the inspiration of starting up a nonprofit organization that would provide microfinance loans to women in developing countries so they could begin or maintain art- or craft- based businesses, my mother was behind me one hundred percent. She talked with me endlessly, gave me advice on how to proceed, and warned me of possible problems and pitfalls. She helped me come up with the concept of partnering with established artists and designers who would create exclusive products for our organization that we sell online retail and wholesale to boutiques around the country.
I call my nonprofit Nest, a name derived from my love of the idea of the "nesting instinct": that universal, compelling desire of women to create a sanctuary for their families, filled with objects of comfort and beauty. I hoped, with my loans, to provide an opportunity for women around the world to provide for their families the same kind of loving, secure environment my mother had given me during my growing-up years. In addition to sound counsel, my mom also agreed to serve as president of my Board of Directors and has spent countless hours and an enormous amount of energy guiding me through the joys and trials of my business venture.
The beauty of working with my mom is that not only do we deepen our own relationship, but in doing so, we are also working to better the lives of mothers and daughters all across the globe. That is truly wondrous.