Empowering Women Leaders to Follow in 2024 | Samantha McGinley | Exeleon Women Magazine

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The Importance of Mentorship for FemaleLeaders


MORGAN GIST MCDONALD Rewriting the Health The Secrets Behind Writing a Bestseller

Durana Elmi: Bridging the Gap between Health and Nutrition

The Silent Revolution: Female Entrepreneurs Changing the Game

Samantha McGinley: Empowering Women with Brand Development

Entrepreneurship Finding Her North Star in



This March, we are proud to dedicate not just one, but multiple issues to the indomitable spirit, resilience, and achievements of women entrepreneurs and leaders across various industries.

Our decision to spotlight these incredible women stems from a deep-seated belief in the power of their stories to inspire, educate, and empower. Each narrative we've chosen to share reflects not only the personal triumphs of these leaders but also their significant contributions to reshaping their sectors and, by extension, our world.

Women have long been the backbone of innovation, creativity, and change, yet their stories have often remained in the shadows. It is our honor at Exeleon to bring these stories to light, celebrating the milestones achieved while acknowledging the hurdles that still exist. Our aim is not only to pay tribute to these trailblazers but also to foster a community that supports and uplifts women in their entrepreneurial and leadership journeys.

Through this series, we invite our readers to delve into the lives of women who have broken barriers, challenged the status quo, and set new precedents. From technology and science to arts and social enterprise, these women have carved paths of excellence, demonstrating what is possible when talent meets tenacity.

But let this not be merely a moment of reflection. Let it also serve as a clarion call for ongoing action and advocacy for gender equality and inclusivity in every sphere of life. The stories we share are beacons of hope and catalysts for change, reminding us all of the work that remains in ensuring that every woman has the opportunity to reach her full potential.

In closing, I extend my deepest gratitude to our readers, contributors, and the remarkable women whose stories we are privileged to share. Your support fuels our mission to not only highlight achievements but also to create a platform for dialogue, learning, and progress.








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The Importance of Mentorship for Female Leaders


The Secrets Behind Writing a Bestseller

26 Rewriting the Health




What You Don’t Know About Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries



Bridging the Gap between Health and Nutrition



Female Entrepreneurs Changing the Game

Samantha McGinley

Finding Her North Star in Entrepreneurship



“ in my eyes, is the art of uplifting others, enabling them to see and reach their highest potential,” states Samantha McGinley.

As the Founder and CEO of Polaris Creatives, Samantha has dedicated her entire career to helping others find their voice and amplify their unique stories. Her approach to empowerment is not just a business strategy; it's a deeply personal mission, shaped by her experiences and the influential figures in her life.

Fittingly, in this Cover feature, we delve into Samantha McGinley's empowering journey, exploring the principles that guide her leadership, the challenges she's faced as an entrepreneur, keeping her father's legacy, and her vision for the future of Polaris Creatives.


Samantha's entrepreneurial journey began in the small town of Truckee, California, with a box of cookies and a

Girl Scout uniform. "The challenge was more than just selling cookies; it was about finding the perfect spot, mastering the art of persuasion, and the courage to ask for the sale,” she recalls.

The early experience taught her the importance of strategy, persuasion, and resilience. Moreover, her mother encouraged her to embrace her outgoing nature and see every 'no' from a customer as a step closer to a 'yes'. “Her belief in me taught me the value of independence and the power of believing in oneself from a very young age,” she shares.

These formative years laid the foundation for Samantha's approach to business. She reflects, "This slice of my childhood not only taught me the basics of sales but also instilled in me the importance of authenticity and personal connection in business.”



Samantha McGinley's journey into the world of marketing and branding was not a chance encounter but a deliberate path shaped by a mentor who epitomized leadership and inspiration in the industry.

“She was the VP of Marketing and Communications at Rodan and Fields during my college years, and her influence on my career trajectory has been profound.”

Through her captivating stories of travel, team building, and transformative leadership, her mentor helped Samantha discover her true passion in marketing.

Her mentor's passion for marketing coupled with her innate ability to weave compelling narratives around brands was captivating. She wasn't just promoting products; she was telling stories that resonated with people, creating connections that went beyond the superficial.

This approach to marketing, one that prioritized genuine engagement and storytelling, struck a chord with Samantha. “It led me to switch my major from business to communications, a decision that set the foundation for my future endeavors.”

Motivated by her mentor's example, Samantha pursued an MBA to deepen her understanding of business and leadership, with the aim of emulating her holistic approach to marketing and communications.

Her mentorship was more than just a guidance for Samantha; it was a beacon that highlighted the immense potential of the field in shaping perceptions and fostering community building. It inspired Samantha to view marketing not merely as a career path but as a platform for authentic connection and growth, a perspective that continues to drive her success in the field.

“The essence of entrepreneurship is not just about building a business but about forging a path that reflects your deepest values and aspirations.” “


Talking about starting her company Polaris Creatives, Samantha passionately shares “The inspiration to start Polaris Creatives was not born from a single source but from a constellation of experiences and influences in my life, most notably, my father.”

Observing her father's journey from being a CEO to an entrepreneur in the furniture sales industry provided Samantha with invaluable lessons in passion, perseverance, and the essence of entrepreneurship. His innate ability to navigate the complexities of business, making every decision and taking every risk with a natural flair, left an indelible mark on her.

While her father hoped for Samantha to follow in his footsteps within the furniture industry, her individual passion and experiences steered her towards a different path - branding and marketing. However, the entrepreneurial spirit he exemplified remained a guiding force, thus propelling her to establish Polaris Creatives.

“Our shared moments, especially those spent under the night sky, telescope in hand, exploring constellations and discussing the stars, left a profound impact on me.”

In many ways, the company stands as a homage to her father, who passed away in 2021, encapsulating the shared moments and lessons learned under the starry night sky.

The name "Polaris Creatives" itself is a testament to this legacy, symbolizing guidance, direction, and the illumination of one's path, much like Polaris, the North Star, has guided navigators throughout history. For Samantha, starting Polaris Creatives was more than just a business endeavor; it was a personal commitment to honoring her father's legacy and embracing the entrepreneurial spirit he embodied.

Through Polaris Creatives, Samantha aims to provide guidance and support to small businesses and entrepreneurs, navigating

them through the often-daunting world of marketing.


At Polaris Creatives, Samantha has developed a suite of services designed to help small businesses and entrepreneurs find and amplify their unique voices.

Her personalized and hands-on methodology ensures that every strategy and solution is tailored to the individual needs of her clients, making their brand stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Samantha offers transformative coaching packages: the 30-day "Brand Clarity Kickstart," the 60-day "Social Strategy Accelerator," and the 90-day "Total Brand Transformation," each designed to enhance brand identity and digital presence. She also provides in-person team training for consistent brand messaging and social media strategy.

Exclusively for Exeleon readers, Samantha reveals upcoming social media courses on April 15th, focused on social media growth, digital storytelling, and audience engagement, further enriching her suite of brand elevation tools.

She points out “Beyond these, I focus on what I call the Five Pillars: crafting a unique value proposition or offer statement, developing a memorable brand, mastering engaging content, strategizing monetization, and customizing marketing plans for maximum impact.”

Central to Samantha's method is the importance of building trust and understanding the client's story. Whether working on a personal brand or a business brand, her goal is to ultimately guide her clients in a way that their brand not only stands out but also truly reflects their essence and aspirations.

For Samantha, “Marketing is more than just a



Reflecting on her journey thus far, Samantha shares some of the most valuable lessons she has learned as an entrepreneur in building and growing Polaris:

Embracing Authenticity:

Being true to oneself has been a gamechanger. Authenticity has allowed for deeper connections with clients, creating a foundation of trust and understanding.

Taking Full Accountability:

Realizing that change, growth, and progress rest solely on her shoulders. Being an entrepreneur means taking full responsibility for every action and inaction.

· Link Between Personal and Business Brands:

Discovering the intrinsic link between personal and business brands. The synergy between the two is crucial for genuine engagement and long-term growth.

Surrounding Yourself with Positive Influences:

Being in the company of individuals who are not only successful but also share a positive and transformative mindset has been instrumental in elevating her thinking and aspirations. These lessons form the cornerstone of Samantha's entrepreneurial philosophy and guide her in every decision she makes. They remind her that entrepreneurship is not just about building a business, but about forging a path that reflects her deepest values and aspirations.


set of tactics; it's about making meaningful connections and driving success together.”


Looking ahead, Samantha plans to expand Polaris Creatives by fostering a community of entrepreneurs eager to master the art of branding and marketing.

As "Sam the Branding Coach," she is committed to empowering small business owners and entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools they need to authentically articulate their brand's essence and connect meaningfully with their audience.

One of the common challenges Samantha has identified among entrepreneurs is developing a robust brand, messaging, and marketing strategy. Often, entrepreneurs tend to outsource this critical aspect without fully understanding or owning the process, leading to a disconnect between the business's core values and how it's perceived by clients and customers.

“To bridge this gap, my focus is to shift towards creating comprehensive mastermind groups, engaging courses, and

community-driven initiatives designed to demystify the branding and marketing process” she explains.

These resources aim to equip entrepreneurs with the ability to craft compelling content, tell their unique stories, and present their brands with authenticity and confidence.

By fostering a supportive environment that encourages learning and collaboration, Samantha envisions Polaris Creatives becoming a catalyst for transformation. Entrepreneurs will not only learn to develop effective marketing plans but also gain the insights needed to implement them personally, ensuring their brand resonates with their target audience and stands out among competitors.

Samantha's vision for the future is centered on nurturing a team that values individual strengths and perspectives. She believes that "the ultimate measure of success is not in individual achievements but in the collective impact we make." This philosophy guides her leadership style, ensuring that as Polaris Creatives grows, it does so with depth and meaning, lifting everyone involved.



One Book Entrepreneurs must read – I personally would say “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, or any of Alex Hormozi's books. Challenge your original thoughts of money. And with Alex Hormozianything from him is game changing.

One Productivity Tool / App that you use – I LOVE the pomodoro timer - I use pomofocus.io as something to have on my computer when I'm working because time blocks have helped significantly when focusing on tasks.

One Quote that Motivates you the most – “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.

So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future” - Steve Jobs

This quote seems cliche maybe… but it's funny, whenever something crucial happens in my life, or a major life change, I have heard this quote.

One Advice for Women

Entrepreneurs – Put yourself front and center. Embrace being the visible heart and soul of your brand. Expanding your business requires visibility and presence, so step into the spotlight. I get it, at first, I didn't want to either - take the leap! Trust me - making that bold move is genuinely transformative.

One Marketing Tip that you Follow – Share your journey—focus on the 'why' behind your venture. Why did you start your business? Why did you become an entrepreneur? Remember, your narrative is powerful, and it's possible to share it selectively without revealing it all. Your audience craves authenticity and connection; they're eager to discover the person behind the brand.






The Importance of Mentorship for Female Leaders

IIn today’s dynamic and complex professional landscape, mentorship shines as an inspiration, guiding individuals toward success and nurturing their growth. It also gives them a competitive advantage if pursued strategically. Amidst the intricacies of modern workplaces, mentorship isn't just advantageous; it's essential, especially for female leaders breaking barriers and challenging societal norms.

As the Founder and CEO of Begin Development, I've personally witnessed the profound impact of mentorship on female leaders' journeys. I've built mentorship programs at multiple organizations because I believe in and see firsthand the impact on junior and mid-career employees. Transitioning from a contributor to establishing my own women-led firm, I'm committed to cultivating a thriving career in people development for myself and others. Mentors and mentorship communities have played an

invaluable role in this success.


One of the primary functions of mentorship is to create growth opportunities through guidance and wisdom. Female leaders face complex challenges in the workplace, ranging from gender bias, work-life balance, mental load, and lack of representation.

A mentor can serve as a guide, offering support and perspective during crucial times. At one point in my career, I was a prime candidate to leave the workforce due to my age, gender, and newly added children. My insightful male boss allowed me to have a flexible schedule and work from home as a working mother. When he retired, the company no longer allowed this policy. Though, I didn't want to leave, I changed my trajectory to move on because it was difficult to imagine being the kind of mom I wanted to be with the commute, travel, and long hours.

This led me to start my own company, Begin Development. I had a key female mentor at that pivotal moment that encouraged and enforced me to make that leap of faith.

Moments like these illustrate the possibilities when women have great mentors by our side versus when the corporate structures continue to promote gender inequality within the workplace.

Even as I started on my entrepreneurial journey, I continued to utilize the power of mentorship. I was able to navigate the obstacles of entrepreneurship more effectively and develop the confidence to pursue my ambitions as a Founder.

With effective mentorship, women can continue to thrive and grow, progressing on the same earning potential path as others while also providing a space to champion other women in the workplace.



In male-dominated industries, breaking barriers and stereotypes is an ongoing battle for female leaders or women working their way up the leadership ladder. Mentorship provides a platform to challenge the norms and carve out a space for women at the table.

By connecting with mentors with challenges like mine, I've been exposed to a wide range of expertise. show that Studies mentorship increases confidence levels among female mentees, helping them navigate challenges with resilience and self-assurance.

According to two studies by the Harvard Business Review, employees with mentors are more likely to receive promotions and salary increases compared to those without mentors.

Around 71% of executives choose to mentor employees of the same gender or race. Therefore, mentorship, selfawareness, confidence, and positive self-talk foster a culture of inclusivity and diversity, further helping pave the way for greater representation of women in leadership roles.


As female leaders progress in their careers, we must pay it forward and mentor the next generation of aspiring leaders. A study by Catalyst found that female employees with female role models were likelier to aspire to leadership positions and stay in them. Mentorship creates a ripple effect, catalyzing positive change within organizations and communities. By serving as mentors, we as women can empower others to reach their full potential.

About the Author

Malika Begin is a people and organization development leader and the founder of Begin Development—a business consulting firm that works with companies to build strong, healthy cultures. Built over a decade of experience in the people development space, Malika's signature style and dedication to team health are powered by her belief that leaders who invest in their employees, excel in conflict and


United, women, and men can dismantle outdated norms and relentlessly pursue the obliteration of glass ceilings hindering women in the workplace. With more advocating for better systems and flexible ways of working, we create more opportunities for talent, especially women.

Mentorship emerges as a formidable instrument to chart our course forward. It transcends mere ascent to leadership; it embodies the ethos of uplifting others on our journey. The time has come to embrace mentorship as an indispensable cornerstone for cultivating the future generation of women leaders, paving the way for a more radiant, inclusive tomorrow for everyone.

communication skills, and foster collaborative teams are the biggest asset to a successful organization.

Malika's work spans that of startups and brands in tech, media, marketing, and entertainment, and her client set includes a breadth of companies from Magnite, BOND, and CreatorIQ to SKIMs and Good American, and even Delta Airlines and YPO.



Jennifer Messer's life pivots on a poignant memory from her teenage years: the sudden and shocking death of her father from a heart attack at just thirty-nine. With a cloud of questions enveloping her - 'Why did this happen? Would her genetic legacy seal a similar fate for her?' - Jennifer's quest for answers unraveled a complex web of factors influencing cardiovascular health.

What began as personal introspection rapidly transformed into a crusade for holistic well-being. One profound moment of self-realization, upon seeing a photograph of herself on the brink of following her father's ill-fated footsteps, marked the start of her transformative journey. Tipping the scale at her heaviest and engulfed by fatigue, she resolved to rewrite her health narrative, not just for herself but for her family. From thereon, Jennifer's life intertwined with the mission of fostering a health-centric environment for her loved ones.

As a registered and listened dietician and expert nutritionist, Jennifer's vision today echoes her relentless spirit and hard-

earned wisdom: optimal health is achievable, and the transformative power of a healthful lifestyle is irrefutable.

In this Interview with Exeleon Women, Jennifer Messer shares about her journey, her fitness ideology, and her vision going forward.


My philosophy embraces a holistic approach to health and fitness for women, recognizing the interconnected dimensions of physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. I prioritize physical activity and nutrition in my professional practice, viewing them as two pillars with far-reaching impacts. This symbiotic relationship between mental and physical wellness is at the heart of my approach. Balance is essential in my philosophy, as extremes hinder long-term success and overall health. I uphold evidence-based practices, rooted in scientific rigor, ensuring that my strategies are wellfounded and current. Individuality is


essential, and I customize and tailor my approach to my client's unique needs, preferences, and circumstances.

My philosophy is firmly rooted in the belief that women should view their well-being as an essential aspect of self-care that is non-negotiable. Allocating time for the preparation of nourishing meals and engaging in daily physical activity isn't an act of selfishness. On the contrary, it's a profound commitment to becoming the optimal version of yourself, ultimately benefiting not just you but also your entire

network of relationships – from spouses and children to family, friends, and colleagues.

By prioritizing these self-care practices, women empower themselves to operate from a position of strength, both physically and mentally. When your own health is nurtured, it reverberates positively throughout your daily interactions and responsibilities, allowing for a more vibrant and engaged presence in all aspects of your life.



From my earliest days, I was surrounded by the exuberance of my three brothers. This nurtured my love of fitness, which took root in outdoor exploits—scaling trees, catching frogs, and pedaling my bike through our neighborhood. When the time came to embark on the organized path of fitness, tap dance, gymnastics, and ice skating were my introduction. But baseball was my true passion. In Little League, I clinched the title of MVP, awakening my competitive fire. I grew to understand that in movement I experienced true joy.


My journey into health and nutrition has been a lifelong one that began with a personal tragedy. When I was young, my father passed away from cardiovascular disease at the age of 39. This experience shaped my identity and filled me with resilience and but also a strong curiosity for the role of genetics and lifestyle in chronic disease.

As a young mother, I saw a candid snapshot of myself and realized that I was standing at the edge of the same fate that had befallen my father. I was overweight, exhausted, and unhealthy. This reflection of reality motivated me to make a change.

Determined to be a role model for my daughters, I made gradual, sustainable changes to my nutrition and resurrected my love for fitness and sports. I went on to shed more than sixty-five pounds and markedly improved my health.

This pledge to my health and well-being marked my entry into the health and

nutrition field. I was then prompted to return to school to become a dietitian and then completed a master's degree in exercise science strength and conditioning. Now, fueled with knowledge, I am compelled to help other families avoid the devastating effects of losing a loved one prematurely and help people live full and active lives.


One of the most important underpinnings of the work I do with my clients is to first work with them to identify the 'why' behind their desire to embark on a health journey. This is a critical first step in laying the groundwork for success in any health journey. It is their reason for making changes, and it will help them stay motivated when things get tough. When clients understand their "why," they are more likely to make choices that are aligned with their goals.

Another crucial aspect of helping clients succeed is providing them with accurate information that clears up any misunderstandings or confusion about diet and exercise. This field can be overwhelming, particularly with so many unsubstantiated online resources, but relying on scientific research is the key to finding reliable answers that can be put into practice and get clients the results they dream about achieving.

Creating a safe space for open dialogue is essential in building a healthy client-coach relationship. Encouraging clients to openly discuss their issues, progress, and roadblocks helps me identify obstacles and work closely with them to develop strategies for effective navigation.


Extrinsic accountability is often necessary for clients in the early stages of their journey. By providing structured support and consistent accountability, I aim to encourage the development of intrinsic motivation within my clients, driving them toward their health and fitness goals. Ultimately my goal is for clients to outgrow the need for my services.



Embarking on a healthier lifestyle is always a good decision, no matter what your age. It's important to seek support and not be afraid to ask for help. As a woman who grew up in a predominantly male household, I believed that selfreliance was the key to resilience. However, during my own health transformation, I learned that seeking professional help and support from others is a sign of strength and wisdom. Luckily, many insurance plans cover the services of registered dietitians, who can provide excellent nutrition guidance for those on their wellness journey. If you need help getting started with strength training, consider seeking advice from a personal trainer - I know of a good one if you need a referral! Let your family and friends know you need their support and consider finding others with similar goals. A group with a common goal

provides support, motivation, and accountability, which can help you stay on track and achieve your vision for optimal health.

It's important to celebrate every accomplishment, regardless of how small it may seem. Whether you've cooked a healthy meal or gone to the gym after a long day at work, each victory deserves recognition. These small celebrations build momentum, and what was once overwhelming gradually becomes a habit that you eagerly anticipate.

Lastly, remember to take things one step at a time. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of achieving your goals quickly, but focusing on sustainable changes that you can maintain for the long haul is essential. Don't overwhelm yourself with too much too soon. Start with small changes that you can stick with and gradually make more changes as you become more comfortable. Achieving your vision for health is a journey toward a complete lifestyle overhaul that requires patience, determination, and self-love.



I am bursting with excitement about the future! I am passionate about health and wellness, and I am always looking for new ways to

improve my own health and the health of others. I have recently taken a deep interest in the study of health span and the science of staying young, both physically and mentally. I believe that this is the key to truly enjoying life to the fullest.

Professionally, I am thrilled to have recently kicked off a new venture in partnership with my daughter Lauren. We are combining our expertise to support people in achieving optimal health goals through balanced nutrition and effective physical activity. Interestingly, this venture is part of my personal pursuit too; seeing my daughter grow as a female strength coach in the fitness industry brings me immense joy and pride.

I believe that Lauren and I can make a real difference in the world by helping people live healthier, happier lives. We are both committed to this work, and I am excited to see what we can achieve together. My future promises a coming together of personal joy, professional growth, shared purpose, and the power of making a difference in people's lives. I am eager for the exciting times that lie ahead.


What You Don’t Know About Women

Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries

omen's History Month ushers' women across the globe into the limelight and advocates for women's equality. Yet, we're overlooking millions of women as if they were invisible: female entrepreneurs in developing countries . They are unseen and unheard outside the international aid community, but they are a quiet, hardworking, and productive force.

WI've come to know their stories and sorrows, struggles and successes. I'm a business coach for entrepreneurs in emerging economies, and before I discovered this calling, I never knew it was a thing. I'd spent the bulk of my career in the corporate world, wanting to give back to society but not knowing how. Over time I realized that I'd accumulated a measure of business experience, and I could either die with it in my head or share it with those who would most benefit from it.

Eventually, I found my way into international development, supporting microenterprises in low-income countries. I saw a key success factor being overlooked: while

small business owners were provided technical support and sometimes financing, they were not being taught day-to-day business management or planning. So I stepped in to fill the gap.

I love this work because it takes so little to make a massive difference in people's businesses--and lives. And I love entrepreneurs because they are like sponges, eager to absorb everything they possibly can, and grateful for the help. They are exceedingly strong and resilient, and they don't realize it. They are my heroes.


When you think of entrepreneurship in poor countries you might envision a woman selling crafts or vegetables in a local market. Of course there's that—a lot of it. However, entrepreneurs fall along a continuum, from low-income solopreneurs to small established businesses to hightech innovators seeking global venture capital. All are found in the developing world, but here I focus on those I work with, microenterprises with 1-10 employees.


While we in the West tend to glorify entrepreneurship (especially startups) it's just the opposite in many poor countries. Steady wage-paying full-time jobs are rare and prestigious. Since there are few jobs available even for the educated, the only way to make a living is to figure out how to sell something. Such business owners are called “entrepreneurs of necessity.”

I work with both male and female entrepreneurs, and many of the problems they face traverse gender. If you think entrepreneurship is hard, try doing it in a developing country. They deal with innumerable

annoying obstacles that shouldn't be issues, like lack of (or intermittent) electricity or clean running water. If they are fortunate enough to have access, it's expensive. Every day they cope with poor infrastructure, extremely limited resources, little or no access to capital, unpaved roads, expensive distribution, old equipment that constantly needs repair, and unreliable suppliers and labor. It's lonely at the bottom.

Underlying all this is the most insidious problem of all: they most simply don't know how to manage a business, however small. How could they? There

are no Small Business Administrations that give free assistance and advice. Unstable, under-resourced governments burden businesses with regulations and red tape and thwart businessenabling environments. Aid agencies, NGOs, and social businesses do provide financial/resource aid and technical training, but there's just not enough to go around.


Some time ago the international donor community figured out that when they enable women, they enable entire communities. Turns out that there's a


multiplier effect for resources spent supporting them. When women acquire skills and develop incomes, they use a greater portion of that money for their families and communities than men do. That means better education and health for children, as well as poverty reduction. With that kind of ROI, aid has focused on supporting women in many ways, including business.

With the resulting attention on women, I've had the opportunity to work with both individual female business owners and women's groups. I enjoy both. I marvel at how women seem to come together naturally to support each other, especially in difficult circumstances.

I vividly remember a group I worked with in rural Kenya, where the women took it upon themselves to improve their community after a boy was found dead in an open sewer pit. They began reporting open sewers to the health department, and with that success, initiated all sorts of activities. Projects included sanitation improvement, protecting the local river, advocating for children's' rights, promoting local droughtresistant crops, assistance for young parents on family, maternal and child issues, gender sensitization, trainings in adjacent communities, and helping women generate sustainable incomes.

I was equally impressed by their

business smarts: they acquired some grant funds, and instead of simply dividing the money among the members they chose to create a small enterprise to generate ongoing income for all.


There has been significant progress for working women and women's rights over the past 50 years. World Bank data indicates that in most countries, women can now sign contracts, open bank accounts, and register businesses, although access to credit is still a problem.

Still, women face obstacles that men do not. Some are cultural and others are simply discriminatory, but either way, women are systematically excluded from economic opportunities, and it prevents them from developing their businesses.

The uneven playing field starts in the playground: girls have less access to education than boys. When they marry their needs can be subordinated. If a woman does manage to create a small business, she adds that on top of her responsibilities for child-rearing and running the home.

It can be difficult for businesswomen to access much-needed credit in the developing world, which is interesting since women are far

less likely than men to default on loans. A by the report Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) states that “Seventy percent of formal women owned SMEs in developing countries are either shut out of financial institutions or can't get the capital they need.” That makes women's businesses smaller, less profitable, and slower growing than their male counterparts. Understandably, they tend to be more concerned with business survival rather than growth.

Legally women are routinely discriminated against in family, land rights, and labor laws. These regulations can be worse for women entrepreneurs than the business laws: they determine whether women can make independent economic decisions, enter contracts, or own, manage, or inherit assets and property. Loans, for example, usually require collateral. Because men can own land and other assets and women often can't, they are immediately excluded from opportunities to borrow.

Other factors play a role, too. Women frequently lack the business networks, contacts, and access to markets to build successful businesses. They open businesses without management skills, education, training, or experience.


Despite the uphill battle, I have high hopes for women


entrepreneurs in developing nations. They are both determined and undeterred. If we arm them with skills, encouragement, and funding they have a fighting chance. They deserve not just support, but admiration.

It's important to note that developing-country entrepreneurs need the right form of assistance for their businesses to thrive. I find they do best when they learn key concepts in the context of their own businesses rather than large scale, one-off generalized training; it's difficult for them to go home and apply what they learn after a workshop. That's why I prefer one-one or small group coaching, which enables me to learn the ins and outs of each business and provide the handholding and encouragement they need to develop self-confidence and achieve profitability.

If you are part of a business with a social mission, CSR program or ESG mandate consider lending some brain trust, financing, or mentorship to developing-country women entrepreneurs. Your know-how can make a big difference with even a small investment.


Donna Rosa is Founder and Chief Entrepreneurship Officer of EFour Enterprises LLC. EFour stands for Empowering Entrepreneurs in Emerging Economies, providing remote

business coaching tailored to the special needs of entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Donna spent most of her career in the food industry. She eventually transitioned into international development, working with microenterprises and small businesses to reduce poverty in Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Central America, the Middle East, and Russia.

In addition to her work with entrepreneurs, Donna is heavily involved in improving global food security. She founded and manages the Food Science for Relief and Development (FSRD) program under the International Division of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). In 2023, Donna was the recipient of IFT's

Humanitarian Award for Service to the Science of Food in honor of Elizabeth Fleming Stier. She has also written a book chapter on careers in this emerging field.

Donna currently mentors' women entrepreneurs in Africa under the FAO-IAFN Women SMEs Accelerator Program and serves on several nonprofit boards related to international development.

For more information on Donna and her work visit www.efourenterprises.com and www.donnamrosa.com, or connect with her at Donna Rosa | LinkedIn



Bridging the Gap between Health and Nutrition


With the simple yet effective idea of filling the nutritional gaps in our diet, Durana Elmi along with her husband Shahab Elmi created Cymbiotika.

By combining scientific innovation with traditional Eastern medicine, Cymbiotika offers a line of supplements that improves our overall wellbeing and enables us to choose a healthier and sustainable alternative for our body.

According to Durana, the Cymbiotika products are sourced from only the highest quality plant-based ingredients and utilize the most advanced absorption technology. In this Interview with Exeleon Women Magazine, she talks about the pain point that led to the start of Cymbiotika, her vision, and her fitness ideologies.

How would you describe your philosophy on health and fitness?

For me, health and fitness serve as the very core of how we navigate our lives. They're not isolated aspects but rather the driving forces behind everything we do. When you prioritize your health and maintain your fitness, you're essentially equipping yourself with the energy, clarity, and resilience needed to tackle each day with confidence and purpose. It's a holistic approach that encompasses physical vitality, mental wellbeing, and the determination to overcome challenges.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader / entrepreneur that you can remember?

My journey as a leader and entrepreneur traces back to my childhood. I have fond memories of forming clubs with my friends and naturally taking on leadership roles within them. This early inclination towards guiding, supporting, and inspiring others planted the seeds of leadership in me. As I reflect on those moments, I realize that even then, I found fulfillment in being someone who could rally others towards a common goal. It's these foundational experiences that eventually led me on the path of leadership and entrepreneurship.

My entrepreneurial journey began when we (my husband Shahab Elmi & I) owned our first Cricket Wireless store – it was then that I realized I loved the notion of being my own boss and owning my own time.

What was the pain point that led to the start of Cymbiotika? What was the idea behind its name?

Cymbiotika was conceived out of a significant pain point that emerged during our personal health journeys. Through our experiences, my husband Shahab Elmi and I realized that there was a notable lack of transparency within the wellness industry, especially when we started to consider what we were giving to our young daughters. This


gap left many people unsure about the quality and efficacy of the health products they were using. The inception of Cymbiotika was driven by a shared desire to bridge this gap and provide people with transparent products they could truly trust.

As for the name "Cymbiotika," it's a reflection of the harmonious relationship we aim to create between our bodies and the products we offer. The name encapsulates the idea of symbiosis – a mutually beneficial interaction between us and nature. It signifies the balance we strive for, where our products nourish and support the body, enabling individuals to thrive in synergy with their surroundings.

What approach do you follow in maintaining your own fitness level? What does a typical day look like in the life of Durana Elmi?

Maintaining my fitness level is a key priority for me. I kickstart my mornings with a 30-minute highintensity interval training (HIIT) workout. This sets a positive tone for the day, both physically and mentally. Additionally, I engage in tennis sessions three days a week in the evenings, which adds a fun and dynamic element to my fitness routine.

But fitness isn't the sole focus. I believe that nourishing my body is just as important. I make conscious choices when it comes to my diet, ensuring that the foods I consume provide the right fuel for my body to thrive. This dedication to fitness and health is integral to my daily routine, as it empowers me to approach each day with vitality and enthusiasm.

What would be your advice for someone just starting to lead a healthier lifestyle and incorporate fitness?

To anyone embarking on the journey of adopting a healthier lifestyle, I would offer this advice: Approach it as an act of self-love. It's important to

remember that every step you take towards better health is a testament to your commitment to yourself. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the process, focus on taking small, intentional actions each day. Consider it a journey of owning your day with purpose – one day at a time. By making gradual improvements and celebrating each milestone, you're cultivating a positive relationship with your well-being.

Moving forward, what does the future hold for you and Cymbiotika? What are you most excited about?

Looking ahead, I'm incredibly excited about the future of Cymbiotika. Internally, I'm eager to nurture the growth of our team and foster the development of emerging leaders within our organization. It's a privilege to watch our team members flourish and contribute to our shared vision.

Externally, I'm particularly enthusiastic about the expansion of Cymbiotika's offerings. We're venturing into areas such as homecare, pet products, and even a children's line. These endeavors allow us to extend our mission of holistic well-being to various aspects of life. Witnessing the positive impact Cymbiotika can have on individuals, families, and even pets fill me with a sense of purpose and excitement for what's to come.


The Secrets Behind

Writing a Bestseller

Learn the proven strategies and secrets of successful authors as of Paper Raven Books shares the path Morgan Gist MacDonald to writing bestselling books.

From studying sociology to becoming an author to now launching over 100s of books through your publishing company. What has been this journey like for you?

Growing a service-based business in an industry that is changing rapidly has challenged me to create entirely new best practices and success paths for my authors, from the ground up.

20 years ago, there was no such thing as a book coach. If you pitched an idea for a book to a traditional publisher and were accepted, you'd work with the publisher's acquisition editor while you were writing your book.

Once people were able to selfpublish, though, they still needed that help in developing a manuscript, so they started looking for professionals who could help with actually structuring and writing a book. When I started, that's exactly

what I was doing, helping people to organize, write, and develop the content of their books.

Then, my clients started asking me to help them publish their books. I knew how to write a book and how to edit a book, but I really didn't know anything about publishing and marketing. So, I wrote my own book and went through the self-publishing process, tried dozens of different approaches to marketing, and I optimized the process as I went along.

Now, I've developed best practices and systems and grown a team of editors, designers, formatters, marketers, and project managers, who all work together on the 50+ books a year we launch at Paper Raven Books. And with every single book we launch, we look at what's changing in the industry, what are still best practices, and what pieces can be optimized to create even better sales, rankings, and reviews for our authors' books.


Writing a book can be a daunting task and extremely overwhelming. Talk to us about your own experience writing your first book.

When I started writing my own book, I'd recently had my third baby, so I was typically awake for a 4 am feeding. I would stay up and write from about 5am to 6am, when my other two children would wake up and be ready to start the day. I spent a couple of weeks just developing the structure of the book, and then I wrote the first draft in those quiet early mornings for about two months.

Fortunately, I had worked with enough clients through writing their books that I felt fairly confident that if I could get something like 30 or 40 hours of writing time in, that would be enough to develop a solid first draft, that I could then revise and publish.

For most of the writers my team and I work with, if we can help them create a structure in the beginning, and then optimize each writing session, something like 40 hours to 80 hours of writing time is enough to write a first draft that would then go through a few rounds of revisions before being ready to publish.

As a first-time author, how can one gain visibility and attract media attention to boost their overall sales?

The place where most readers discover new books is the Amazon bookstore, so we

recommend that first-time authors focus on optimizing the book's sales page on Amazon. Choose a launch week, where you're going to put the ebook on promotion (free or $.99), and gather a launch team of 50 people who are going to download that ebook and leave a review during your selected launch week.

We also recommend reaching out to book promotion sites (like cravebooks.com) to let their lists of readers know about the new book that's running an ebook promotion.

When you can stack a couple hundred sales or downloads of an ebook in a short amount of time, it'll pop the title to the top of the category, which will increase the visibility of the book. Now, you'll want to select your book's categories carefully. In the Amazon bookstore, ebooks may select 10 categories, so we recommend first-time authors find very niche categories that are nested inside of larger, relevant categories.

For instance, if you're writing a book on leadership, you could launch the book in the very large, highly competitive category of “Business & Money.”

The problem is that if your book is not doing well, relative to the other books in that category, you'll fall in the rankings, and Amazon's algorithm will push your book to the bottom of the category.

However, if you launch your book in a smaller category that's nested inside of Business &

Money, you'll have a better shot of doing well, relative to the books that are specifically categorized there. So, if you could choose this category: Business & Money > Entrepreneurship & Small Business > Entrepreneurship.

Your book is then launched inside of the smaller category, “Entrepreneurship,” which only requires 91 downloads or sales to become a #1. Now, hitting #1 in a category is fun, and, more importantly, it triggers the Amazon bookstore algorithm to show your book widely in the next category up, in this case, “Entrepreneurship & Small Business.”

With this type of strategy, you're triggering the Amazon algorithm to show the book more widely in increasingly more competitive categories, so you can get visibility for your book in those larger categories.

Once your book has at least a thousand downloads or sales, a few #1 rankings, and 50+ reviews, now any additional promotion you do for the book is more likely to be effective. Most people who find your book online or hears about your book on a podcast will look at the Amazon sales page before they buy, so we want to make sure that sales page is a highconverting sales page that's stacked with sales, #1 rankings, and great reviews.

What according to you are the three biggest mistakes authors make that impact their longterm sales and visibility?


First, authors tend to forget to think about how readers actually buy a new book. These days, most readers are going to the Amazon bookstore to buy books. More than 70% of books (eBooks, physical books, audio books) are bought through the Amazon bookstore.

When authors are developing a book idea, they tend to go into what I would call an “untested market,” meaning they haven't identified what readers are searching for in a book like this. Reader's search patterns are especially important. For instance, when readers go to the Amazon bookstore and search for a book, are they really typing in something like “business book?” Or are they typing in something that's a little more specific to their situation, like “business lessons about failure.” Turns out, when you do the research into keywords, “business lessons about failure” is searched approximately 1,214 times per month, currently, with only 84 other books listed with that keyword phrase. One of the tools we use to do this is Publisher Rocket, and there are other tools, too.

In the context of bringing a new book to market, what this means is that if you tag your book with the keyword “business lessons about failure,” the book will be served as a search result to


FemaleEntrepreneurs ChangingtheGame


Amid the cacophony of the business world's hustle and bustle, a silent revolution brews – one led by female entrepreneurs who are not just participating in the game but are fundamentally altering its dynamics. This transformation goes beyond mere numbers; it's about the qualitative shift in outlook, approach, and impact that women are bringing to the entrepreneurial landscape.


At the heart of this revolution lie women who are not just breaking into tech but are reshaping its frontiers.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning : In the innovative sphere of AI voice cloning, female entrepreneurs are leading by example. For instance, Sarah, a fictitious but representative entrepreneur, has developed cutting-edge AI voice cloning software, augmented by AI video technology, tailored for educational content.

This software allows educators globally to create personalized lesson plans spoken in their voice, scaling individualized learning opportunities without compromising the personal touch. Sarah's initiative is revolutionizing how educational content is delivered and experienced, showcasing the transformative power of women in tech. Another example is Fei-Fei Li, co-director of Stanford University's Human-Centered AI Institute, who is leading critical advancements in AI, emphasizing ethical implications and humane applications.


Cybersecurity : Trailblazers such as Katie Moussouris, Founder of Luta Security, specializing in vulnerability coordination and bug bounty programs, are not only securing the digital realm but also ensuring inclusivity and diversity within it.

Video Editing and Production : A real-life example from the realm of digital video production is Nancy Abraham, co-head of HBO's Documentary and Family Programming. Throughout her illustrious career, Nancy has been pivotal in producing and releasing critically acclaimed documentaries that use tech innovations in video production and editing to their maximum potential. Her transformative work exemplifies a harmonious blend of storytelling and technical brilliance, demonstrating the essential role female leaders play in the ever-evolving landscape of video content.


The funding terrain, once tough terrain for female-led ventures, is witnessing a paradigm shift, thanks to both the emergence of womencentric venture funds and the increasing acknowledgment of the value driven by women entrepreneurs.


Ÿ BBG Ventures : An earlystage fund focused on consumer internet and mobile startups with at least one female founder.

Ÿ Female Founders Fund (F3) : Investing in female-led technology companies, F3 is reshaping how investor's view gender diversity in startups.


Female entrepreneurs are at the forefront of intertwining profitability with purpose, emphasizing sustainable practices and social impact as core business strategies.

Ÿ Eco-Friendly Fashion : Stella McCartney has been a pioneer in sustainable luxury fashion, championing eco-friendly practices long before they became a trend.

Ÿ Social Impact Ventures : Jessica O. Matthews, the founder of Uncharted Power, which harnesses kinetic energy for clean, consistent power access in underserved communities worldwide.



At the core of the silent revolution sweeping through the entrepreneurial landscape, lies a deep-seated commitment to cultivating collaborative, rather than purely competitive, ecosystems. This paradigm shift is about creating and nurturing spaces where women can thrive together — breaking away from the traditional cutthroat business cultures that have often marginalized or ignored female achievement and potential. These collaborative environments are fertile grounds for innovation, empowerment, and sustainable growth, embodying the very essence of what this revolution is about inclusivity, mutual support, and shared success.


In pursuit of these ideals, dynamic forums and networking groups have emerged, designed to connect, support, and elevate female entrepreneurs. These platforms provide invaluable opportunities for learning, mentorship, and collaboration, fostering a sense of community and belonging among women navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship. They are not just spaces for transactional


interactions but are built on the principles of empathy, advocacy, and genuine support.

SheEO : Standing out as a beacon of collective empowerment, SheEO represents a global community steadfast in supporting, financing, and celebrating female entrepreneurs. It operates on a revolutionary “radical generosity” model, where contributors, referred to as “Activators”, pool their resources to fund and support women-led ventures. Beyond financial assistance, SheEO offers mentorship, networking connections, and strategic advice, creating a robust ecosystem where female entrepreneurs can flourish.

Lean In Circles : Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In movement, Lean In Circles are intimate groups that meet regularly to foster encouragement and support among women at various stages of their professional and entrepreneurial journeys. These circles operate on the principles of confidentiality and trust, providing a safe space for sharing experiences, challenges, and triumphs. The unique structure of Lean In Circles emphasizes peer mentorship and accountability, ensuring members not only receive support but also give back by uplifting others within

the group.

These forums and groups are more than just meetings or social networks; they are transformative communities that inspire women to dream bigger, persevere through challenges, and succeed together. By prioritizing collaboration over competition, these platforms are emblematic of a broader shift towards a more inclusive, supportive, and sustainable approach to entrepreneurship. They exemplify how collective action and shared vision can lead to meaningful change, not just for individual women but for the business ecosystem as a whole.


This revolution brings forth leaders who embody empathy, resilience, and a vision that extends beyond the bottom line, setting new precedents for what effective leadership looks like.

Ÿ Emotional Intelligence : More than ever, female leaders are leveraging emotional intelligence as a powerful tool for navigating the complexities of business and leadership.

Ÿ Inclusive Decision Making : Inclusion is not just a buzzword but a strategic approach that female

entrepreneurs are embedding into their leadership models, recognizing the value of diverse perspectives and experiences.


The narrative of the silent revolution is continuously being written by women who dare to dream, innovate, and challenge the status quo. Their journeys signify a departure from traditional pathways to success in entrepreneurship, embracing a holistic, inclusive, and sustainable approach to business. This revolution is not merely a trend but a sustainable movement towards a more equitable and progressive business world, signaling a promising future where the game is no longer the same because of the indelible mark left by female entrepreneurs.

In sum, the silent revolution is a testament to the power of female entrepreneurship not just in reshaping industries but in crafting a more inclusive, empathetic, and sustainable future for all. Through their innovative ventures, ethical leadership, and collaborative networks, these women are not just changing the game; they are setting the stage for a new era in business.


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