Michelle is an Alumna of The Coaching Fellowship and currently part of the Global Good Fund Fellowship. Her official role, however, is that of co-founder and CEO of IMPAQTO, a social enterprise accelerator and network of co-working spaces building an impact ecosystem in Quito, Ecuador.
“My role has been everything, from janitor to strategy. From marketing to social media, sales, customer service and cleaning the bathrooms – I have experienced every part of IMPAQTO. My current role, however, is closer to where I would love for it to be. As a CEO I have two business unit managers: my co-founder manages IMPAQTO Labs the impact business accelerator; and Carolina, who manages the network of four co-working sites. In my role, I remove obstacles for them and remain outward-looking. I manage our key partnerships, I am the face of the organization. We are starting to figure out how to carve out a niche for thought leadership for the executive team.”
How do you define success?
“Success would mean that in about five years IMPAQTO as an ecosystem-builder has proven itself as a viable and sustainable business. We have aspirations to have a regional reach — in a month we are opening our first site outside Quito — not because growth is required, but because we see IMPAQTO as a pivotal intervention in many emerging cities in Latin America. My goal is to see it grow without losing its essence which you feel in everything we do. We don’t have a lofty manifesto, it’s more like daily practice of hosting communities at the hyper-local level. We remain deeply local and human, we want members to feel like IMPAQTO is theirs, too.
There is something about the way we do things that is probably controversial. I have a nonprofit background and I left because I felt it was so slow moving.
I wanted to launch IMPAQTO as a business so we could be free to take prompt action and call the shots. We see an entire generation of change-makers desperately searching for their community and we have no time to waste.
So, our success has to do with asking less permission and acting instead. There are processes around broader community-building that we have learned not to take part in intentionally. We celebrate action over MoUs, which is probably counter-intuitive to the world of community-building and impact – but tangibility and results matter in a world of handshakes and photo-ops. We don’t celebrate processes. We celebrate progress and action.”
I sometimes feel like a German dropped in the middle of a salsa-dancing salon. My style is more direct and my conversations are focused on action.
“Early in the life of IMPAQTO we learned some key wisdom and now share it as advice for ecosystem-builders: weaving a community is not about filling your day with meetings with people who want to “collaborate” – true collaboration is about impactful results, and the road to success in building up ecosystems is paved with difficult conversations, saying “no” more often, and focus.”
Investing in your team
“We have a team-building fund to host weekend retreats every semester. They allow us to bond as a team and we do our best to include training components. At our last retreat, for example, we had a facilitator to teach us more about storytelling. At prior retreats we addressed topics like “Learning how to say No”, public speaking or copy-writing. Besides, we are always surrounded by free training by virtue of our programs.
I am competing for the best and brightest, I want to make sure I can offer them a great team experience and opportunities for growth.
Investing in yourself
“I have a hard rule that I have no meetings and don’t do work before 10 a.m. I roll into the office by 10 with my husband and the dogs. Between external meetings, short walk-and-talks with my team, we briefly check-in. My time in the office is reserved for my team and partners. At home, I do the deep thinking work. Depending on that part of my workload, it’s either 5, 6 or 8 p.m. before I finish for the day which I usually end by taking the dogs for evening walks which puts me in bed by 10.30 or 11.”
What does your future hold?
“I want to continue to build up my career. Sometimes as an ecosystem builder, you are the bowl that holds all the water and all you do is see all the fish do their thing without being able to participate. In this chosen line of work have to remain the bowl, ever expanding watch them grow and change. Eventually, I want to be someone who can take on a new project.”
Co-Founder and CEO. Unconventional community builder. Lover of progress over process. Mother to dogs and soon twins.