Don’t be afraid to ask for help & create aligned community. Just because the journey is independent doesn’t mean it has to happen in isolation. Surround yourself with people, organizations, and be open to opportunities that are headed in the direction you want to go and at a similar velocity. You may not find people who are on the exact same path, but you absolutely will find “running buddies” that you can grow, train, challenge, laugh, and learn with!
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Mishler of The Cultivated Group.
Born and raised in the rural Midwest of the United States, Emily Mishler is an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in the start-up world, and heart for philanthropy. She is the driving force behind The Cultivated Group and the world of Esmè the Curious Cat — on a mission to ignite and empower individuals and organizations to: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Specializing in business development, creative strategic planning, and fundraising, Emily launched her first company at the age of 22 and has since raised and distributed over 20M dollars of private investment for private clients, for-profit entities and NGO’s.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Absolutely! Thanks so much for having us. I grew up in a very small town in the middle of the Midwest United States. I come from a family of farmers and values like hard work (sometimes to a fault), exploration, diligence, tenacity, and grit were instilled in me from a very young age. Those rural “roots” were a piece of the inspiration behind our companies’ name: The Cultivated Group.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes! As I was embarking upon my entrepreneurial journey (mine also included exploring the world solo for a while); Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love has been a story through which I found much inspiration and comradery. The themes of exploration, discovery, openness, courage, and connection have been instrumental as I’ve been both navigating the world itself and the professional world of development and business-building. All of our journeys through life are independent, but I don’t believe that in that they also need to be lonely. There is so much to learn from others and their perspectives, experiences, journeys, and the wisdom they’ve lived — and often when we aren’t sure where to turn, seeking counsel from others can be an incredible asset. The principles and themes I’ve learned from Liz Gilbert’s stories have been so impactful, I’ve adopted many of them into my own life and they have also become a part of our journey of impact at The Cultivated Group!
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
This is an interesting question — and my answer over time has absolutely shifted and grown as I’ve experienced more life. In my opinion, we’ll never fully know the impact we’ll have on this world or the people within it through our lives and beyond — so it’s important to make each day count.
For me, pieces of my life’s purpose is to fuel the world with goodness, kindness, more compassion, more hope. This requires me to do my best every day: to grow into more of who I am, info the fullness of my innate purpose and expression of self, into more generosity, in my ability to “pay it forward” and serve those around us. To infuse the life I have with love and to share that with others: that, to me, is making a difference.
It’s being thoughtful and considerate, and it doesn’t require financial contribution necessarily but it does require thoughtful, intentional, and purposeful, consistent action to infuse the lives of those around us with more life; more love.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Absolutely! Thanks so much for asking. A few years ago, I founded a group of impact-driven companies called The Cultivated Group. Proudly housing four separate companies under the “Cultivated” umbrella, we’re redefining business as usual for businesses all over the globe (and even in outer space!). Each subsidiary equips organizations and individuals with the tools, skills, resources, frameworks, and funding they need to function fully as profitable, healthy businesses. Our team connects the business brain to the servant-leaders’ heart that’s at the forefront of the business of doing good.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I consider myself an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in fundraising, and heart for philanthropy. Since I can remember, I’ve been driven by the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”, after finishing a MBA in 2018 and having a successful career in the non-profit sector, I realized that in order to “be the change”, I needed to better understand the world and people in it. I promptly pivoted, resigning from an incredible successful role in the corporate nonprofit sector, bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, and began travelling all over the world full-time while consulting remotely for nonprofits and for-profit entities looking to make a difference in the world. The Cultivated Group and the children’s book series, Esmè the Curious Cat, emerged as a result of the continuous journey.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
That’s a really great question. I don’t believe there was one, singular “tipping point” moment for me. It was much more of a slow drip over a few years that compounded to the point I knew if I didn’t lean into the adventure of discovering and uncovering what was possible when it came to fulfilling my own potential, I would always wonder. That pursuit of fulfillment and sharing that with others is “truly living” to me. I also had positioned myself through education, exploration, and intentional preparation to be able to “lean in” to this life shift rather than maintaining the “formula for life” many of my peers seemed to be following.
The decision to “step up and do it” was simple, clear, and made with ease. It was not easy, but it was a decision I made with ease because I had taken the time to prepare and consider what my options truly were. The subsequent decisions that reinforced that position have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my life! These decisions and this journey into the road less travelled takes a lot of courage — more courage than I’d ever employed to date at that point — and this adventure has empowered me to become the person I’ve always dreamt of being.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I don’t know that there is one “perfect formula” — but there are certainly things you can prepare on the front-end that will make your life easier down the road as the project, initiative, and/or organization continues to grow. The following are a few things I’ve learned to employ and have been really instrumental along the journey that have allowed for incredible transformations:
- Allow ideas to flow
- Employ creative play
- Loosen the reigns (you don’t have to be in control of everything in order to more forward)
- Swap out perfection for excellence
- Keep your focus on the consistency of focus of your energy and action:, the results will follow
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Hmm, let’s see. Each day is completely different and I’m grateful for the variety! That being said, a lot of interesting things happen on a daily basis. Many of the tools we use and services we employ are industry-agnostic, meaning we don’t have one specific niche industry we serve: we help businesses in healthcare, outer space, nonprofits — we’re literally and figuratively all over the map.
That being said, business is business and people are people. It’s been so interesting to interact with different executives from different industries, countries, and cultures and observe how doing business with integrity and kindness at the helm is received. What I’m learning? Kindness, authenticity, and resourcefulness are absolutely radiant, no matter the language, no matter the differences we perceive.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
At The Cultivated Group we’re huge proponents of gleaning lessons from everything. So rather than seeing mistakes as failure, we view them as falling. And I fall all the time. Falling and getting up is how we get stronger; how we develop the strength, muscle memory, and agility we need to get it right the next time. So really, any time we’ve stumbled, the resulting lesson(s) have been worth all of the recovery.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I am so grateful to keep the company I do and to have such incredible people believe in me, often even before I did. Mentors, cheerleaders, and friends along the way have influenced me to take risks; grow; evolve; have challenged me in every way imaginable (sometimes I wish I were kidding); inspired me to live, dream and be bigger; and to create and live the life of my dreams.
It’s interesting — I used to think that everyone who comes into our lives was meant to stay forever. A dear friend once shared with me that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime and when she said that, something clicked. I’m so grateful for the individuals, organizations, and opportunities that have come into my life for each of these durations — they’ve had a profound and tremendous impact on the person I’ve become and the journey of becoming it’s been to get where we are.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Generosity and service were instilled in my family and I’d grown up volunteering for things as far as I can remember. Late in the summer after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I went on a service trip with a group of peers to help mud and gut out houses. At that point, I had never been to New Orleans and had never seen conditions like the flooding, devastation, and utter disaster the hurricane wreaked on the city and its habitants. The heat was unimaginable, many of the conditions were un-liveable and my heart broke for so many unassuming and incredible families and individuals who had been affected by this force of nature.
In the middle of the summer, the temperature was upwards of 105 degrees Fahrenheit and given the circumstances, electricity (air conditioning) was nearly impossible to come by. One of the houses we worked on for a way was owned by an elderly woman whose house had been flooded and ransacked. Our role
I had packed a chamois (a moisture-wicking towel for the non-swimmers and non-car-fanatics out there!) and immediately wetted it with cold water and gave it to her. The paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and as she was being taken away on a stretcher, she was clinging onto the chamois for comfort.
At an unbelievably turbulent and scary moment, I recognized that something I instinctively did and was able to give someone else brought them a lot of
This person, though I’ll never know her name, got “the wheels turning” in a different and more attune direction than they ever had before and I am so grateful for the opportunity to show compassion and kindness in that moment.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Collectively, a few things that we’d love to see are: walking in integrity, leaning into each season of life: allow the beauty of each season to marinate in its fullness; create spaces for openness, evolution, transformation, and creation rather than the status quo or how things have always been done.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help & create aligned community
Just because the journey is independent doesn’t mean it has to happen in isolation. Surround yourself with people, organizations, and be open to opportunities that are headed in the direction you want to go and at a similar velocity. You may not find people who are on the exact same path, but you absolutely will find “running buddies” that you can grow, train, challenge, laugh, and learn with!
- Shift from perfection to excellence
There is beauty and growth in having high standards, but don’t allow yourself to be seduced by the stronghold that can be standards of perfection. That kind of a mentality can paralyze us from forward movement and
- Loosen the reins
As much as we hate to admit it, much of our lives we’re not in control of. What we can
control is the way we respond to things. Knowing that we’re not in control, we can learn to Trust Life, ourselves, and others. In choosing to trust and live in integrity with our life’s purpose, mission, and assignment — we can allow ourselves to lean into the adventure, loosen the reins and our tighthold on control, influence the things that are within our scope, and seek joy in the process and journey of becoming.
- Trust your team & trust yourself
Like we mentioned before, although much of the beginning stages of opportunities can be independent, that doesn’t mean they need to be engaged with isolation. The most important relationship you’ll have with a business-owner or creative is the one you have with yourself. Learn to surround yourself with others who believe what you believe. Get more honest with yourself and those around you. Vulnerability breeds radical transformation and brilliance. Live there! Breathe there. Create there.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If I can do it, it’s absolutely possible for you too. There is nothing different about the opportunities that I’ve been open to and said “yes” to other than the fact that I did it. If it’s possible for a small-town girl like me, it absolutely is for you as well. Have courage & dream big!
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’d love to share a meal with Oprah. Her ability to employ and fluidly embody equanimity in so many ways — particularly with masculine and feminine energy — is so inspiring and fascinating! I’d love to have the opportunity to converse with and learn from her!
How can our readers follow you online?
The Cultivated Group
Esmè the Curious Cat:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!