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Female Disruptors: “If you do not push the pause button once in a while, burnout will push it for you.” with Anna-Mieke Anderson

The rate at which an entrepreneur has to work is not sustainable for long periods of time and it takes, on average, 10 years to become an “overnight success”. If you do not push the pause button once in a while, burnout will push it for you. When we are healthy and vibrant, not just […]


The rate at which an entrepreneur has to work is not sustainable for long periods of time and it takes, on average, 10 years to become an “overnight success”. If you do not push the pause button once in a while, burnout will push it for you. When we are healthy and vibrant, not just physically but also mentally, life just flows.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna-Mieke Anderson. Anna-Mieke (pronounced Anna-mee-kah), is the Founder and active CEO of MiaDonna & Company (www.MiaDonna.com) and the Founder of The Greener Diamond Foundation. She is a dedicated single mother of 2, an avid philanthropist and successful entrepreneur. Not only did she grow a business, she pioneered an industry. Anna-Mieke has devoted her life to creating conflict-free diamonds in a laboratory that are superior to earth-mined diamonds in every way, for the purpose of helping children caught in the middle of the unethical harvesting of mined diamonds. Anna-Mieke made history by becoming a visionary in the new era of the diamond industry. Her dedication to creating lab-grown diamonds, even before the technology was available, has been recognized by industry authorities and organizations. She personally leads relief missions to African diamond mining regions through her foundation, The Greener Diamond to ensure a better future for communities living in poverty due to diamond mining. Though a native of New Zealand, Anna-Mieke spent her childhood in Australia and moved to the United States when she was 19. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon where she runs MiaDonna & Company. She is now internationally recognized as a humanitarian activist and successful entrepreneur who works tirelessly to inspire other young women to embrace their authentic, feminine selves and follow their entrepreneurial spirit.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2005, I found out my engagement ring most likely contained a conflict diamond and I uncovered a living nightmare that I was contributing to by buying this product.

To make things right in my own mind, I started sponsoring Ponpon, a seven-year-old boy living in a diamond mining community in Liberia, Africa. It was through our letters that I got a first-hand look at what it was like for a child to grow up in these conditions. I will never forget the day he wrote to me, “I had a great summer because only one of my classmates was killed.” As a mother, this broke my heart and changed my life forever. I had to do something.

I knew there had to be a better way to enjoy fine jewelry and support the people that have suffered so long for our love affair with diamonds. So, I started researching options and discovered the only way to ensure a diamond is truly conflict-free was to grow it in a lab. I started working with scientists to grow diamonds and fine-tune the process. When we started, we could only grow diamonds to about 0.25ct and they were yellow in color. Now, the diamonds at MiaDonna are superior in quality to anything you can get from the earth, and in 2016 we grew the largest colorless diamond at that time in the USA at 6.28ct.

I’m happy to report that Ponpon, is now 19, attending college and running our non-profit in Liberia, Africa.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

When I started my company in 2005, it was not popular to like diamonds grown in a lab or question the earth-mined diamond industry’s ethics. I was going up against the ‘ol boys club and to be totally honest, it was intimidating at the beginning with all the roadblocks they put in place.

But I believed in my purpose and I learned an important lesson; sometimes you find your own voice when you speak up for someone who had been silenced, and that’s what kept me going. I was putting a much needed modern twist on an outdated industry while being an advocate for diamond mining communities, the diamond consumer and the Earth.

In 2019, we’ve seen a definite shift in the diamond industry, like I always knew we would. Consumers are voting with their money and we are seeing exponential growth in lab-grown diamond sales. Even traditional mined-diamond companies are adopting diamonds grown in a lab to keep up with consumer demand.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?

I didn’t have a traditional family growing up, but what I got instead was an amazing group of girlfriends who supported me in all my endeavors. One of my best friends, Melanie, was a key player who helped me get my business and foundation up and running.

When I came up with the idea for MiaDonna and The Greener Diamond, most people thought I was crazy and tried to talk me out of it. No one could wrap their head around the idea that I wanted to grow diamonds in a lab and then give away my profits. But Melanie was there during my own childhood and knew it was a passion of mine to help other orphaned and abandoned children. She is a marketing genius and helped me develop a plan for sharing information about lab-grown diamonds.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Passion

Being a social entrepreneur is a grind. Like ‘Shark Tank’ investor Lori Greiner says, ‘Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.’ If you do not have absolute passion for what you are doing, you will not survive.

Self-care

The rate at which an entrepreneur has to work is not sustainable for long periods of time and it takes, on average, 10 years to become an “overnight success”. If you do not push the pause button once in a while, burnout will push it for you. When we are healthy and vibrant, not just physically but also mentally, life just flows.

Integrity

The diamond industry is full of money and power. However, I don’t care how rich or talented you think you are. How you treat people will tell me everything I need to know about you.

Femininity:

I had to be brave enough to find my own voice in a male-dominated industry. Women have been told for too long that we need to be hard and strong to succeed in business, and that being feminine is seen as “weak”. But this could not be further from the truth. The most successful female leaders I admire, lead with compassion and empathy. There is nothing more empowering than a woman owning her femininity and embracing who she truly is. When I started authentically leading, I became the person other people wanted to follow and they shared in my vision. By letting these qualities shine, you become a leader who others will listen to and respect.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I learned long ago to never tell people your next move!

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

On Sept 27th, 2009 during the Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama said: “The World Will Be Saved By the Western Woman.” This simple statement has stuck with me ever since.

He believes that women, with their nurturing instinct, are naturally more compassionate. He wants to see more female ministers of defense, stating “If wars are a fact of life, then it would be better if women were in charge since they are more likely to empathize with those who suffer during conflicts.”

He singled out western women because of the work that has been done by the women before us in the west. Women in the west don’t face the obstacles of cultural (often violent) oppression and even rigid traditional women’s roles the way that women in other parts of the world still do. Women in the west have the opportunity and the responsibility to help others on a global scale.

I agree with the Dalai Lama’s idea and feel we need to empower the more compassionate gender. Keeping in mind they make up half of the world, we could potentially right much of what is wrong in our world if we just tap into that power. Study after study shows that women not only do better in leadership roles but are more likely to reinvest their profits back into their community. I have seen this first hand with my foundation; when you invest in a woman, you are investing in the whole community. It has a multiplier effect. I believe girls and women represent the greatest underutilized natural resource we have. They are the key to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges. I fully believe that one day women — not just Western women — will save the world.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

Be grateful for your story. Everyone has one, but it’s what you do with it that counts.

As a young teen, I was the sole caregiver for my single mum while she battled multiple cancers and ultimately passed. With a focus on caring for my mother and being present for all of the hospital visits and doctor appointments, I didn’t have much time to focus on my studies. After navigating through foster care for a while, I eventually left high school at age 17 to continue my modeling career. Growing up with this childhood forced me to be an entrepreneur from a very early age. Success was the only option if I wanted to survive. When I started MiaDonna, I had no formal education or experience in the diamond industry, no family support and no seed money. I was doing things that had never been done. What I did have was a passion for helping people, perseverance and an entrepreneur mindset. I recognize that my real-world education has been my greatest teacher and what I needed to reach the accomplishments I’ve achieved today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You do not lack a thing.”

These are my mum’s last words to me before she passed. I only got to share 16 years of my mother’s life but in that short time, she showed me the world. My mother endured one more round of Chemo (and her last) just so she could spend 2 more months, instead of weeks, with me on earth. During that time we talked about so much, but these words have stuck with me and I now pass them on to everyone else. YOU DO NOT LACK A THING. Everything you need to live the life you truly desire is inside of you right now. You just need to believe in yourself, trust your instincts and take the first step to living the life you deserve. Just like Rupi Kaur said, “Since day one, she has had everything she needs within herself. It was the world that convinced her she did not.”

Thank you for joining us!

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