..my team and I are building ‘Be Social Change’ to grow a movement where every career is a social impact career, every business is a socially conscious business, in which we have a thriving nonprofit sector, and everyone is leading a sustainable lifestyle.
As part of my series about individuals and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcos Salazar. Marcos is a serial social entrepreneur, career coach, speaker, and community-builder. For as long as Marcos has been working in the social impact space, he has also been building businesses. Marcos has worked in research and leadership development at the American Psychological Association, Girl Scouts, and the White House Project (promoting women to run for office). He is also the founder of two t-shirt companies, a number of social impact blogs, and the author of two books. Through Be Social Change, Marcos taps into his entrepreneur’s creativity and social good inspiration to help people find and do meaningful work and lead more sustainable lifestyles. Marcos earned a degree from Amherst College and a masters in Organizational Management and an Executive Leadership Coaching certificate from The George Washington University. You can learn more about him at www.marcossalazar.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Marcos! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Back in 2013, I really didn’t know where I wanted to go with my career or life. I was moving from job to job, had just started living in New York City, and was in search for greater meaning and purpose in my life but wasn’t quite sure what that was.
I had a feeling I could be doing “more” but didn’t know what this meant or how to go about figuring it out. So I started looking for resources in New York City and online to gain some clarity on the direction I wanted to go in my life as well as how to create a career that made a greater impact in the world.
I soon discovered two things:
- There weren’t many resources, guides, or communities focused on how to grow a career that makes a positive impact in the world.
- I was certainly not the only one wanting to channel my passions, talents, and skills to make the world a better place.
During this time, I met so many people who were having similar struggles of wanting a career with greater purpose and impact but not knowing how or where to begin. They were looking for a roadmap, and it simply didn’t exist.
This is when I made a decision that would change my life: Since I couldn’t find the community or resources I wanted, I needed to create them!
That’s when the idea that would eventually become Be Social Change firstemerged.
We started out as a Meetup community bringing people together to connect, share, and support each other. Fast-forward 5 years and 500+ events and workshops later and we have grown to be the largest social impact community in New York City. We convene our community and advance social impact conversations during our weekly events, and I lead weekly trainings to help people build the skills they need to create impact through their careers and lifestyles. My team and I have also curated discounts to sustainable brands to make shopping with values easier.
Now, we are in the process of taking everything we’ve built and bringing it online to support people around the world to make an impact through their careers, community, and lifestyle.
Building Be Social Change has been a long and challenging journey! But in truth, these experiences have led me to a place where I now understand what it means to live with purpose.
Today, I spend my days and nights…
- Creating programs and resources to help people find and do purposeful work they love
- Building a community of people dedicated to leveraging their talents and skills to make the world a better place
- Constantly learning and growing so I can have more to offer people and the world
I’m saying all this is because it’s easy to feel nervous, hopeless, or fearful about pursuing purpose. It took me many, many years of trial and error to figure this all out. And, I could have arrived here sooner if I had the resources we are developing at Be Social Change to inspire and guide me during my journey.
Everything we’re building at Be Social Change is to ensure that others don’t go through the same struggles or take as long as I did in discovering their purpose and making an impact.
Our mission is to help fast-track people along their Be Social Change journey by providing the knowledge, tools, and community needed to build a career and life that makes a difference in the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
For us, it’s less about a single story and more about the thousands of stories we hear from our members on how they’re creating social impact through careers and lifestyles.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have taught, mentored, and coached tens of thousands of people over the past six years to help them be social change. I’ve supported diverse professionals by helping them get clarity on their purpose and career direction, teaching how to grow meaningful relationships and build a diverse network, as well as sharing strategies for finding and doing fulfing social impact work.
It’s all these individual stories of impact that will have ripple effects for creating large-scale change in the decades to come.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is trying not to go after the many opportunities that come your way. I call it the “squirrel effect,” inspired by the dog in the Pixar movie Up who gets distracted by all the squirrels he sees in the park and wants to go after them all. This happened to me a number of times when I started out — going after too many opportunities at once — and I would spread myself too thin. As an entrepreneur, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to avoid all the shiny objects i.e., opportunities, I see and focus on the one to two projects that are going to create the greatest impact.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
My team and I have built the largest social impact community in New York City of people inspired by our rallying call to, “Be Social Change.” Now we are on a mission to create the largest social impact member association in the world by providing members with the in-person and online knowledge, tools, and connections they need for creating careers and lives of social change. One of the key ways we do this is by providing the most consistent programming of any social impact organization. With year-round personal and professional development, we are able to consistently provide people with the skills they need while also building a community where people can continually connect, share, and partner. And our sustainable discounts program supports our whole community in spending their purchasing power on organizations that are socially-conscious.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
A lot of people come up to us at events or workshops and share the impact the organization has had on them. We’ve learned about people meeting a partner or funder for their business at an event, or finding their best friend or significant other at a facilitated networking mixer. People have shared with us how they’ve honed their life vision at our workshops and have been connected to the jobs where they can fulfill their purpose.
One of our awesome members, Emily, was looking to transition out of her job and began taking all of my career workshops and attending weekly events. Seeing her week-to-week, I could see how much she wanted to find the right fit — a place that would celebrate her talents and provide opportunities for her to grow her contributions. Through these events, she was able to learn about a nonprofit consulting company that fit exactly what she was looking for in terms of a new job. The organization was also one of our partners so during the interview process, they both found a connection point around Be Social Change and this provided a context in which the hiring director learned how Emily’s commitment to social change would help them grow their own impact.
When Emily shared that she was hired for the role, she had the biggest smile on her face. Now, she’s doing meaningful work on a large scale, as are thousands of other Be Social Change members.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- For all people to follow the inclinations they have to live and work with more purpose and impact.
- Restructure our educational system to teach the skills that are relevant to the jobs today, like relationship building, creating shared values and visions, and teaching sustainability.
- Provide incentives (possibly tax cuts) for companies that have social impact embedded into their core business.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I believe a leader’s purpose is to serve others and create the conditions for people to be successful. This means that a leader is not always the one in the front of the group telling people what to do, but rather is someone who can lead from behind. With my team, I try to focus on helping each person explore, exercise, and cultivate their unique talents and skills so they can grow individually which in turn, helps the company grow. By continually thinking “How can I serve my team best?,” I am able to create the environment for them to thrive.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Focus on one thing and do it well before moving onto the next thing. I spent too much time early on trying to do everything versus focusing on 1–2 things my organization could be the best at.
- Scale through partnerships. You can’t create major social change alone, so early-on focus on the people and organizations that you can partner with to grow together.
- Find a co-founder who supports and complements you. Early on, I grew Be Social Change as the sole leader and while we were successful, it wasn’t until I brought on a co-founder who complemented my skills (and filled in the gaps of what I was not particularly strong with) that we really began to grow.
- Don’t expect to be an overnight success. Like many entrepreneurs, you may have dreams of building a big company that will impact millions of people. While that is always possible, it is a much longer road then you expect. As a result, you need to cultivate patience and recognize that it is going to be a long journey to create the type of impact you want to see in the world.
- Don’t be scared of sharing your ideas. Early on I was hesitant to share my ideas, because I was scared people would take them and create something similar. But the reality is ideas are a dime a dozen and what matters is the execution. And, because I didn’t share some of my ideas, I missed out on valuable feedback that could have prevented me from making mistakes or allowed me to get to where I am faster.
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
This is why my team and I are building Be Social Change — to grow a movement where every career is a social impact career, every business is a socially conscious business, in which we have a thriving nonprofit sector, and everyone is leading a sustainable lifestyle.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them.”
If we want to make a significant impact, we can’t do it alone. When I was younger, I didn’t have this mindset when starting out and thought I could do everything by myself. However, I quickly learned that if you want to make a true difference in the world, you need to work with others to make it happen.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. He was ahead of his time in building a business that had social impact at the center of it and has paved the way for many of wanting to use business as a force for good.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@besocialchange on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and on Linkedin at:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!