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Can I Laugh On Your Shoulder?

Mar 13, 2019

We often contemplate the origins of our clothes and shoes, but purchasing with purpose even includes notepads, sticky notes, pens, and paper. Jillian Ryan is the founder of the Marie Mae Company. She joins us to discuss the tremendous social impact you can have by purchasing items as simple as office supplies.

Things You Don't Want To Miss:

Meet Today's Guest.

  • 00:54 - Jillian Ryan is the Founder and Creator of the Marie Mae Company. Her company provides invaluable business training for entrepreneurs around the world. By purchasing Marie Mae's office supply products, you're contributing to the education of students at the Marie Mae Business School.

The Jillian 101.

  • 8:30 - Jane grew up in Texas where she graduated from Texas A&M. She ended up working in Washington D.C. for ten years with an international business consulting firm. She was a political risk consultant, and she helped businesses overseas to navigate the nuances and risks associated with business in an emerging market.

A Change In Direction.  

  • 9:46 - While helping big businesses operate in Africa, she witnessed these enterprises wanting work with small, local businesses, only to reach a dead end as local entrepreneurs lacked the necessary skills and resources to partner together. She decided to discover the means and training necessary to run a business in rural Africa. It started as a side project, and her goal was to provide a business bootcamp for local entrepreneurs. However, she needed funding, and selling office supplies was a way to pay for the project.

How Marie Mae Works. 

  • 12:00 - Basically, for each product you buy, Marie Mae provides one hour of training for a local entrepreneur. It started as a side project, and quickly grew into a full-scale operation.

A Big Break. 

  • 13:52 - The next year FabFitFun approached Jillian about providing them with 250,000 boxes of stationary. Suddenly, Jillian was scrambling to figure out how to scale her business.

What Does Marie Mae Sell? 

  • 18:04 - Their main focus is practical and professional gifts. They produce notebooks, stationary, and artisan-made goods, and they work a lot with corporate businesses, and of course, their products are ethically-sourced. Marie Mae even has their own quarterly subscription box.

How Does The Training Work? 

  • 21:20 - Jillian worked with so many high-powered bankers, lawyers, etc...and so many of them wanted to volunteer. Jillian wanted to provide local entrepreneurs in Africa with business training, and she saw an opportunity to enable her corporate partners to share their expertise. Thus was born the Marie Mae Business School, and business professionals train entrepreneurs with the skills needed to run a successful business.

Humble Beginnings. 

  • 30:04 - Jillian reflects on the early days of Marie Mae and shares strategies and products that just didn't work. Oddly enough,   some of her flops turned out to be best-sellers later. Remember, business is about perseverance.

Practical Lessons. 

  • 41:30 - Jillian seeks to equip her entrepreneurs with practical skills. General business concepts will only take you so far, so Marie Mae seeks to contextualize their lessons for their audience. Jillian shares how she was able to train a sewing cooperative in Rwanda.

Getting To Know Our Guest:

  • 45:05 - Jillian shares her desire to learn Spanish and travel through space to the fantastical locations featured in Interstellar.

A Memorable Moment:

"It's the power of perseverance. It's one of the things I try to drive home. People might be smarter than you. People might have come from a better background, but you can always win in a perseverance game."

- Jillian Ryan


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