Interested in starting your own journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ceitci Demirkova-Harper, Founder and CEO of Changing a Generation and Invisible Mentors Academy, located in Tulsa, OK, USA.
What's your organization, and who are your members?
We are a non-profit organization with a vision to transform the lives of disadvantaged children (Bulgaria is our primary focus) with a message of faith, hope, and purpose. We provide education, school supplies, build playgrounds, and create a safe environment for children to thrive amidst impoverished circumstances. To date, we donated 11 playgrounds to communities in Bulgaria where the kids had never had anywhere to play, we have released two educational and inspirational films and provided several educational curriculums for students and kindergartners. We work in 20 locations within the nation and have close to 1000 children in our sponsorship programs. Our customers are schools and educators, teachers and children, mayors, and municipalities.
As a branch of our non-profit organization, we also developed the Invisible Mentors Academy. Through personality DNA testing and a special behavioral curriculum, we help people change negative beliefs and habits and provide them with principles on how to get unstuck no matter how impossible their circumstances may look like.
Our customers are anyone 18 yrs of age and older who would like to live out their full potential and would like to achieve their goals and aspirations by developing their personal skills through personal development. We have worked with entire business teams, CEOs, schools, educators, doctors, sports teams, and entrepreneurs of all ages.
Tell us about yourself
I am originally from Bulgaria. I grew up under communism till I was 16 years of age. At 19, I had the opportunity to come to the United States. I arrived with $100 and 100 words that I knew in English. It was the start of my biggest faith journey – starting with nothing in a completely new nation and culture.
One of the most tragic things I saw growing up under communism was the lack of personal development, restriction of individual interest, no private business opportunities, and extreme poverty. We were all subjected to living below the poverty level, except those who rule over us. I saw the injustices done to people who disagreed with the communist party – often concentration camps or death. We all lived in fear and shame, every day, we tried to do our best to survive.
Despite the restrictive environment, I have chosen to look at those experiences as character builders. I have developed extreme discipline, perseverance, and determination. Starting a non-profit within the first year after I arrived in the States with a very small amount of funds seemed like an impossible thing to do. Yet, I had all skills to help me survive, and instead of getting discouraged when I had nothing, I chose to be thankful for the opportunity to be in the States and to press through in order one day to be able to help many others have a better life.
Fast forwarding, today I am an international speaker, best-selling author, and life coach, and our non-profit Changing a Generation is celebrating its 27th year since its founding. We have over 1000 children in our programs in Bulgaria and East Africa. We help families, orphans, and communities in very economically struggling locations to have better education and opportunities to play (we build playgrounds for the kids) and teach the kids Biblical values. As a speaker, I often get to share stories from my childhood days with various audiences.
My stories help people understand how to create a proper value system and how to never give up amidst challenges. My childhood and upbringing under communism is my greatest invisible mentor and a stepping stone in life because I chose never to surrender to its victimization but rather overcome it by giving it a purpose to live in my present and in my future.
Children and seeing their lives changed motivates me to press through, no matter how hard some days might be. My office is filled with pictures on the wall of the faces of our children as a reminder that what I do each day matters because it's bigger than fame or success. It's about the transformation of personal life and giving that child new hope and a brighter future.
What's your biggest accomplishment as an organization?
My first biggest accomplishment after arriving in the States from Bulgaria by myself was graduating college and starting a non-profit at age 20 with just a few dollars in my hand. Definitely beating the odds and overcoming some very challenging circumstances is what I consider my personal mentorship program that I get to impart to others today. Motivation, inspiration, practical principles, and skills that I have learned during my journey of faith and perseverance have helped me to create a message that connects to the audience and to our customers. A big accomplishment is also seeing entire communities and children's lives transformed through our programs and educational materials.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being an organization?
There is one word, and that is self-discipline! Many people start with great enthusiasm but cannot complete their goals or get their business (or non-profit) off the ground because they lack self-motivation and perseverance. When we have unclear goals and unrealistic expectations, we will soon get discouraged and stop pressing on. The goal and personal development have to go hand in hand; otherwise, we might become overwhelmed and stressed out if success reaches us before we have learned how to deal with disappointment.
In addition, I would add getting used to hearing the words 'no' and accepting rejection without allowing it to destroy our self-image or steal from our goals is something we constantly need to learn how to overcome. I view "NO" as a "NEW OPPORTUNITY." Discovering who is really in your inner circle and fighting the battles with you will help you not to pay attention to the naysayers. After all, it's not the bystander's opinion that counts, but listening to God and to those who are in the arena of life with us through our highs and our lows.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow an organization today?
- Define yourself (and your business) so that no one else would define you according to their perception or small-minded beliefs. This allows you to stay in your lane and become more secure in who you are and in what you have to offer.
- Consistency and showing up even when you don't feel like it is key for people to see that you are serious about what you do and what you believe in.
- Flexibility in constantly changing environments is very important. Never stop learning and expanding your thinking, dream bigger than yourself and stay purposeful.
Where can people find you and your group?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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