Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Heather Heckel, Founder of Engage Globally, located in Asheville, NC, USA.

What's your organization, and who are your members?

Engage Globally is a non-profit organization that supports community-led sustainable development. We collaborate with communities in Northern Ghana and Costa Rica on education, gender equity, economic development, and environmental conservation. We also engage actively with our supporters through volunteering, internship, donation, and learning opportunities.

Tell us about yourself

I have long worked in education in different settings, including a public housing community, public schools, colleges, and universities. During my work at American University, I had the opportunity to travel with my students to developing nations to study international development and foreign aid. Though we saw many well-meaning efforts, we also observed a lot of programs that were not effective or did not work over time. Often, this seemed to be because local communities had not been involved in the selection, design, or implementation of the projects. After meeting with some amazing community leaders in rural Northern Ghana, I founded Engage Globally to support their work and also to try a different approach to development - one that focuses on local communities' needs, goals, and strengths. We also believe strongly in mutual learning rather than charity or a traditional donor/recipient model. And we strive to magnify the voices of people from under-represented communities to highlight their sustainable development successes.

I am motivated each day by my admiration and appreciation for what our partners are able to accomplish in rural Ghana and Costa Rica. With limited financial resources, these local leaders run a variety of education and development programs, conserve land and protect biodiversity, promote gender equality, and empower their communities. Their 'stories' and impacts are truly inspirational.

What's your biggest accomplishment as an organization?

I think my biggest accomplishment has been to build community within our organization - such as with our interns, Board, and contributors - and with our partners across diverse countries and cultures. I love to engage with people around their goals and interests and to create mutually beneficial and educational communities.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being an organizational leader?

In our case, fundraising is the hardest challenge. We are a small organization, and we have limited resources and staff. And, to be honest, we want to spend our energy supporting our partners and engaging with our supporters more than 'marketing' ourselves. It can also be challenging to communicate why contributing to international community-led development can be so positively impactful.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow an organization today?

  1. Find people you can collaborate with and who you genuinely enjoy working with.
  2. Learn from others - from mentors to just listening to talks and reading about others' experiences.
  3. Be resilient and persistent - find paths to maintain hope and stay focused on your goals even when things get challenging.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Thank you for this opportunity. We would love to share more about our work with anyone who is interested. You can sign-up for our email list at:

Where can people find you and your organization?


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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