Blazing A Trail For Women

By Pam Eggemeier Daily Gazette, Sterling, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Minda Harts is the founder of "The Memo." The women's entrepreneurial network helps women with everything from salary negotiations and career changes to investing, philanthropy and personal fulfillment.

STERLING

Minda Harts knows business success on both coasts, cherishes her Midwest roots, and aims to set up a support system for women that knows no geographic bounds.

Harts, a 1997 Sterling High School graduate, lives in New York City, where she oversees East Coast fundraising efforts for UCLA.

"I consider myself bicoastal because I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and live in New York," Harts said.

Looking back, she realizes she didn't have the same exposure to women in business as girls in larger cities did. She said she is thankful that while growing up she had people who inspired and supported her passions.

Her parents, Larry and Marchet Harts, are pastors at City of God church in Rock Falls. She said she came from humble beginnings, but her family was always there to support her. They also instilled in her a fierce desire to give back.

"I'm a first-generation college graduate, and my parents always inspired me," Harts said. "My mom has been so supportive that I couldn't not try to lift others up."

While her parents were always there to encourage Minda, they knew she was wired for success.

"She always had ambition, and at a young age she had the ability to see the big picture," Marchet said. "She knew she wanted to do something big, but she always stayed very humble."

Marchet said her daughter was a natural when it came to fundraising.

"She was in sixth grade when we did our first vacation Bible school, and she called all of the businesses and got donations for us," Marchet said. "Every time we do Bible school we think of Minda because she really spearheaded it."

The church is celebrating its 25th anniversary Sept. 10 and 11, and Marchet said her daughter has helped them build City of God.

Harts also remembers key moments in the Sterling schools that helped shape her future.

"My sixth-grade teacher at Jefferson, Mrs. Evans, really took the time to find out what I was interested in, and she inspired me to follow my dreams," Harts said. "I'll also never forget another teacher who gave me the confidence to run for student council."

After college, she landed in Chicago for a while, then worked in development for The Positive Coaching Alliance and Duke University before starting with UCLA in 2008.

While her career in fundraising kept her busy, the desire to help other women navigate challenges in the business world kept growing. Last year, she started The Memo, a business that gives women access to educational resources, mentorship, and support for career development, personal finances, and finding a balance between work and life.

"When I started out in business, I sought out mentorship, but I wanted to provide easier access for women entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s who don't have the support and resources," Harts said.

She used her savings to start the business, and ran it herself for a while. The response, however, made it necessary to add a business partner.

The Memo helps women with everything from salary negotiations and career changes to investing, philanthropy and personal fulfillment. She travels extensively giving presentations, leading panel discussions, and doing The Memo boot camps.

"We want to help create a culture of women helping women -- and it's not just about business -- we want to help women find balance with their personal and professional lives, " Harts said.

Harts' generosity isn't confined to the business world. She works with at-risk children in the New York City public schools system.

"It's important to mentor all students in lower-income areas, but there is a huge need for those who have made it to empower children of color," Harts said. "Regardless of color, demographics, or finances, if you put your mind to it and hang around the right people, you can do anything."

She also volunteers at a shelter for women in the city, helping them update resumes and prepare for job interviews.

As the women's entrepreneurial network grows, her efforts have been recognized on a big stage. She was invited to the White House in June for the 2-day United State of Women Summit hosted by first lady Michelle Obama. Harts was nominated as a change maker for women's issues.

The inaugural summit celebrated the United State of Women movement that unites thousands of high-powered women in their efforts for gender equality and justice.

Harts will be in Sterling to share her experiences in building a business on Sept. 14. She will be a guest of the Sauk Valley Chamber's Professional Women's Network.

Chamber Executive Director Kris Noble said Harts reached out to her hometown to arrange the events.

"She said she saw we had a Professional Women's Network, and she felt the need to give back to the community she grew up in," Noble said. "She said she'd be home that weekend and she'd like to do a workshop."

Noble said the PWN committee was excited about bringing Harts in to help with its mission.

"She's never forgotten her roots, and she gets what our network group is about," Noble said.

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