As we shared in our campaign launch post, there are several passionate people behind Impact Hub Houston we want you to meet. Michelle Avalos (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-%C3%A1valos-32300439/) shares how her journey of elevating the value of her community work as she advanced her college and professional career led her to join the Impact Hub Houston launch team:
When I was finishing my second year of college, I remember getting asked how much money I wanted to make after graduation. Easy question for a business student to answer, right?
The expectation was to respond with a dollar figure. Instead, I responded, “I want to work for a company who values me and my work.”
There is so much context packed into this one statement. One, I attended college because I knew education was the only way for me to help my family move forward. Yet, I did not want to be driven strictly by money. Two, I always wanted to work for a great company, but never imagined entrepreneurship would be in my future. Three, I wanted to be valued as a person and I wanted my work to be recognized.
In 2010, I transferred to the University of Houston and started volunteering with the Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA). The notion of giving back began growing its roots in my heart. For the first time, I had the opportunity to connect with other Latinos of a similar background as me who were driven to accomplish something bigger for themselves, their families and their communities.
Through HBSA, I helped organize career development opportunities for nearly 2,000 middle- and high-school students from low-income communities in Houston and Pasadena. The more I stood in front of other youth to share my story, the more driven I was to give back.
Shortly after my college graduation, I started my career as a natural gas and LNG analyst. Continuing my community work from college, I served as a volunteer board member for the Bauer College Alumni Association (BCAA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). My role on these boards focused on student outreach, professional development, career advancement, and community engagement. As I advanced in my career, I spent countless hours mentoring students with efforts to close the gap between where they were and where they wanted to be.
In 2014, my husband and I decided to find a solution ourselves to barriers preventing students from accessing professional programming to advance their college careers. We pulled our resources together, formed a team, and developed a two-day professional boot camp and suit scholarship. In two years, the program impacted the lives of 50 deserving college students who did not own a suit. In 2017, building on the pillars of creativity, youth and education, we turned the suit scholarship into a non-profit organization called Creative Vida. Our mission is to educate and empower youth through creative experiences.
Over the last couple of years, I began thinking more critically about time and how little time we have on this Earth. I contemplated how I was going to write the next chapter of my life and career. On paper, I was in a prime position for my career. I worked for the first LNG exporter in the US. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was allocating my time to fully living out my values. Through prayer and mentorship, I realized the time I was putting into my volunteer efforts was insufficient to make the impactful change needed in our city. Thus, I made the decision to transition out of the LNG industry to focus full time on community work.
Now, I work to create a world where individuals who want to make an impactful change in their communities have access to the education and resources needed to best accomplish their efforts. This is why I joined the Impact Hub Houston launch team last year. I believe my unique combination of corporate and non-profit experience is a great asset to our city’s current and future social entrepreneurs. Before last year, I had never heard of the term social entrepreneur . Others words I had never heard of were social impact, social venture, impact investing, innovation ecosystem, b-corps. The lists go on and on.
How is it that someone like me, a business person who has been extremely involved in our community, did not get exposed to the “impact space” prior to 2018? When my husband and I registered Creative Vida as a 501(c)3, we did so because it was the only relevant business model we knew at the time. Participating in Impact Hub’s programming over the last few months is allowing the Creative Vida team to think more creatively about our revenue model to scale our impact in the coming years. Exposure and education definitely make a difference!
Houston needs Impact Hub Houston because we need a better support system for problem solvers trying to make a change.
In the short term, my goal through Impact Hub is to connect with individuals who have an idea to solve a local or global problem but are not connected to the community of people ready to help bring those ideas to life. I want to allow everyone an opportunity to find their place within this community of change makers, social entrepreneurs, and supporters. Will you join me? #CambiaElMundo