What a great time for female entrepreneurs: We are delighted to share with you features and essays written by super women with inspiring careers and businesses that are reshaping our economy and the way we consume. They share their journey, the process it took them to get to where they are now and what they’ve learnt along the way. Welcome to Modern Mentors.
I grew up in Plano with my parents and two younger sisters, graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Economics, and immediately took off to DC after graduation because I wanted to work for the CIA. I moved there for an internship with The Scowcroft Group – Bush 41’s National Security Advisor and his team had started a boutique international business advisory firm, and I was lucky enough to score an internship with them. I was immediately put on projects such as helping one of the world’s largest philanthropic foundations to decide what countries to focus their efforts on and helping companies do business in Africa. I had NO IDEA what I was doing, but they were kind enough to take me under their wing. I was able to learn from some of the best minds out there on how to successfully do business in emerging markets. The experience was such a great one, that I quickly decided to focus my career on using business as a force for good, and I spent the next nine years learning everything I could about how these markets worked and how Fortune100s thought and did business.
I initially started Marie Mae as a way to fund an entrepreneurship training program as a side business to my consulting practice, but it quickly turned into much more and I found myself wanting to devote all of my time to it. Marie Mae was founded with a lofty objective: to offer beautiful products people can utilize in everyday business and change the world while doing so.
I initially started Marie Mae as a private sector way to fund one entrepreneurship training program as a side business to my consulting practice – but it quickly turned into much more and where I found myself wanting to devote all of my time. Marie Mae was founded with a lofty objective: to offer beautiful products people can utilize in everyday business and change the world while doing so.
Here at Marie Mae we produce professional gifts that give back. Our site went live and our first sale went through five years ago, and it felt amazing. The support from friends and family was overwhelming, but I can’t quite describe the feeling when that first sale comes through from someone you don’t know. Those moments make all the hard times worth it.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart! You don’t have to be the smartest one to be successful. You just have to be the most persistent.Jillian Ryan
Overcoming self confidence issues on this journey has been hands down the biggest obstacle I have faced. But over time, you learn to start silencing that inner critic. Or at least ignoring her 🙂
Jillian Ryan is the founder and CEO of Marie Mae, a lifestyle brand creating ethically-made professional gifts that give back. With a background of advising Fortune 100 companies on facilitating responsible investments in Africa, Jillian wanted to do more to support entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Combining her experience and her love of fine paper products, Jillian launched Marie Mae Company in October 2014. Using eco-friendly paper, Marie Mae’s stationery products are sourced and produced in the United States. Additionally, Jillian works with artisans around the globe to create their other stationery and lifestyle accessories – such as recycled hand-carved horn products made by Ugandan artisans and vegetable tanned leather accessories handcrafted by Haitian artisans. She is also the founder of Marie Mae Business School that seeks out teachers who have started businesses of their own, giving them first-hand experience to pass on to other female entrepreneurs around the world. The current ongoing program is based in Dallas, Texas; empowering formerly trafficked women with the business skills they need to succeed, the school teaches practical business skills. Every Marie Mae item purchased provides an hour of training for one person at the school.