Our MogulMoxie® Women Crush Wednesday series is back with an incredible line-up of interviews of inspiring women making a difference in their families, communities and the world at large. We are kicking off our fall season with a feature on Shelly Callahan, Director of Development for Children Incorporated.
Grab your morning coffee, tea or water – settle in and get ready to be inspired by Shelley’s journey to helping underprivileged children around the world.
Blessings! ~ TC Cooper
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Thanks for being a part of our MogulMoxie® Women Crush Wednesday series, Shelley! At MogulMoxie® we believe in the value of both formal and informal education, so let’s start there. Tell us about your educational background.
I have a Masters in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. I am also an a certified professional grant writer. While I was in school, I started a non-profit organization called Books on Wheels that I ran for eight years, which provided free books and free bicycle repair to under-privileged youth all over the U.S. It was so rewarding to travel across the country, meeting new people, and knowing I was helping the community. At the same time, I was able to apply my nonprofit administrative education to the real world, which I consider to be a huge part of my education.
Tell us about what ambition means to you and the role it’s played in your life.
Ambition means setting your goals and not letting anything stand in your way to reach them – money, time, negative people. It not hard to be determined to do something if it what you really want. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes. There were many times in my life I wanted to quit – quit running my own non-profit, quit running my own retail business, quit writing my first book – but I never gave up, because I could always think of a reason that the thing I was doing might be helping someone else, even if it was just one person.
We’d love to know about about your career.
I started my career as the Executive Director of Books on Wheels when I was 24. I also opened a retail thrift store in Richmond, Virginia to benefit the nonprofit, which taught me a great deal about being an independent business owner.
After eight years, I decided to take what I had learned and start working on a global scale, first by leading medical teams to a clinic in Haiti with the non-profit organization Friends of the Children of Haiti, and then by working as the Director of Development with Children Incorporated. I am also the author of the book, The House of Life, which was published in October of 2016.
In my current position with Children Incorporated, I am the social issues correspondent, and my main job is to make our donors and sponsors aware of the impact of our organization is having on children around the world, as well as to bring in new donors so we can help even more kids in need. Children Incorporated provides educational assistance to children in 23 countries around the world, including the U.S., who desperately need food, clothing, school supplies, shoes, and medication.
Tell us about a typical day in your life.
Typically, I am in the office answering emails, maintaining our website, writing stories for our blog, updating our social media sites, and talking with donors and sponsors how important their support of Children Incorporated is to children globally. It is also my responsibility to submit grants and seek corporate partnership opportunities for our organization.
It is never boring in the office for me! I also get to travel with work to visit some of our 300 projects around the world to report on the burden of poverty that our children face. I have been to Kentucky, Bolivia, Mexico, Kenya, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and each has been an amazing, life-changing experiences.
Wow! Your work and opportunity to serve through work is incredible. Tell us about what motivates you.
I am motivated by knowing that the work Children Incorporated is doing is really making a difference in the world. I have met thousands of our sponsored children, and dozens of our volunteer coordinators and they tell me that they couldn’t ever help these needy children in their communities without our support. Knowing that the impact is real, and it is affecting children every day makes me get up in the morning.
Confidence and courage are topics that come up a lot for our readers, sometimes hindering their success. Have you ever struggled with courage or confidence?
Absolutely! It is so hard to be a female business owner or in the position of leadership and be confident at the same time. I think we are expected as women to be soft and caring, but sometimes it takes being tough to get a job done, and people might want to put you down for that – call you cold, or insensitive.
In reality, I am nothing more than goal oriented. I want to get the job done and do it right. In the end, I have to remember that I make the decisions that I do because I am a professional, I have years of experience, and I am doing what I do for the right reasons- to help people in need.
Thanks so much for sharing about what makes you confident and strong. Let’s continue on this track. Tell us about one of the toughest things you have had to do in business or your career and what you learned from it.
Keeping quiet when someone belittles you or says something inappropriate for fear of losing your job is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my career. I have experienced this and felt demeaned by it – a feeling that followed me around. I have overcome this by being a professional in all circumstances and never, ever belittling people or otherwise demeaning them.
Thank you for sharing such a painful experience and your strategies for overcoming it. When you think about your journey through life thus far, what one word is your favorite word?
Having hope and giving others hope is so powerful. The word encompasses so many other words and actions – giving someone a hug, or a pair of shoes, or food when they need it. Or just saying hopeful and encouraging words can change someone’s attitude about their whole future.
Let’s continue down the journey of your life. Do you consider yourself unusual, strange, weird or pretty normal?
I am very normal, although my life traveling around the world is unusual. I love my routine when I am not traveling – go to work, go home and make dinner with my husband, read, ride my bike, see friends on the weekends, and in between, I try to write as much as possible. If you ask me my favorite place in the world, it’s home, where I can relax and be myself.
Thanks for sharing! Here at MogulMoxie® we know that community is important to living and serving well. Tell us a little about your support system.
I have a twin sister that has gotten me involved with a lot of volunteer projects over the years, and I owe a great deal to her for introducing me to some amazing non-profit organizations. My husband encourages me intensely. I appreciate that he gives me the time and space to write, and travel.
Now that we’ve gotten to be inspired by you and your journey. Let’s talk money. What has been helpful to you in increasing and managing your cashflow?
Don’t ever borrow money if you can help it! Everyone will try to tell you that you need a ton of money to start a business or be successful. I don’t believe this is true. Spend only what you have to, be OK with not getting paid when you start out, and be patient. Your business might not be busy right away, or you might not start at the top, but you will get where you want to be if you stick it out. Persistence is the key.
What have you accomplished, created or built that makes you the most proud or brings you the most joy?
Writing my first book, The House of Life, was an incredible accomplishment. I didn’t know I had it in me to write a book until I finished, and more than six months later, I catch myself thinking, “I still that I can’t believe it is my name on the cover!” I wrote the book for some very dear friends who have done some amazing things in their lives helping bring healthcare to the people of Haiti, and being able to give them the gift of their story being printed was really special.
I visited Children Incorporated projects in Sri Lanka and India in August. I am most excited that I had the opportunity to take water filters from a great nonprofit organization called Wine to Water with me to provide clean drinking water to thousands of school children. Please follow our On the Road Series at on our blog at https://childrenincorporated.org/category/on-the-road/ to read my stories, and hear about the impact that sponsorship is making around the world.
Oh my goodness! I LOVE reading about the incredible work you are doing around the world on the Children Incorporated blog. How can our readers stay connected to you?
You can follow the Children Incorporated On the Road Series at https://childrenincorporated.org/category/on-the-road/ .
You also read more about my work and order my book, the House of Life on my personal website at
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