Career Champs with Alicia Robinson, Founder and Executive Director of Limitless Ambition

Bootstrapping a non-profit is no light affair.

alicia robinson limitless ambition kent ohio zinga hart

I remember the night like it was yesterday. Frustrated with being severely limited at my job, I needed a way to vent my  insatiable need to create solutions to complex problems, and I found myself meeting with the coolest professional woman in the coolest building on campus at what was formerly known as the Blackstone Launchpad.

It was a semi-transparent glass box, smack dab in the middle of the student center, and having encountered her before, I curiously wondered how we could connect. When we met, she gave me the invitation to an All the CEO Ladies networking meeting later that week. It was after work so I went. It was there that the true connection was made.

It was there that the true connection was made.

We all had to pitch as a part of the membership. I came up with an idea to develop a social app that categorized and simplified who will be on the current political ballot. Everyone cheered, it was and still is a pretty crucial invention that we can’t quite get popularized.

Then it was her turn, Alicia Robinson. She sat and cheered everyone through their ideas and made friends pretty instantly. Like a cool older sister that you wonder where they get their je ne sais quoi.  We all heard her stitch together her vision of a future where women accept our pain because it pushes toward a life of purpose and passion. Where we network together to build youth girls to dream, believe, and achieve without limits. An organization she would call Limitless Ambition, Inc.

An organization she would call Limitless Ambition, Inc.

Her ideas of the future were so grand and so big, it  almost felt like one’s first visit to the late FAO Schwartz. She had the determination in her voice that made everyone feel like all the pitches we gave would pan out perfectly, just because we said it. We wanted her to succeed because we felt our own limitless ambition fueling us there in each others presence. A room full of young, emerging women hoping to craft a better future with our best ideas.

women leadership free lessons a woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman

Start-Up Leadership Lessons

By this point, I had experience with growing and refining strategies for non-profits so I agreed to join the group and help create a strategic plan, while doing some marketing.  that is where I learned that a start-up non-profit is a completely different canvas. This is when I learned that a start-up non-profit is a completely different canvas than the well-established organizations I was used to before starting college. Becuase it was a start-up, I was voted into the position of president, a role I was surprised to be offered. Yet, my initiative and understanding of the mission along with my comfort with strategic management fit for a startup. I agreed to take the position for three years, we the stipulation that we would spend time finding a president of a much higher-profile by the end of my term.

Alicia and I were still in school at the time, we both also worked full-time had tight millennial budgets, an untapped network, and  starter experience to boot. Our passion wouldn’t let that stop us, and, thankfully, Blackstone Launchpad, now KSU Launchnet provided an excellent source of wisdom, connections, and support along the way. We had late nights,  early emails, weekly and twice-weekly meetings; we devoted any minute of our free time, effort, and attention into making sure Limitless Ambition, Inc did everything as thoroughly as possible, to show we could match the pace of our peers. What we learned was that we had something that worked and that we had to keep serving those around us because they found value every time.

When life called she answered cultivated visions

Our Start Up Nonprofit Grows Up

It is no easy journey and we still have a long road to walk. There were small successes, frustrating failures, arguments, and awkward moments of facing our truths, so we could improve and move on. Yet, all along the way, we knew the moments were moments of empowerment, which was exactly the point. Thus, we kept moving forward, ego bruises and all. Now, we are preparing to host our next summer program and we have grown our team from around 5 to over 20 in three years time. Our organization has had a reach of over 600 people face to face and we have a locally-targeted social media reach of 4000+, all while working our passions part time.

As our team grew our hectic schedules quelled, and now we face new leadership lessons beyond the ones of our early start-up days. How do we ensure our mission is reflected in every aspect of our work? How can we provide community transparency that builds trust amongst those we serve and support? How can we be better leaders, still?

This may be my last year serving as the president of Limitless Ambition, so I hope to leave my lessons here for those who will carry the torch forward. Take a moment below to watch me interview Alicia in my special podcast segment below.

person starting at the cosmos wondering how the will manage their time and achieve complex project objectives

OMM: 5 Ways to Squeeze in Good Work

@ZingaHart

Life is complex. Work, school, family, career (which is separate from work), brand, relationships, and, oh yeah, our passions. As complex humans we tend to want to achieve complex goals (e.g. goals made up of many tasks). For instance, I have a friend Tia who works in education, serves on a nonprofit in her free time, is starting a business, and still manages to rise as a brand leader on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This along with the other dimensions of being a superb daughter, reliable sister, active community leader, and woman growing into her own creates a week that ebbs and flows, and sometimes feels like an intense juggling act. Finding balance as she leads as a nonprofit board member (her first time around btw) means is fitting in one more complex role into her life. How could she possibly squeeze in everything and still maintain her brand of composed and in control?

It’s taken me years to refine a time management system that ensures I am meeting the goals that matter while living the life I want. Although, I am still adapting and trying new systems, there are a few key principles that matter consistently.

1. Commit to something

A nonprofit that strives to grow a powerfully empowering networking of women means that you have face a lot of goals to chew through before the vision is fully realized. Meetings, deadlines, worksheets, and email correspondences can quickly come before you and it can feel comforting to ignore it and hide. Yet, part of you made the decision to be a part of the mission in the first place, which means there is a reason behind you decision. Within that reason is your motivation.

Write down the why behind your commitment. This is the something that you can turn to when you are forgetting the motives you had.

2. Set goals

Writing down or otherwise documenting your goals gives your brain something simple and concrete to solve. Your mind is a powerfully calculating tool and you are the command master. Set small SMART commands and your brain will do the work for you.

goal achievement

3. Put it in Your Face

How do you make sure the things you really want to get done actually get done? You have to constantly remind yourself until you have it finished. To keep your tasks at the top of your mind, find a place you look at often and place those goals there. For me its my homepage, a small notebook I keep in my purse, and a calendar on my desk.

4. Measure It

Review your history and cross off what you successfully completed. You’d be amazed. Once I stumbled on a five-year goals list I made for myself in high school and I had completed about 80% of the tasks even though I left it at my dad’s house when I moved away to college. When you celebrate your small successes you rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit to continue doing more.

goal achievement

5. Talk about it regularly

It can take a while, but even the most stubborn of individualist must admit humans cannot exist alone on an island for long. We need others to grow us, to support us, and to hold us accountable. Set goals and share them with others and then return and share your achievements and failures. Communicating is the first step to bringing the ideas inside our heads into reality.

How do you manage to squeeze your passion into your daily activities? Let’s chat.