Nearly two decades ago in 1996 Cynthia Kersey, now a speaker, entrepreneur, best-selling author, national columnist, and contributing editor to Success Magazine, was working a corporate job like so many others – a national account manager at Sprint – when she decided to make a career change that was also a life change that would eventually change the lives of more than half-a-million others.
Since then she has not only written books and conducted coaching seminars that have inspired hundreds of thousands to lead what she calls “unstoppable” lives, she also turned her 50th birthday into a fundraiser to create two schools in Uganda and has raised nearly $3 million to provide daily education to thousands of African children. Kersey has set a goal for the next five months to get 5,000 more children in Africa an education through her Unstoppable Hero Toast viral social media campaign launched Nov. 1.
Just two years after leaving the corporate world, Kersey published Unstoppable in 1998, the success of which sparked Kersey to become a popular inspirational speaker and coach, empowering individuals to build and maintain a successful business and to create a rich and meaningful life. She interviewed thousands of people who were unstoppable – “They didn’t let their own circumstances or obstacles stop them,” she says, and wrote a second book: Unstoppable Women. The two books have sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide in 17 languages. The seven tenets of her definition of unstoppable:
- Driven by a purpose bigger than themselves
- Create a team
- Creatively solve problems
Eight years into this endeavor, while attending a Rural African Women Conference in 2006, Kersey was not only inspired by the courage of the women who walked miles and days to attend the conference, but also came away driven to find a way to provide education to African kids.
“Because, without it, nothing changes,” she says.
Four years later, after a trip to Kenya, Kersey’s resolve rose to the point where she decided that in order to accomplish her chosen mission of ensuring that every child on the planet receives access to an education, she could not continue running her business of consulting and coaching.
Thus, she founded the Unstoppable Foundation to provide turn-key programs to enable organizations and businesses to help eradicate extreme poverty through education, and, in doing so, improve the bottom line of partner businesses. She formed a team and created the “Sponsor A Village” program which provides not only classrooms but delivers the five pillars of sustainability for the entire community:
- Access to clean Water & Sanitation
- Food & Nutrition
- Education for Parents to Earn an Income
To implement this program, Kersey made many trips to Africa, establishing partner agencies that have established relationships and work directly with communities to identify what needs to be done.
“You can’t just build a school and expect children to attend,” she explained, noting that she visits each project every year to document everything and stay in personal contact with the implementing partners.
Today Kersey says Unstoppable Foundation educates 6,500 children every single day in three African countries, Uganda, Kenya and Liberia. There are 62 primary schools and two secondary schools. Each community is equipped with the Sponsor a Village program, receiving all five pillars.
Unstoppable Foundation, a member of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce based in Marina Del Rey, is comprised of six people on the core team.
“We go over (to Africa) and do workshops,” Kersey said. But their primary role is to generate funding, provide tools, and raise awareness.
The latest such fund-raising effort – Unstoppable Hero Toast – is the Foundation’s biggest yet. And yet, it is simpler than the Ice Bucket Challenge, requiring just three steps (www.UnstoppableHeroToast.org):
- Toast your Hero: record a 90-second smart phone video of yourself using a drink of your choice to toast a personal hero of your choice
- Become a Hero: make a personal donation to the Unstoppable Foundation
- Challenge three people to do the same
Meanwhile, Kersey is still speaking and inspiring, but now it’s about the power of giving. She reaches out to and through fellow authors who may also be entrepreneurs and have large followings.
“I absolutely love inspiring people to give,” she says. “I believe people want to be generous with their money. We’re giving people the opportunity to do something very powerful with their money.”
These donations are not only transformative for the African communities but also the donors, who are sent updates and information about how their donations are being spent and are encouraged to make personal visits.
Her message is that instead of creating a business that is going to create more health and environmental problems in the world, she encourages those interested to create something that will help solve problems.
“We have to be smart and create businesses that repair our eco-system.”
Her bottom line pitch: “Get involved in causes. Do well by doing good.”
It’s a pitch that also describes the last 20 years of Kersey’s life.