We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Highberg, CFRE and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michelle, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
Blessed to grow up in a beautiful little town by the sea in Westchester, New York, just a few miles from the city. At 14, after proving to be a responsible student, ballerina, and runner, I was allowed to take the train in with friends, where we would spend hours bopping around Greenwich Village buying vintage cashmere coats, listening to records at Bleeker Bob’s, and lazing for hours at outdoor cafes. I learned to be street smart and had many mentors for my parents were brilliant nonprofit leaders who taught me to be fearless, to walk with God, and, to have faith in myself from a very young age. At 7, my dad shared gala fundraising strategies for events at the Waldorf Astoria. When I was in college, he was the Managing Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he impacted thousands of Littles, Bigs, and parents too–especially after 9/11. My artist mom chose to go back to work when we were teens. Like dad, (who fell into social work straight out of college) she dedicated her life to the well-being of children and youth ingraining into me the power of positive thinking, and, asked me to always speak up for those who may not be strong enough to do so on their own. Childhood was idyllic, exciting, and filled with many rich traditions being raised near an extensive and welcoming Italian family. I know I was raised by earth angels who put me and my brother first. I felt confident, secure, and happy, always up for a fun road trip with dad and brother, even just to ride the Cyclone at Coney Island on a random Saturday. All of this has shaped me, my life mission, and for certain my second act career in the nonprofit sector. I had a job offer at 21 to visit a state I had never seen in a town I had never heard of-Laguna Beach.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I accepted the job offer to work at B.B. Dakota in Laguna Beach, at 21 years of age, my world got bigger fast. I learned every aspect of the business from being a fit tech, to forecaster, to a sales executive of our biggest accounts. My biggest growth in my twenties was from being in remote villages in China where people followed me around like a celebrity as they had not ever seen blue eyes in the 90s. I got to know many towns, Buddhist temples, explored Lao Zhu, the I Ching and Taoism, while never losing connection to my Catholic upbringing. My fashion career spanned 25 years of glamour, shopping, designing, and senior leadership as a VP of product development. Amazon’s existence felt like a great time to hop into the nonprofit sector in 2015. Only then, did I learn the true meaning of doing work that feels GOOD every day. Per my favorite quote: LOVE IS WORK MADE VISIBLE. from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One week of heaven to me with a friend would be a week in Laguna Beach with a couple of jaunts, and, and each day would be picked based on the weather. A fun itinerary:

Daily-a sunrise hike at trails by my home-every day a different one.
Sunny days of 70 or higher would be spent at the North end of Emerald Bay on the sand with snacks and sparkling water, enjoying slow walks together in the water’s edge followed by warm jacuzzi time.
Cloudy days may include a jaunt down to Encinitas and healing center to check out the koi then lunch in Del Mar after some fabulous vintage shopping in Cardiff by the Sea (at my favorite shop which donates profits to an animal shelter.)
Music and dancing matter-so if a great band might be at Belly Up, we would for sure do a sleepover at the Marriott in Solana Beach which is next to the best ever Thai restaurant, Bangkok Bay.
We would definitely enjoy dinners at Hotel Laguna, the Drake, and the Lumberyard which I feel is the quietest and most cozy of all options in town.
IF time allowed, 2 nights in the desert for some spa time would be in order. However, only if Laguna’s weather called for it. A tram ride for sure to the snow!
And, if we could–maybe a day trip to Mountain High to catch first tracks with 10 runs before 11 a.m., then a skiddaddle back to the beach for lunch at Splashes bar on the sand. Love a ski and beach day.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My main shout out goes to my dad, Carmine Magazine, who continues to mentor me in business, parenting, and, life at large. We speak every morning as I sunrise hike. He is one of the wisest and kindest people I know and keeps up his MSW as he is perpetually mentoring youth.

Website: www.bgclaguna.org

Instagram: michelle_highberg

Linkedin: Michelle Highberg, CFRE

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mperidot

Image Credits
I would like to email some better shots from my phone…Tony Lattimore credit for the group shot please of my current work colleagues.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.