We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Mancilla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nancy, what do you attribute your success to?
When we started the company in 2008, it was with 3 goals in mind; 1) to create a new profession that would rise out of the recession, 2) to inspire a new way of doing business, and 3) to be a model in that process by establishing a consultancy that would be mission-driven vs. profit-driven. Since we bootstrapped efforts and hit all major cities across the country with our sustainability trainings to help spread knowledge, we connected with and enabled ‘the next generation of sustainability professionals’. Many of those same people have gone on to lead corporate responsibility/sustainability efforts for some of the country’s major companies, the privately-held, academic institutions, and government agencies. We’ve always carried a very human-centered approach – meaning, the Nancy you see on the street, or at my son’s school, is the same Nancy that our clients see. That has been a remarkably effective tactic in breaking down barriers, creating trust, and facilitating bonds that are more than just professional. I truly feel that the goals first set out, coupled with our organizational culture, has led to the success of our brand.
What should our readers know about your business?
I will start by saying, that this has been anything, but, easy. As someone who carries a series of firsts under her belt, I didn’t have a built in support network or financial resources anywhere to draw from coming into this, or even as we need collapse a few years ago. What I did have was a strong vision of what I thought was possible in the world, conviction made of iron, and a huge network of friends cheering me on along the way. When I first shared my business idea with friends in about 2007, I heard, “no one is ever going to infuse ethics in business”, “we’re never going to do anything those Europeans are doing”, “take those ideas back to Amsterdam or California””…. with nothing to lose, I did! I didn’t study business, so I can say with honesty that that is also a weakness. However, after years of living overseas and operating in foreign cultures, I’ve developed an intuition that guides me. I’m also incredibly resourceful, honest, and eager to learn. One thing I was certain of was a decision I made in 1995, when I decided to leave Las Vegas and come out to San Diego for university. My alternative was to stay in Las Vegas and make quick money working at the hotels, but I knew that if I left, applied myself, worked hard, and didn’t give up when faced with challenges, that one day when I was in my 40s (guess I’m there), that I could finally relax and enjoy all I’ve accomplished. It’s happened and there’s not a day that passes where I’m not appreciate for the challenges, the opportunities, and the people who have helped along the way. I think people know that and that’s why they continue to believe in our company.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For starters, we’d head to Balboa Park early on a Saturday morning, grab a coffee at the Mingei Museum, join an outdoor yoga session, and then stroll through the park – possibly grab a bite at Panama 66. We’d then hit the Fish Taco truck at the neighborhood Target in South Park before heading back to my house for a nap in the hammock. Heading to the beach for the afternoon with the kids in tow would be mandatory. We would just watch all the people enjoying our beautiful coastline, while chatting into the sunset. As soon as the sun goes down, we would then head back across the Coronados Bridge to Barrio Logan. There we would stroll the neighborhood, pop into shops and grab tacos at Salud. What makes our city so enchanting is its diversity and proximity to the border. Therefore, the next few days would be centered along the Baja Coast, a visit to Valle de Guadelupe, and yes, more tacos.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people across the country, and the world, who have contributed to our succes. It’s so hard to focus on just one, so I’ll focus on the person who played a critical role in the early years, and another person here locally, who has sacrificed to strengthen the company. 1) David Bainbridge: “Dr. Bainbridge” as I’ve called him for the last 25 years, was the first person to introduce the term, “sustainability” to me. He was my environmental studies professor at USIU, which is referred to as Alliant International University today. Bainbridge got us outside the classroom to challenge our young minds in nature. Whether it was taking the class on a coastal tour in kayaks, dropping eggs from the top of our main campus building to test weight x velocity, or managing the school’s environmental club, he was always there to support us. Later, as I was developing the business plan for ISOS Group, he regularly advised us along the way, he gave us our first gig as we developed a household sustainability index, he let us sleep on his couch when we had nowhere to stay, he found space for us to lead our trainings, he even helped teach! He continues to be my idol as he publishes books left and right on topics that I would only dream of exploring. He is a true sustainability leader and I am humbled to follow in his footsteps. 2) Brian Noveck: Brian came to me a few years ago as my business and home life were falling apart. He was wrapping up his Masters at UCSD and offered to intern. He never bragged about any of the skills he had hiding up his sleeves, and in time, he slowly and quietly revealed his magic. Brian quickly picked up on the practice of sustainability reporting and assurance, which could take most people years to grasp, he strengthened all processes, instituted systems, cleaned up our accounting, and even remodeled our office, all while smiling through a volume of client work that most couldn’t imagine a small firm like ours could process. Within two years time, he’s enabled us to meet all our business objectives, including profit margins, and continues to be more than a business partner, but a friend. I’m beyond blessed to have had this young person come into my life.