Women entrepreneurs from all age groups and backgrounds are constantly smashing stereotypes and changing the business scene. These wonder women inspire others to venture on the path of entrepreneurship through their success stories, which comprise personal struggles and challenges. And Meagan Fallone (Founder of Step Up Advisers and Chief Impact Officer-Innoterra Ag) is one such wonder woman who exemplifies exceptional vision and commitment to social leadership while advocating for strong professional practices within a social innovation context.
Meagan was born in New Zealand, and somehow the DNA of loving nature, mountains, & the sea have always been present in her. “They are my ‘go-to’ place when I want to feel centred,” says Meagan. Her parents were both educators in every sense of the word, so she grew up in a home full of debate and discourse, with frequent visits from people from other countries and the deep belief that everything was possible with the right education and effort.
Sharing anecdotes from her past, the woman entrepreneur states, “I was entrepreneurial from a child- I didn’t “play house”, I “played shopkeeper”! I hated things that were ‘unfair’, and from as early as I can remember, I believed that girls could do everything boys could do; better. (Said smiling). So not really a surprise I have spent my adult life as an entrepreneur, social and otherwise – trying to create level playing fields for women to reach their aspirations and that I have focused on collaborations that led to equal access to knowledge & learning.“
She further adds, “What has always inspired me is the incredible human potential of those we leave by the wayside, those who are not seen, and those who are written off because they just don’t conform to the norm. I am definitely an outlier and relate to others who have had that journey. ….The road less travelled.“
Values are the guiding principles in our lives. And leaders who exemplify their values earn respect and devotion from their teams. Value-driven leadership can motivate people to adopt their values as their own instead of just following them. Trust, Humility, Focus, Power, Humor and Beauty, according to Meagan, are the values that matter most to her as a leader. These values allow her to be a better leader, build respect and trust among her team, and influence them in a positive way that encourages high performance and excellence.
Each of us has the power to ‘lead’ ourselves and to steward our responsibilities with vision and purpose.
Culture not only reflects those in positions of power but also encourages employee engagement and satisfaction. Meagan shares, “I like working in a flat structure for the most part and set my teams up that way. Everyone must respect the skills of each other- no one is above learning and listening. I ensure they try to balance personal and professional lives- young people need this kind of structure, especially if they are passionate and committed. I try to ensure regular in-person working sessions that are creative and fun so we learn about each other, our talents, and the ways we each think. This really transforms teams as they begin to rely on each other for the things they are less adept at. This is a tremendous strength.“
Furthermore, she is a big believer of team outings and being close to the person they are designing or building for. Shared adventures move teams towards excellence, build cohesion, respect and empathy. She also aims for an intergenerational and gender-balanced team composition, since having people with diverse perspectives on the same problem makes things more stable and lively.
Facing Challenging Head-on
“The urgency of the climate crisis, widening inequality, and a crisis of faith that our young people are suffering from – as they watch a generation they should be emulating; fail to meet their expectations and calls for action – mean we all must think differently and with humility about our roles. If one is a “servant leader,” one must accept that we may be needed in different capacities of leadership- possibly not in front but rather from within- to catalyze change, different ways of thinking, and a different, more conscious way of doing business, ‘as usual,” opines Meagan. She consciously decided to return to the private sector so that she could take the initiative but lead from the inside. To understand the constraints and barriers that stop companies from being able to action the ideals of their own leadership teams.
It has been a challenging learning experience on many levels, but one for which Meagan is incredibly grateful. Regarding the obstacles of switching to a new economic paradigm, many things have become clearer to her. Their financial systems, investor expectations, and the availability of resources for businesses striving to pave new paths and make significant environmental improvements are all still very challenging.
What is Step Up?
Meagan explains, “Step up was established to support partnerships that lead, I hope, to new economic models- where stakeholder value creation is embedded; versus a purely extractive design. I believe this takes new collaboration and co-design skills and that it must cross silos so we can learn from each other. Social Entrepreneurs, Private Sector, and Governments need to co-create business models that will actually result in more equitable systems.”
Bright Future Ahead
Her current responsibility as CIO at Innoterra is to support the company’s goals to redesign the agri-food value chain in a way that is fairer to smallholder farmers and the planet. She and her team are making considerable progress on digital solutions that boost smallholder farmers’ incomes, with climate justice at the centre of my strategic vision.
In addition, they are also working to introduce innoSoli, a digital learning management system for smallholder farmers that overcomes literacy and language barriers. It is a first-of-its-kind content-driven commerce approach designed to build confidence, competence, and community for some of the world’s most marginalized farmers. “Its been an extraordinary journey and privilege to have been a social entrepreneur working inside this company- learning each day how we might develop more’ value rich’ business models,” states Meagan.