Daughters of Change founder Marie Sola
“A daughter of change, she sees something she’s uncomfortable with or that even makes her a little bit angry, something that she wants to change, and she does it,” says Marie Sola. “She throws it out there, flapping in the breeze, flying by the seat of her pants, and makes it happen. She wants to start something, whether it’s a nonprofit or a business or a community project. And she does.”
For decades, Sola promised herself she would dive into something like that—a passion project, so to speak—later.
While raising two sons as a single mom, Sola worked in marketing and television, making sure she was financially independent and investing in her retirement. She dipped her toe in the waters of community involvement, volunteering with several local organizations, including Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, Youth Alternatives and the Florence House, which provides safe, permanent housing to chronically homeless women in Portland.
Meanwhile, Sola clipped and saved articles about ordinary women doing extraordinary things. With a sudden inspiration in the middle of the night, she knew what to call these women: Daughters of Change.
“Five years ago, I was traveling all over the world, making great money and meeting interesting people, but something was missing for me,” says Sola, who worked with Young Presidents’ Organization, a worldwide leadership organization for chief executives. “And then I started approaching 50, and I started thinking, ‘Later is now.’”
She established a limited liability corporation and put her decades of experience in media and marketing to work interviewing and posting conversations with inspiring women on her website, daughtersofchange.com, as well as Facebook and Pinterest. Maine women featured include Debby Porter, the breast cancer survivor and hair stylist who founded Hair Matters; Adele Ngoy, the fashion designer who immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and established Women United Around the World to teach other immigrant women to be professional stitchers; and Kat Powers, the interior designer who founded Healing Spaces to create nurturing environments for those in need. With links shared on Facebook, some interviews have been viewed thousands of times.
“My vision is to someday have a Daughters of Change streaming network that I can put content on and other women can share content, and I’d be creating a community of like-minded women,” Sola says. “And, if all the touchpoints of my business give back and hit my purpose, then I’m a working philanthropist.”
One challenge was that Sola needed to stop the drain on her 401(k) while building enough content and brand recognition to start selling advertising. At the same time, her interviews with women who saw something broken in the world and tried to fix it inspired her to do more than just tell other women’s stories.
“I worked in TV for a long time and know how to put a campaign together with a television station,” Sola says, explaining how Daughters of Change got involved in the Take Action Maine Campaign for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Sola had long been haunted by statistics that showed that half the homicides in Maine involve intimate partners. Despite having never been in an abusive relationship, she knew how easily it can happen. She’d come close.
“Thankfully I didn’t date this person long, and a couple of times he scared the crap out of me,” she says. “After I stopped seeing him, someone told me he’d come at his ex-girlfriend with a weapon. I think about that and about how close I came to being on a morgue slab.”
Sola talked with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence to be clear on what messages they wanted to get out to the public. Then she solicited businesses such as First National Bank, Day’s Jewelers and Hardy, Wolf & Downing to sponsor public service announcements. Finally, she produced the PSAs and earned a 15 percent commission from the television station without charging the coalition a penny.
“Marie Sola brought this perspective of how business, media and nonprofits could work together in a different kind of model,” says Regina Rooney, education and communications director for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “This campaign is bigger than anything else we had been able to do with media. And, since the campaign started, we have had a 35 percent increase in the number of calls to our helpline. That isn’t 35 percent more people experiencing domestic violence; it’s 35 percent more people getting connected with help.”
Going into year three, this award-winning campaign is expanding into social media.
“I will do this as long as I can,” Sola says, “because I have met people who do our spots who are survivors. What I didn’t expect was that they’d come up to me afterward and hug me and thank me. I go into the parking lot and cry after some of these shoots. It’s been a really interesting journey to follow my gut and not go find another job and to just stay true to doing what I believe and what I love.”
For more information about Daughters of Change: daughtersofchange.com
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call the helpline. In Maine: 1-866-834-HELP (4357). TTY 1-800-437-1220.
In all other states, call the National Domestic Violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
Calls are confidential, anonymous and free.
Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer, editor and photographer who makes a living doing what she loves. Or at least she tries.