Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Carmen Duncan of Mission Accomplished Transition Services Is Helping To Change Our World
Take care of yourself. Go on vacation. Walk away from the phone and computer. Take breaks while working. Stay away from the email. I strongly recommend leaders within companies take a 30-day vacation once per year!!!! This will rejuvenate you and put life into perspective. For the first time this year I took 30 days off; I am wiser because of it!
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”,, I had the pleasure of interviewing Coach Carmen Duncan.
Coach Carmen is a social entrepreneur and the Chief Coach + Founder of Mission Accomplished Transition Services (Mission Accomplished). As a young woman she worked to circumvent the impact of adolescent homelessness with the help of family, friends, coaches, and mentors who believed in her vision to not to succumb to her circumstances. Her life experiences inspired her to “pay it forward” by launching a career education organization that provides quality, intentional coaches and mentors who recognize the power of all rising young professionals and entrepreneurs, no matter their socioeconomic background.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
While in graduate school I witnessed many of my peers and the teens I was working with through my internship did not know how to effectively network with influential professionals who could help make their transition into the workforce easier. Witnessing their challenges inspired me to establish an organization, Mission Accomplished Transition Services, that would allow me and others to provide industry-specific career mentorship and coaching. I am the result of having mentors and coaches who took a vested interest in me and didn’t tell me that my dream was too big — and really just helped me take baby steps to get to where I wanted to be. And, today, I’m where I want to be. I truly believe I was provided that personal experience so that I can utilize my experience to build a company that provides the same loving, customized experience for talented rising young professionals navigating life.
As a graduate student I was fortunate enough to have Hector Ramirez, my mentor and coach who was a nonprofit executive at a company with a $37 million budget. Hector saw the fire in me; therefore, he made the decision to be my mentor. He was so dedicated to helping me bring my dream company, Mission Accomplished Transition Services, to reality that he hired me to be his Research Assistant. To this day I am confident Hector hired me so he could pay me while mentoring me and so I could see the inner workings of a multimillion dollar nonprofit from the inside and particularly from the seat and office of the c-suite.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Just last week, a man I’d never met donated $10,000 to ensure the sustainability of our important mission and work. He and I met for 45 minutes and at the end of the meeting he handed me a $10,000 check. I was speechless and inspired. I hope to do the same for other social entrepreneurs seeking to positively impact the world through nontraditional methods and solutions that they know in their soul will make a positive impact in this world but just need the money to make it work!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I cannot think of a funny one; however, I’ve learned one lesson, hire for skill when starting a company rather than potential. I have come to believe it’s important to hire people who have the skill sets to execute then once the company has a team of skilled team members you will have enough people to mentor those who have potential to advance their skill set while nurturing the fire and hunger inside of them to be great at what they do.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Inc. fills a gap in workforce development programs for rising young professionals and entrepreneurs around the Capital Region of New York who are under/unemployed. We offer training, mentorship, and entrepreneurial support for creative and ambitious young professionals aged 13–35 looking to transform their careers in the construction, mural painting, and fashion industries.
Our programs blend administrative and operations skills training with personal mentorship and creative expression. We offer our students and alumni the opportunity to train for success, foster leadership and organizational skills to launch their careers or scale businesses, position themselves for career advancement, and help them find their place and voice in the business world.
Since our founding in 2011, I have prioritized ensuring young Black and Brown professionals and entrepreneurs and people from low-middle socioeconomic backgrounds know our learning spaces are created with them as a priority. Many of us experience institutional racism and don’t know how to address it at times. There are negative connotations and many stereotypes that put us in boxes. So it’s incredibly important for my team and I to create learning communities where individuals who come from ethnic and cultural communities not highlighted in the best way in the media have a place to go to create their own narrative while working together to build collaboration.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
While in the advanced track of the Fashion Edition Institute this year, one of our students’ signed the lease to his first hair salon! He has over ten years of experience as a master hairstylist. His big dream was to own a salon one day; however, he did not have the confidence and understanding of how to go about owning a salon before entering our program. He credits his participation in our program for pushing him and preparing him to take ownership of his salon.
The advanced track of the Fashion Edition Institute is a 6-month career and small business development program for rising fashion professionals. Students gain access to over 500 hours of mentorship and coaching from industry professionals who help them clarify their brand message, increase their visibility, develop partner proposals, build self-confidence, and enhance their understanding of the administrative and operational responsibilities associated with their businesses and careers.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Members of the community can speak up and take action against racism and discrimination within the workplace. Taking action means verbally speaking up when you witness racist and discriminatory acts against Black and Brown people. For example, lots of people took to the streets in 2020 after the public murder of George Floyd to show that Black Lives Matter. It is CRITICAL that people understand the lives of Black and Brown people do not only matter when our life is at stake; our lives matter when people criticize us, demean us, take advantage of us, and treat us as if we are less than anyone else.
- The more people who speak up about racist and discriminatory practices within the workplace the more likely policies — written and normalized — will change.
- Hire rising young professionals and entrepreneurs who are and are not in college as paid interns and apprentices. Such opportunities allow them to showcase their capabilities, make connections, gather influential mentors, and build the confidence to pursue their wildest dreams while getting paid. If my mentor Hector did not pay me, I am not sure I would have been able to accept the opportunity because I do not come from a financially stable family that could take care of my financial responsibilities while I learned. PAID internships and apprenticeships are critical to economic equality!
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership = understanding + collaboration.
A leader takes the time to understand the people and circumstances they are in while collaborating with the people they work with to achieve shared goals.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- To identify one area of expertise then grow. For example, when I started Mission Accomplished Transition Services, I wanted the company to be everything to every young person. But, over the years, I have learned, this confuses people and stretches the team thin, leading to burnout.
- Focus on the administrative and operational team before the programmatic team. It is crucial to have the following experts on your team as soon as you can hire them:
a. finance professional to ensure financial health and growth
b. operations professional to oversee and manage day-to-day operations while helping to create a healthy culture
c. sales/fundraising professional to help secure money and tell your story,
d. a marketing/branding professional to help create the brand message and appeal, and
e. customer service professional to help foster and sustain relationships with clients and partners.
- Establish and announce your vision and goals to your team frequently. Walking around with your grand vision and goals in your head does not allow you to work collaboratively with your team. The more they understand the vision, the more they can contribute and take ownership of certain aspects.
- Participate in fellowships and other key learning opportunities. It’s important to learn with and from peers and people who have been successful. The more you are around these people the more help you get and the more you will challenge yourself. The point of this is to grow with people and not compete with others. Yes, allow others’ drive and creativity to inspire you but NEVER measure yourself up against someone else. We all have our own journey.
- Take care of yourself. Go on vacation. Walk away from the phone and computer. Take breaks while working. Stay away from the email. I strongly recommend leaders within companies take a 30-day vacation once per year!!!! This will rejuvenate you and put life into perspective. For the first time this year I took 30 days off; I am wiser because of it!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d inspire influencers to address inequities for Black and Brown young professionals and entrepreneurs in the global fashion, construction, mural painting and interior design/decorating industries.
I invite advocates for racial, social, and economic justice in the above key industries to work closely with my company, Mission Accomplished Transition Service, to collaborate with our team, students, and alumni. Partnership with us will enhance our visibility as a Black-led career education company, our talented students and alumni while highlighting your commitment to change the narrative by working with us to help close the gap!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves; they tell you, you can’t do it. So if you want something, go get it, period.”
- Will Smith, Why Do We Fall and Pursuit of Happyness
I live with this in my heart, soul, and mind EVERYDAY! People who have been defeated will tell people they can’t do something because they experienced a roadblock. I’ve learned to listen to what went wrong for them then identify ways to do what they did differently while enlisting support in a meaningful, intentional way to help me move past barriers.
I have also learned that when people who have experience in a particular area tell me to slow down, I must understand they are not telling me I cannot do something, they are telling me to take my time, be strategic and to not try to do everything simultaneously.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would LOVE to have a private breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner with Rhianna and her Savage X Fenty and musical performance production teams. I value her wise decision to take a break from performing to afford her the time to hyper-focus on Savage X Fenty. I’d want to learn why she made the decision — I am a true believer in focusing on one business at a time until you get the business to a point where it is making money on its own. It took me a long time to figure this out. I want to meet the team, too, because I know successful people are surrounded by and invested in my dedicated, mission-driven teams.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Mission Accomplished Transition Services:
Facebook — @missacc12 — https://www.facebook.com/Missacc12
Instagram — @missacc12 — https://www.instagram.com/missacc12/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Carmen Duncan of Mission Accomplished Transition Services Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.