Imagine having a job, security and everything planned and then you give that up to devote yourself to a cause that simply stated, calls to you.
Meet Molly Mednikow. Molly is our bonus pawer woman. We had to include her in this fantastically inspiring pack of women.
Fidose of Reality: Tell our readers about yourself.
Molly Mednikow: My name is Molly Mednikow and I am the Founder and Executive Director of Amazon CARES. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and now I divide my time between Atlanta, Georgia and Iquitos, Peru.
FOR: What is Amazon Cares and why did you decide to do this?
MM: Amazon CARES stands for Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety. We are the only animal welfare organization for domestic animals in the Amazon region.
I was on a volunteer vacation that I took annually to the beautiful Amazon region. I did not realize that this particular trip would mark a turning point in my life, but it did. I was enjoying my time away from my busy career, and I extended my stay in Peru. I did not make a conscious decision to start a charity and move to Peru. Multiple dogs in need found me. For instance, I was eating in a Chinese restaurant and a dog wandered in from the street and came straight to my table! I rescued that dog, and named him “Won Ton.” These animals needed me and I needed them. I rescued them and before I knew it I had rented space for a shelter and the rest fell into place!
FOR: How long has Amazon Cares been in existence and where have you appeared?
MM: We started in May 2004 and gained our first media exposure by placing paid educational advertisements in local newspapers. Gradually we began to garner more press locally, and now the Peru team is in the papers, on the radio and on TV in Iquitos every week. We have also appeared in the national papers and on national TV shows in Peru. In the USA we have been featured in a dog magazine, the HSUS Animal Sheltering magazine and heavily Best Friends blog following our disaster relief work after a major Earthquake in Peru.
Worldwide we have been featured in two books, “The Magic of Touch” by the Animal Welfare Institute, and “Ahound the World” by Joanne Lefson, which will soon be a documentary. We were featured heavily on a British television series “The World Wild Vet” and we are the topic of an upcoming documentary called “Fixing Fido.” Our presence is most recognized on the Internet where we have a nice social media following and I have appeared in numerous blogs and Internet radio shows.
FOR: How did the media recognize you/Amazon Cares? Did you need to reach out to them? That is one of the hardest things and an obstacle for many, how to get the media to notice their business.
MM: I wish I had time to be a full time press person, or the funds to hire one. I’ve been fortunate to have media reach out to me. There is no doubt that we would have more media coverage if I reached out more to the media, and this is a goal for 2012.
My first attention came in 2005 when I received a “Kindred Spirit: award for the Doris Day Animal League (now part of the HSUS). In most cases the press have discovered me, for which I am very fortunate.
FOR: What is your background with dogs and why this business? Had it been a long time dream?
MM: I spent much of my childhood on farms surrounded by animals. It seemed like everybody in the county knew they could dump their dog near my uncle’s farm and the dog would be cared for. Growing up I brought home all types of stray animals. An early memory is my Mom telling me that I should open a pet store! My family always rescued dogs, especially older, needy dogs. As an adult I rescued dogs too.
Family tradition dictated that I become a jeweler, so I got an MBA and opened a high end jewelry store in Atlanta. The business was successful, thank goodness, as selling it enabled me to start Amazon CARES charity. I thought I’d be in jewelry my entire life, but after participating in volunteer vacations to the Peruvian Amazon, I developed a love for the natural surroundings and the calmer, community based way of life. It is such a cliché but I truly “found myself” there, which is something nobody ever would have expected.
As an animal lover I was disturbed by the large number of stray, very ill, dogs roaming the streets, scrounging for food, in need of shelter and medical care. I already told you how Amazon CARES came into being. I never consciously dreamed of running an animal charity, yet the combination of what I do is the culmination of many earlier dreams. As a child I had dreamt of a career that would enable me to utilize my Spanish language skills, to travel internationally, and to help the less fortunate. Animals have no voice. They are often the least fortunate souls in a developing society. The founding and management of Amazon CARES fulfilled my long forgotten childhood dreams!
FOR: What advice would you give others wanting to pursue their pet/dog-related business?
MM: I was fortunate to have start up money from selling my business and most of my personal belongings. But start up funds can’t carry a growing charity or business. A funding plan is absolutely essential. Nothing will get accomplished without funding. In a business setting, a person can project revenue. A charity must depend on public confidance to raise money through donations.
Be it a charity or a business, a solid Mission Statement and a Statement of Goals and Objectives is key. I put many hours of thought into creating our Mission and our Goals and Objectives. They must clearly state your mission, but be broad enough to allow for growth.
Much thought was put into the name “Amazon CARES.” I wanted an acronym that targeted key words that grantmakers look for, and I wanted an acronym that would be the same in Spanish and in English. Thus I came up with Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety. It is quite a mouthful, but it’s a great acronym.
FOR: What are some resources (websites, etc) that you can refer readers to who want to do their own business in the pet sector? In other words, what sites/info helped you?
MM: The resources that helped me most were websites that dealt with animal sheltering management and employee training. These were things I did not know previously. The HSUS website is an incredible resource. The ASPCA sells comprehensive training books that cover all aspects of starting and managing a shelter.
Because our activities take place in Peru, and because I actually lived in Peru year round for the first four years of Amazon CARES’ existence, the Internet has been our primary way to reach a worldwide audience and target donors and volunteers.
The most invaluable resource for me and many other nonprofits is the blog Nonprofit Tech 2.0: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits at http://nonprofitorgs.wordpress.com/
The founder, Heather Mansfield, gives frequent webinars and seminars and McGraw Hill just published her book called “Social Media for Social Good” that has already become my “Bible.” It is a “How-To” for anything related to nonprofits and the web.
FOR: Tell us your website/blog and where folks can learn more.
Our website is at http://www.amazoncares.org and our blog is at http://amazoncares.blogspot.com. We have a Facebook community at http://www.facebook.com/AmazonCaresFans and a really strong following at http://www.twitter.com/AmazonCares.
FOR: What is on the horizon for Amazon Cares?
MM: Our most recent big news is that we have a matching grant challenge! A donor has pledged to match every dollar we raise up to $12,000. And, if we can raise that in 6 months, he’ll give us a bonus $6,000! The challenge is turning me into a professional fundraiser! What’s more important is what we can do with those funds! We can finally build a fence around our shelter property so the dogs can spend more time roaming in free space, and we can finally switch to solar power which will save us long-term, and replace our boat motor. There is nothing scarier than having your boat stall in the middle of the Amazon. There is no AAA service out there!!
We’re in the business of saving animals, but any charity needs money for maintenance and infrastructure, and those are often the hardest funds to raise. This matching grant will enable us to address some basic needs. We can’t even take electricity or running water for granted!
With that weight off our shoulders, we can continue to focus on our animal health and humane education programs.
Our volunteer trips have become more popular every year, attracting veterinarians from all over the globe. We look forward to expanding and improving our volunteer opportunities in Peru.
If you are reading this, please Donate Now!
FOR: What is your favorite aspect of working with and for dogs?
MM: Changing the community perception about how dogs deserve to be treated, and seeing that transform itself into a culture of adoption…being a part of this is the greatest reward. My favorite moments are when I bring together a loving family with a pet that needs a home. Often this pet has been nurtured from the brink of death by Amazon CARES’ staff. Seeing this amazing transformation and watching a dog grow beautiful and strong while learning to trust for the first time…and then finding a forever home…these are the moments that I live for.
Here is our recap of fab “pawer” women: