The Enlightened Capitalist History
Enlightened Capitalist was born after the founder, Carol Wain, took a chance and asked the Universe to help guide her. This huge step would not have been possible without the success, failure, breakdowns, breakthroughs, and lessons she learned leading to this point and the results would not have materialized had she not changed her perspective.
Carol started her first business, Incentive Depot, (now Marquee Incentives), in her living room while on maternity leave in 1996.
Her first client was Microsoft, which was incredible considering she’d discovered the incentive industry by accident, she self-taught herself about the industry, she didn’t have a mentor and she’d built her website with Front Page for Dummies in one hand and an Internet Marketing manual in the other. (There are much easier ways to launch a business!)
Carol was a miserable employee when she went on maternity leave – she was a square peg in a round hole, in an unionized clerical position, at the electric company. It was not a job she envisioned she’d have for 7 years but it was a job she needed to support herself as a single Mom for the previous 4 years. The workplace was toxic, she had no support and she often cried on the way to work.
During her pregnancy, Carol hatched a plan to follow a lifelong goal to become a full-time entrepreneur. Initially, Carol thought that she’d follow her love of travel and become a travel agent but she quickly realized that she’d make no money, as the internet was rapidly changing the industry.
Serendipitously, during a call to a supplier to get a quote for a group trip, she heard the word “incentive trip” and the rest is history.
Carol logged into her 386 computer with her 14.4k modem and started researching.
She quickly discovered that this industry was her dream come true. It was about rewarding people for achieving goals and it was a win-win-win situation. The company would win because they’d reach their targets; the employees, channel partners and/or customers would win by being rewarded for their commitment; and she would win because she’d be able to set this type of business up using the internet, from her home, on her terms AND be able to travel. Carol’s first tagline (before she even knew what a tagline was!) was “Reward Commitment – Realize Goals”
Looking back to those early days, Carol came to understand how Enlightened Capitalist was meant to be, even though the road to get where she is now was full of pot holes and a few switchbacks.
Carol grew her business while she and her husband, Steve, raised their girls. When she couldn’t get home based business insurance any longer because she had too much revenue and too many employees working from their renovated garage, she moved the office across the road.
Being available for family and having fun with family was – and still is – extremely important to Carol. She made a conscious decision to grow the business to a level that permitted her to enjoy the rewards of her risk while enabling her to have the freedom to see the girls off to school, be home for dinner and to put the girls to bed, go to parent teas and sporting events and travel on vacation 4x/year.
At the time, Carol didn’t find this unusual at all. Balancing her role as an entrepreneur, Mom, wife, and woman was actually fairly easy because of the support of Steve, the girls, and her employees.
In 2004 Carol was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year for 2003. In 2004, she also spent a month in Europe with her family and Steve’s Mom while her team took care of business. Life was grand!
And then she made an expensive mistake. She decided to return to her original plan to create software to manage incentive programs. Carol had already worked with a developer to build the prototype, which she was using with current clients but it was built on a very small footprint which wasn’t scalable to her huge vision.
3 tries, with 3 development teams and hundreds of thousands of dollars of her hard earned money later, the perfect storm hit.
It was 2009 and her two biggest, best, most profitable, longest tenured and most fun to work with clients declared bankruptcy within months of each other.
Carol’s employees quit one by one and eventually she closed the doors to the office and retreated to her couch, feeling very sorry for herself. Her pity party lasted a long time and all these years later it finally makes sense – Carol needed to go on a journey to find herself, her purpose, her vision for her life and to grow both emotionally and spiritually.
Her single-track “I am solely responsible for my success and failure” perspective needed to evolve too. She needed to learn to also have faith and ask the Universe for help (which admittedly was very “woo-woo” for her).
Then, in 2016, Carol, with the support and guidance from Dr. Stephen Hobbs, decided to put out the ask to the Universe. She asked “Help me pull all of this together. The brands, my skills, my experiences and my purpose.” The answer came almost instantly when the words “Enlightened Capitalist” popped into her head.
After her pity-party, Carol had been learning to trust her intuition again. She’d also learned to balance her head with her heart and to feel “it” – the options and her decisions – in her body.
She mulled over the words.
She researched to see if anyone was talking about Enlightened Capitalist – and she was thrilled to see that Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson were. She checked trademarks and URLs and to see what else was going on in terms of those particular words.
She asked herself “What could this Enlightened Capitalist be?”
Then she checked into herself and asked “Does it feel right?”
It became apparent very quickly that Enlightened Capitalist was going to be far more than another of her brands. It was going to become a movement, a change of perspective and the vehicle for her to fulfill her personal purpose of “Transforming Lives Globally”.
But she kept asking herself “What IS IT? What is Enlightened Capitalist?”
When you buy a red car – every car you notice is red for the next little while. And it was the same with Enlightened Capitalist.
Suddenly EVERYTHING could be something that an Enlightened Capitalist is or could do – as long as it was making a positive impact.
Enlightened Capitalist became so huge on paper there was no way it was going to be successful. It was time to create priorities and launch stages and to whittle the extra parts away and put them in the “parking lot” for review later.
Enlightened Capitalist launched as a consultancy in December 2016 with consultants who would assist business leaders to transform their companies to “Be Good, Do Good and Do Well”.
And then Carol and her Advisors explored the other options and asked “What is really needed right now?”
The needs of our members are the most important driving factor for our continuous evolution and, as Enlightened Capitalists, we are adapting accordingly.
While the wealth of the world's billionaires grew immensely during the pandemic, the same cannot be said for many employees and for founders, leaders, and managers in Mom and Pop shops, small businesses, and mid-market businesses.
Even some of the chains, franchises, national and multi-national organizations are struggling to adapt.
Expectations are changing rapidly and the latest kink is "The Great Resignation", which is an evolution of the employee disengagement trend, which has been ongoing for years.
Technology -- which is awesome when it works -- and especially investing in technology in ways that streamline operations and provide more value to customers, employees, and of course, investors is a hot topic.
And the movement for demanding more ESG responsibility from organizations, and using their business to take a stand for causes, is growing each and every day.
While exploring options to bring a world-wide community together, events started to take shape. Carol and her Advisors recognized that different audiences have different needs at different times in their personal and professional lives, which needs to be addressed.
At the same time, learning from others, in different roles, inside and outside one’s industry helps provide different perspective and unique points of view and approaches which are transferable regardless of where a specific job or industry goes.
Combine these with the challenges of silos within organizations and the failure rates of change initiatives and so many other broken ways of doing business and the Enlightened Capitalist educational approach and a range of Enlightened Capitalist events became clearer.
And finally, for this chapter of the Enlightened Capitalist history, bringing people together, with a common voice and a descriptive – rather than prescriptive – approach to Reinventing Business and Transforming Lives, is coming to life through an Enlightened Capitalist membership which Supports, Educates and Advocates for those who are leading the way.
This long and seemingly convoluted history is not unlike the history of many other Enlightened Capitalists who set out doing one thing, suffer some setbacks and disappointments, recover, discover themselves, their purpose, the work that is meaningful to them, the philanthropy and environmental initiatives they choose to support and the ways they can improve performance to make the biggest positive impacts ripples possible.
This is what being an Enlightened Capitalist is all about – the ways we each get from where we are today as we awaken to the fact that all is not right with our world, and we have the ability to impact positive transformation – through to how we discover, accept and step into our unique greatness, skills and purpose – will be different for each and every one of us. Which is awesome!
Join US on Enlightened Capitalist journey!