Imagine what it’s like to move to a new city and not know a single person. Now, imagine if you were immigrating to a new country and didn’t know a single person, the culture or what to expect, other than it felt like you were going to be finding hope, feeling fearless and off on a great adventure? This is what Mia Mends has spent the majority of her life doing. Not immigrating, although she did do that, but finding hope and feeling fearless on great adventures as she navigated her way around the globe through an amazing life, career and attitude. What can we learn from Mia? Lots.
Mia Mends family immigrated from Ghana during a Coup d’Etat when she was 7 years old. Both her parents were well established in their lives, but they were also not safe, and they knew they needed safety for their kids as well. Giving up everything, Mia’s father left in a rush and moved to London and her mother followed with Mia and her two sisters. After spending a year in London, they decided to move to Houston, because work wasn’t steady for Mia’s father. This is where Mia began to learn about finding hope and feeling fearless. This was a great adventure.
Mia began 2nd grade in Houston and she immediately started to feel out of place. She was a young black African girl at a predominately white public school. She didn’t talk like everyone else or look like everyone else, and she was teased mercifully. This defined Mia in ways she couldn’t have ever imagined and she withdrew inside herself and threw herself into studying. It wasn’t until High School that Mia Mends started finding hope and feeling fearless again. She became the class president, Vice President of the Student Council, volunteered at the United Way and was very active in her church. It was instinctive for her to be a leader and to stand up for something.
She watched her parents rebuild their lives from nothing, her mother opening a small law firm after retaking the bar and her father rising up the ranks of Enron. Both her parents ended up at Enron, and there they lost everything when the walls caved in. This was another defining moment for Mia, because it motivated her even more on her quest of finding hope and feeling fearless to compensate for what her parents had lost. She was determined to be a success to be able to help them and take care of them, as they had done for her all those years and especially in removing her and her sisters from a dangerous situation when she was only 7 years old.
Mia’s parents took out loans to send her to Wellesley College, even though she had a full scholarship to SMU, and this is where Mia started to connect with herself as a woman and realized that feeling fearless and finding hope was a way of life for her.
Feeling Fearless & Finding Hope
Mia Mends might seem blessed in her life, but she has worked very hard for everything she has. At times she has struggled, but she has done it with grace and courage. Nothing has been handed to her and she has made things happen. When she met her future husband after college, she had a choice to make between going to Harvard Business School or staying in Chicago with him. Her dream was Harvard Business School, and her husband encouraged her to pursue that dream, even though they would be in separate cities.
While at Harvard, Mia showed what feeling fearless and finding hope meant. Mia had met Oprah Winfrey while at Wellesley College. In fact, she had spent two weeks at Oprah’s farm as her guest with her friend, who was Steadman’s daughter. One thing that Harvard lacked was that so few people of color had been represented in case studies, which was a large part of the Business School, so Mia decided to do a case study on Oprah. She spent two years working on the case study with a small team at Harvard. The day it was taught, Oprah was at Harvard and sat in the audience. It was at that moment that Mia realized that feeling fearless and finding hope were a way of life for her and she knew there was nothing she couldn’t do.
Mia has lived all over the world. She has moved to places where she couldn’t speak the language. She has been the only black woman in a high ranking position within a company. She has revitalized important programs within huge companies. She has lived with kids and mentored them. She has been able to make sure that the quality of life for the people that companies she has worked for is being met and exceeded. She has commuted to other cities to work, leaving behind her husband and children. She has been a CEO and a General Manager. She has applied for jobs and not gotten them. She has turned down jobs she was offered. She leads with compassion and empathy. She is centered, calm and confident. She is a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend.
Mia Mends is feeling fearless and finding hope in every aspect of her life and is the type of real people that redefines what a VIP is and should be.