Missy upholds the Lift & Be Uplifted mission by leading a movement of hope, love, empowerment, and transformation by uplifting those who lack access to the financial tools they need to provide for their families. As the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Seed Effect, Missy encourages people to say yes, get involved, and become an agent of change.
Prior to Seed Effect, Missy studied Finance and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, which lead her to pursue a career in Interior Design and subsequently worked with a successful high-end interior designer while also operating her own interior design firm in Dallas. Missy co-founded Seed Effect in 2009 after her first mission trip to South Sudan. Missy was incredibly moved by the resilience of the people of South Sudan. Recognizing the immense need for economic empowerment, she co-founded Seed Effect, disbursing the first microloans to nineteen entrepreneurs in 2009. Missy is leading the organization through strategic planning, vision casting, fundraising, marketing and development, management, event planning, and advocacy for Seed Effect.
Read more about Missy's perspective in this spotlight!
1. Rarely is someone's journey linear. Can you explain what you wanted to be when you grew up, and how your career landed where you are right now?
As a little girl, I actually wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I used to design enormous houses with all kinds of crazy features. None of them could have realistically been built, but I drew and dreamed and explored so many fun ideas. Later, I was accepted to the business school at the University of Texas in Austin and my parents, both being accountants and very practical, encouraged me to pursue a business degree. At this point, a career in architecture seemed like it was moving further and further away. During college, I balanced my business classes with art history and graduated with a degree in Finance and a minor in Art History. I got engaged my senior year in college and moved to Dallas to get married after graduation.
After lots of interviews and no job offers, I went back to work as the manager of a fly-fishing store that I had worked at part-time in college. Besides one of the owners, who had recently moved to another city, I was the only female and the youngest employee, and yet I was running the store. While it was challenging, I loved this season and grew tremendously. It was a wonderful place to work, learn, and grow. When I look back, I see how God used it to prepare me for my work with Seed Effect years later in South Sudan, a country where women are often seen as inferior and would rarely be given a leadership position. As a female, in a male dominated industry (sixteen years ago, there weren’t nearly as many women in the fly-fishing world), I learned that I couldn’t simply demand that an employee do what I say. I learned that my title didn’t inherently give me, a young female, the same kind of power that I had seen others wield. But, in a lot of ways, this was a gift. Instead, I learned that when I focused on good communication, keeping short accounts, ensuring everyone is heard and has a voice, and building a culture that fosters trust and respect, our team thrived.
After a few years at the fly shop, I learned about an Interior Design program offered at El Centro College. I ended up quitting my job and going back to school to finally pursue a design degree. While taking classes, I started my own Interior Design business working with a contractor on remodels and, simultaneously, went to work for a well-known Dallas designer and author. I loved it. What started as dreaming about silly spaces and homes as a child, became a much deeper understanding of how the spaces we inhabit impact the way we experience life. Interior design is really all about crafting an experience.
During my last semester of design school, my husband and I were invited to go on a trip to South Sudan. This trip changed everything. I ended up leaving design school with only two classes left to complete, quitting my job, and working with the local church in South Sudan to launch Seed Effect. My business degree, my time at the fly shop, and my time as an interior designer all prepared me for the ten years I’ve been serving with Seed Effect in East Africa. My time at UT taught me to be a self-starter and how to read a financial statement (my parents were right J). I learned budgeting and forecasting and how to effectively manage a team, as the only female, at the fly shop. And as a designer, I learned that designing a home and throwing a fundraising event really have the same goal in mind — to create a life-giving, encouraging, and useful experience.
2. Which single word do you most identify with?
3. What moment/experience in your life was the most formative in your development as a woman in leadership?
Oh goodness. To come up with one, single moment is hard! I would probably say that my time managing the fly fishing store was one of the most formative experiences in my development as a woman in leadership. It’s funny, because I wasn’t actually working daily with any other women at that time. But, being thrust into a position where I had to learn, as the youngest and only female, how to manage a team of older men, served as a crucial step that prepared me for my time with Seed Effect in South Sudan.
4. What is the biggest barrier you experienced as a woman in your career?
I’m an enneagram 8 and it’s been interesting and challenging to navigate being a strong female leader in a world where women in leadership aren’t always valued or celebrated. At first, it felt isolating and I struggled with feeling like I was too much and like my natural leadership qualities were actually bad because I was a female. But the more I’ve learned about God and myself and the gifts God has given me, the more comfortable I have become in my own skin and the more I realize it’s not about me at all. I strive to lean into who God made me to be and to use the gifts he’s given me for his kingdom work and his glory.
5. Through Seed Effect, you have impacted 27,000+ people and counting. What is your most effective method to lead and influence others to get behind your mission and join your movement?
I really can’t claim credit for the work Seed Effect has done. God has brought together an incredible team and used our indigenous staff to empower tens of thousands of South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans, mostly women, to grow spiritually and provide for their families with dignity. Our local team has led this effort and they are the ones tirelessly serving their people.
Honestly, I think all I’ve really done is to say yes to being a part of this work and to being willing to share my passion about it. Once I’ve seen something that is unjust, I can’t idly stand by. At that point, I know too much. I have to be a part of righting that injustice. I feel it in my core, and I think it’s just the way I’m wired. My method, if you could call it that, is to share that passion and provide an opportunity for others to participate in this work. It’s really that simple.
6. Go-to ice cream flavor?
Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean with any kind of topping (almond butter cups, chocolate chips, peppermint chocolate, strawberries). I love that one flavor can serve as the base to satisfy so many different cravings!
7. You have been a strong mentor for countless young women! Who in your life serves as a powerful mentor to you?
It’s hard to speak of just one mentor. Through Seed Effect, our church, and the school that my children attend, I’ve been blessed to serve with some incredible people. The Seed Effect board, my church community group, the school board I serve on, and the CEO peer group I’m in have all served as mentors for me in different stages of my journey. Both men and women in these groups have been an incredible support system.
8. What advice would you go back in time and give your younger self?
You are not too much. You are enough. God gave you a deep sense of injustice, created you with passion, and wired you to lead. Don’t apologize for that, but humbly, with a posture of surrender, lean in. The path won’t be easy but it will be so good.
9. Who is your female icon?
I can’t think of someone I could say is my female icon, but there are many women in leadership that I admire greatly. Most of them would be women I do life with — great moms and great leaders of organizations! One that comes to mind is Scovia Mansuk. I've included a picture of the two of us. Scovia served as the Country Director of Seed Effect South Sudan for many years and now serves as the Director of Operations for Seed Effect Uganda. I've worked with her for almost ten years now. She's such an inspiration and one of my favorite people! It's almost unheard of for a woman to lead an organization like this in South Sudan. She's pretty amazing.
10. What is your "mantra," or personal "motto" that keeps you motivated and focused?
Seed Effect’s work in the hard places — fragile states and refugee settlements — is just that. It’s hard. We encounter challenges day in and day out that I never imagined facing. And the amount of injustice, loss, and grief we see is utterly heartbreaking. Add that to both the beauty and weight of being a mom and a wife, and while it’s a tremendous blessing, it can sometimes feel pretty overwhelming.
But, one of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 11:28-30. It reminds me that I am not meant to carry the burdens of this world. I have the ESV version memorized, but my favorite phrasing is in the Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”