Christina Marie Noel is an award-winning Social Entrepreneur, Marketing Strategist, Executive Coach, & speaker that specializes in helping organizations thrive through a unique combination of strategy and storytelling. Christina is a leader within the global B Corp movement. She is the co-founder of the NC B Corp Champions and in 2015, she received B Corp MVP award, given annually to the single person worldwide that has most impacted the B Corp movement. In 2018, Christina launched the Arc Benders storytelling project where she interviewed more than 50 people who have changed the world to understand what it takes to design a life with purpose. The project led her to take the leap and start a social enterprise of her own. Christina provides coaching & consulting to mission-driven leaders and she is founder of the Figure Your Sh*t Out accelerator, a program created to help early-stage, mission-driven entrepreneurs thrive.
Meeting Christina Marie Noel means stepping into a whirlwind of contagious excitement about all things social enterprise, B Corp and using business as a force for good. When you ask Christina what she is working on right now, you might as well ask her what she is NOT working on right now. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person and even chatting with a number of participants of her Figure your S#*t Out! Accelerator. You heard that right. Buckle up for some real talk about what it means to be and work with purpose-driven entrepreneurs!
“I run a company called Noel & Co. which is an umbrella for all the things that I do. On the consulting front, I work with a lot of B Corp CEOs helping them with their marketing and strategy plans. Usually, that involves two things
- Number one: We start with customer research, to make sure they understand who their customers are, and
- Number two: Define their storytelling and marketing strategy to connect with those customers.
On the coaching front, I offer one-on-one coaching and my signature accelerator program: Figure your Shit Out. It’s essentially a program to help community-focused entrepreneurs explore their amazing ideas and bring them to life. I created FYSO to help people figure their shit out and to give them a safe space to really ground themselves in the idea that any type of work we do in the impact space should be sustainable for the business, the community, and for the change maker.”
Change makers are often overachievers and really passionate about what we do; and because of that, we often put our mission before ourselves.
Why North Carolina?
“I was raised in eastern North Carolina and eventually moved to Georgia for my first job out of college and I stayed to get my MBA. I returned to North Carolina thanks to an internship with B Lab, the certifying body of the B Corp movement. Long story short: Over the last six years, thanks to my work alongside a handful of other amazing B Corp leaders that are based here, we have a thriving B Corp and social enterprise community, called B Local Triangle (the area around Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill is referred to as the Research Triangle). Without knowing it at the time, what we called the NC B Corp Champions became an example for what an organic grassroots movement looks like. It eventually became a model for this national standard called ‘B Local.’”
Business models, scaling & DEI
“On a high level: Business models and scaling are top of mind for me.
Impact-driven business models are tough. They are really powerful but at the same time, constantly balancing social impact with financial objectives is something we don’t have too much experience in yet. One way to address this is simply through the market. More B Corps need to be doing business with other B Corps.
The certification can’t just be a feel-good movement. It should also be leading to financial results.
My hope is that we can grow together.
Something that the B Corp movement and we here in North Carolina have been working toward is a push for more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). I’m the first to say I am blonde and privileged. I am female, so I’ve experienced sexism for sure. However, I don’t think that even comes close to comparison as we explore the impacts of racism and other forms of prejudice. I try to use my privilege as a force for good in every way that I can. We have to always be looking at how we hire, how we empower new majority entrepreneurs, and how we treat people. It cannot be up to the people who are experiencing prejudice to be responsible for solving the problems of inequity.
It’s something we can’t lose sight of. I know there was a ton of talk about it a few years ago, but the question is “Is it still top of mind? Are we really creating diverse workforces?” As social entrepreneurs and social impact leaders we should be leading the way in creating more work spaces that really work for people. Let them bring their whole self to work. Let them serve introverted and extroverted needs. Acknowledge that we all have our own biases and proactively work to overcome them. Have the flexibility people need to bring their best selves to work.
The reason I’m so obsessed about helping entrepreneurs and organizations create scalable business models is that you can’t do those things if you don’t have the resources that come with having a sustainable business model.”
It’s challenging to take care of your employees without a sustainable profit.
One piece of advice for ecosystem builders for social change?
“I interviewed 50 people who changed the world and the oxygen mask metaphor came up time and time again:
You have to put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else.
If you’re in the social impact space, people assume they can take your time, they’re always going to ask and of course, you always want to help! That’s why we’re in this sector to begin with! But the truth is, if you don’t set boundaries and stick to them, it’s going to take a toll. For me, it put a strain on my relationships at home, my friend network became weaker and I got to a place where I understood that in order for me to do my work well, I had to put myself, my family and my support network first.
Honey, I’m doing world-changing work, can you do the dishes?
How can we support you in your work?
“As ecosystem builders, let’s support each other! There are a few ways in which we can keep each other honest and engaged:
- Knowledge sharing around what resources are out there.
- Advocacy to use business as a force for good.
- Helping us stick with it.
What I value most are people who continue to show up, do the work and remind ourselves and each other that the programs we’re creating to fill gaps are legitimate. It’s hard work and it’s also really really valuable. I truly believe that the world needs entrepreneurial support programs that fill the gaps. The key is helping us, the supporters, stay accountable to stay the course long-term and do it at a pace that’s reasonable.”
Christina Marie Noel
Raleigh, NC, U.S.
OG B Corp Champion. Master of figuring your sh*t out. Wife and outdoor survivalist-in-training.