Interview with Shannon McNamara, Teen Founder of SHARE

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Helping girls around the world create empowered futures is very much tied to ensuring they get a solid education. Doing her part to make a difference is Shannon McNamara, the founder of SHARE.

Shannon founded SHARE in 2008 to provide thousands of African girls with books, new desks, desperately needed school supplies, study programs and access to advanced education. These girls are overcoming prejudice, gaining skills, and working toward brighter futures.

Today, Shannon, 19, is a sophomore at Rice University, in Houston, Texas.  In addition to speaking around the country to raise awareness for SHARE, she has served on the UN Teen Advisory Board to promote youth involvement in the Girl Up campaign and was a 2011-12 Global Teen Leader for the We Are Family Foundation’s Three Dot Dash Initiative.

You could say she’s kind of busy. And inspiring. And changing the world.

Luckily, Shannon found time in her busy schedule to answer a few questions about turning her passion into action.

What has been the most fulfilling part of being an entrepreneur?

Shannon: To me, the most fulfilling part of being an entrepreneur is being able to spread awareness for the cause I am fighting for – women’s empowerment. I am so thankful and very blessed to be in a position where I can share my story across the states and help and meet girls in a different continent. The traveling, the learned lessons, and the insightful experiences are amazing.

Have your ever doubted your ability to see your idea through? And if so, how did you manage your insecurity?

Shannon: There have definitely been times when I have doubted my ability to see a certain idea through. Sometimes certain ideas seem too ambitious, or certain projects rely heavily on volunteer support and I get nervous on whether or not people will follow through.
But I always managed this insecurity with a team of fantastic people: my amazing parents, who always support me, my volunteers and friends who are always loyal to SHARE’s mission, and the fantastic people in Africa and girls in the SHARE program who always give 100% to everything they do and inspire me.

What quality do you have that you credit with your ability to be successful?

Shannon: I really have to credit my parents for bringing me up with a mindset of the importance of giving back. If they had not taken me on volunteer trips at a young age I might not have been introduced to the world of volunteering. They really lit the fire that started my passion for community service.

What has been the single biggest challenge you’ve had to face in creating your venture, and how did you overcome it?

Shannon: Strangely enough, the single biggest challenge (and most shocking challenge!) was convincing the mothers of the SHARE girls to let their daughters join the program! Some mothers preferred not to have their daughters in SHARE, saying that they needed the girls at home to help around the house and take care of the other children. Thankfully however, most mothers saw the value of education and let their daughters join SHARE!

What piece of advice or insight would you share with teen entrepreneurs who want to start their own company?

Shannon: When in doubt, if you are passionate about a cause, GO FOR IT! I always think that it’s better to try and fail than to never try at all. Even with that said, if you truly care about an issue, you will always find a way to make what you want happen. Start small if you’re intimidated, but never give up, because for as many bumps as there are in the road, there are more lessons to be learned and shared.

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Want to see Shannon in action? Check out this speech she gave at a White House reception for Girl Up!

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