Feedback: March 2017

by Melanie Isaacs | Jason Moore | Nicola M. Winkel, MPA

What difference has mentoring made for you in building your business?

Melanie IsaacsMelanie Isaacs

Founder and Chief Inclusion Officer
PAL Experiences
Sector: Social Enterprise Nonprofit

I left a job of relative stability for the life of an entrepreneur — and have never looked back. Not that it is easy. It’s not. In fact, it is an addicting roller-coaster of wins and confidence balanced with hard lessons and deep breathes.

Mentors have been my anti-vertigo drug. People who calm me down and listen when I need to hear things out loud. People who show me the road that got blurry and ask the hard questions that need to be addressed. Some mentors have been in my life for ages, supporting me when I needed it most. Others popped in, miraculously, at just the right time, providing some feedback, honesty or an ear that I desperately needed at that moment. Starting a business is a wonderful roller-coaster. Mentors make the highs better and the lows doable. Without PAL’s team of dedicated and diverse mentors we simply would not be where we are today.

Melanie Isaacs studied Zoology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Marine Biology at Western Illinois University. After working in the zoo and aquaria industry, she saw the opportunity venues had to be more inclusive for guests with autism and related disabilities. Isaacs founded PAL Experiences to achieve this next level of accessibility, partnering with entertainment venues and other facilities to build communities where everyone gets to go and to empower individuals with autism and related disabilities. 


Jason Moore

Executive Director
NorthBridge College Success Program
Sector: Social Enterprise Nonprofit

The subtle suggestion, the relatable story, and the purposeful guidance I’ve received over the years have allowed me to become a nonprofit professional and leader.  I still remember, my first principal saying, “keep speaking up in faculty meetings,” and years later, a board member telling me about the Monkeys and Ladder Experiment – true or not.  While neither individual became a “mentor” their wisdom and actions, contributed to my growth.  Through me, they added value to the organizations I worked for and currently lead.

In the last few years, I’ve benefited from several intentional mentoring relationships.  By talking through key decisions, having my preconceptions challenged, and confirming the dynamics of different situations, I’m better able to lead, and execute NorthBridge’s mission.  Most recently, the mentoring of two Social Venture Partners has helped me articulate the need and benefits of a key new program, which will help more community college students succeed.  While I’m responsible for NorthBridge, its success is due in part, to those who gave me their time, insights, and expertise.

Jason Moore is executive director of NorthBridge College Success Program, which specializes in helping youth who learn differently to transition and succeed in college.  Moore has spent 25 years working on behalf of youth as an educator and nonprofit leader.  Since 2012, his focus has been on increasing college completion rates and is involved in many of the Valley’s initiatives focused on this challenge.


Nicola M. Winkel, MPA

Program Consultant/Project Director
Arizona Coalition for Military Families
Sector: Social Enterprise Nonprofit

Mentoring currently plays a very important role in growing my organization, the Arizona Coalition for Military Families. As a semi-finalist in Social Venture Partner Arizona’s Fast Pitch competition, I have two volunteer mentors helping me hone my organization message and strengthen my delivery. Their support is invaluable and I think of this as Mentoring with a capital “M.” It’s a focused relationship with specific goals and parameters.

More broadly, mentoring plays an important role in my organization’s growth on a continual basis. I think of this as mentoring with a small “m” in that it’s less structured and more fluid. By continually asking what I can learn from other people and what I can share to help someone else, I constantly have opportunities to be mentored and to mentor others. This is especially important when it comes to growing our team and offering professional development opportunities to our dedicated staff.

Through this approach, we’ve collectively made a broad and deep impact as we build support for Arizona’s 600,000 service members, veterans and their families.

Nicola Winkel is Project Director for the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, a nationally recognized statewide public/private partnership. Winkel has a background in nonprofit program development, implementation and innovation and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. She has briefed at national and international conferences and consults on statewide and national initiatives for the military and veteran population. 

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