By Mark Campbell

We all have a moment we will never forget – one where we realize that we have made a difference in the life of someone else. For Stefanie MacDonald (BMgmt’11), that moment came at a 2015 leadership conference where a student she had known for two years delivered a speech on why she had the courage to pursue her passions.

Sharing a message of fearlessness

“She had carried out a substantial community initiative, and articulated that she had the courage to pursue her goals, because she learned at Catapult that ‘Fear is a Liar.’” says MacDonald, still moved by the memory of someone else giving voice to her own philosophy.

MacDonald met the student through the Catapult Leadership Society, which the Dalhousie alumna has been involved with as a counsellor, mentor and board member since 2010. Stefanie MacDonald holding heartsLaunched in 2009, this non-profit program gives teens with natural leadership qualities, but limited opportunities in their lives, a chance to develop skills and self-confidence.

“I realized, in that moment, that the  students we work with through the course of our program listen to every single word that we say, even when we think that we haven’t affected them personally. I know that she will take the lessons that she’s learned in pursuing her passions, and will share that fearlessness with others. That is powerful for me. That is how change happens.”

A widespread impact

Making a difference is not somethingStefanie MacDonald (BMgmt'11) MacDonald gives much thought to. But given the sheer number of initiatives she is involved with, or has launched in her life, you realize this 2015 HRM Volunteer Award and 2015 Nova Scotia Representative Volunteer Award recipient really doesn’t have to. It’s pretty much second nature.

Through Catapult, MacDonald has helped many young people go on to a post-secondary education that might otherwise have been beyond their reach. She’s also established a bursary for Catapult students, Fear is a Liar, that has awarded $3,000 in funding to date.

In 2015, MacDonald launched two new community-minded initiatives that have already had an impact. She created 100 Entrepreneurs: PLANTING SEED$, an event where young entrepreneurs from across the province can pitch a company they want to start, or grow, to 100 business leaders, each of whom writes a cheque for $100 to the winning proposal.

The first beneficiary is Canadian Cold Press Juices Inc., a company launched through Dalhousie’s Starting Lean class. The company used the funds for growth and won silver in the New Business of the Year category at the 2016 Halifax Business Awards.

The other initiative MacDonald started is Halifax Paper Hearts, a greeting card company whose inclusive messages have attracted attention from media outlets such as Forbes and the Huffington Post.

Not only are the cards printed locally in small batches on environmentally friendly paper, but a portion of the proceeds from sales are donated annually to a local charity.

Connecting people and opportunities

Stefanie MacDonald (BMgmt'11)“Everything I do in my life is driven by the desire to connect people to each other and to opportunities,” says MacDonald, who is also regional manager of marketing and research with Cushman and Wakefield Atlantic.

“And Halifax Paper Hearts is another way to do that – by sharing empowering, impactful messages that are important to me, and by using it as a financial tool to create opportunities for people.”

The desire to connect and create opportunities for others extends to her alma mater as well. MacDonald has served as a judge for the New Venture Creation Entrepreneurship class, where students develop and pitch business plans to investors and government agency representatives.

She also mentors Faculty of Management students, making introductions and helping them with their career plans in any way she can.

Finding her spark at Dalhousie

“I attended two universities before enrolling at Dalhousie, which was the first one where I felt like I was part of a community. Ed Leach’s entrepreneurship class in particular lit a spark in me and made me fall in love with the idea of taking my dreams and turning them into business plans. Each time I visit the Rowe building, that spark is reignited in me.

“I think we’re all looking for a sense of belonging,” continues MacDonald. “When I work with people who need opportunities or connections, when I do something for someone else, it makes my heart feel full, and I’m truly happy.”