By Terri Williams, Mains’l CEO
When I decided to start Mains’l, I walked into our small bank and asked if they would be willing to loan me money to start a business. I knew it was a long shot – after all, I was a music major, not a business major. I knew it would take everything my husband Chuck and I had (which wasn’t much), plus help from our parents, to get this venture started. The loan application asked for references which I duly supplied, and, it asked if I was a person of “good character.” Not long after that I found myself sitting across from the president of the bank. I asked him, “What caused you to approve my loan?” He replied, “It is a character loan.” I responded: “You mean my references said I was a person of good character?” “No,” he said, “I mean you are a character.”
Thirty years later, I am in awe of the chance that bank president took in loaning me money. I am also in awe of the countless others who believed in us, and who have helped shape Mains’l into the organization it is today. When the company was launched, we supported less than fifty people and we employed about the same number. Today, we support close to 1,500 and employ or co-employ another 1,500. And, we support another 15,000 in self-directed services.
But it isn’t about the numbers. It is about the life-changing opportunities that we have been given and the incredible crew with whom we have sailed. Our story is about our “crew” and the amazing and wonderful stories born out of the passion we share to do and be good in the world. t is about the friendships and relationships that have been built and nurtured for thirty years. It is about lives changed and changing lives.
Over the past three decades, we have experienced life with so many people. We have shared births, deaths, weddings, graduations, jobs, businesses and countless cups of coffee. We have collaborated on grand schemes to close legacy institutions, and we have worked hard to support one person in one community, living a life they designed for themselves. We tried new things, made mistakes, failed, tried again, and figured things out. We were early adopters of personal outcome measures, not only for those we support, but those we employ.
We were pushing the boundaries of what was possible before the “waiver” existed, and before the rules were invented. It has truly been an exhilarating ride. And, best of all, we have been able to do all of this because of you. You have trusted us to partner with you in creating meaning and purpose in the lives of your loved ones. We have experienced sheer joy and triumph in small things shared, which really are the most important things of all. Our greatest lessons and leaps forward have come in the small things, in remaining true to our mission of “offering innovative supports to people, responding to their hopes and dreams.” Our ship has become seaworthy and our crew are all competent sailors because we continually seek innovation and excellence. People have more available to them today because together we have taken risks dared to lose sight of the shore.
So what will the next thirty years bring? We’ve embarked on a new voyage and we set our sights on a distant shore. When we casted off our lines the first time, our vision was to change the world one person at a time. Today, our vision is a world where people live with meaning and purpose. For us to experience our impossible, possible future, we must connect every one to the “bigger we.”
Dr. Martin Luther King talked about his vision of a “beloved community,” where all share in the social and economic benefits of the world, and all are included. This is the work that Mains’l is engaged in. We are passionate about people living with meaning, purpose, and belonging. This is our work and we will continue to do it in the coming decades. We will continue pushing our boundaries, leaning into risk and asking “how might we” as we invent new ways to navigate to the new world. We have charted our course, our sails are set, and we are headed to our possible, impossible future.