There’s Something About Her – From Visionary to Entrepreneur

From Sylvia Parsons:

So how does a woman with entrepreneurial spirit and vision become a successful entrepreneur?

T’aiya Shiner, Founder, Executive Director, Better Agreements, Inc. The first stop on my quest for answers was non-profit organization, Better Agreements, Inc. (BAI); where I spoke with Founder and Executive Director, T’aiya Shiner

Shiner is driven by a passion to make mediation accessible to all communitymembers. Currently, BAI serves primarily court-referred clients who cannot afford legal services, or seek to avoid the stress of trial. In order to support pro bono and low-cost services however, Shiner must “crack the code and make mediation profitable on a community level." She says, "I want to succeed where others have failed.” While she has a knack for the "artistic" aspect of envisioning programs, she has struggled (as do many entrepreneurs) to actualize her ideas and create demand for mediation. Everyone has conflict, but not all are aware of or accessing mediation as a solution.

Despite struggles, Shiner has found success from lessons learned over the past seven years. Reflecting on the process, she offered three insights: 

  1. Know where you’re going: Resist the urge to dive in with blind passion without considering the environment. Develop a plan so more time can be spent on proactive rather than reactive activities.  
  2. Take someone with you: As a passionate visionary, be sure to leverage talents of “actualizers” and create a diverse network of support. In the nonprofit context, this translates to donors, volunteers, staff and a Board of Directors
  3. Be sure your destination can be reached: You must be able to translate your vision into reality, and, more importantly, a reality that appeals to others. A performance is lost if no audience attends.

Shiner states, "After three years of primarily court mediations, Better Agreements is prepared for greater expansion into private markets." As she leads BAI through restructuring, she is focused on communicating her passion. As a budding social entrepreneur, she hopes her local success will catalyze structural change across the conflict resolution industry.
Mediation and Ms. Shiner’s entrepreneurial spirit can be summed up in a statement printed on an office mug: “What once was a ripple is now the wave of the future.”

Entrepreneurial ripples can turn to waves.


Sylvia Parsons will complete her Master's Degree from Virginia Tech in Human Development in the fall of 2009.  She is an intern with Handshake Media, Inc., and with Better Agreements, Inc. "There's Something About Her," the series by Sylvia Parsons, can be found on Handshake 2.0 under
Women Entrepreneurs.  Feel free to follow Sylvia Parsons on Twitter.

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