WELD Artist of the Week: Missy Williams
Career: Executive Director | Seed Effect
Interview by: Kristin Read
What would be your elevator pitch for Seed Effect? GO!
SE is a Christ-centered non-profit microfinance organization that helps struggling entrepreneurs start businesses in South Sudan to provide for their kiddos. What makes us unique is our desire to go into tumultuous areas, come alongside struggling families, and give them an opportunity to invest in their OWN dreams. To ensure the programs success, we’ve established a team in the region that is committed to empowering their own. Our biggest investment is in transformation at a relational level.
What path led you to the ED role at Seed Effect?
In the middle of design school, I started my own design business. In the process, my husband and I took a course on the world Christian movement, which made me question what I was doing with my life. We began feverishly praying for God to transform our hearts. He answered by sending us on a short-term mission trip to South Sudan in 2007, where we landed right after the South began working towards independence (reporting to the north, but rebuilding independently until formal secession in July, 2011). We saw people bussed back to their land to start over, left with only a tarp and a sack of grain. We thought, how can we do anything about this, but how could we not? Finally a Sudanese woman we were working with shared her dream of owning a sewing machine. In that moment, the vision for SE was laid on my heart, and I knew we were going back. It was a long process, but we launched the program. Today, there are five of us stateside, and a team of fifteen Sudanese in SS running the program. Being a small organization, I do everything from strategy, storytelling, overseeing fundraising and marketing efforts, to . . . You name it, I’ve done it.
Photo by Trey Hill
You are clearly a vivacious go-getter . . . where do you see yourself in 5—even 50—years?
“What” is a little easier to answer. I think and I hope that in 5 years—even 50—I'll still be on this crazy roller coaster. Every step forward I take, as a wife, a mom, a friend, a Director, a Christ-follower, is like adding an extra loop to the roller coaster. I hope that in 5 years I will have continued to say “yes” to each opportunity laid in my path, and allowed those opportunities to change and transform me . . . so much so that in 50 years I can look back and barely even recognize the person I was before.
What do you feel most creatives need to be reminded of?
You are important. God doesn't need us, but He can and will use us when we make ourselves available. I think that being a creative affords you the opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless. You will see things through eyes that others may miss. You will communicate them in a way that others might overlook. And you have the gift of bringing a story to life. Seed Effect literally would not exist without the support of some ridiculously talented and kingdom-minded creatives who continuously shape and tell the story of SE in truly amazing ways.
Photo by Mo Sadjadpour
Your favorite marketing project thus far, was it your creative brainchild?
My favorite campaign is the 5k put together in 2011. In a time where everyone seems to be putting together 5k’s, our focus was standing out. AHA! Let’s run with goats! They’re a source of life for the Sudanese, so why not? Runners would complete the 5k, and the teams that raised the most money ran in a goat relay. It’s crazy fun! Also, SE’s 3rd Anniversary party at WELD. The art show featured the work of our partnering photographers, drew a crowd of around 300, and raised a very generous 85k. I couldn’t have done that alone. That’s the thing about SE, we can’t do it without the talents of artists—storytellers, photographers, filmmakers, designers—without them, it simply wouldn’t work.
Name one thing you wish others knew about you?
I wish other people knew how much I sincerely want to hear the truth . . . about myself. Seriously. It drives me crazy when I've said or done something wrong or offended someone and they keep silent. Because those are times for growth, and I want others to love me enough to tell me the truth. So, please, speak up!
Do you ever see yourself going back to interior design?
I battle with that question a lot. After the first trip, I continued running my design business, but felt like I was straddling this fence—helping lavishly furnish homes in the states, while the Sudanese couldn’t afford a plastic chair. Even after I finally set it down to launch SE, it’s still a constant conflict—we live in Dallas! It’s hard to balance my desire to design and maintain a strong partnership with the SE team. But, who knows what the future holds.
Photo by Mo Sadjapour