Marcela Mandeville

Top 40 Under 40 2012

Photography Pedersen

Age: 38

Job Title: Chief Operating Officer, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Why She’s Top 40: She’s a strong role model for Aboriginal women and women in international business.

Key To Success: “I’m passionate about combining business with making the world a better place, and I’m supported by an amazing community.”

Marcela Mandeville is proud to call her heritage unique. With a father from the Salt River First Nation and a mother from Mexico, she says, “We’re possibly the only Dene Mexicans I’ve ever met.” Growing up in Mexico, and then Beaumont, she absorbed a potpourri of Latino, French and Aboriginal traditions, from making piatas to hand-carving snowshoes and drying caribou meat.

Coupling that blended heritage with creativity and drive, Mandeville is on a mission to support and showcase businesswomen as chief operating officer with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Adding to the non-profit’s menu of training, loans and mentorship, she’s rolling out an array of programs across Alberta, and laying plans to reach the world.

She has particularly high hopes for Connecting to Contracts, which has already increased participants’ revenue by more than $10 million by certifying women-owned businesses for significant deals. She’s also proud of NextStep to Success, a circle of successful Aboriginal women helping their peers develop business plans. “Female entrepreneurs have an incredibly important place in our economy,” she says. “We are showing them that entrepreneurship can be as big as you want to dream.”

Through AWE, Mandeville is accomplishing a longstanding dream of using business to connect across cultures and “do good in the world.” But it wasn’t always so. Not long after earning a B. Com in international business from the University of Alberta in 1996, she became a financial analyst for British Petroleum in Calgary.

“I felt like I had abandoned the international dream for the corporate ‘get settled and start a real life’ expectation,” she recalls. “I was not being true to myself.”

In 1999, Mandeville left the security of BP for more fulfilling work in international consulting. A contract with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs pulled her onto the non-profit’s team in 2008.

With Mandeville developing programs and reeling in dollars, AWE has increased its budget by 50 per cent and tripled its reach. Meanwhile, she’s seeing daily evidence that business truly can bridge cultures.

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