Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Megan Mayzelle of Scriptoria Solutions Is Helping To Change Our World

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
19 min readDec 6, 2022

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Entrepreneurship is the highest form of activism. What greater proof of your cause than building a functioning organization on it? If your business is profitable, then the values it’s built on and the work it’s doing is relevant to people, and they are buying in. That’s activism at its finest.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Mayzelle.

Megan Mayzelle is the Executive Founder of Scriptoria Solutions, where she leads a highly skilled team in creating riveting written documents to amplify the impacts of environmental and social justice professionals. Through Scriptoria Solutions, Megan proudly supports the work of multilateral organizations like the World Bank and United Nations, top-tier research institutions such as University of California and OneCG, and start-ups like the Carbon Business Council and Green River. Megan is a first-generation university graduate and a serial expat — she’s worked and studied in a dozen countries spanning North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Social impact was an obvious career choice for me from a young age, but I never planned to become an entrepreneur. Throughout my graduate studies and in my first several career positions, I kept finding myself at a desk writing. Whatever my role, colleagues and supervisors were constantly asking for my help writing and copyediting. It finally dawned on me that I had above-average writing skills, and thanks to my science degree I also happened to understand their ‘language’ and what they wanted to say.

At the same time, I was increasingly frustrated with my career forcing a lifestyle on me that I wouldn’t choose otherwise. Relocating to cities I disliked, forcing myself to be productive during office hours, commuting, wearing office garb, asking for permission to be out of the office — it was all painfully unnecessary. The writing work I was doing could be done from anywhere, at any time of day. All I needed was a laptop and wifi. I had always loved traveling, living abroad, and learning languages. An office job limited that part of my life to 4 carefully calculated weeks per year. Even though I was earning a good salary, the experiences I valued remained out of reach. My job had made me time poor.

I spent many evenings and weekends taking notes, thinking on paper what sort of job I qualified for that would let me live abroad without abandoning my career track and income. Even organizations like the Foreign Service, however, came up short — I’d still be living in a city I wouldn’t have chosen, tied to a desk and office hours. And then I remembered the writing. Would people in my field pay me do research and write for them?

I was the director of a community development program by that time. My job and the lifestyle that came with it made me vastly unhappy, so it was obvious that no matter what I did not, I wanted to leave that position. I might as well try freelancing before moving on to the next job. So I started saving money on the side to give myself a runway to launch. When I left my job, I calculated how long I could live on that cash and decided that if I hadn’t earned any freelance income by 2 months prior to the money running out, I would start looking for work.

I moved out of my 3-bedroom house I had been renting alone, back to my university town with a housemate. I built my Upwork profile and started trying to define what I could do for my would-be clients. I told a couple of my former professors for whom I’d written during grad school that I was available to freelance, and one of them set me up with a colleague right away. When the money arrived in my account, I recalculated my runway; the day I had to apply for jobs was now a month or two later.

Soon after, a friend referred me to a client of hers who seemed to have standards she couldn’t meet. She didn’t want to end the relationship on a sour note but didn’t want to continue doing research and writing for him. I completed one project, and he was impressed. He kept sending me more work and referred me to a few colleagues in his organization as well. That’s when my freelancing career truly began.

At some point I stopped recalculating my runway. After about 18 months, I decided that this was a source of revenue I could count on and that it was time to fulfill my long-time dream of living abroad. I applied for a visa for France, and two years after leaving my director job, I was on my way to living in Europe.

Within a couple months of my arrival in France, my freelancer demand exploded. I was having trouble keeping up, and at the same time didn’t want to turn down any clients for fear they would find another freelancer and never return. I racked my brain for a solution, but I couldn’t find a way to scale myself. Finally it dawned on me — I didn’t know of anyone with exactly my skillset, but I could certainly find someone with one of my skills and delegate portions of projects to them. A friend put me in touch with an English major she knew who was looking for work. Meanwhile, I quickly founded a company online so that I could hire the person. That’s where Scriptoria Solutions began.

Since then, Scriptoria Solutions has grown organically. Every time our demand seems to be exceeding capacity, I begin hunting for a new person with the right skill set to join our team. We now have dedicated copywriters and copyeditors, French speakers for our growing Francophone client base, and a manager and administrator to coordinate the teams and handle the increasingly complex accounting.

I no longer work for clients directly — instead, I am back to thinking about that runway, but now for a whole team of professionals. I spend my days identifying bottlenecks, constructing processes, building relationships, establishing our authority in our areas of expertise, and most importantly, building our team and its culture.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

About a year into Scriptoria Solutions’ life, I had more or less built systems that worked and everything seemed to be humming along. I couldn’t find opportunities to improve any further, but logically I was sure they existed.

I don’t generally seek out other Anglophones in France, but I do have one British friend that I see occasionally. In spring of 2021 she invited me to an Anglophone party at some lawyer’s apartment downtown — not my scene really, but for some reason I went. She was the only person I knew. I sat down and started talking to the guy next to me. He was also America and a fully remote entrepreneur like myself. I was telling him that I’d built this business, and everything seemed fine, but I was certain there were ways to improve that I simply didn’t know about.

Oh, you must join Dynamite Circle, he tells me. I wasn’t particularly convinced, but we met up for coffee and he again sang the praises of this organization. So, I applied, paid the membership fee, and a couple months later found myself at their semi-annual conference in Mexico City.

That conference was business boot camp for me. I went in having never even referred to myself as an entrepreneur. I didn’t have one single vocabulary word to describe my business. My complete ignorance was laid bare by the success of those around me, and at the same time they were all so supportive and engaged. My ego was torn down and rebuilt in a matter of 3 days. Since then, I’ve become obsessed with great business. And Scriptoria Solutions hasn’t stopped growing since.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a freelancer, I assumed all my clients would be willing to pay the same amount as my first client was, so I charged them all the same, and even raising my rate by a couple dollars an hour once a year felt like a big ask. When I started Scriptoria Solutions to serve those same clients, I continued assuming that what I was charging was the upper limit of what they were willing to pay. That worked fine when we were tiny. Free services sufficed for communications, and I was still doing lots of client work, so most of my time was billable. The small overhead from the team’s work was a little bonus for coordinating that work.

As we grew, we began paying for communication services, and I mostly stopped doing work for clients. But I continued charging the same rates. I figured the work volume would generate enough overhead for me to live on, and I didn’t believe our work as a team was any more valuable than one person alone. I also felt it would be unfair to give the team any less than the majority of the payment, since all I was doing was coordinating. But I didn’t do any calculations, and of course I was completely wrong. At one point I was pulling from savings for my own living expenses so that I could pay the team and all our bills. I was facing shutting down the business and going back to solo freelancing.

I confided in one of my clients who was also a friend about this, and she said, ‘You know you’re the cheapest consultant in our database? Even cheaper than the ones based in African countries. You could easily raise your rates.’

So that’s what I did. And guess what? We didn’t lose a single client. They didn’t even comment!

Since then, I’ve realized how much more our work is worth as a team. We can get large projects done in a short turnaround. Someone is always available to help a client with their urgent requests. Our diverse skill sets allow us to address issues as diverse as climate change, agriculture, public health, policy, and communications strategy in a single project. Our copyediting team knows everything from World Bank to Chicago Manual style.

And as for the team’s compensation, I now understand that I relieve at least half of their burden as freelancers by doing all the backend work that results in a steady flow of work. All the tasks for which freelancers are typically unpaid, including time tracking, invoicing, bugging clients for payments, networking, meeting with prospects, applying for opportunities, managing contracts, and more, is taken care of and they can just focus on doing the work they love. That’s a great deal for both of us, and it’s more than fair to share the profits.

Another important thing I’ve learned is that we make big changes that result in big gains when our back is against the wall. I never would have dared to hike my prices that much if the alternative hadn’t been ending the business. Now I try to ask myself, ‘What would I do if I were desperate?’ as a mechanism for discovering growth opportunities. I also welcome difficult problems, because I know they’ll inspire us to innovate and shed old skin in a way we never would if everything were going well.

Lastly, I learned that discussing my challenges with trusted colleagues will inevitably bring up solutions I hadn’t considered. My own team is my new favorite resource for this — the more transparent I am about our finances and my challenges, the more amazing ideas and support they have to offer.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Scriptoria Solutions serves exclusively social and environmental justice professionals. These folks have plenty of communication to do to support their work — they must apply for grants, build internal strategy and guidance plans, publish novel findings in scientific journals, share the policy implications of their work with regulatory bodies, conduct public awareness campaigns, convey their theses to other professionals in the field via white papers, and document progress and outcomes in reports.

The topics they write about are also very complex. Climate change, housing, public health, biodiversity, employment, sustainable food production, gender and minority equality: these are nuanced areas of work, and it’s not easy to be both accurate AND interesting to non-experts. Particularly when you’re in the weeds of your topic every day and not accustomed to working with people outside your area of expertise.

As if all that weren’t enough, social and environmental justice professionals tend to be generalists wearing many hats, which means they are pulled in plenty of directions every day at work. They rarely have time to engage in an extended session of deep work, and that’s exactly what it takes to write those long, complex documents well.

That’s where Scriptoria Solutions comes in. We are technical communications experts. We have the background to understand our client’s ‘language’ and the communications skills to synthesize and translate their message into something exciting for their target audience. In short, we take time-consuming documents off our clients’ to-do lists and make them masterpieces.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I like to think that the work we support touches thousands of people. We’ve completed quite a few projects recommending priorities for World Bank funding allocation in developing-economy countries, and part of the recommendation is always estimating approximately how many individuals would benefit and the likelihood of success. Drafting those estimates always makes me appreciate how far we’re helping our clients reach.

That said, it’s very unusual in our field to see direct impacts. We’re working on multi-generational and multi-facted issues, and the folks we’re trying to help likely won’t ever know who was behind that new opportunity or policy change. One of the few direct impacts I’ve had the privilege of experiencing in my career was in the life of a now friend named Lina.

In 2013–15 I was heading up a project out of University of California at the Ministry of Agriculture in Kabul, Afghanistan. There was a striking amount of competition between institutions that could have been collaborating. To help address that, I invited the University of Agriculture to send two interns to join our team at the Ministry. Of course, they selected two young men. I sent the two men back to the university and indicated that at least one woman would be expected. That’s when Lina came into my life. She rapidly became one of the most active members of the group even though her position, unlike the ministry staff, was unpaid. She eagerly attended every conference and training event we offered. When it came time for delegates to travel to a conference in Rwanda, Lina was an obvious choice. Her father came to the ministry to speak with me. Lina’s family was quite religious and traditional. Sending her to university and a ministry internship was already unconventional; to send her to another continent, unaccompanied, was an entirely different matter. But her father gave his blessing, and she hasn’t looked back since. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Lina headed to India to complete a master’s degree while financially supporting her family back in Kabul. She accepted a position as a director of an international research program in Afghanistan funded by an American research university. She moved back to Kabul in May 2021.

By August, her country’s government was being overthrown, and the country was in shambles. Lina was one of those daring souls who went to the airport to try to get on a rescue plane. She was in the airport when the Taliban started bombing. She flew out with only the clothes she was wearing and her cell phone, leaving her family behind and without financial support. Lina landed in Albania. The irony of being a refugee carrying nothing but trauma in a resort hotel on the seafront must have been overwhelming. She was there for nine months, physically safe but mentally and emotionally in shambles. In early 2022, she was allowed to travel to the United States thanks solely to her brief but all-important employment by that university in the United States. Ironically, the job that had brought her back into the Taliban’s reach also saved her from it.

Lina’s battle didn’t end there. She had been evacuated on an American plane, lodged by the American government, and granted entry to the United States, but she still had to legally prove to the US government that she needed asylum. This is a long and expensive legal process, and it was my second opportunity to connect Lina to the resources she needed to keep growing. I’m happy to say, she won her asylum case as of November 2022. Her fight isn’t over yet — jobs are tough for all of us to come by, and even harder when you don’t dress and talk like everyone else. Lina remains intensely worried about her family’s well-being back in Kabul. But she’s America’s dream immigrant: tenacious, hardworking, adaptive, opportunistic, and humble. I have no doubt she’ll shine.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Individuals can support social and ecological justice by creating businesses with missions relating to a cause they are passionate about. Clean, efficient, equitable systems tend to be great business opportunities, so you can do well by doing good. For example, a logistics company that includes carbon neutrality in their mission: even in the absence of that mission, they will almost certainly be striving to optimize for minimal travel time and cost, which has a co-benefit of reducing emissions. Formalizing that has part of the mission of the company ensures that those co-benefits aren’t neglected as the company grows, and it sends a strong message to the community and policymakers where the business works. Entrepreneurs are at the leading edge of culture, and in concert they drive paradigm shifts from the front end.

Communities can support social and ecological justice by building a shared identity they are proud of. We’re a community that supports schools. We’re a community that loves trees. We’re a community that is safe for pedestrians. Human beings go to great lengths to be consistent with how others perceive them, so building an identity you want to invest in for the long run creates a virtuous cycle that reaps rewards many times over.

Politicians generally have the job of institutionalizing changes that business and communities have already forged. But they also have the power to make the best choice the easiest choice in a way individuals and communities do not. My favorite example is dolphin-safe tuna. As long as dolphin-unsafe tuna is legal, then dolphin-safe tuna is a marketing scheme and a profitable mark-up for the business. It puts the onus of doing the right thing on the consumer — and their wallet. Why would we have dolphin-unsafe tuna? The day it becomes illegal, then all tuna is dolphin-safe, and now market competition can get to work driving the price of dolphin-safe tuna down through innovations that reduce the cost of production.

Solar panels are another good example. Fifteen years ago, solar panels were outrageously expensive and mostly bought by folks who had enough disposable income to think about getting off the grid or reducing their environmental impact. Innovations kept driving costs down, and now they’re everywhere. Big box stores use them to create pleasantly shaded parking lots. Why? Not because they are willing to pay more to reduce their environmental impact. They have solar panels because it’s a smart choice for their wallets. We’re going to see the same thing with electric vehicles in the next 5 years. These are massive social shifts that policy can make.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

It’s certainly a multi-faceted phenomenon, but I’ll share a few points that come to mind.

Leadership is identifying a strategy, and then choosing which tactics will be deployed to reach that strategy over time. The tactics change; the strategy is a bet on something you’re willing to invest in on the long run.

Leadership is fostering team culture and values by example. For example, praising a team member for sharing their mistake, thanking them for helping identify this opportunity for improvement, and discussing together what process or procedure would prevent future such mistakes. Even if you have to grit your teeth while doing it, that’s showing by example that errors are not shameful, but rather opportunities for accelerated learning.

Leadership is constantly putting the shared objective first, even before your own personal interests. In the case of business, the shared objective is to better serve the client.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. If I were you, I would do as you. Empathy makes the world better. For me, it’s most useful when dealing with behaviors I’m finding extraordinarily frustrating in others. Remembering that if I had lived their life, I would do exactly what they are doing — and that most of us are just doing our best with what we have — helps me avoid villainizing the person. Instead, I’m able to consider ways to build the connection between where they are and where I’d like us to meet.
  2. Spending money saves times. Of course, you can do everything yourself and not give away a cent. But delegating — by purchasing materials and services — gets you there faster. Meanwhile, focusing your time on something you’re skilled in will generate more money than what you would have kept by doing everything yourself.
  3. Productivity is not linear. For rote tasks, there’s a 1:1 linear relationship between time worked and productivity: work one hour, create 10 widgets; work 10 hours, create 100 widgets. But for creative work — such as problem-solving, researching, finding connections, building communities — productivity is variable and tends to decline with time. When you’re creating a new solution, you’ll be very productive in the first hour, and pretty much all the work you do in the tenth hour will be throw-away. This is also apparent in how we perceive the time and value of different types of paid work. Individuals doing rote tasks tend to be paid per unit time spent — an hourly wage. Experts, on the other hand, tend to be paid for their expertise, and we value those who need very little time to get the job done the most. Who would you want to work with — the mechanic who can fix your car in 20 minutes, or the one who needs 12 hours?
  4. Great businesses are culture creators. This is so ingrained in our daily lives that we likely don’t even notice it. The commercially successful people of the world shape what we come to see as normal everyday facts — the appliances in our homes, the vehicles in which we go to work, the technology we use to communicate with each other, the songs we sing in the shower. On a much smaller scale, this is also true for leaders of social impact enterprises. My most important job is to choose and create by example the culture of our organization — how we communicate with each other, what it means to make a mistake, what client missions we support, how we respond to opportunities and challenges. Everyone is looking to me for cues, and it’s my responsibility to do as I would want my team to do, consciously and consistently.
  5. Entrepreneurship is the highest form of activism. What greater proof of your cause than building a functioning organization on it? If your business is profitable, then the values it’s built on and the work it’s doing is relevant to people, and they are buying in. That’s activism at its finest.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would inspire smarter marketing for climate action.

Climate action, like most social and environmental justice efforts, is typically framed as a suite of necessary sacrifices to do the right thing. That angle might resonate with activists but won’t reach the majority of the population. And why should it? Most of us rightly spend most of our time thinking about our household economics, health, education, and safety — with all the more reason now that real wages are falling faster than ever.

Climate action, at its heart, is the process of changing wildly inefficient, costly, leaky systems into highly efficient, highly productive, virtuous cycles. That conversion will stop the intangible belching of carbon into the atmosphere. We need to do that so that the Earth remains habitable, so in that sense it is a precursor to solving all other problems. But climate action will also stop a lot of things that feel much closer to home for most of us.

Highly efficient systems are cheap, clean, quiet, and easy to maintain. They make our neighborhoods nicer, our bodies healthier, our work opportunities greater, our homes more pleasant, and our wallets happier. Climate-smart systems are health-smart systems, family-smart systems, work-smart systems, community-smart systems, and money-smart systems.

Yet for reasons that escape me, we in the climate space are still trying to convince people to care about what we care about, instead of helping them with what THEY care about in ways that align with our values, too. Nobody loves planetary damage — it’s just a necessary evil to addressing our most pressing priorities because there’s no better way to do it. Yet.

As it turns out, what they care about would help our cause, too. Project Drawdown estimates that equal rights to robust healthcare and education would reduce climate change impacts by as much as carbon removal technology. Notably, carbon removal technology has yet to be achieved at scale. We already know how to provide good healthcare and education to everyone; it’s simply a matter of doing it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve been collecting quotes for about 25 years, and I couldn’t begin to choose a favorite, but here’s one that might be useful to your readers.

Only take advice from someone you would trade lives with. Advice is a recipe for how to get where they are. If you don’t long to be where they are, don’t follow their recipe.

It took me quite a few years of living to really internalize the fact that most people have vastly different priorities and values. Not better or worse — just different. Advice is almost always based on the assumption that you have the same values and goals as them. That’s probably not the case. Asking yourself if you’d like to be in their situation is a quick way to decide if their advice is worth jotting down in your notebook.

The exception to this rule is someone who knows you so well and loves you so much that they can set aside their own choices, embody your values and priorities for a moment, and suggest one way you might get there. You’ll know it when you see it, and it’s worth holding onto.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Alex Hormozi. He’s got a lot more than business figured out.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Linkedin.com/in/MeganMayzelle

Linkedin.com/company/ScriptoriaSolutions

My team and I are very active on LinkedIn. We post on everything from data visualization to copyediting tips to being in the flow with money. I love chatting with others about their career journeys and sharing my ‘I wish I’d known’ tips. I encourage your readers to connect with me so we can chat!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator