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Meet Marsha Olson of Wurwand Foundation & FOUND/LA in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marsha Olson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Marsha. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started my career at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where my work was focused on changing the way the world talks about Global Health and Development issues. After five years, I got the itch to switch up my city and wanted to see what the private sector had to offer. I moved to Los Angeles to work at an e-commerce start-up, helping them build out their social impact program. As part of that work, my team launched an initiative to encourage the USDA to accept food stamps online (because you can use them at gas stations and fast food restaurants, but not to purchase groceries online — how awful is that?!). I loved working on that campaign and within months, the USDA announced a pilot program to test the idea. After seeing the impact one campaign could have, I wanted to work on more. So I found my way to a PR firm that was working on building out a division of business focused on social impact. That role was incredible because it allowed me to work with top talent like Goldie Hawn and Jennifer Hudson on their nonprofits, with organizations I cared about like Represent.Us, and with corporate clients on their social impact strategies to help them give back.

Client services was an awesome experience, but through it I learned I wanted to dedicate my time to really building something for the long term, so when I met Jane and Raymond, the Founders of Dermalogica and now FOUND/LA, and learned they wanted to create a program to support local entrepreneurs and build back our communities, I wanted in. That’s where I’m at now.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think any road is ever completely smooth. For me, each transition is hard because I don’t like letting people down, and starting something new and unknown is scary. What if I hate it? What if I don’t like the people? What if doesn’t work out?

In each job I’ve had, I’ve been really good about paying attention to what elements of the role I *enjoy* doing. Making note of those things (yes, actual notes) is something I’ve been able to refer back to in times of uncertainty. I can ask myself if my new opportunity has more of what I like – and if it does, I’m in.

Please tell us about Wurwand Foundation & FOUND/LA.
Wurwand Foundation is a private, family foundation based in LA. We run our key initiative, FOUND/LA, out of the foundation. FOUND/LA’s mission is to help local entrepreneurs build their business, purpose, and community.

We know small businesses are the backbones of our community and the long tail of job creation. We focus on giving local entrepreneurs who run the businesses in the community access to the resources they need to be successful. This means getting them the funding they need, the education, the coaching, the mentorship, as well a connection to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

We focus on supporting main street businesses – the places you go to really connect with people. We also focus on supporting underserved entrepreneurs or those who have been left out of traditional systems. This means we have a special lens toward supporting women, immigrant and minority-owned businesses.

Our goal is to serve 25,000 entrepreneurs in LA by 2025, and we’re already more than halfway there.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Oh gosh, maybe it’s the sweltering heat in the valley I’m living in right now, but I just remember loving this rope swing in the woods in Seattle that you had to hike to find. Once we found it, we would swing out and splash into Lake Washington for hours.


  • All of our services are completely free to local business owners who meet our criteria.

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Image Credit:
Capturing Heart & Nailah Barcelona

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