Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have one more interview for you this week. Today I’m excited to cruise around with Elpida Kokkota, founder and CEO of Mexoxo. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome, Elpida. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me what challenge Mexoxo is addressing?
Elpida: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. The World Health Organization says that 736 million women all over the world are at risk. We help women in vulnerable communities across the world get an education that's easier to understand and use. We give them a chance to learn and get a special diploma from the Ivy League school—Cornell University. This helps them have more opportunities to earn money and improves their tough situations. Our goal is to make sure women in faraway places can learn skills that make their lives better by giving them more self-confidence, freedom, and a better place in society.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
Elpida: In my life, I've learned many things. I've faced and overcome many tough challenges. Thankfully, I had some incredible women in my life—my mom and grandma—who made sure I got a good education. They thought of education as a precious treasure that I could carry with me wherever I went. I'm the first in my family to earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree. Education was the key that helped me not only survive but also thrive. Now, I believe it's my duty to share this gift with other women who may not have the opportunity to receive an education otherwise.
Spiffy: That’s great! What would you say is the impact of your work?
Elpida: Through Mexoxo, we've opened up educational opportunities for over 120,000 women. These women, in turn, help their families and communities.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make?
Elpida: In Kenya, I met a wonderful woman—Sally. She had completed Mexoxo's digital marketing course and had a dream of opening a restaurant. I was so moved and inspired by her determination, and I decided to support her dream. Six months later, Sally's restaurant went from being just a dream to a thriving reality. What's even better is that she hired three other women from her community. Around the same time, I lost my mother to cancer but Sally's determination gave me the strength to keep moving forward. Giving is a way of exchanging love, wisdom, and success, and that's what keeps me going.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Elpida: For all you young adults out there, I have some advice: stay curious, try new things, travel, and make new friends. Even when you face tough times, never give up. Patricia, a Mexoxo woman, believes that every choice we make is the right one, and there's always another chance to make a better future. If I managed to meet President Barack Obama and become an Obama Leader, it's because I dared to explore and take risks. So, don't be afraid to ask for help and guidance from others. When we come together, share our thoughts and feelings, and work as a team, we can make the world a more wonderful place through our collective efforts.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Elpida—it’s been an honor!
Elpida Kokkota is the founder and CEO of Mexoxo, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that democratizes education for women globally to foster their economic empowerment. Launched in Mexico in 2013, Mexoxo has grown to serve women worldwide and develop a circle of impact with over 250 stakeholders from corporations, academia, government, and NGOs. Together with her team, she serves 120,000 women and intends to reach five million by 2030. She holds an MBA from Hult International Business School and an Executive Certification from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is an Obama Leader and pledged two Commitments to Action to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in 2015 and 2023. She is a volunteer, an ally to LGBTQI+ communities, speaks four languages, adores her dogs, and loves to travel. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 21, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.