Marla Blow needed a new challenge. Yes, she’s an experienced executive, federal regulator, entrepreneur, angel investor, and board member for public and private companies. And yes, after earning degrees from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Ms. Blow started a highly-successful, mission-oriented business from scratch and is widely recognized as a leading executive in the finance industry.
But when the pandemic hit, she grew restless. So she started playing the piano.
“I decided during the pandemic to commit myself to learning how to play jazz piano, so now I proudly spend at least 30 minutes every day subjecting my family to my (still terrible) piano playing,” said Ms. Blow.
Her new hobby, along with starting each day with a two-to-three-mile walk in her neighborhood, “serve as a ballast in my daily life, and playing piano keeps me connected to doing something that is outside of my comfort zone and area of expertise.”
Ms. Blow, who joined the Coalition for Green Capital’s board of directors in September, brings a wealth of expertise to the role. She’s spent much of her career focused on building lasting and meaningful social change, including helping to stand up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and shaping its regulatory priorities. She also founded a for-profit, mission-oriented business from scratch before selling it in 2018. That Washington, DC-based business, FS Card Inc., offered credit card services to underserved consumers who typically could only access expensive financial products.
“In building that business, I applied every ounce of will, determination, and expertise I had, and I learned even more lessons the hard way on that journey,” she said. “After seeing our credit product in market and watching as that product demonstrated what’s possible in the credit arena, I felt ‘accomplished’ in a way that has given me confidence in my professional life.”
Following the sale of her business, Ms. Blow worked at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth as the North America lead, where she sought to make economic development more inclusive, promoted financial security and supported workers’ economic mobility.
Today, Ms. Blow is the president and COO of the Skoll Foundation, an organization that seeks to catalyze transformational social change by investing in, connecting, and championing social entrepreneurs and other social innovators. Together, they advance bold and equitable solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges.
“We strive to leverage our full balance sheet – meaning both our philanthropic grantmaking dollars and our endowment investments – to fund innovative solutions to some of society’s thorniest problems. It’s been incredibly fulfilling to operate at the intersection of finance and mission-oriented entrepreneurship from this different lens.”
Ms. Blow’s career-long focus on equitable solutions makes her an ideal fit for the Coalition for Green Capital’s board of directors, as CGC works to create a national green bank in 2023 that will focus primarily on reducing emissions and providing benefits low-income and disadvantaged communities. The green bank model allows for unique financing and lending tools that will quickly expand access to affordable clean energy, especially for some of the same marginalized communities that Ms. Blow has been serving for much of her career.
“After decades in finance, it has become clear to me how important capital is in defining what exists in our world, and how much it costs,” said Ms. Blow. “Where capital is present versus where capital is scarce is the difference between thriving and withering communities. The opportunity to participate in shaping where capital flows and enabling communities to flourish through capital allocation while at the same time addressing critical climate issues is the appealing aspect of Coalition for Green Capital for me.”
Along her journey that has brought her to the Coalition for Green Capital, Ms. Blow has never forgotten advice she received while earning her MBA at Stanford.
“Have enough of a plan for your life that you don’t drift, but not so much of a plan that you overlook opportunities that come your way.’ I took that advice to heart, and it has been my constant throughout my career.”