Originally posted in Medium.com on November 9, 2020.

In the last 30 years, I have built business that not only provide a decent wage to my employees worldwide, but economic growth and opportunities for community members. My goal is to provide a pathway for community members to own, build and grow local businesses. Through my charity work I also help build schools and health clinics. I provide funding on social issues that not only help satisfy an immediate need, but help change and grow a community.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Malini Saba of Saba Group and founder of Saba Charitable Foundation. Dr. Malini Saba has over 27 years of experience in the commodities industry, managing multi-billions in revenue and employing more than 5,000 employees worldwide. She holds an extensive business background in global and international economies, whose financial experience includes over 10 years of managing venture capital in Silicon Valley. Her experience and deep understanding of critical business drivers in global markets and industries make her expertise renown throughout the markets.

Saba’s biggest successes to date have been in the industrial commodities markets for rice, iron, ore, oil and gas sectors. She has embodied the concept of using business to serve humanity not only through sustainable products, but also through her philanthropic works in Asia and Africa through the Annake Family Foundation.

In 2018 Saba launched new ventures in the United States in real estate and entertainment. With a philanthropic eye, she launched the Saba Charitable Foundation in the United States to help the underserved in the Americas and now covering the globe.

An avid writer and published author of The Abbreviated Cook, researcher and successful businesswoman, she has worked relentlessly to provide access for women and children across preventive health, social and economic advancement at a global scale. She has helped millions of underserved women and children in South and Southeast Asia, South America, Africa and the U.S. gain access to life-saving medical and educational services to achieve economic stability. Saba holds a degree in Psychology and resides in Nevada.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am a psychologist by trade, but my career is in business, commodities and real estate. My passion, however, is to help those in need worldwide. I want to be a strong change agent for our world. In particular, I want to help young girls and women achieve their potential. I want to see more women as business owners and leaders.

The story of how I got into commodities is an interesting one. After setting up my first foundation in 2002, I was traveling the world looking at organizations or programs to donate to using the proceeds of my current company. I was in London at that time and met some ambassadors who had similar businesses in their native countries. I made a trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone after the war on the intent to set up schools for children and women terribly affected by the war. It was there that I met and grew to understand mining. Mining is my first business passion. There after I spent a year doing research on best practices for my business, but I also wanted to see how my work could have a social impact on the people who work in the mines and the community at large. Later, as I travelled to Cambodia just as the opportunity for migration opened and many were selling to leave for the U.S., I took the opportunity to invest in and study agriculture. I soon understood that in order to be the most successful in this type of business, one has to own, operate, and sell commodities on their own. I fell into the commodities business accidentally, but it has been an amazing experience. It not only helped my career, but also afforded me an opportunity to help others directly. I was able to help provide safer jobs, and I began donating to local NGO’s. My heart is in giving. If I can build my businesses to help provide jobs and training that inspire entrepreneurs, and most importantly, afford me the opportunity to bring forth changes in the community at large, then I have met my mission.

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

This business is a volatile and hard business — you have to understand the land and worship and respect the land. “Mother nature giveth or taketh.” When I first began, we had just closed on a large contract with a buyer and had to load over 100 trucks with iron ore to be placed on ships. With an agreement in place, our team began the journey from the mine to the port. Keep in mind, loading the ship is timed precisely as there are hundreds of ships waiting to berth at the port. Upon arrival, we were strong armed at the doors of the port and told our trucks could not proceed unless we paid additional funds.

I will never forget that day as long as I live — or my fury. That lesson taught me that in this business you meet many individuals with their own agendas, and in order to protect yourself you have to own and understand every part of the business, including logistics. This propelled me to grow my businesses and own almost every aspect of what I do. It has also taught me to work closely with the community to build stronger relationships while doing business. This fueled my goal to earn more so I could give more to help others.

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?

I wish I had a funny story to share. As an international entrepreneur, you deal with more difficult and often dangerous situations. Traveling to a country that has just come out of a war is my job as an investor. I look for opportunities to build my business but more importantly to rebuild the community. It’s high risk with great returns if you can ride the wave.

One investment taught me a life lesson. I accepted a mill investment for rice polishing. We applied for the proper permits to own the land, warehouse and mill. Shortly after we had invested thousands of dollars renovating and placing new machinery and electricity into the space, we were held at gunpoint by 11 police who raided us and ceased the building. It appeared that 30 years ago a previous building owner was not properly paid and the police believed that responsibility should fall on the new owners (me). Local authorities held our business hostage for $30,000 USD over several months while we litigated in the courts. It was shocking and a nightmare. However, I learned my lesson: make sure your do your homework and thoroughly check previous building records to ensure there are no stones left unturned, especially when it comes to land ownership.

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

In the last 30 years, I have built business that not only provide a decent wage to my employees worldwide, but economic growth and opportunities for community members. My goal is to provide a pathway for community members to own, build and grow local businesses. Through my charity work I also help build schools and health clinics. I provide funding on social issues that not only help satisfy an immediate need, but help change and grow a community.

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

I cannot pinpoint one in particular as the contributions are in community at large. However, I often drive by discretely to communities where I have built medical clinics or schools. I love to see the children, who were once hungry, now fed, clothed and playing happily outside. Knowing they have a medical clinic in the village helps me sleep at night. It makes me happy to know that we have done something to better their lives.

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

We have to work from both the ground and the policy side. It is also important we educate the young to vote and to elect young individuals who share a similar vision and purpose. All three have to work together to help every part of society.

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

A leader to me is someone who listens and understands how to motivate and get the best out of people.

A leader is someone who is kind but strong, has convictions and always ploughs through any hurdle with grace and dignity.

My favorite leader of all times was Winston Churchill. His style and vigilance under extreme pressure to never give up, even when people knocked him down, was amazing. He always stood back up when frequently knocked down and always brought England back to victory. To me, he is a true leader.

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

To be honest nobody helped me when I first began. In fact, I had more people asking me not to be such a maverick and to just go with the status quo. I could not talk to anyone about how to set up my business or where in the world I wanted to venture into because the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was always negative. I was told a woman could not and should not do any of what I dreamed to do. All I kept hearing was that it was too dangerous and that I should just focus on getting married, be a wife and just be happy with that.

I do not think there is anything wrong with being a wife and mother. Running a household is one of the most difficult jobs out there and I think housewives and stay-at-home husbands do not get the credit they deserve for what they do on a daily basis or over a lifetime.

I wanted more. I fought all the norms. No one invested a dime into my business. I had to put in my own money and sweat equity and I had to learn businesses on the fly. I had to learn to play politics and be a smart businesswoman using my mantra to “reinvest, reinvest, reinvest” to get where I needed to be, not only to help myself but to be able to help others as well.

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. 🙂

Equality in pay and stricter laws for sexual harassment. In work environments, sexual harassment still exists and we need to enforce stricter laws and ensure court systems do not tolerate abuse. I have seen it with my own eyes and know these changes need to happen for women to succeed in business. Equal pay is the right of every woman and man, regardless of color or gender.

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

Never, never give up. If you believe in yourself and your mission, stick with it. Life will throw you setbacks, but it is to see if you truly want what you have set out to build. Trust in the universe, let go, build and move forward. Your dream will eventually become a reality. I have always done what I believe in, regardless of the status quo. Life has thrown me many difficult obstacles, but I have learned through the course of life that your strength comes from within. Do not wait for others to give you a pat on the back, carry on with your mission here on Earth.

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. 🙂

Yes, I would love to meet Prince Harry. I think it takes a lot of guts to do what he has done. I feel he can make such a great impact on the world with his social impact courses.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I would love my readers to follow my philanthropic works at Saba Charitable Foundation. That truly is why I walk this earth.

IG: @sabachartablefoundation

www.sabacharitablefoundation.org

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