Planting Lotus Seeds: One Alum's Journey to Social Entrepreneurship

August 31, 2012








De Anne Wingate '96
While in India, De Anne Wingate ’96 tutored children in poverty-stricken areas to help improve their English skills.


De Anne Wingate ’96’s journey to become a social entrepreneur was a circuitous one. She experienced her first taste of wanting to become an agent for global change during study abroad trips she took to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic as an undergrad.

“I had never been around people who were so poor, yet had so much joy,” Wingate said. “I fell in love with the people and the children.”

Life after graduation wasn’t spent saving the world—at least not initially. She spent the first 10 years working for internet ad networks, and the next four blazing the frontier of internet advertising for Hispanic media powerhouse Univision, where she was responsible for managing roughly 70 percent of the multi-billion-dollar company’s digital advertising revenue.

De Anne Wingate ’96
Wingate models one of the vibrant tunics for sale through her nonprofit, Blessed Lotus. (Photo by Laura Lee Photography)

But something was missing. “By the end of my career, I was hyper-successful, but I didn’t have time for anything but my job,” Wingate said. In April 2010, she decided to quit her job and move to Mexico “to go surfing and hang out with God and figure out what I was going to do with the next phase of my life.”

After returning to the States from unwinding on the beaches of Mexico, she received a call that would put her on the right path. A ministry presented her with the opportunity to spend two months in India, working with girls who had been forced into sex slavery and children living in poverty-stricken areas. There, Wingate met a Brazilian woman who had built a school and had spent 10 years working with Indian children, teaching them and giving them hope for a better life.

Wingate returned to the United States with a new mission: to expand or create schools in low-income areas around the world, starting in India.

“Before I left, I had read Half the Sky, which discusses the global oppression of women and children. The research in that book—and elsewhere—shows that when you educate children, specifically girls, it changes the world,” she said. “As a young girl adds another year of education, birth rates decrease. Peace, economy, everything is affected. It’s the power of education.”

She also returned to the States with an enviable wardrobe of colorful pashminas and tunics. The compliments she received on her Indian clothing led her to start Blessed Lotus. Wingate named the company after the national flower of India, in hopes of bringing blessings to India. One hundred percent of the profits go directly to schools and to providing jobs to at-risk women.

“When I was in India, I worked with girls who were 18 to 23 and were married with babies. They had no idea how they had conceived a child,” she said. “They don’t learn about sex or protection in school, and their parents don’t talk about it,” so AIDS is a big issue there, she said.

In addition to purchasing some of the tunics, Wingate has been working with a network of Indian women—some of whom were rescued from the sex slave trade, are HIV positive, or are at risk of being forced into prostitution—to sew some of the Blessed Lotus tunics. She pays them by the piece, teaches them life skills and English, and helps pay for their medical treatment.

“Speaking English gives them a better chance of getting a job,” she said. “It’s all about creating self-sufficiency and independence.”

Wingate has two goals for Blessed Lotus: to have every piece of Blessed Lotus clothing made by women in poverty-stricken areas and to spread the message of preventing human trafficking through education. She has selected two schools in India to receive funding, and she hopes to expand to schools in Mexico and Africa as well.

“When you look at my journey, I could have stuck with the easy path, and still be in the corporate world, I could still be in New York,” Wingate said. “Yet, my background has prepared me for such a time as this. I have an incredible platform to prevent suffering and help change the lives of women and children around the world.”

On September 6, Wingate will be visiting Rollins to recruit interns and to participate in a celebration of the College’s being named a Changemaker Campus. This designation places Rollins among only 19 colleges nationally (and the only one in Florida) that are making a concerted effort to embrace social entrepreneurship on campus. Learn more about Changemaker Campus Day.

To learn more about Blessed Lotus, visit blessedlotus.com or facebook.com/blessedlotus

By Brittany Fornof

Office of Marketing & Communications
For more information, contact news@rollins.edu


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