Updated: Jan 12, 2019
William McNeely, is native of Charlotte, NC. He’s an entrepreneur, non-profit executive and a former Apple Market Development Executive and Educator. His career has spanned the technology, marketing, and education markets.
As an entrepreneur of over 20 years, William founded the design firm, Evan Eli Agency with his wife of 27 years. Evan Eli specializes in helping non-profit organizations and small businesses meet the needs of their communities throughout southeast. He’s been on the board of many non-profits and helps faith-based organizations meet their mandate of reaching people with a message of hope.
Following his passion for helping others, McNeely left Corporate America for several years to teach technology solutions to middle school students. This experience has allowed him to utilize his unique skill set to help students explore their passions and create tangible paths to accomplish academic and professional goals.
Now retired, William founded the Do Greater Foundation, dedicating his life to inspiring others to do greater things in their lives and make a greater impact on others.
You are a former Apple executive and educator. Tell us about that chapter of your life!
As a college student, I loved Apple products and was determined to work for Apple. After graduation, I took a position as a customer service rep and eventually moved to Account Manager and Market Development Executive in enterprise, small/medium business and the education sector. By far, my most rewarding position at Apple was in the education market where I had the opportunity to interact with educators at the K-12 and higher education level. It fueled my passion for helping youth reach their full potential.
After many years in technology and marketing, I felt the calling to move my passion to action and became a middle school teacher for almost 4 years. I taught tech skills, lean startup principles, and entrepreneurship within the middle school curriculum. The kids yearned for real life applications of the principles they were studying, and I could provide that bridge. It was extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
As a social entrepreneur, how are you making a difference?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I inherited it from my father who started businesses very early in his life. I’ve had many ideas that failed, many were successful and some were just simply before their time. But the underlying thread was to always make a difference in the lives of others.
My wife and I started the Evan Eli Agency over 20 years ago. We have worked with many non-profits, religious institutions, startups, and individuals, helping them build brands that make an impact in the community. We realized that Evan Eli wasn’t about us building a powerful agency, but working behind the scenes to help organizations stand out and be effective.
What is GrindxFaith?
Grind by Faith is an expression of understanding your purpose and moving toward action. It’s great to have passion for many things, but without action, there is no contribution—it’s just dormant, passion just sitting there. As I engage with students in schools and universities, it’s always about how to recognize your strengths from your experiences, harness them, and then engage in something you love and would do for free. It’s about what inspires you into action. What keeps you grinding even when you don’t see results? You Grind by Faith when no one believes in you, your ideas, or your potential. It’s believing in the impossible and realizing the impossible starts with you. Keep grinding and by faith it will come to pass.
As the Founder and Head Coach of the Do Greater Foundation, what is your mission?
The Do Greater Foundation was birthed out of a divine dissatisfaction for the status quo. I’ve done many things in my life which I deem successful. Helping people and organizations reach their full potential was my main goal, but I was still somewhat empty. Was it about my ego or was it truly about impacting people?
Three years ago, I was stricken with Scleroderma and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. It seemed like it happened almost over night. I went from an active, vibrant business executive and high school football coach to being disabled and on oxygen 24/7 with lung fibrosis within a matter of months. It was a crisis of belief. I had to make a conscious decision to restart and refocus my life on what was impactful—moving from success to significance and ideas to impact. I focused around this statement, “Commit to doing something greater that will keep giving even when I’m no longer able to give,” and the Do Greater Foundation was born.
Our mission is to inspire and empower the next generation to reach their full potential, ultimately doing greater things that they never imagined possible. Charlotte is a great community of doers. We are changing the world and have a responsibility to bring others along with us for the ride—to bridge the opportunity gap. We want to harvest that attitude and funnel it toward youth through products that encourage and uplift underserved communities and jumpstart their path to greater.
We are now developing a monthly mentoring box service for youth of 5-7 curated products. It will be powered and gifted by creative doers. Every product in this box will inspire and empower kids to start the impossible, as they receive a gift from a creative mentor and have the opportunity for a monthly inspirational coaching session. We are building a platform and outlet for creative #doersofgreater to be able to impart their experiences with underserved youth in Charlotte. The hope is to move these kids from “ideas to impact” and provide lasting change in their lives.
How have the principles of the foundation threaded through your life as a father and as a mentor to others in the community?
Our manifesto says: We are called to do greater. Going beyond good and destroying doubt. Grinding by faith toward action. To love out loud and make an impact on the lives of others. These are the principles I grew up with that were instilled by my mother. She engrained in her kids that good is not enough. You will be doubted, she let us know, but you move on, and lastly, serving others without regard for anything in return is the ultimate expression of love. It’s a conscious lifestyle decision of moving from getting to giving. Hopefully, I’ve paid it forward to my kids, Jessica and Joshua.
My focus now is to help people on the journey of passionately pursuing their purpose and understanding their “why.” I believe if we introduce these principles to our kids at a young age, our passions can be turned into actions and contributions, which impact others for the better.
As a mentor, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many organizations, such as community health centers, churches, art and history museums, colleges/universities as well as participate on boards, such as the Marketing Chair for the United Way of Charlotte years ago. This has given me diverse and unique experiences that I hope can continue to be beneficial to others in Charlotte.
The LoveGreaterCLT t-shirt is more than a shirt. It's a mission. Please share!
The LoveGreaterCLT shirt was based on a campaign we did to love, serve and give greater. For us, the ultimate expression of love is to serve others. So we wanted to implore Charlotte to serve others with love and the LoveGreaterCLT design and t-shirt was born. We activated it during GivingTuesday this year and will continue to offer it throughout the next year as well. Who knows, it might take on a life of its own! All proceeds of the design go to non-profits in the Charlotte market making an impact on the lives of others.
We love the message within the design! Who is behind the design?
My wife, Sheila, is a graphic designer who has been working behind the scenes for many familiar Charlotte organizations over the years. We developed our Do Greater branding together, but the idea behind the LoveGreater CLT design was mine. I was designing a social media post and just replaced the “v” in love with our greater sign logo—a simple message of loving others. It works.
Life can deliver unexpected twists and turns. What are some of your greatest challenges and what have you learned?
You’re right. Life is full of challenges. I grew up on the west side of Charlotte and my siblings and I were some of the first to be bussed to South Meck High School during the 70s. My single mom struggled with 4 kids, but as I mentioned earlier, she understood the do greater principles before they were penned into a foundation manifesto, and she instilled them in us. She sent each of us to college: NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina, and UNC Greensboro (all at the same time for at least several semesters), quite an accomplishment for a single parent!
But these last three years have really allowed me to focus on what really matters. For some of us, it takes a traumatic event to change our trajectory toward doing greater things. We all can make a conscious decision to agree that the glass is half full, not half empty, but what if the glass is never full again? What are you going to do with what’s left? What I’ve learned is that we shouldn’t dwell on what we’ve lost, but on what we have left. The opportunity lies in the leftovers. Obstacles are the oxygen that propel you toward greater. It’s a perspective thing.
What is your vision for Charlotte?
Charlotte is a great city. I am a native, so I’ve lived through all the growth. She has her issues, but we are filled with what I call “creative doers”—ones that are willing to “go beyond good,” to doing greater and make an impact. You see it everywhere, from very large organizations who have been in the community for years, to smaller organizations who are making an impact in hyperlocal areas, lifting up individuals on a daily basis. But our journey is still filled with equity and opportunity issues. I do believe we are headed in the right direction. I believe that as #doersofgreater, we can pull communities together and address these issues.
My little piece is to inspire and prepare our youth early to develop a positive self-image, explore their passions, connect them to opportunities, and facilitate their service to others.
Any other ways you are involved in the community?
I say I’m retired now, but I love to interact and mentor people. I attend several monthly events such as Creative Mornings and work in my church to help reach and impact the Charlotte community. I love to speak at events at schools, universities, churches, and businesses telling a story of perseverance, hope and grinding by faith! I love sharing a great cup of coffee at a local coffee shop with my friends new and old.
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