Most go through a journey of finding a passion and purpose, but for Ivy McGregor, her light was destined to shine from a young age.
McGregor, a now widely respected philanthropist, speaker, CEO, global influencer among other things, started from humble beginnings locally in North Minneapolis. From an early age McGregor was naturally gifted. She excelled in the classroom and even skipped a grade. In addition to the books, she had a knack for entrepreneurship at a young age. She had a niche in creating ways to maximize money. It all started early with selling Kool-Aid and brownies locally and eventually it spouted to more.
“I always had an edge in entrepreneurism,” McGregor said.
McGregor was raised by her single mother on 17th Street and Penn Avenue. After the age of five when her parents separated, her family endured financial hardship.
“I knew it was a struggle for my mom. I can't tell you how I knew that, but I knew I wanted to make a difference in her life,” McGregor said. “I saw the stress and strain of my mother with raising five children alone and I knew in some kind of way my life had to make sense enough to create a pathway that made things better for her.”
McGregor, her mother, along with her four older siblings, grew up in Section 8 housing, welfare assistance, hand me downs for clothes and no family car until her senior year in high school. McGregor recalls taking the 19B city bus to get around and the many journeys her family had to make to get to the local grocery store.
“We would walk in whole troops to the grocery store,” she said. “Imagine heaps and heaps of snow and a single mother with her five kids walking from the grocery store.”
Witnessing McGregor’s mother struggle and having an arduous childhood fueled a passion to change the world inside herself. She not only wanted to make her mother’s situation better, but she also wanted to make life better for the mothers going through similar challenges.
“When I prayed I didn't just ask for God to give my mom enough money so I can get a lunchbox; it was always ‘bless me to be in a place so that I can help every kid whose prayer is the same as mine.’ My dream was always to help out people that were like my mom and let my light mean something to the kids like me,” recalled McGregor.
Even through the hardship, McGregor’s mother made sure to instill a life of balance for her five children. She made sure they cultivated their talents and were involved with extra curriculars.
“We had a meager beginning, but it was full of life, it was full of love and it was full of purpose.” McGregor said.
For McGregor, she had a gift in the arts, specifically with playing the piano. She grew as a pianist, which led to her receiving a MacPhail Music School Scholarship. To this day McGregor thanks her mother for putting her into the vast array of activities and keeping her in the church.
“My mother was very encouraging of those and supported us,” she said. “She is just a miracle woman from being able to see the gift in each of us and cultivating it with meager beginnings.”
Another part of McGregor’s mother instilling balance in life for her and her siblings was ensuring they always had the house clean. It was tradition in the McGregor household to thoroughly clean their house every Saturday.
“We had a clean house, we had standards and rules,” McGregor said. “My mother has always been a meticulous woman. We would clean the house on Saturdays and dance to Michael Jackson and all of the latest music.”
McGregor’s mother also was also instrumental with her involvement with the Hospitality House, a local youth development center in Minneapolis.
“My mother, being a woman of faith, wanted us to be able to do cooking classes and sports but also for it to be rooted in something more than just fun but also with faith,” she said. “Hospitality House played an integral part in our upbringing.”
The fact that the Hospitality House is still up and running means everything to McGregor. It was a place that provided safety and comfort to her mother while also having the satisfaction of knowing they implemented programs to aid in the cultivation of her five children.
“To know that Hospitality House is still standing brings tears to my eyes because it is very possible that I am here today because there was an organization that was serving inner-city youth who are often forgotten,” she said.
“I come from very humble beginnings, but it was rooted in faith. We were at church every Sunday morning; we were at church Friday nights and if there were any activities on Saturdays we were at church.”
Outside of her family’s financial strife, McGregor had battles of her own. She battled around the clock illnesses from colds, sinus infections, bronchitis and severe migraines for multiple years. These ongoing issues caused multiple trips to the emergency room every three to four months. Eventually, her mother elected to take her to Dr. Michael Paparella, an ear, nose and throat specialist. Paparella proposed McGregor have surgery on her right ear. The surgery consisted of shaving bone marrow in her inner ear to free pressure and it ended up being successful and stopped her severe migraines. However, that surgery was not the only medical scare in her childhood.
One day she was walking near Penn Avenue heading to the school bus stop and was struck by a car.
“I was struck so hard that my tightly tied tennis shoe literally went up the block,” McGregor said. “When the paramedics came, they found my tennis shoe halfway up the block.
Despite the impact of the accident, she only suffered scratches and bruises. She walked away with no broken bones and most importantly her life. McGregor uses the car accident as a reassurance and evidence that there was something untapped on her horizon.
“It was just a testament. I knew … I know I was destined for greatness because there’s no reason why with that impact that, that wasn't my demise,” McGregor said.
McGregor ultimately defied the odds and put herself on a track to success navigating her way through North Community High School and finishing at DeLaSalle High School, where she said she was one of four Black students in her graduating class. She then went on to push her way through St. Thomas University and the University of Minnesota.
“While I excelled naturally, it wasn't a challenge for me because I was a gifted kid,” she said. “When I got to college, I was bored because I already had a vision for what my life was going to be. I was challenged with taking astrology, not because I couldn't succeed in it, but because I had this big rapacious vision of what my life would be. I knew the great things; I knew I was destined for greatness early on.”
After graduating college, McGregor began to blossom with her career and started to travel, however, she still craved her life mission-helping people. The local church she attended, High Praise Ministries – The Destiny Center, in the heart of North Minneapolis, offered her an opportunity to help. McGregor served young adults, married couples, single adults and assisted with the pastor and first lady, but her staple was an initiative she started called Hour of Power.
Hour of Power was a 60-minute session every Friday night aimed to uplift anyone who came in and to facilitate healthy conversation. The sessions were closed with a prayer and a final word of encouragement from McGregor.
She can recall a story of a man by the name of Leon who came in to one particular Hour of Power inebriated and emotional. She did not place judgement on him, she decided to speak to him and pray with him. McGregor said due to the impact of their interaction, Leon turned his life around, turned his life over to Christ, became a church deacon, is now married and has grandchildren and he now marks his hour with McGregor as the turning point in his life.
“Part of just this ethos of Ivy, I always put myself in that person’s shoes,” McGregor said. “So, I said maybe Leon is weary like my mother and while my mother turns to God, Leon has turned to alcohol. And while there are people that support my mom, let me be support tonight to Leon. This could be me, it could be my mother, so I just wanted someone to help. I believe God saw my heart. He saw that this kid has this amazing heart, she really wants to help people.”
When McGregor moved to Houston for work, she ended up being laid off after one year. The news shattered McGregor and she recalls it being one of the lowest moments of her life. She was discouraged, depressed and second guessed the timing of her moving from Minnesota to Texas.
“I had packed up my life and here I am in Houston, a year after moving, and I am without a job,” she said.
She ended up going to the unemployment office for assistance and worked to get a new job. Despite going through a personal storm, McGregor still made sure to continue to work towards her purpose. She opened her home up for weekly mentorship meetings to help build blossoming careers. She shared informational sessions about life, business, networking, protocol and how to build a dream into a successful career. She even provided food every week, even though she was not in the most comfortable financial situation.
“We have to lift while we climb,” McGregor said.
During that time she hosted a networking event at a hotel where 300 people showed. She challenged the attendees of her sessions to become entrepreneurs and while speaking to them she had to take on the challenge and embody her advice. That is when McGregor, Inc. emerged.
“I had my business started in a barren moment,” she said. “I tell people that you have to believe in yourself, you have to keep saying it until you see it. But the most important thing is you have to see it even when you really can't see it. It started with me speaking it and believing it was actually possible.”
Since then, McGregor’s work, especially with philanthropy, has been extensive and remarkable and she has blossomed into the woman we now see today. McGregor has spent the past two decades zeroing in on her mission to strengthen the awareness of global citizens who serve as answers to the issues of the world. She works day in and day out to carry out her mission.
She has strived to eliminate homelessness, poverty, economic inequality. She has also worked to promote and empower women entrepreneurship and worked to eradicate health disparities in multiple countries.
Through her business she has emerged as the director of Philanthropy and Social Impact for Parkwood Entertainment (which was founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter).
McGregor also embodies her mission inside her own home as well. She has adopted two South African kids.
“Life is not worth living if you are not giving in some sort of way,” McGregor said. “You have to make sure that everything you do has a touchpoint of paying it forward and giving back.”
McGregor will return to Minneapolis Saturday (July 20) speaking at High Praise Ministries 25th annual celebration luncheon, 1200 N. 7th St., Minneapolis.