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President Holly Hoffman mingles with some of the women at the Mingle with a Purpose networking event ahead of her keynote address.

NEW ULM – For the first time in two years, the Mingle with a Purpose: Heels and All networking and development event was held at Best Western Plus on Thursday evening.

After skipping 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, Mingle with a Purpose has returned. This was the 7th Mingle with a Purpose event hosted by the New Ulm Chamber.

After a year of absence, the women of the New Ulm area were eager to return. The Chamber was able to sell 150 tickets for the night’s event.

This year’s theme was “Never Give Up – The Way of the Survivor.” This theme was inspired by the speaker of the evening, Holly Hoffman, who participated in the television series Survivor. Hoffman has completed the Nicaraguan Survivor season. The twist of the season was that this year’s contestants were split between the younger and older tribes. Hoffman was initially in the oldest tribe. She would finish 4th that season and was the last of the older tribe and the last woman to vote for the show.

In honor of the show, the women who attended the event were each given a tribe name and challenged to find other members of the same tribe to meet and mingle.

Dani Polzin and Angel Schaffer hold speaker Holly H

Hoffman’s speech was the highlight of the evening. She gave a presentation, explaining her time on Survivor and what she learned about real-world survival.

Since the networking event was called “Heels and All”Hoffman used the shoe metaphor throughout his speech.

She said that just like there are many unique types of heels, there are many unique types of women.

Throughout the event, Hoffman spoke about the importance of opportunities. She advised the women in the room not to wait for an opportunity, but to jump on them. There was always the temptation to doubt yourself and worry, but adversity was a chance to find out what you had inside.

Hoffman said when she first auditioned for Survivor, it was more out of curiosity. She didn’t expect to be chosen by more than 100,000 people. Even once she was brought in for auditions and selected as one of the top 20, she almost quit before she started.

“Often we let fear stop us” Hoffman said, but reminded the audience that opportunities are never lost, they are simply taken by other people. If she had given up then, the opportunity would be taken by others.

To earn Survivor, Hoffman would have to spend 39 days in the Nicaraguan jungle. Even before the start of the competition, she was at a disadvantage. A native insect bit his arm leaving a blister and an open wound. That’s why in the show she wears a blouse with a cropped sleeve and a long sleeve. The producers wanted to hide his injury.

At first, Hoffman struggled on the show. She said it was a bigger challenge than she thought when she watched it at home.

She said it was an example of people judging before walking in their shoes.

Hoffman would detail the small struggles and triumphs she faced, many of which were documented for national television.

Hoffman explained that she learned a lot from her experience on the show. It’s often how people interpret adversity that allows them to survive. She nearly quit on the fifth day after being overtaken. Fortunately, a pep talk from former football coach and Tribe member Jimmy Johnson helped keep her in the game.

“When you slip and fall, you are not a failure”, said Hoffman. “You only fail if you don’t get up.”

Hoffman said another inspiration to carry on was her mother. She recalled after her parents divorced how hard her mother had worked to provide for her children. She never complained and if her children ever complained, she said, “This too should pass.”

Hoffman eventually made it to the final four before being dropped from the show. She survived 38 of the 39 days in the jungle. She likes to interpret it as spanning 38 days rather than a short day.

Although she didn’t win the prize money, Hoffman said one of the best moments was when she came home and her 24-year-old son said he was proud of her.

“It meant more to me than a million dollars,” she says.

Since her time on Survivor, Hoffman has been a professional speaker. She was invited to give speeches after the show and found that she loved it and her story was an inspiration to many.

She concluded by reminding all women that no matter what size their heels are, they are all unique.

“You can never go back” Hoffman said, “But you can always create a new ending.”

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