Today we're introducing the local half of our executive team, Lenore. Freeleaf would not exist today without her. Though she doesn't do most of the online talking around here, she does just about everything else (as she so clearly explains below):
Hey Lenore, tell us about your role at Freeleaf:
Well, I'm the COO at Freeleaf- which basically means I do everything around here except for marketing and sales. :) I lead evaluations for women who are interested in joining our programs, process all hiring, manage production, handle HR, and process international shipments.
Why did you decide to work at Freeleaf?
When I was young, I grew up in a village. My parents were migrant workers, and so they lived in the big city while me and my sister were left in the village to be cared for by my grandparents. Growing up in a culture that preferred boys to girls, many girls in my village dropped out of school at a very young age to work. I saw many girls and women suffer and be used and abused, and I knew this was not fair.
I also saw that women could be strong and brave, starting with my grandmother. She raised 7 children by herself and took care of me and my sister. She wasn’t like other people in the village—she encouraged me and my sister to go to school and go to college and pursue our dreams. Through this, I saw that one life can forever change another life. I am so grateful for the opportunities I was given by my grandmother to become the person I want to be, and I want to give that opportunity to other girls and women.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite thing about my job is building deep relationships with the women who work with us—I love being able to encourage our staff and develop a holistic care plan for them which may include counseling, medical care, professional development, and more. I love being able to see women grow to understand their value and truly stand firm in the truth that they don’t have to accept being used or abused.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Because I wear so many hats, it can be difficult to separate my roles and draw healthy boundaries between my personal and professional life. Sometimes I’m the manager and sometimes I’m the friend or pseudo-counselor and other times I'm the co-worker. It’s also hard for me to keep boundaries because when I see women who are suffering, I really want to step in and fix the situation, which isn’t always good.
What do you do for fun?
I love traveling—just got back from a 2 week trip by myself to Europe! I also love shopping, hanging out with my friends, watching movies, playing with cats, eating hotpot...
How do you de-stress?
I often get off the bus a few stops early so that I can walk 30-40 minutes home after work. While walking, I listen to music, process the day and pray. This helps me let go of stress.
What are you reading?
I just finished reading Embracing Brokenness by Alan Nelson.
What’s your favorite food?
So easy! Hotpot!
What is your favorite Freeleaf product?
I love the Trio Necklace because I helped design it! It’s a symbol of our start because it was made when there were only three of us local staff. It’s also colorful and beautiful.
What do you think makes Freeleaf special even among other social enterprises?
We are very young. This means that we might make more mistakes and running the business can be messy. But because we are young, we have a lot of time to learn from our mistakes! I think being so young also makes us willing to dream bigger.
Another thing is that we don’t only focus on one demographic of women—like only working with women who have been homeless or who have experienced domestic abuse or exploitation. We work with women from so many backgrounds, which is sometimes messy… but at the same time really special.
What’s it like working on a cross-cultural team?
The biggest thing is learning how to communicate. After working with an American for two years I have learned that if I think something or disagree with something that I should say it directly. This is different from my culture where we want to save face so we usually wouldn’t say things directly—especially when it’s something we disagree with. Especially girls in my culture—we don’t always have the opportunity to tell other people our opinion. But right now I have the opportunity to voice my opinion so I really love to do that.
Lastly, what’s your dream for Freeleaf and for yourself?
My dream is for Freeleaf to grow as a company to empower more women. I want Freeleaf to be like a home where women can feel comfortable, loved and supported. For me, I want to get more knowledge and experience in working with women who have experienced trauma so that I can have more skills and get a bigger perspective to care for women better.
Three cheers for Lenore!!