Janeen Brown is the Executive Director and Founder of EmpowHERto, a Toronto and South Florida-based non-profit dedicated to helping 14 to 21 year-old women and girls reach their fullest potential through three pillars: Independence, Leadership, and Confidence. Janeen is an advocate for the well-being of women, building self-confidence, and female entrepreneurship. Previously, Janeen spent time managing a team for an entertainment company, but felt she had a greater purpose to help improve the prospects for female leaders.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Janeen Brown: Entrepreneurship means to be able to change the trajectory of the world by recognizing the multitude of opportunities in front of you yet being passionate enough about making a change.
A few years ago, I realized when asking other women about Breast Cancer that it was an unspoken disease that many kept a secret or didn’t know much about. This was beyond shocking to me as we all know a woman who has been impacted by Breast Cancer so why was it such a non-existent conversation. This led me to curate and host an annual Breast Cancer awareness event which turned into multiple events in the city connecting women. They were quite successful. Yet, I realized that women weren’t as friendly when it came to networking with unfamiliar women. This also reminded me as to why I only ever had male mentors as female mentors were extremely hard to come by. This was the ah-ha moment as the idea of creating a non-profit focused on helping young women with mentorship was now on the goal list and here we are.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
JB: The business has had to adjust to the reality of COVID-19 and social distancing policies in Canada. In response, we’ve had to modify our programs and events to be more virtual based. For example, our upcoming leadership academy will be entirely virtual with online workshops and speakers. However, pre-Covid, we were at about 15 staff members and, as of today, we are currently at 81 which has allowed us to get more work done for EmpowHERto and snag multiple partnerships and sponsorships for the upcoming year.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
JB: Proudest: Watching the organization grow and seeing the passion and commitment of my staff and volunteers. Darkest: The initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic with the deaths and with the economy practically shut down I wondered how it would affect the operations of the organization.
How is your company changing the landscape?
JB: We’re providing opportunities and exposure for young women and girls in order to inspire them and equip them to navigate gender, economic, financial and social barriers while growing them into leaders. Before the creation of EmpowHERto, there was no organization specifically focused on helping young women develop their leadership skills in Toronto.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
JB: To be honest, I wish I had done much more research on the operation of a non-profit organization. Starting is definitely not as easy as many think. There are so many laws that you need to know to ensure your business is operating correctly and realizing that you’ll need to ask people to fund your passion is something I still can’t get used to.
Is there anything you would do differently?
JB: I think rather than only having the original Board of Directors hosting the events, we would’ve hired staff in the earlier stages to build up the awareness around EmpowHERto sooner.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
JB: Even if it’s a failure, there is a lesson to be learned. I am a strong believer that all companies need to fail in order to get to the next level. Nothing great comes easy but once you’ve accomplished what you set your mind to, you’ll be more than satisfied.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
JB: The Bible. My favourite scripture “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. Whenever I feel like I can’t get through something, I have to remember all the battles within the Bible and the end results. Everything is possible, if you believe.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
JB: Success is positively impacting the lives of young women and helping them to realize their dreams and goals. As the leader of a dedicated team of people sharing the same passion for helping these young women, I’m positive I can make that difference for them.Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
JB: Covid-19 has highlighted how things can change in an instant and how little control we have over many things in our lives. This has made me more determined to focus on working harder professionally in my role to make people’s lives better.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
JB: Funny enough, I’ve started and worked for all of my businesses alone for so long that now that we have Directors and Managers, I sometimes forget I can ask for help and support. It has been great having those extra hands and minds to help me with this vision of mine. Being a GOOD leader is extremely important especially if you have a hardworking team. Always attending courses/classes teaching you to lead your team is necessary. Don’t forget to ask how you can be a better leader to your team as they will provide honest feedback.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
JB: Seeing the dedication of my staff and volunteers committed to the mission and vision of the organization.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
JB: A servant leader – someone who puts others before themselves and solves problems that need to be solved.
I want my legacy to be remembered as Janeen – the entrepreneur who gave her all to ensure others could become their best self.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days? JB: “Everything in life is attainable and achievable.”
We need to understand that even through tough times, we can achieve anything we put our mind too and to never forget that.
Who are the people who have mentored or influenced you in your life or career?
JB: My father has always been the one consistent person who has influenced me, he is always providing insight and support for all of my crazy entrepreneurial ideas. He has never told me to stop pursuing this journey and it has been such a great feeling having him behind me through it all. He has always said, “how can I help?” It has been such a great feeling to be able to hire him onto the team earlier this month.
How has their influence changed the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
JB: Because of him, I’ve never given up and there have been times, I’ve wanted to BUT he’s always there to say “keep going” and/or lend a helping hand.
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