Interview with Buffy C. Joseph-Fredericks, Founder and Director of Liberian Women in Business Empowerment Network
|Buffy C. Joseph-Fredericks|
"For the Liberian woman desiring to take that vision from a dream state to reality, I say... just DO it. Do not wait for everything to be perfect. Learn everything about the industry you want to do business in. Never stop learning. Network and connect with people who inspire you, cheer you on and will boldly tell you when things are not right. Know that there will be challenges and obstacles; understand that you might have to hit the reset button a couple of times and you might have to let some people go. You will fall, but get up and keep pounding every time you do. Find mentors, but be wise about the counsel you receive. Just because someone loves you doesn't mean they know what's best for you and your endeavors. Finally, partner with God. He knows what's best and He has an amazing plan for all of us." Buffy C. Joseph-Fredericks
Buffy C. Joseph-Fredericks believes in impact made by women. She is the founder and director of Liberian Women in Business Empowerment Network (LWBEN), a rewarding organization that contributes to "building a better Liberia powered by women".
Who is Buffy C. Joseph-Fredericks?
Primarily, I am a wife (almost 4 years), a mother of a 21 month old son and a 21 year old son (through marriage), and a full time Regulatory Affairs professional with a medical device company here in Minneapolis. I am also a photographer and very active in my local church.
What is LWBEN all about?
The concept of the Liberian Women in Business Empowerment Network stemmed from my passion to see Liberian women do well. I love to see all women do well, but the need to narrow the scope on this endeavor and focus on Liberian women, especially women in the diaspora, was clear for several reasons. One specifically was from personal experience. I had relocated to the US from Liberia in 1997 and found that adjusting to the culture here was quite the challenge. Because there were not tools that I knew of at the time to help me adjust to this change, I felt like I was not prepared and didn't show up 100%. I didn't think people understood my accent so I didn't speak up. I didn't believe that this girl, from a small country in Africa, had anything valuable to offer so I didn't lend my voice, talent or skills to effect change in my community or at work. I lacked confidence. I was full of fear - fear of failure and fear of what others thought of me. I was not my authentic self. Over the years, after much soul searching and a series of professional and personal development opportunities and training, it became evident to me that I was the only thing holding me back. I realized that my career, my business, my life would advance if I put in the work and pursued the opportunities to take them in the direction I desired. It wasn't about what I looked or sounded like, or where I was from. I realized that almost everything I needed to be successful, I already had and if I didn't, I could get them through learning, networking and mentoring opportunities. After talking with a lot of Liberian women, I found that many had similar insecurities and were being held back by them. They were not advancing in their careers or their businesses were not growing. I became passionate about sharing what I had learned on my own journey, with other Liberian women. I wanted to also share the stories of other successful Liberian women around the world and provide resources to help develop skills needed to be successful. My goal is to inspire and empower women involved in various types of businesses – whether they own a traditional business selling a product or a service, or are in a non-profit business, employed in a corporate organization or government entity; or whether they are in Ministry – Kingdom business or in the entertainment business. I am also targeting that woman who has ideas and skills and is looking to start a business but is not sure what that next step is and need some inspiration and motivation or a point in the right direction.
As an activist, empowering women through entrepreneurship. What is your biggest challenge and why the need to empower women in business?
My biggest challenge is convincing Liberian women. Convincing them that they are good enough, that they deserve more, that their businesses can be bigger than the small group of friends and family they currently have as customers, and that despite their age, they can still accomplish their goals and make their dreams realities.
What are you looking to achieve?
My goal is to build a network, through an online platform, where Liberian women can share inspiring stories, knowledge and experiences to inspire other women. LWIBEN will also offer relevant resources needed to empower women as they step up and pursue their own dreams of starting or growing a business, advancing their careers and impacting their communities.
Do you think the challenges for women in business are different from men? If so, what are the differences?
Studies have repeatedly shown that the challenges are different for men and women in business for several reasons. Specifically, our Liberian culture dictates that women are to take on the role of the home maker. As we step out to run our own businesses and advance our careers, we have to continue in that role. We have to learn to balance managing our homes/families and our businesses and that can be quite the challenge - one that a lot men don't have to deal with.