Aside from Executive Director at Freedom & Fashion, Laverne Delgado wears a lot of other hats. She is also an artist, public speaker, and a passionate activist. As an alumna of The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, she has spent a career in the fashion and beauty industries, gaining valuable experience in several aspects of the business, from “mass production to couture for the runway.”
Outside of Freedom & Fashion, Laverne Delgado shows her love for the young people “overcoming human trafficking and other injustices.” She has built a life of service to these young people, providing them with resources and offering her talents for their aid. Her vast experience in working with “survivors of abuse, single mothers, conquerors of injustice, and the LGBTQIA+ community,” has helped her uphold a dear “connection to the human spirit,” “empowering one’s greatness.”
Throughout the years, at Freedom & Fashion, Laverne Delgado has been a leader to many teams and “activated generosity in thousands of people, which has led to providing resources to people in need around the world.”
At Freedom & Fashion, Laverne Delgado “inspires and mobilizes staff and volunteers, designs and leads organizational strategy in local context, powerfully inspires & supports fundraising efforts by cultivating and nurturing all relationships, invents new ideas for branding, advertising campaigns, and marketing messages, manages the creative process from concept to completion, translates marketing objectives into clear creative strategies,” among others.
In the beginning of my leadership journey, I constantly felt like I was the only one like me in the room. Laverne Delgado, Freedom & Fashion
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Laverne Delgado: Since I was a little girl, I’ve looked up to 2 women; Mary Magdalene and Tomb Raider. Both women are intelligent, strong, independent, adventurous, and loyal. To this day, I try to embody their power and spirit. Growing up, this showed itself as volunteering on the weekends, during the week it was school and 2 jobs, and when I had free time I was out in the mountains or trying out for the wrestling team. Some have said that I have a grit about me.
This helps me in my day to day life and has gotten me through my own hardships. In my youth, I was sexually abused and later in life, I was in a domestic violence marriage. I identify with the survivors we serve at Freedom and Fashion and know that once we learn how to put purpose to our pain, we begin to cultivate the healing our world so desperately needs.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Laverne Delgado: In the beginning of my leadership journey, I constantly felt like I was the only one like me in the room. Oftentimes, on the surface, I wasn’t wrong. I grew up in the inner city and went to one of the worst high schools in America (at the time). When at events, I remember people using vocabulary and phrases I had never heard before. When they did, I would write it down in my phone and then sneak away to google it in the restroom. I would then use it in the next conversation at that same event. The term “fake it til you make it” definitely applied to me.
The gap in knowledge was tough in and of itself but what made it even more challenging was my frustration with it. I remember wishing I was dealt a different hand; a hand with better schooling, a network, or at least a stronger vocabulary. Looking back now, I feel proud of how I strived to fill the gap and not let any egoic “restrictions” keep me from the life I desire. I’m committed to being that example for our survivors and that is what motivates me to continue to break through barriers like this when they present themselves.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Laverne Delgado: Now, I see the story I just mentioned as a funny mistake. To weigh my abilities on my knowledge of a certain word or phrase is silly. Brilliant thinkers like Albert Einstein, Winston Churchhill, and Leonardo Di Vinci were poor spellers and even a bit dyslexic like me. I’m glad I’ve built confidence that helps me to quickly move past narratives like this that do not serve me.
When an organization has a clear sense of cause, we are connected by our values, understanding, and vision.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Leaders, let people see you ask for help. It builds trust, credibility, and is a sign of a secure leader. Neurologically, research has found that this triggers oxytocin production of others, building trust and cooperation.
- Be intentional about creating opportunities for social connectedness. There are lots to say about this but generally, the need to socialize is deeply embedded in our nature. It’s easy for companies to fall into a task-driven culture, eliminating the chance for people to form bonds. When we build social relationships at work, it improves overall employee performance.
- Train your team accordingly then get out of the way. Autonomy gives a person a sense of ownership and accountability for whatever it is they are taking ownership of. It also promotes innovation because different people create things in different ways. One can not create at their full capacity if they do not feel they have the freedom to do so, and that’s an immeasurable loss.
- Celebrate progress out loud. Leaders, check in with your teams frequently to identify their wins and recognize them publicly. Beyond being a great sense of encouragement, it also inspires others to strive for excellence. Research shows that public recognition has huge effects when building trust.
- Fully embrace conflict and create an environment for passionate debates. If you appear to be in harmonious meetings all the time, there’s an issue. Healthy relationships require conflict and far too often, leaders sacrifice their vision because they are afraid of the interpersonal discomfort conflict can cause. However, high performing teams invite and even create grit. They have emotional intelligence that enables them to discuss and resolve issues quickly, often in heated debates. They can do this with no lingering feelings or drama. They’re results focus and do not take things personally.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Laverne Delgado: The risks associated with a lack of purpose and cause are too high not to.
Humans are tribal by nature. When there is a lack of global cause in an organization, people start seeking out tribal connections based on what one can see, i.e race, politics, etc. which can lead to racism, sexism, discrimination, etc.
When an organization has a clear sense of cause, we are connected by our values, understanding, and vision. The things that have been used to break so many companies (conflict, differences, etc.) are the very things that drive them forward. Purpose-driven companies also report an increase in productivity, employee retention, engagement, and trust.
Individually, studies show that those who live a purpose-driven life tend to live longer, have healthier hearts, and are more psychologically resilient. Our teams are made up of individuals.
Purpose promotes prosperity.
Get curious about values, action, communication, consistency, and emotion. Laverne Delgado
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Laverne Delgado: No pitch is the same. Sounds simple enough, however until you learn the different decision-making styles, chances are you’re probably pitching the same way (or too similarly) to very different thinkers.
This isn’t simply about strategy, it’s about genuine care for the client. Take the time to get to know all you can about the way they think and make decisions, then talk to them in a way that will best serve them. The goal is to inspire and connect the human being in front of you to your vision. Your delivery will be a determining factor of your desire for an authentic connection and there is no real connection without care.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Laverne Delgado: Get curious about values, action, communication, consistency, and emotion.
Here are some questions to consider:
- VALUES: What do you stand for? What are your core values?
- ACTION: What actions are you taking to live out those values?
- COMMUNICATION: Are you communicating your values and actions to your clients? How?
- CONSISTENCY: How often do you communicate your values and results?
- EMOTION: How are you making your clients feel? How do you know?
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Laverne Delgado: You can follow me on social media:
Instagram: @loveverne , @freedomandfashion
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!