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Positively Inspiring Leah De Souza
A 15-year old girl lay in a Canadian hospital bed with a tumor wrapped around her spine awaiting surgery, which at the time could not be performed in Trinidad. The surgeon entered her room and, as hospital procedure dictates, warned her of the possible consequences of procedure for which her consent was required. He matter-of-factly explained the possibility of losing the use of her bladder and bowel functions and even her legs, yet the young patient summoned all her strength and gave him permission to proceed.The surgery was successful and she went on to make a full recovery yet that moment in her hospital room, Leah De Souza says, changed her outlook forever. It was the moment she learned to appreciate and love life and to see only the positive and beauty in everything.
Now in her 30s, Leah De Souza is a confident, self-aware and successful businesswoman who, much to her surprise, was recently chosen as a finalist in the ‘Young Entrepreneur’ category of the ActionCOACH-sponsored Business Excellence Awards – an international competition created to recognize the ‘Best of the Best’ in the small-and-medium sized business (SMB) sector and hailed as the world’s premier awards programme for the sector. Leah, who in 2005 took over the management of ‘Trainmar’ -- a small business training company for the maritime sector founded by her mother in 1996 -- has in seven short years, transformed and grown the company into a leading provider of Workplace Learning and Development Solutions for private and public sector organisations throughout the Caribbean. The young Training and Development Consultant and Mastermind Coach© was more than a little surprised when she received word that she had been chosen as an ActionCOACH ‘Young Entrepreneur’ finalist.
“I’ve never received accolades or awards here in Trinidad. I entered the competition by chance. I got a newsletter which said tell your story and I told mine. I wrote about joining ‘Trainmar’, what I’d done since, how I’d grown not only the business but also as a person and professional, and then I just chucked it aside. When I got the letter telling me that I was a finalist, I thought, ‘Is this really happening to me – some girl from Trinidad?’ In fact, I didn’t tell anyone the news for a week.” After getting used to the idea, Leah somewhat reluctantly decided to attend the two-day Business Forum and Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas telling herself, “You make that trip, Leah. It’s not about winning. It’s about having been recognised. Someone read and felt your story and is telling you, ‘You’re valid and worthy.’” She went and has neither regretted the experience nor her decision to return to Trinidad from France, where she earned her Degree in English Language and Culture from the University of Montpellier, to be with her family and run her mother’s company. By then, she had lived and worked for nine years in France, Switzerland and Italy.
“Trainmar’ is my world. I am passionate about improvement and about helping people find their way to positive change. Our core belief is that you can have the best processes, systems, technology and equipment, but it is the people who make those things function at their best. Our work is about achieving results; it’s about engaging people and showing them critical skills they can use on the job.” Taking a personal interest in understanding her clients’ business is what she feels has set ‘Trainmar’ apart from similar training services. “Even though their goals may be the same, every company’s culture is different so we spend a lot of time understanding each of our clients’ organisational cultures and then, adapt our programmes and initiatives it. I think our clients have come to appreciate that as well as the calibre of our faculty of experienced professional and highly regarded trainers and facilitators sourced from around the world.”
Leading ‘Trainmar’ may be her world, but there seems to be no stopping Leah’s entrepreneurial spirit. In 2009, she felt it was time to start something new and experience what it was like to build a business and brand from the ground up, so while never losing focus on her responsibilities of running ‘Trainmar’, Leah launched into business in an entirely new sector opening a fashion store for women at 101 Tragarete Road called ‘Indulge Clothing’. Having recently celebrated the store’s third anniversary, the 13,000-plus fan following of the Indulge Clothing’s Facebook page stands as testimony to the success of her venture.
“I may be new to the retail business but I think I have a good eye for fashion and style,” this young entrepreneur expressed, her understanding of pre-planning of business development and marketing clearly evident as she spoke. “I created the ‘Indulge Clothing’ brand before anything else. I know in my head what the ‘Indulge Woman’ looks like, how she dresses and feels. She is confident, outgoing, fun and fabulous. She enjoys life and doesn’t take herself too seriously. We are about smiling, being positive and non-discriminating. That’s important to me and it’s why we launched a small but growing Plus-size line two years ago.”
Recognising that most women have insecurities, Leah wants her clothing store -- which offers a complete styling range from footwear, handbags and accessories to casual, formal,business and even swimwear -- to help women feel positively regal and good about who they are. It is why she places such emphasis on helping to style ‘Indulge Clothing’ customers. “That moment after we’ve styled a customer, when she looks in the mirror and can say to herself, ‘You know what? I’m looking good!’ is magical. For me, it’s powerful to see women feeling their beauty and owning that feeling.”
Perhaps it’s because in moments like those, she sees a reflection of herself – a woman who fully embraces who she is. “I am authentic and very much a person who knows herself. I know what my limitations are, what I’m good and not good at. I am at peace with myself. I love life and all that is beautiful and positive in it. And I choose not to give them my attention to the things that are not positive. I want to be ‘me’ to the fullest I can possibly be. I’m not trying to be someone else.” It’s an extension of the positive attitude and strength of that young 15-year old facing life-changing surgery so many years ago, who courageously faced the worst yet believed only in the best outcome.
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