"Leading Lady" stands for innovation, determination, and authenticity. All of those characteristics make up a beautiful soul and this week's Leading Lady, Stephanie Freedman, Founder and Director of Freedman Communications. She is an expert in Branding, Integrated Business Strategy, PR and all the elements that make up Marketing, these days.  I was fortunate to spend a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with Stephanie, learning about her career and life experience.  I enjoyed walking through the Birmingham Farmer's Market, with her, as she co-founded the market about 15 years ago.  

After she kindly let me keep a beautiful bunch of flowers and our interview / photoshoot ended, it was apparent to me, she is a true role model, she is… smart, business savvy, yet sincere and kind, and no matter how busy she may be… it is clear, family is always first. Her positive energy and beautiful smile is contagious.  Read the interview below and be inspired to understand… with passion and direction, you can make anything happen! 

{SS}: Tell us about your career and how you got started with your various business endeavors: 

{SF}: I lead Freedman Communications, my own integrated marketing agency. After graduating the University of Michigan and returning to my hometown in the Chicago area, I landed a job at a boutique PR agency. That’s where I learned the business.  I worked with high profile clients such as Starbucks Coffee – (and even had a meeting with founder Howard Schultz!) as well as numerous restaurant and retail establishments.  

Upon moving to Michigan in 1992, I was fortunate to work for one of the largest PR agencies in the area, which really helped me connect to the local community. I worked on high profile events and marketing campaigns during this time – opening the Parisian Department Store and Joe Dumars’ Fieldhouse to name a few – and even met one of my best friends while working there.  Prior to founding Freedman Communications, I was the communications director at an early stage venture capital business, which is where I solidified my experience working with startups.

Now, while running my own business, I am fortunate to work with many friends and colleagues on exciting projects.

{SS}: Can you share with us what inspired you to establish the Birmingham Farmers Market? 

{SF}: A true passion of mine, The Birmingham Farmers Market brings together many of my skill sets and my philosophy of giving back and focusing on what really matters in life. 

When I go to the market on any given Sunday, I can’t help but smile, sometimes even tear up – when I see families, local farmers and people of all ages enjoying themselves. 

My vision to bring a Farmers Market to Birmingham basically started 15 years ago, when I attended the Sunday market in Santa Monica.  The experience seemed so pure. Families were relaxing on blankets, eating breakfast and taking a time out from their busy lives. After a few conversations, my friend Julie Plotnik and I presented the idea to the City – and here we are 14 years later, with up to 5,000 people a day frequenting the Market.  It’s great to see the many merchants who have opened their businesses on Old Woodward in the Market area, as well as a bustling Booth Park.  As this is a volunteer project for me, I admit I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished.

{SS}: Tell us about your typical day. 

{SF}: My day is all about multitasking! After seeing my son off to school, a typical day for me is meeting with clients and vendors, answering emails, texting or Face timing with my daughters who are in college – and some days squeezing in a yoga class. My laptop and phone are on hand at all times. Every day is different. That’s what is so great about my career.

{SS}: What do you love about your job? 

{SF}: My favorite part of my work is the people I meet.  I have met so many interesting people throughout the years – celebrities, professional athletes, inventors, colleagues and many creative business people from who I can learn. In addition to being excited about learning about new ideas, I also enjoy sharing my branding and marketing expertise to educate clients how to strategically market their product or service.

{SS}: Any advice to those starting out in your profession?

{SF}: Know that you are getting into the service business.  There are times that you have to be available 24/7.  There are many exciting moments, but also be prepared to do the grunt work.  It’s always important to be a great writer and to take time to network. Always have a pen, and a notebook or laptop on hand.  Take in your surroundings and notice how you might do things a bit differently. It’s important to be a good listener as well as have your own point of view.

{SS}: What would you tell your 23 year old self? 

{SF}: Keep an open mind. At 23, I was living in my hometown, working for a PR agency, dating and spending time with friends and family.  By 25, I moved to Birmingham, MI.  Had you told me 2 years prior I would be leaving Chicago, I never would have believed it.

{SS}: Where do you get your daily news fix? 

{SF}: I read Flipboard, The New York Times and listen to Newstalk radio in the car.  If you aren’t familiar with Flipboard, it’s a great app, where you can get the headlines of the day in a few minutes.

{SS}: What do you do to make yourself feel beautiful, confident and ready to take on anything?  {SF}: Practice yoga and do my best to eat healthy and organic food.  I limit gluten and dairy.  Once a year I do a juice cleanse.  Before a big day, I try my best to get enough sleep! And a great outfit always helps.

{SS}: What would you suggest to women who are seeking a work/life balance?  

{SF}: I think I’ve been able to juggle work and family due to the fact that I’ve been able to identify exciting work opportunities that have allowed me to have a flexible work schedule – since I’ve had my children.  By working 30 hours a week, instead of 40, for example, has allowed me to pick my children up from school, do homework and get dinner on the table. If you develop an expertise at something, those opportunities will surface. Today’s workforce is even more open to flexible hours than years ago.  So my advice for younger women would be – a great time to work a 50-hour week is when you are first starting out in your career. Then when you have a family, look for opportunities that meet both your career and family goals. 

{SS}: What is your “Style Archetype?” 

{SF:} Classic

{SS}: Who is your Style Icon? 

{SF}: I would have to say my Mom.  I grew up in the fashion business. Both of my parents ran a women’s ready-to-wear showroom in Chicago, and my Mom was and is always fashionably dressed. She always wore the clothing of the designers she represented. As she is in her 70’s now, she is still always put together.  Whenever we are out and about, there is always someone who stops her in a store and tells her how fashionable she looks.  Happens every time.

{SS}: Where do you find style + fashion inspiration?   

{SF}: I like to browse in the stores, whether in town or out of town. I prefer to go to the stores rather than read fashion magazines.  I also keep up on trends on Flipboard and via social media.  And of course from Styleshack!

{SS}: What is your power outfit or accessory (the thing you know you look and feel your best in, whether it's for work, staying at home, playing, etc.)?  

{SF}: I tend to gravitate to black pants or jeans, a blouse or t-shirt with a little black blazer. Or my Veronica Beard blazer with a grey hoodie insert (from a local favorite, SHE stores) always finishes off a business casual look.  My favorite shoes are my Pedro Garcia black wedges and a great pair of boots. I usually wear the same necklaces everyday, one that has an evil eye. One of my favorite bracelets has stitching of three kids and a dog.


{SS}: Who inspires you and why? 

{SF}: All of children and my husband. I am amazed each and every day as to how much my girls, who are 18 and 20 have accomplished, and the relationships they have formed in their lives – with their friends, family and each other. 

It’s not an easy time to grow up and setting a good example for my children is always top of mind. As for my 8 year-old son, he is wise beyond his years and I love his sense of humor and watching his curiosity unfold. 

As for Josh, my husband, it’s amazing to see his dedication as a father. He inspires me to be the best parent I can be. 


{SS}: What are your “words to live by” OR favorite saying/quote?  

{SF}: A painting with this quote by the Dalai Lama XIV is hanging on our kitchen wall:

Thank you Stephanie, for sharing your story, inspiration, and personal style notes with us!  You can check out some of Stephanie's "Local Love" from her go-to local spots below: 

Coffee: Commonwealth, Starbucks

Dinner: Phoenicia 

Boutiques/Stores:  SHE, Caruso, My House of Style, Lululemon 



Market: Whole Foods and of course, seasonally, The Birmingham Farmers Market