Whether through her business or philanthropy endeavors, Leah Brown aims to make the situation better for others. Sometimes it’s in Cary, but many times it involves a situation with someone halfway around the world.
Business opportunities with her company, A10 Clinical Solutions, allowed Brown the chance to travel to South Africa two years ago. The trip not only cultivated development for her company that orchestrates clinical trials, but it also ignited Brown’s passion to mentor minorities and women who operate their own businesses. Brown said what she experienced on that trip affects her to this day.
“I was partnered with many other South Africa black business owners that needed some guidance about best practices from the U.S.,” Brown explained about the trip that was orchestrated through the National Minority Supplier Development Council.
“That’s where I got the bug. They give me so much. These are folks who have been through apartheid. We’re sitting here in nice Cary, and there are so many other obstacles that we could never imagine.”
This past summer, Brown’s connection to helping businesspeople from Africa strengthened. This time, Brown welcomed Sarah Mukandutiye, a dairy farmer and hardware store owner from Kigali, Rwanda, for a weeklong stay in August. The visit was part of a program called Peace Through Business, which is run by a nonprofit organization from Oklahoma, the Institute for Economic Empowerment for Women.
Brown admitted she knew little about running a dairy farm, so she helped Mukandutiye visit with experts from N.C. State University and farms in Chatham County. Again, Brown saw the stark contrast between running a business in Cary and in a violence-plagued country in Africa.
“Number one what I learned from Sarah was the challenges they have in war in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing. They’ve been through such devastation but are still climbing to build their businesses,” Brown said. “Sarah is a brilliant, talented young lady.”
After Mukandutiye spent a long day touring and learning, Brown was looking to cater to her with an elaborate dinner. Brown was struck again by a simple request, one that reminded her about why she’s become so enthusiastic about helping women from Africa.
“She said, ‘Leah, the only thing I want to do is go to a movie theater,’” Brown recalled. “I said, ‘A movie? You can do that at any time.’ She said, ‘No, we don’t have movie theaters in Rwanda.’
“It just made you really think of the amenities and the luxuries we take for granted every day,” Brown added.
Mentoring business operators, especially women, from many foreign countries drives Brown to maximize her involvement. She’s also recently taken trips to Chile and China, combining her responsibilities within the international division of her company with mentoring. Brown hopes to return to South Africa again, as well.
Brown finds time to work with people from all around the globe while overseeing her company that’s grown by leaps and bounds since its founding five years ago. Brown sought to start a company that could be involved in improving health care since a close relative died because of AIDS. A10 Clinical Solutions has evolved from Brown being the sole proprietor to a company with more than 172 employees and revenue exceeding $3 million.
If that wasn’t enough to manage, Brown, who holds a law degree, also is a single mother to teenagers, ages 15 and 18. Brown doesn’t call it balancing, just passion for what she does.
“I love everything I do. It’s all pleasure,” Brown said. “I don’t run this company because I’m trying to make money. I’m running it because I’m trying to help the world. You need money to pay people’s salary and keep the lights on, but my first things when I wake up I think about how can we touch and improve health care for others.
“I love what I do. It’s not work to me. I love it. I count my blessings every day that I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do.”
Brown credits her company staff for being so autonomous and productive so she is able to be involved with mentoring on a worldwide scale. E-mails from throughout the world pop into her inbox regularly, and Brown answers them all. Social networking Web sites have helped her cultivate more opportunities.
“I feel my calling is to bring us all together,” Brown said, “no matter what culture you’re from, no matter the color of your skin.
“It’s about being involved in something bigger than yourself.”