I was born in Pottsville, a distressed coal mining town in upstate Pennsylvania, before my family moved to Bucks County, a Philadelphia suburb, for economic opportunity at age five. My father was a draftsman at General Motors and my mother was a homemaker — both second generation immigrants whose parents sought a better life in America.

In fifth grade, I was selected to represent my school at a United Nations human rights event in New York City. This early profound exposure to discussions on racial inequality and global rights issues, instilled an unyielding commitment to social impact, equity and inclusion that are deeply embedded in my personal life and career.

With money always tight and an absent father, my brother and I were left to find odd jobs to earn extra money. I started scooping ice cream at the age of thirteen at a local restaurant followed by a stint packaging ground meat at a small local business. At fifteen, I was hired as an apprentice by the owner of an electrical contracting company where I learned first-hand through his mentorship how to run a business and manage finances.

I was a strong student, athlete and musician in high school, graduating in the top one percent of my class. It was during this stage in my life that I solidified my interest in wellness. My commitment was galvanized after reading on a box of Fruit Loops that was as nutritious as an apple. That moment awakened in me a deep interest in empowering people to improve their well being.

With a single divorced mother, there was no money available for college and the more elite schools my counselors recommended. I wisely chose Rutgers University. Through a framework of loans and academic scholarships, supported by countless part-time jobs and work-study programs, I was able to scrape together the funds to pay for tuition and living expenses. Although it was exhausting juggling the intense demands of academics and work, nearby New York City was my reward for arts and culture.

After college I moved to Washington, DC, during an extremely tough employment period. I was fortunate to land at Wellness Works, a health promotion and employee engagement company that provided workplace wellness programs for public and private sector organizations. After securing a lucrative blanket-contract which expanded the business to more than 35 federal agencies and over 100,000 employees, I became an owner and managing director of the company. Three years later, I was recruited for a multi-million dollar contract as a Strategic Marketing Advisor for the U.S. Department of Defense. In this role, I was tasked with increasing awareness and engagement of the military’s advocacy programs available to active-duty U.S. Navy and Marine personnel and their family members, and to create comprehensive outreach strategies and world-wide campaigns.

Washington D.C.
U.S. Military

One constant during my time in D.C. was feeding my soul through the arts with frequent visits to the Smithsonian Art Museums, Phillips Collection, Kennedy Center, and serving on the boards of the Helen Hayes Theatre Arts Awards and D.C. Contemporary Dance.

At this point in my career, I was ready for a major life change and left Washington, D.C. for Seattle, Washington. A year after the birth of my first daughter, I founded Service Intelligence Inc., which delivered a multi-channel, technology enabled suite of products providing actionable, targeted customer experience metrics. After building and scaling the profitable business to over 45 employees, I sold Service Intelligence to venture backed investors and continued post-exit as an executive board member and in C-suite roles.

During this time, my daughters were involved in the award-winning Bellevue Youth Theatre (BYT) whose mission is to serve disadvantaged youth. This no cost, 100% inclusive program ensured everyone the chance to participate as equals and shine in the performing arts regardless of their socioeconomic, culture, ability or experience. Over 30 percent of participants identify as having a disability. I founded a non-profit foundation and spearheaded a strategic plan to expand the program’s capacity through a public-private partnership with the City. I then led a successful multi-million dollar capital campaign to raise the funds for a new performing arts center with the support of Microsoft, Nordstrom, tax levies, and other philanthropic foundations.

Ultimately, I left Service Intelligence to form a consulting firm to further fund these and other philanthropic activities by extending my deep customer experience management and brand alignment expertise to multi-channel enterprises. After this consulting stint, I was ready to explore new ideas. I joined the executive team of The Benaroya Company, a prominent Seattle commercial real estate company, as its first and sole female executive. Benaroya develops and manages projects for a wide range of global and regional companies where I led strategic marketing, government relations and other key business imperatives on projects as diverse as health care to data centers.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, I co-founded the non-profit Restart Partners along with other experts and friends where I still serve on the Board of Directors. Restart Partners is a public-private collaboration with leading government, health and academic organizations working to save lives and livelihoods through science, data and technology to protect the most vulnerable. It has been recognized by the State of Washington, Facebook, OSHA, American Society for Public Administration, and others in its efforts to increase public trust and enable all sectors of the economy to remain open and resilient during the pandemic.

Throughout my adult life, social impact, equity, and inclusion are woven into all I do — in my professional work, philanthropy and through my involvement in the arts. My husband Josef and I are vigorous arts advocates and have been collecting contemporary art of the African diaspora and Latinx for almost three decades with particular focus on social justice and gender. We actively work and travel with artists, curators and arts organizations throughout the world, and our art collection loans out dozens of works annually to museums across the globe with the aim of addressing the underrepresented through exhibitions and long-term museum loans.

In recent years I have furthered my board governance and social impact effectiveness by completing several executive leadership programs. I am a graduate of the exceptional OnBoarding Women, a nine-month comprehensive board training program, for which I was nominated and selected to attend. In 2019, I completed the Accelerating Social Transformation program at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington to sharpen my social impact and innovation skills. In the fall of 2020, I completed Harvard Chan School of Public Health’s program on Benefit-Cost Analysis to further infuse scientific discipline into my work.

As a successful business executive, philanthropist and entrepreneur in traditionally male dominated industries and as a proud mother of two highly accomplished daughters, I believe strongly it is critical for women to own their worth and become financially independent. Driving principles of my long career are integrity, collaboration, persistence, creativity, excellence, and most of all kindness. I’m eternally grateful for the many incredible opportunities I’ve enjoyed and the amazing people with whom I’ve had the immense pleasure to collaborate. As an impact-driven leader, I feel it is incumbent on me to leverage my success, abilities, and privilege to help all members in society overcome barriers and amplify their voices to drive broader change and create a better tomorrow.

Bellevue Youth Theatre
The Obama Portraits

Photos from top to bottom:  Lisa with President Joe Biden; with daughters Carolyn and Allie in Edinburgh, Scotland; with Hilary Clinton in Seattle; Rwanda, Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology; Lisa and Josef with artist Muholi in front of their work; with artist Igshaan Adams, Tate Museum studio visit in South Africa; U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.; U.S. Navy sailors and Marines (Getty Images); with local children in Rwanda; Hardhat tour of Bellevue Youth Theatre; Lisa and Josef at Obama portrait event at NPG