Shortly after returning from her MOMentum Trip to Israel, Renee Friedman was named both the Orlando Business Journal 2017 Women Who Mean Business: Business Owner of the Year and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando’s Mensch of the Month. Renee Friedman, who is a mother, the owner of FASTSIGNS Orlando Central, and is also recently engaged, spoke with us about finding ways to make a difference in her community through her business.
What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
I had wanted to travel to Israel my whole life, but it had never worked out. When my friend from Jacksonville told me about her MOMentum experience, I immediately applied. Unfortunately, the trip was full at that time, so I applied earlier next year and was thrilled to be accepted. I was looking forward to traveling to Israel with a group of women from my community and to becoming more involved in my community when I returned home.
How did your MOMentum experience impact you?
Thanks to the JWRP, I now have 30 new best friends in Orlando. I am also much more involved in the Jewish community, and I light Shabbat candles most Friday nights. I have a real connection to Israel now. A few weeks ago — less than a year since my first trip to Israel — my boyfriend and I traveled to Israel with a group from his synagogue. We had an amazing time and even got engaged on Masada! I truly felt like G-d and the Jewish people were blessing us. Another great outcome from my trip was that it made me exercise more. If I could walk 15,000 steps in Jerusalem, I realized that I could definitely get into shape! Since then, I exercise on a regular basis, and I’ve lost 20 pounds.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in business and how have you overcome it?
There are always challenges in running a business. But the biggest challenge is finding a balance between being a strong business owner and being a good and kind person. It is very important to me to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I am doing what’s right for my customers, employees, and vendors. It’s not always easy, but running my business this way feels wonderful.
How have you managed to give back to your community while running a successful business?
Thanks to my business, I’m able to give back both monetarily, and also by donating signage and services. In fact, last year, I donated $25,000 to various causes and organizations through my business, and this year, I will donate $35,000. Since returning from my MOMentum Trip, I joined the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando’s Pomegranate Society. I also started a business networking group with one of my JWRP sisters. Another JWRP sister got me involved with the organization, Raise, which trains adults with special needs to join the workforce. Since then, I’ve hired a woman with special needs. She is wonderful. Giving back and making a positive impact on the community have been so much fun!
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