Dawn Freeman takes a vision and makes it a reality through comprehensive strategy development and tenacious ambition. She intuitively identifies an opportunity with purpose, evaluates its impact on a long-term goal or objective, develops a path to completion, and drives the opportunity and goal to the finish line. She is an inspirational leader whose passion and determination motivates and encourages others to step outside of their comfort zone and aspire to do more. Respected as a credible voice in business and on a personal level, Dawn earns a seat at the table wherever she serves.
Dawn is not a stranger to incarceration or recidivism. She has experienced several of her immediate family members go in and out of jail and prison over the years. Some of the stints of incarceration were due to poor decision-making, and some were due to the harsh realities of mental illness and their inability to stay motivated to get and keep their lives on the right path. Additionally, Ms. Freeman has several family members who dedicated 20+ years to law enforcement and corrections, which provides her with an even greater perspective on the challenges of pre-release programming and reentry, not just from the viewpoint of the incarcerated individual, but that of the corrections and law enforcement family.
Since 2008, Ms. Freeman has financially supported the reentry efforts of her church and local non-profit organizations. In 2016, Dawn expanded her community service efforts beyond a monetary contribution and began volunteering her personal time to a local reentry focused non-profit organization as a Facilitator. After engaging with individuals with backgrounds like her own family members and due to her decade long tenure in the corrections industry, the concept of The Securus Foundation was born. With the guidance and support of the Executive Team at Securus Technologies, The Securus Foundation is a reality.
Dawn holds an M.B.A. with an Accounting specialization and B.A. in Business Administration with a specialization in Management from Saint Leo University. She is the mother of three children, a product of military and faith-based upbringing, and she is an active member of The Potter’s House in Dallas.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I initially began working in the public safety sector as a contractor in the accounting department of a telecommunications company with a public safety specific focus.
I founded The Securus Foundation because I personally understood the challenges justice-involved and people living within poverty faced because of my personal life experiences. It is very important to me at this point in my life to reach back and help someone else transition from a caterpillar to a butterfly just like I did through hard work and relentless dedication.
How do you make money?
From a Foundation perspective??? Currently, The Securus Foundation is funded 98% by Securus Technologies, Inc. I initially pitched the idea to them in 2016 and they supported the cause and agreed to invest in our startup costs. I am eternally grateful to them for understanding and supporting the vision and mission of the Securus Foundation.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Well, in corporate America terms, we are not profitable at this point in time. One because most of our efforts since incorporating has been focused on due diligence and development. Specifically, we put a lot of effort into understanding the needs of directly impacted people and families, as well as non-profits, other resource providers and justice agencies that touch transitioning individuals. Additionally, we are a 501c3 nonprofit, which means given our structure, we would never distribute profits to investors or shareholders.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Absolutely! There were numerous times that fear of failure and delay after delay crippled me. However, I just remembered, God gave me this idea and the boldness to pursue it. I use that fact as constant motivation that this mission is not about me as an individual, it is about our community. God has given me not only the heart to do the work, but the business skill, experience and credentials to support this effort.
How did you get your first customer?
We contracted with our first customer after responding to their RFP.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Relationship building, supporting other organizations with the same or similar missions, and have a genuine passion for the work we do. It is very important to me as a leader to collaborate with other organizations; however, it’s more important to me to ensure that organizations we partner with are actually making a tangible, meaningful difference in the lives of the clients.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Managing time and compassion. I have a very big heart and I look for the potential in everyone and every situation. However, I’m learning more and more that my time is valuable and there is definitely a difference in supporting and enabling. I want to bring everyone I encounter on this journey with me, but the reality is my time and space is limited.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
First and foremost, it’s God’s grace and favor. Secondarily, I believe it’s because I have been my authentic self at all times. Thirdly, I am relatable and nonjudgmental. I am an educated woman, I am a mother, I am a sister, I am a daughter, I am a friend and I am a supporter. I have climbed the corporate ladder and I have the battle scars to prove it and I have earned this moment in time by not giving up and believing that this could be my reality. There are a lot of people that look up to me and admire my hutzpah to go after my dreams and I have the business acumen to make it happen.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment thus far was when I had the courage to pitch the concept of the Securus Foundation to the Executive Team at Securus Technologies and receive their approval and support.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
In the next 3-5 years, we will be offering our services in multiple jurisdictions across the world. I am most excited about the launch of our platform, ExodusPlanner, in September 2019.
What business books have inspired you?
There are really too many to name, but the one that is most important to me is the Bible and anything that my Pastor, Bishop T.D. Jakes publishes.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
A portable projector. I know it sounds insignificant, but it has been an extremely valuable piece of equipment for my staff when traveling.
Name one item that you cannot live without.
My cell phones.