Women in Business Q&A: Liliane Stransky, President and Founder of the Step by Step Foundation

Liliane Stransky is the President and Founder of the Step by Step Foundation, a Florida-based charity that helps communities and children in need around the world. She is also the CEO and owner of the full-service show jumping stables Stransky’s Mission Farm, Le Club Wellington, and Le Club Tryon.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have always followed my dreams and had a positive attitude that anything can be accomplished. There are no doors that you cannot open. Since I was a little child, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. Growing up in Venezuela, I always felt a very strong desire to help others in need. When I was six, I saw a movie about an orphanage; my dream was to create one myself, which I was able to do with friends in Venezuela in 1981. I have been blessed in my position and so I have always found ways to help others who are less fortunate. I will always want to do that; it is part of who I am.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at the helm of the Step by Step Foundation?
I have always been an entrepreneur and self-employed; the experience that I have gained and the skills I have used in every aspect of my career in business has been essential in creating, managing, and growing Step By Step Foundation. I have needed to be creative, determined, strong, and to surround myself with smart and inspiring people. And I’ve stayed true to my ideals and continue to follow my dreams.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at the Step by Step Foundation?
There have been many challenges over the years, but I have never let them get in the way of my goals. Coming up with and creating valuable initiatives and programs has been the key to long term success, whether they are large or small. But it hasn’t always been easy!

Building a school in Haiti and helping the country in other ways, including providing medical and other essential supplies after the devastating earthquake in 2010.

Creating toy drives to provide children and parents in need with gifts over the holidays.

Providing supplies to people in need here in the United States, including abandoned and abused women and girls, the homeless, and other under-served populations.

Overcoming difficulties to reach those most in need in the United States, Haiti, and other countries.

To find resources, secure donations and help to get in-kind services, including shipping of materials and to make sure the supplies we have gotten go to the right places.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Just start! You don’t need to do everything all at once, or be perfect. Women can get caught up in that. Perhaps you start small, or with one idea, but jump into it. Do it step by step, and be guided by your passion! Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. Again, follow your dreams and never giving up is key. There may be set backs or issues that arise; this is just how life works. But you can do it if you believe it!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Be patient! Things will happen the way they are meant to! Trust yourself. Don’t be with people with whom you don’t want to be around and who don’t deserve you! Follow your intuition, if it feels wrong, it probably is. And again, back to following you dream.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I make sure to spend as much time as I can with the ones I love, family and friends. I am fortunate enough to live amidst my passion–horses! I am in the horse world and this is the perfect place to help raise funds and awareness for those less fortunate. It works very well, and I love it!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Having confidence, standing up for what they want and helping each other along the way. They also need to bring passion into their work.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
The people whom I respect and admire make me a better person every day; they reinforce that I can accomplish anything I want and I appreciate this. One of my goals is to mentor others in the same way, especially with the Team Step By Step Equestrian Young Riders Team, a group of young like-minded equestrians from around the world who have jumped on board to help raise funds and awareness for Step by Step.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I’d have to say Angelina Jolie, for all of the work she is doing in Africa.

Then there is the late Lady Diana, who did so much to help people around the world. Another woman I admire is author Kathy Andersen, who is guiding me and showing me many ways that I can help others. Another is Essie Reed, or “Big Mama” as she is known, who is the force behind Team of Life, Inc. for having so little and doing so much. I think that Ellen DeGeneres, through her show, she brings hope and happiness to so many and Oprah Winfrey for inspiring so many women after all she went through in her life.

Also Maya Angelou, the author and poet, who always said “everything is courage.”

What do you want the Step by Step Foundation to accomplish in the next year?
To help more children, people and communities in need here in the United States; this country opened its arms to me and gave me, my family, and so many others, such a huge opportunity. I want to give back and say thank you, but I will still continue to help other countries too.