Life’s challenges turn banker into social entrepreneur.

The biggest challenges the United States has faced this century also have personally affected a recent graduate of Chapman Graduate School of Business at Florida International University (FIU).

But, like the country, Brenda Leguisamo (PMBA ’09) has shown strength in overcoming obstacles; they, in fact, helped transform her from a banker to a social entrepreneur.

Leguisamo was at work at Merrill Lynch, a block away from the Twin Towers, when the September 11th tragedy occurred. She helped 250 new hires escape her building.

“Shortly after that, I had an ‘aha’ moment and got busy pursuing my dreams,” she said.

Brenda Leguisamo

Leguisamo opened an accessory business, giving 10 to 100 percent of profits to charity. She also made sure her career moves at Merrill Lynch would teach her a range of business skills; she accepted a position in their Miami office in 2006.

Just three months after beginning the Professional MBA program at FIU, Leguisamo was among 4,000 employees at her company who lost their jobs, part of a nationwide economic downturn.

“Instead of sulking, I kept working on my degree and volunteering,” she said.

Leguisamo volunteered as much as 60 hours a week on the board for a community association. She also developed a Facebook page for her family business, starting her venture into social networking.

2010 brings a new degree, new opportunities.

After receiving her MBA, Leguisamo began consulting projects, focusing on social responsibility and sustainable initiatives.

She also developed Passion Mindset, business programs helping brands improve customer experience and create jobs through alliances.

This energetic 39-year old is founder and CEO of Social Biz Members, which helps membership organizations with social media strategies, including the College of Business Administration’s Alumni Chapter. Twenty percent of company profits are donated to charity.

Leguisamo, who serves as advisor to the Empowered Woman Success Summit and was a panel member for the highly successful 2010 summit, credits her experiences in the business school as a positive factor in her many successful ventures.

“The MBA curriculum at FIU is strong and helped me tremendously on the exciting paths I’ve taken,” she said.

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