It has been an unintended path for Jean Freeman, owner and chief operating officer of Culver City, California-based Zambezi. But, when she attended a Disney focus group run by her father, a marketer, the seeds may have been planted for today.
For a time, she thought she would be a lawyer. Then, Freeman was slated to be in the Peace Corps, until civil war broke out in the South Pacific, where she was assigned. On a whim, she applied for a job at Fallon in Minneapolis, ending up getting a gig as an assistant account executive. She remained at Fallon for two and a half years, soaking in wisdom and care from the late Pat Fallon. After her time in the Twin Cities, she went to graduate school at Northwestern and made her way to Portland for a stint at Nike.
Throughout her journey, Freeman has experienced working at all types and sizes of companies — with the associated up and downs. She has learned the importance of listening, a trait that wasn’t necessarily her forte in her early years and how “no” is not rejection, but a place to start a conversation to get to “yes.”
As the owner of the 45th largest woman-owned business in the Los Angeles area (she was part of the team that bought out Kobe Bryant, who was main investor of the agency at the onset), she feels a keen sense of duty to be an active advocate for women and families in the workplace — and continues to not just talk the talk, but walk the talk in every possible way.
It’s always about having a sense of self and trusting instincts that has brought Jean Freeman to today — and her leadership signals a bright future forward for not just Zambezi, but the industry at large.
Exceptional Women Out West is a podcast that highlights and celebrates both the great achievement, lives and POV of amazing women in the Western US and Canada. Listen to previous episodes here. If you would like to nominate women out west to be part of the show, please contact North America Editor at Large, Doug Zanger.
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