Meet the Chief Soul Officer – Susie Levan
Company: Bee Hive Publishing/Susie Levan & Associates
Major City Where You Live/Work: Fort Lauderdale
Please, share your personal and cultural background with our readers. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Havana, Cuba. My parents honeymooned in New York City in 1948 and fell in love with the United States. A few years later, I was born, and we moved to Miami, where I grew up. My first language was Spanish, so when I started first grade I had no clue what anyone was saying. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson was very caring and understanding. She took me under her wing and by Thanksgiving, I had made lots of friends and was totally bi-lingual.
My entire family (on both sides) came to Miami a few years after we did, and all moved within walking distance of each other. This was many years before Castro came into power. My family was incredibly resourceful, industrious, and hardworking. As a child, I observed my maternal grandmother become an entrepreneur. I remember her buying a double-wide playpen and told the neighbors in her “Spanglish”, that she was open for business, babysitting from 9-5. She was proud that she made her own money. She had tremendous energy, while also having to do laundry, cook three meals a day, and clean the house. My grandfather worked in an eyeglass factory. When he got home, after work he would turn on his Berlitz LP records to learn English. I would be on the floor playing jacks or cutting out paper dolls while he would sit there pronouncing each word.
My mom got a job at a dress factory, sewing on a Merrow sewing machine with a daily dress quota she had to complete—she was extremely competitive. She would come home tired and sweaty. She also had to clean, do laundry, and cook for my dad, two sisters, brother, and myself.
My father was a union card-carrying plasterer and had a team of men that he managed. His job required him to arrive at job sites early and stay late. I was only a teenager when he became another family example of entrepreneurship for me. His dream was to own his own home. On weekends, we would all pile in the car and drive around going to “open” houses. Dad subsequently purchased many houses that he thought had good bones and sales potential, gutted the bathrooms, kitchens, and remodeled them for sale. He was the OG of house flipping—he could’ve had his own show on HGTV! I became his best student and project manager. It was a wonderful learning experience for me that I would use later in my life (2010) when I also began buying waterfront homes in Fort Lauderdale to gut, renovate, and decorate.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday personal and professional life.
I have a daily routine that has worked for me. For the last 30 years, my first activity in the morning is to meditate for 20 minutes. I then write for about ten minutes, in my journal, about what I’m grateful for and any thoughts that have popped up while I was meditating. This immediately grounds me for the day. I then do a few stretches, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, walk my dog, and my workday begins.
As a business owner, I get to set my own daily schedule. Prior to our forced “stay-cation/stay at home order”, I would usually fill my calendar with lunch meetings. These meetings are with C-Suite individuals and executives from nonprofits in my community, who have become some of my best friends.
Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.
From 1972-1988, I was the Chief Operating Officer and EVP of an NYSE public real estate syndication company. In 1988 after being a victim of a horrific crime, I was unable to return to my position and I sadly resigned.
From 1991-1995, I returned to school to become a pastoral counselor, teacher of meditation, life coach, and reiki master, as I needed credentials to empower women. My life’s passion and mission is to empower women. In 1996, I started a women’s group—Women’s Wisdom Circle—which after all these years, continues to be very active. I started it to inspire and support women in an atmosphere of confidentiality and respect. Women that participate and experience “the circle” with my personally curated exercises and process, enjoy synergy, honest interaction, and work-life shift. Additionally, one of the most important and key processes is teaching all attendees how to meditate.
In 1999 I founded and was President/CEO of The Work-Life Balance Institute for Women—a 501c3 nonprofit. We produced Balance Magazine that was distributed throughout the tri-county market. We had annual Ultimate Day of Balance Conferences with national keynote speakers with 1,500 women in attendance. In 2009, as a nonprofit, we, unfortunately, had to close due to the economic downturn.
For the last 25 years, I’ve been very involved with giving back to the Broward County community. I am the co-founder of the Nova Southeastern University, Susie & Alan B. Levan Ambassadors Board—with over 200 C-Suite members. I’m a member of the Executive Committee and I am on the Board of Governors of the NSU H. Wayne Huizenga School of Entrepreneurship; a member of United Way of Broward Alexis de Tocqueville Society. I was the first to be given the United Way of Broward County, Magnolia Award—now in its eighth year—I’ve been asked to be the 2020 Co-Chair. A huge honor, the award recognizes women of dignity, strength, and perseverance. For the last twenty years, I’ve been very fortunate to receive many corporate and community awards and recognitions, humbly—too long to list.
Did your background/ethnicity create any obstacles for you? Any advantages? How so?
Living in Miami during both my childhood and my adult life, being bi-lingual was a great asset and advantage, both personally and professionally. It helped me land jobs and contribute to my work in many different ways.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The advice I would give my younger self would be to remember to stay true to yourself and do what you love. Remember to be kind, patient, confident, open, and authentic—there’s really no other way to live.
Do you think you have ever truly “made it” in life?
I don’t know if anyone ever really feels that they truly “made it” in life, but I can say that I have been very fortunate in doing what I love for the last 30 years and have had many people that support and inspire me. That to me is the definition of being a success.
If you could have dinner with any person—living or dead–who would it be? Why?
I would love to have dinner with Oprah. She is a self-made woman—one I deeply admire. She embodies and personifies what it means to live a life of grace, humility, and service. Oprah turned her television show and magazine into a “way of life”—teaching all of us deep life lessons of self-discovery. Like me, she is a perpetual student of life reminding us that we are never alone on our journey to enlightenment. I dream of the day she reads my book, “Getting to Forgiveness”, and it becomes her #1 choice for the Oprah book club!
What is your favorite quote/saying?
“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anais Nin