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By Jonathan Camargo
It’s said that many of those who leave a legacy will never know of their impact within their respective lifetime. We need only think of the artists, writers, poets, musicians, and humanitarians throughout history who remained virtually undiscovered long past their years.
In Lakeland, we’re privileged and honored to recognize these people today. We want them to know that we see them, we value them, and we honor the legacy they are creating right here in our very own community.
The most recent Lakeland CityMaker is passionate about helping women and Lakeland small businesses. She’s taken her passions and launched a business that’s changing the city of Lakeland in amazing ways.
If you’re looking for Teresa O’Brien, you just need to peek outside. She’ll likely be walking from Black and Brew Library to Bonnet Springs Park, keeping an eye out for friends as she goes. Running into her friends or making new ones is a highlight of her life in Lakeland.
After moving here from Virginia for college in 1999, Teresa fell in love with the people and the community. Deciding to stay after graduation, Teresa made herself at home and was fully welcomed into the city of Lakeland.
Today, she spends as much time as she can outside enjoying the beautiful weather and landscape. She doesn’t take for granted the feel of Lakeland, the friendliness of its people, or the many places to bask outside.
Teresa and her filmmaker husband, Kevin, are raising a blended family in Lakeland. They have three children who are juniors at Lakeland High and on the cusp of seventeen; Caedmon, their biological son, Stephan, whom they adopted at age 2, and Rakiyah, whom they adopted at age 3.
The family has been fully immersed in Lakeland life and is now propelling into the business community in a whole new way.
Teresa’s experience of raising her children enabled her to recognize the distinctiveness of every individual. This understanding gave her a vision as she began to develop the idea for her business.
“We’re all wanting the same thing,” she says. “We want to use our skill sets and we want to have our own availability for what we’re passionate about – and [we] want to be available to [our] kids.”
Recently, Teresa combined her appreciation of the Lakeland community and her passion for helping women to launch a business, Help(her). Knowing the difficulties small businesses have with finding great help for an hourly rate, Teresa created an organization that offered a solution.
With Help(her), small businesses simply sign up and submit tasks. The Help(her) team then places a helper with them to complete their tasks at a set price per hour.
Instead of having to go out of their way to hire someone new, whom they may not be able to support regularly as an employee, these businesses receive qualified help and need only pay while they have tasks to be done.
“I built Help(her) for the women. I think that is what makes me different. It makes me feel like a really good boss.”
On the flipside, Teresa’s business is also helping and supporting Lakeland’s women. She knows that many women want to start working, but need to do so around their already busy schedules. They’re stay-at-home moms, college students, and single parents. They have their own availability and skills and want to find work that fits into their box.
Teresa says, “We have over 50 helpers that are qualified. I know their availability, their skill set, but most importantly, I know what they enjoy doing.”
At Help(her), women are matched with businesses based on their schedules, qualifications, skills, and desires. They are given fulfilling opportunities to use their skills and make an income within their own parameters.
Teresa never imagined she would be a business owner. She had dreams and ideas floating around in her mind but they never came out until her husband, Kevin, sold his business. He asked her, “What is a dream of yours that we can pursue together?”
Teresa answered, “What if there’s a woman like me…that has a skill set, might have a college degree, wants to feel valued, but also wants to stick with their availability (for) when they want to use that time?”
With the idea brought into the light, Help(her) was born. While she believed that the businesses in Lakeland needed help, Teresa’s ultimate purpose was to help the women, her Helpers.
Teresa takes pride in being a comfort and support for her helpers. There have been many times when she’s been the boss telling them everything is going to be okay. She makes sure they know that their lives matter, that when they have needs things can be rescheduled. She teaches her helpers to stop and breathe.
“I’m a big proponent of peace over pace,” Teresa says.
The women, the helpers, who work for Help(her) have become family to Teresa and to each other. When thinking of Lakeland, Teresa considers the community spirit and the many smaller communities that make up the city.
Help(her) itself has become a small community full of women who care about each other. Teresa says, “I never would have met these women if I didn’t start Help(her). I never would have met Ginny, Stevie or Lynn. I kind of opened up room to just get to know more people throughout Lakeland.”
In reflecting upon the impact she’s had on women across the Lakeland community, Teresa can’t help but be awestruck. “I didn’t realize how much I would be encouraging and telling women that they have a voice… You have a voice and you can tell me. It’s okay.”
There are so many stories that Teresa has about the women and lives that have been impacted by Help(her).
As she grows as an entrepreneur, she guides her Helpers to better opportunities at a livelihood on their terms. She’s not just their mentor or advocate, but their friend. She’s given them permission to speak up, speak out, be honest, and have their needs – as well as their preferences – met where they are.
Teresa has created a safe community for connection, growth, and the pursuit of dreams. While Help(her) is only in its beginning stages, the future is wide open for her legacy in little ol’ Lakeland.
“I’ve been able to provide a space for women no matter what season of life they’re in, to be able to come and say, ‘Hey, I have these skill sets and I want to utilize them, but I need to use them at my pace.’ I’ve been able to advocate for them throughout Lakeland. It’s been a true, true honor.”
To learn more about Help(her), please click the button below!