Recent Women in Business Scholar Tressa Lacy shares her powerful story
Nearly 500 women have received Zonta International's Jane M. Klausman (JMK) Women in Business Scholarship since it was introduced in 1998.
A 2019 recipient, Tressa Lacy, is making the most of her scholarship. Tressa is an adjunct accounting professor at Brigham Young University Idaho, founder of her own consulting company and co-founder of the nonprofit Undaunted Women. She also has five children, ages 4 to 14—two of whom are adopted and have special needs.
Tressa's early path was not an easy one. Growing up in Idaho with 13 siblings, Tressa started stacking wood for her family's logging business when she was just 5 years old. Four years later, she was wielding a chainsaw.
When she was 14, living with her family in a small bus, Tressa was involved in an accident that left her leg shattered. Lying alone on the floor in the hot July sun, she forced herself to get up and find help. Tressa sees this as a pivotal moment in her journey.
"This is the way I've been able to access education and opportunities in my life," Tressa said. "I've had to tenaciously jump up and, just like I did at that moment, I jumped up on a shattered leg to find somebody who could help."
In March, Tressa was featured by Zonta International in a Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories event, a leadership series hosted by Lynne Foley OAM, chairman of the Zonta International Leadership Development Committee.
Tressa says without mentors—or encouragers—and organizations like Zonta International, she would not be where she is today.
"Some people argue that hard work and perseverance are all it takes to be successful in life," she said. "I know hundreds of books that make us feel guilty about this, but I know a lot of people who work really hard and persevere and they never quite reach their personal and/or professional development goals. I really believe the reason I am here today is because of these encouragers who expanded my vision until I just no longer defined myself by my circumstances."
That is one of the reasons Tressa started Undaunted Women, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women become courageously steadfast despite adversity through personal development and professional growth.
"Undaunted Women offers this holistic interdisciplinary approach to assisting women reach their self-reliance and cultural integration goals," she explained. "It takes this personal one-on-one approach to advocacy like I've experienced."
Tressa talked about her experience working with a woman who fled a war-torn country and was being exploited for work in the United States. Since she had previously been a tailor, the woman asked for help finding a sewing machine so she could start a tailoring business.
She said her goal for the young nonprofit is "to help other women also never feel forgotten and to have everyone be matched with an advocate—someone who reminds them that they're not forgotten."
Tressa reached out to the Zonta Club of South Puget Sound, who provided a machine and helped the woman learn how to use it. With her accounting background, Tressa helped the woman "generate additional paying customers, all while holding her hand to help her understand the language and the nuances of culture and business."
The Zonta Club of South Puget Sound made Undaunted Women one of its service projects and is acting as the organization's fiscal sponsor by providing administrative support and mentoring. In 2020, Tressa joined the club, which awarded her with the JMK Women in Business Scholarship and has acted as a great support for Tressa.
"I have many mentors. Some are members of the Zonta South Puget Sound chapter and some are members of other Zonta clubs. I'm just trying to learn everything I can from them to be a better leader," she said. "They teach me how to be a more effective advocate. When I run into problems that I don't know how to solve with individuals whom I advocate for, they're the first ones I call."
She continued: "This scholarship has just given me a family. It's allowed me to connect with the whole Zonta family. And the education that's resulted has had a ripple effect. I hope that you can see the ripple effect that's had on the lives of other women that I'm able to help and improve. And that's really the difference that Zonta International and that award has made in my life."
As a leader, Tressa hopes to embody the word undaunted and to be "courageously resolute despite adversity and not defined by my circumstances." Her goal is to inspire confidence, especially in the midst of uncertainty.
"We can all be leaders," she said. "I'm not perfect. Few people that I know are, and it's just about being courageous enough to try and take that first step and try to tap into that desire. Everyone has to help one another anyway."
Before the event ended, Tressa told listeners that it is all about hope, learning to empower ourselves through self-compassion, working hard but also asking for help, and recognizing encouragers on your journey, reaching out to them and accepting their help.
"You're not alone," she said. "I care, others care."
Tressa has written a memoir about her experiences as a child lumberjack, the sexual abuse she faced and her five-year battle against depression and anxiety.
Currently titled Lumberjack Girl, the book is being edited and does not yet have a release date. Sign up for updates at www.tressalacy.com.
Click here to watch Tressa's Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories session.
27 APRIL 2021