After opening Olu’s Home, Inc. in 1999, Gloria Freeman knew she had found her calling: helping people live their best potential life and leaving a legacy for her family.
The residential site, which provides home-based and community-based services to people with severe cognitive disabilities, was Freeman’s first social business venture. She went on to open nine more residential houses dedicated to the same cause.
“I believe that we all have a right to live a fulfilling life, and so in any way that I can help make that happen, that’s what I do. That’s my mission,” Freeman said.
Freeman is now set to receive Meda’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award at its 47th annual recognition meeting on June 11. An acronym for the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, Meda is a Twin Cities nonprofit that provides business consulting, access to capital, and market opportunities to minority entrepreneurs.
“I feel ecstatic. I feel honored. I feel surprised and, most importantly, grateful and humbled to receive such a prestigious award,” said Freeman. “I’m always striving to do better and my bar of excellence is continually rising.”
Before opening Olu’s Home, Freeman worked as an underwriter in the insurance field. Losing her job due to market changes helped propel her into this new field.
“I could have gone back to underwriting,” she said, after the market rebounded. “That’s a good career, too, but I wasn’t touching lives and making a difference the way I wanted to – and, most importantly, I wasn’t being fulfilled.”
After nearly 15 years of service to the severely cognitively disabled, Freeman said the State placed a moratorium on the number of residential houses she could open. So, in 2013 she expanded Olu’s Home and got licensed to open an assisted living residential home for senior citizens. Two years later, in 2015, she expanded her brand once again with Olu’s Beginnings, a holistic-based early childhood development center.
She now serves as the CEO of both Olu’s Home, Inc. and Olu’s Beginnings, LLC. In addition to housing services, Freeman said she has 20 cognitively disabled clients to whom she provides in-home assistance.
Early in her career, Freeman said someone told her it is important to have a commonality when expanding or starting a new business; she used this logic when building her business. “We’re all about serving people. I mean, that’s the core of our business,” she said.
Freeman added that she wanted to ensure she left a legacy for her family. “I think that, as an entrepreneur, I have a responsibility to our community to create businesses that sustain generational and community wealth. This is the way we are going to help our communities rise. I’m unapologetic about that.”
Freeman said her focus is now on expanding her businesses. She has plans to open up her second residential assisted living home for senior citizens and hopes to recruit investors to help expand the holistic early childhood development program.
Freeman said people often tell her that she works too hard but it is just in her DNA. “It’s about doing the very best that I can do. That’s what it’s more about for me, so at the end of the day I can say I did my best… to create something that was intentional for me – helping people and changing lives.”