“In a Year in Which Leah Freiman Shut Down All Sales and Battled Cancer, She Still Added $1.5M in Revenue and $1M in Profit!”
That was the headline in a business news article that caught my eye. It was about a frum Monsey-based mother of seven who is an award-winning technology and cybersecurity expert, as well as the cofounder and CEO of ITCON, an information technology and cybersecurity company.
But it turns out that this description just barely scratches the surface.
“Tell me a little about your background,” I say to Leah at the beginning of our interview. Although I’m expecting to hear the details of an impressive résumé full of degrees and qualifications, I’m about to find out what it means to be entirely self-made.
“I grew up here in Monsey, the youngest of eight children. Although I had always wanted to be a teacher—I went to seminary for half a day and taught high school in the afternoon that year—my father told me that if I wanted to support a husband in kollel, it would be wiser to get an office job. So right after seminary I went to work at a graphics company. I’m a pianist, so to satisfy the teacher in me, I gave music lessons as a side job, something I actually held onto until quite recently. I was in my eighth month with my first child—as well as young, carefree and stupid—when I saw an ad in the paper for a job as a mortgage broker. Even though I knew nothing about sales, I quit my job and joined a mortgage company.”
Perhaps her ability to jump head first into new challenges and experiences is the secret to her success.
“After two training sessions, my new manager declared me a mortgage broker and told me to get to work. I called my friend’s father, a bankruptcy attorney, and asked if he had any business to send my way. After giving it some thought, he said, ‘I have one client you might be able to help.’ I’m still very grateful to him. He connected me to someone who worked in the nursing home where my grandfather was living. We schmoozed on the phone, and a relationship was born. To my utter shock, she asked to meet with me later that day to talk about getting a mortgage.
“In a panic, I called my manager and said, ‘I have a client coming in at four, and I don’t know what I’m doing!’ ‘You have a client? That’s not supposed to happen for at least six months!’ he replied.”
Her newfound friend arrived exactly on time. “‘I’m so happy to see you,’ I said to her. ‘Our best processor will be taking care of you.’ And I handed her off to someone who actually knew what he was doing.”
Two weeks later, Leah closed the deal. She stayed with that company, specializing in foreclosure and bankruptcy. “At the time, the banks were handing out money like candy. Everything was going great.” That is, until 2008. You can guess what happened next.
“By then I had three children. Then the market crashed, and a lot of banks closed. People like me lost all our business.”
Until that time, Leah and her husband had been living their dream. “He’s a real masmid,” she says. He had been learning in kollel for five years, going on what they hoped would be forever.
“At that point, there was a pivot in the road of our life, and we had to decide what to do next. Even though my mother had worked when I was growing up and managed to be an amazing mother and role model, I wanted to give my children the experience of having a full-time mom. Together, we came to the decision that my husband would look for a job and go out to work.”
They perused the classifieds in a local community paper and saw a listing for a job as a technician at an IT company. “My husband had never touched a computer in his life,” Leah says. But he went to the interview and got the job. Eight months later the business closed its doors, but Leah’s husband found that he really enjoyed the work and thought the field would be a good one for him.
“He enrolled in a computer training school in Manhattan while I continued giving music lessons. I was teaching 25 to 30 students a week, and people brought their computers to my husband for servicing at night.”
The couple soon welcomed their fourth child into the world. Although it was an exciting time, it was also very stressful. Leah’s husband had finished his course but couldn’t find a job. That’s when she put her stay-at-home-mom dream on pause.