Skip to Content Skip to Navigation
Reflections from WE Empower Awardee Leah Lizarondo on the power of the program experience.

November 2019 – My organization, 412 Food Rescue, has been fighting through huge challenges and climbing what feel like the highest mountains – all to stay true to our core belief: that while technology is important to scale, it is the power of PEOPLE that will drive massive change.

In the five years since founding 412 Food Rescue to end food waste and hunger, I have had to fight through my own personal limiting beliefs. Who am I to think that I can do this? I am nobody. An immigrant with no history in the United States. Part of no club – old boys’ or otherwise. I don’t have wealth behind me, nor power. The most powerful thing I have is the belief that PEOPLE will drive change.

There are days when I want to pack it up. But I take a deep breath and take it one step, one day at a time. Until the next victory, which I hold onto to power me through to the next one.

And I remember the people who have stepped up to accomplish small and big acts of kindness – rescuing food – for their neighbors. Over and over.

And the people who work with me to make this happen. Everyday. And, again, that gives me power.

When I received word that I would represent our United Nations region – one of five in the world – as WE Empower UN SDG Business Challenge Awardee during UN General Assembly week, I didn’t know what to expect.

What it turned out to be was the most empowering and unforgettable experience I have had in the last five years.

The effort, the work, that went into ensuring that our networks and our world were expanded was phenomenal and, truly, is what is required to achieve goals that aim to move mountains. Driven BY powerful women (like Diane von Furstenberg herself) to support other women (like my four fellow Awardees and myself), in the most sincere, real and concrete ways. It continues to this day, and will continue.

For me, because I do feel like an outsider, this was unprecedented. An immigrant from the Philippines who came here with two suitcases and a dream. Who am I to dare dream such big dreams?

But for all the women I was with, there was no other choice. Once you see possibilities, you simply cannot un-see them. You just have to try to do something about it.

What Diane von Furstenberg and others have said, that fear is not an option, does not mean it doesn’t exist. I am still scared half the time. We acknowledge that fear and we work through it. I know many of the women who start their own fires feel this. But meeting, and now knowing, women like this helps keep that fear at bay.

That is the power and the exponential impact of women propelling other women.

There is more to come after the WE Empower Program experience, but one thing is for sure: I am doubling down on my resolve to support other women entrepreneurs. I hope you do too. And to the men reading this – the same sentiment goes. We all need each other.


This post was written by Leah Lizarondo, founder of 412 Food Rescue and 2019 WE Empower Awardee.