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“Intention is the most important gift we can give ourselves.”

Laura Pavlou is the founder and CEO of Women’s Wellness and Integrated Social Health, WWISH (pronounced wish). WWISH helps women through crisis, adversity and transition. By creating philanthropic products, WWISH provides innovative services that promote social and individual change. She founded WWISH because of her vision that every woman knows her value.

Laura was inspired to create services for women based on her own experience with crisis, adversity and transition. At 36 she left her very last abusive relationship and went out on her own. She was a single mother, uneducated, living below the poverty level and suffering from substance abuse and mental illness. Through resources and support she was able to move out of every issue that held her back. Now she is giving back and helping other women uncover the power they have to create lives they can thrive in.

MO: What inspired you to create WWISH? Did you have an “aha moment” or was more of a gradual realization of a long-term goal?

Laura: As a young girl I heard messages from teachers that I was lazy and a daydreamer. This instilled a belief in myself that I could not learn. So I gave up on academics and turned to the notion that I might be a good wife and mother. But because I had low self-esteem, I attracted men who thought less of me than I did. The cycle of abuse began at an early age and lasted for many years, I felt trapped. Eventually, I left to save my sanity and my life. When I asked for help, help came in all forms including therapy and the opportunity to go back to school and change everything I had thought about myself. In 2006, I earned a degree in journalism from the University of Washington on a full ride scholarship. I knew that if I could do it any woman could with the right support and resources. This is where I had that “aha moment” to start an organization that was made by women, for women.

MO: Where does your strong sense of social justice and empowerment come from?

Laura: The population of women in prison has grown 888 percent over the last 30 years. Most women incarcerated are in for drug related charges. 75 percent of women in prison are mothers. 98 percent of women in prison have been abused. Parents with drug addictions, alcoholism and felonies for generations have raised them. This crisis has to stop. And it can. In my workshops we have a mantra, “I hear you, I see you, I support you, YOU are powerful!” This mantra is the beginning of transformation. Miracles happen when someone believes in you and leads to us believing in ourselves.

MO: Why have you decided to focus your efforts on women currently serving prison sentences and can you highlight some of your efforts and successes so far?

Laura: When I first launched WWISH I thought it was going to be an online magazine. A hub where women could go to find inspiration from other women as well as resources for education, legal help, financial assistances, mental health resources etc… And through networking and speaking a woman who worked at a prison heard my message, read our mission and thought that I would be a great fit to do a workshop at the prison she volunteered at. I did … and immediately I saw the need. That first workshop, I reached 200 women in four workshops in one day. I saw transformation right before my eyes. They made it clear to me that they were hungry for information so that they could return to their children as good parents and heal in all ways so they could someday help others. As for successes, every workshop is a success because in every workshop I see women, who come in skeptical but leave with a sense of hope and purpose for a life filled with intentions that become realities. Our program has not been around long enough for me to have evidence based data but that will come. We plan on following the women who have gone through our programs and rejoice in all their success!

MO: What is a marketing strategy that’s worked really well for you? How important has social media been to getting the word out there about WWISH?

Laura: Social media is critical in this day and age and it moves organizations forward faster than ever. Recently, I was invited to and participated in the Forbes Women’s Summit: POWER REDEFINED in NYC. I was one of 200 women brought together to define power through innovation and disruption to solve society’s most difficult problems. Without social media this would not have been possible. And through opportunities like the Forbes Summit, networking, learning, sometimes failing… we will find our stride and move our programs, our intention journals and our company to a place that has the most impact towards women finding the power they have within themselves to create wholeness.

MO: What are some of the biggest insights that you’ve gained since first starting WWISH back in 2008?

Laura: Intention is the most important gift we can give ourselves. And with intention everything you need shows up to get you to the goal. Sometimes it doesn’t always look like you think it will, most often it’s better than you thought, and it always gets you to exactly where you need to be. I am committed to women and to developing programs that empowers. We all deserve to know our value.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

Laura: Growing WWISH.

 

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