When her paychecks kept bouncing while working as the director of communications at a firm on theMain Line, Leza Raffel, 46, decided to leave her job and take matters into her own hands.
At 24 years old she started her own communications company — The Communications Solutions GroupInc., a Jenkintown-based full-service marketing and public relations company — and brought with her three clients from her former agency.
“This was a business created out of necessity … I had to pay rent,” she said. “I didn’t have a business planor had been planning this for years. I figured I would give it a shot. I was young, I didn’t own a home, I was newly engaged and I said if it didn’t work, I’d get another job somewhere.”
Not only is Raffel the founder and president of her own company, but she also owns the building that her company resides in at 200 Old York Road.
Despite that setback, Raffel obtained ownership of the building, and her company continued to thrive under her leadership. Raffel said she’s a good leader because she is open with her staff and allows them to bring new and creative ideas to the table.
Office manager Nicole Modrell, who has been with the company for seven years, said working at the firm has allowed her to develop new skills like creating PowerPoint presentations, video editing and graphic design.
In addition to supporting her staff, Raffel said she understands the challenges of being a working professional, wife and mother.
Although men have worked at Communications Solutions in the past, it currently has all female employees. “I am very committed to identifying the skill sets in my staff members and empowering them to usethem,” she said. “I like hearing from my staff what their interests are.”
Raffel said her perspective on family and work changed when she and her husband, Mark, adopted their son, Ilya, 14, from Russia when he was 13 months old.
Raffel’s plunge into the business world seemed to be the right move. She has been in business for 23 years and has garnered about 25 clients working with school districts, municipalities, trade associations and charitable organizations.
“In my last job [as an administrative assistant in Philadelphia] I had issues, because it was a very male-oriented business and woman were … [we hit] the class ceiling,” she said. “Working here, being able to do what I do best and be appreciated for it is rewarding.”
“Walking by this building, I saw there was a sign saying the building was for sale,” she said. “I called about the building and, honestly, I think the Realtor did not take me seriously because I was a woman.I called him five times and said I want to talk to you and would like to see that building [and he didnot call me back]. Then my
husband had to call … and he finally called me back, but that really annoyed me. If I could think of any instance that I felt dismissed as a female, it was that one.”
“Women are drawn to this office because it is a very family flexible environment,” she said. “Nobody here misses their kid’s thing because of a work obligation.”
“We traveled across the world to become parents,” she said. “After going through that I wasn’t going to miss anything in his life, and I didn’t want anyone at work to miss anything in their child’s life either.”
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series of stories profiling local female professionals.