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Women in Business: Q&A with Jody Schwartz, Executive Vice President of Free Country

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Jody Schwartz is a 1990 graduate of Brandeis University. She worked with Random House in their sales and marketing department until joining Free Country in 1994. Free Country offers a wide range of fashionable yet functional everyday outerwear, constructed from high-performance fabrics with rugged charm, smart styling and classic authenticity for all seasons. The high-quality, affordably priced apparel that includes jackets, pants, fleeces, swimwear and accessories, are available at numerous major retailers, such as Kohl's, JC Penney, Bass Pro Shops and additional specialty stores.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Life doesn't always run smoothly, I have had my share of personal challenges and while they were difficult to navigate when they were happening, once you come through them you emerge with strength, fortitude and insight, which you then carry with you and apply to your next challenges, be it personal or business.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the Executive Vice President of Free Country?
I have worked since I was 15 years old. I was taught that nothing gets handed to you--if you want success at anything in life be it professional or personal it doesn't come without working for it.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
My joke when people ask me how do I do it all, is that I do it all but none of it well. Of course that's not completely true but what I do mean is that you have to realize that something has to give, you really can't be perfect at it all. So you pick and choose what's most important to you in both aspects of your life and you focus on doing those well and you let some other less important things go by the wayside.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure as a business owner?
My situation is somewhat unique in that my husband and I work together. So the highlights for me would have to be the pride I feel in what we have accomplished together as a team and how we both have grown professionally and personally, both independently and together as a team.

What advice can you offer those seeking to establish their own business?
Think big, take calculated risks and be a good listener.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Equality in pay.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I think she makes some strong arguments for encouraging women to push forward in their work lives however we all know that no one lives in a bubble and that corporations need to change make some changes along with them in order to create more opportunities for women in the workplace.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My biggest mentor has been my husband, as my partner in all aspects of my life he has helped me grow in countless ways.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Hillary Clinton in countless ways--She is incredibly smart, poised, well spoken, likeable, has shown her ability to be tough, take criticism, be flexible, evolve, and stay relevant.

What are your hopes for the future of Free Country?
My ambition is to become an international powerhouse apparel brand.