Fellow Feature: Leigh Edwards

Published: May 9, 2019

Leigh leads Business Development for the Austin office of Embark, a team of super smart CPAs who build relationships and solve problems.

Leigh is a native Texan and attended UT Austin, graduating from the Business Honors and Master in Professional Accounting Programs. Next up was, you guessed it, time spent in a Big 4 audit practice. After 4 years in the Deloitte Austin office and 5 years in various accounting roles at Austin companies, it was time to put down her TI-83. True story: the woman used a TI-83.

What Leigh learned is that a professional services provider can make your life 1) way better or 2) way worse. Providers who do not endeavor to understand their client’s goals and organizational culture may end up causing more problems than they solve. Leigh joined Embark because 1) Austin companies are growing crazy fast and need a provider that can keep up and 2) Austin’s crazy smart people need a rad place to work.

Leigh lives in South Austin with her husband, who is a born and raised Austin-ite. They are graced with the presence of the World’s Best Dachshund. Her name is Monroe, and she is definitely going to lick your face. A voracious reader, it’s Leigh’s life goal to be eulogized as ‘she was a book with legs’.

What specific issues are close to your heart and why?

There are 2.

Personal financial literacy: 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Most people wouldn’t have $400 to cover an emergency. Financial literacy is a sorely overlooked topic in our education system and my personal and professional life consistently reminds me how few people have a grasp on their financial position. Debt, nonexistent budget practices, poor prioritization, distrust, and fearfulness seem to rule folk’s relationship with their money. In many ways money is freedom and to place people in a position of financial strength would be transformative for individuals, families, and the community at large.

Minimalism: There are 7 billion people in the world and everyone is trying to have it all. It’s economically, environmentally, and spiritually untenable. There are endless ways to live a meaningful life with less; finding more mindful approaches to consumption is a small shift that pays huge dividends across the board.

What do you think local businesses can do to support nonprofit organizations?

Corporate marketing and event budgets can be sizeable and a lot of those dollars are being used to maintain the status quo. I think local businesses can look critically at the money they are spending on internal and external events and think about how those dollars can be used more meaningfully. I think that answer can provide tremendous support for the nonprofit sector.

What for-profit companies (local or national) are currently doing an exemplary job of being socially responsible, in your opinion? How?

Local: Richard’s Rainwater. Richard fell in love with rainwater after he installed a whole-house collection system at his home in Dripping Springs in 1994. Driven by passion and curiosity, Richard decided to find a way to bottle and carbonate it. Rainwater is a truly renewable resource available nearly everywhere. It does not rely on surface water which requires energy and chemical-intensive treatment. Also, it does not rely on groundwater which impacts water tables and is a limited, isolated resource.

National: Patagonia. They are in business to save our home planet and appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. Using the resources they have—their business, their investments, and their voice—they aim to do something about it.

How can we make it easier for everyone to have a social impact?

The tried and true: buddy system. Social impact starts with yourself and your immediate sphere of influence (family, friends, co-workers). Think about what you are doing to make a difference and how you can include those closest to you in mutually resonant ways.