Pote builds bridges through Seedco community work

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 22, 2013

Seedco is a national nonprofit whose mission statement since 1987 has been “to advance economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need.”

This is done, says Lisa Pote, senior vice president for Seedco’s Mid-South regional office, by working with individuals and businesses, and within the communities themselves, “to be a contribution to the communities that we’re in.” Seedco has been working within Shelby County since 2004, and has 30 employees.

Pote was born and raised in Washington, received a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and worked for Dun & Bradstreet before moving to Nashville in 1994. There, she attended the University of Tennessee-Nashville College of Social Work for a master’s degree in social work with a focus in management and community practice.

She doesn’t do clinical work but, instead, is a “bridge builder” who has a passion for problem-solving and doesn’t shy away from confrontation.

“I’m not afraid to step into the middle of a difficult conversation to try and make it better,” Pote said.

Leading a consultant practice for nonprofits at the Center for Nonprofit Management at the time, Pote was recruited as the interim director of Seedco in 2011. Saying she “always thought they would be a great organization to work for because the purpose of Seedco aligns with my own mission personally and professionally,” she nevertheless split her time between Memphis and Nashville, unwilling to commit to the Bluff City.

“Interim directors are supposed to have the trains run on time,” she said, “and I had no intention whatsoever of moving, none.”

While she’d been working across a broad range of nonprofits, though not necessarily for the purpose of poverty relief, within a month the work she did in Memphis, she said, “tugged at me.”

Going back to her personal mission and how it aligns with that of Seedco’s, Pote paints the picture: “My mother will tell you that I pretty much popped out of the womb trying to solve problems. We’re all born with our own thing that we’re meant to do. For me, weaving together systems that don’t love to work together because of their own rules – to make things better for people – that really is, I believe, my purpose.”

During her tenure as interim director over that spring and into summer, no obvious leader rose to the top, and in August of 2011, with those missions aligning, it was a natural leap into her role at Seedco . . . (read more)