One-on-One with Carrie Freeman – Co-CEO, Secondmuse


Carrie Freeman is helping to push social technologies that can improve the lives of adolescents rather than turning them into passive consumers.

Carrie Freeman

Freeman is co-CEO of SecondMuse, which is also finding ways to reduce plastic in the world’s oceans, helping clean technology startups with manufacturing and marketing and supporting entrepreneurs in various countries and industries.

If it sounds like a wide-ranging global effort, it is, says Freeman, who is in charge of the Asia Pacific region.

SecondMuse has arranged $600 million in investments and helped in the startup of more than 500 companies since its own launch in 2008. Over the last decade, it has designed and put into effect programs with such organizations as NASA, The World Bank and Nike, according to SecondMuse.

Freeman just won this year’s Global Impact Award from YPO, an organization of 30,000 chief executives.

“It is, I think, a big deal for me personally, but really it was validation for all the work that we’ve been doing,” Freeman says. “We’ve been working and working and working. We knew we were doing good, and we’ve won some awards, but I think this was a real recognition that our approach is resonating globally.”

Freeman joined the company in 2012 after spending nearly 15 years in various management positions at Intel in Rio Rancho, the last one as director of sustainable business innovation.

During the pandemic, Freeman has been spending more time working from her Corrales home. That’s a change from 2019, when she traveled globally “visiting young people, engaging in different programs, seeking business opportunities and speaking.”

“I traveled 28 weeks in 2019, which may not seem like a lot, but it’s more than every other week,” she says.

What do you like about your job?

“There’s so much that I like. I love that we have a big, pretty audacious global view of what’s possible. How do we truly transform economies? And I like that we also get in on the ground, if you will, and work with people to make change happen. I like that vastness of our work, from the different types of topics that we’re doing to the different geographies.”

Can you sum up the mission of SecondMuse?

“Our focus is on how do we create more inclusive and sustainable economies. We do that primarily by supporting entrepreneurs. So think startups, but often even before things get to the startup stage. They range from, we call them Main Street businesses — think a churro bakery or a churro production company, which is never going to go big-time in scale — to big-time operations that are transforming the market. Think organizations that are creating different types of feed stock for fish in the ocean. We work on game-changing big technology solutions all the way down to more mom and pop. But our intent is how do you create the necessary environment for these organizations to flourish?”

Carrie Freeman, co-CEO of SecondMuse, and participants of a session on mental health, point to sticky notes during a meeting at Artists for Humanity in Boston. (Courtesy of SecondMuse)

How do you keep balance in your life?

“I just try. I don’t think I do all the time. Years and years ago, I remember talking with a senior vice president of Intel, and she was a mom who had at the time two teenage kids and her husband was an executive in California. She said, ‘You know one of the things I learned is you can have it all, but you can’t always have it all at the same time.’ And I think of that every day. I think, ‘I’m not going to hit it out of the ballpark today. My son is home sick. He’s doing a lot of tablet-watching, because my husband and I are both working. Well, OK. It is what it is.'”

What makes you laugh?

“Funny books, funny movies, but I think more importantly, I try to laugh regularly. There are times in business meetings when you just kind of have that funny mood going. I can’t look at so and so. You know, those sight connections with your eyes. I remember I literally had a boss at Intel, and he and I kind of had a pact that we could not look at each other in meetings. Because someone would say something, and we’d be like, ‘What is this?'”

What do you think makes you successful?

“I think that there is a strong combination in the work that I’m in — having an understanding of the business world and how to get things done … and then a very human side to me. I operate oftentimes at a strong leadership visionary level, but I can also dig in and understand the details. I think listening, caring about other humans, caring about having a broader impact.”

Do you have any role models?

“It’s usually a brave woman who is speaking her truth or someone else’s truth. There are times when … what they’re saying doesn’t always resonate with me, but I love the fact that they’re doing it. For years and years and years, I listened to (journalist) Amy Goodman. I heard her speak several times in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I just love that she’s brave, right? Even if you don’t always agree with things, I think at the end of the day, I love women being brave. And so I see that all around me all the time, and I love that.”

What do you do in your free time?

“I usually spend free time outdoors, which is part of why I love New Mexico. Outdoors, exercising, doing adventure and stuff. Oftentimes with my family or friends. All winter long, we’re up at Taos … skiing. I love going running in the bosque. We love taking our son rafting, taking him mountain biking.

How do you splurge?

“I’ll take a day off and not have a lot of plans. I have found myself really enjoying aimlessly wandering around, shopping when I need to, but not putting a time constraint. Spending a lot of time in Whole Foods. That sounds so random. I’m always on the go (and) I’m always running, so I think anything I can do without a time constraint is pretty self-indulgent.”

Is there an embarrassing moment you’re willing to reveal?

“I was doing an ice-breaker, and someone asked, ‘If you could be any dessert, what would you be?’ I said, ‘a tart,’ and I’m thinking the lovely tarts … that are fruit and just a little bit of custard and pastry. But ‘tart’ has a very different meaning in Australia. (Editor’s note: “Tart” can be slang for a promiscuous woman.) And so my colleagues from Australia just busted up laughing. I’ve tried to be so much better, but my colleagues are like, ‘Oh, there goes Carrie again.’ I will never again say ‘tart’ in a global context.”

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