Sandra Lee 

Founder & President of The Women’s Circle 

Are you an international newcomer or first-generation? If so, what country were or your family born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland?  

I was born in post-communist Czechoslovakia, and I grew up on the family’s farm. It was quite a change when I moved to Cleveland. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

The largest challenge for me was to change my mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will.’ I moved to Cleveland with one suitcase and less than 200 dollars in 2012. I applied for an Exchange Program (J1 VISA) and moved to Cleveland when I was 21. It was challenging to live in a new country without family or friends, but I wouldn’t change anything. It taught me who I am as a person and what my strengths and weaknesses are. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?  

One of the biggest lies people tell you is that pursuing your dream is going to be hard. It is harder to stay in a life that you know is not yours or you settle. It might seem harder to get to your dream destination, but when you follow your dream, you will love every step of your journey, knowing that you’re being authentic true to yourself. It’s not hard; it’s accelerating. We, women, can have so much fun if we unite and support each other. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?   

I think the Cleveland community is doing ok with supporting international women. Encouraging women with no family support system is my greatest passion. I started a community center for women, The Women’s Circle, and we are remodeling our space in Parma Heights. Our goal is to create a space where women connect, share their experiences, and build trust while improving financial security in our workshops.