“I've always been the type of person that did not want to be wasteful, that always wanted to consider the impact on the environment for anything that I was doing personally in my life.”—Haleema shafeek, owner, GOFS

As a relationship manager for the Economic & Community Development Institute, Jesse Mark spends a lot of time out in the community promoting Capital for Construction. The program provides technical assistance, financing and procurement opportunities for minority-owned subcontractors. Mark, who joined ECDI three years ago, says he knows he’s in the right place whenever he sees Haleema Shafeek.

“Haleema is a perfect example of somebody who comes to ECDI looking to start or grow their business, and they take advantage of resources and tools that we have available to them and they implement it,” Mark says of Shafeek, who owns Green Office Furniture Solutions. “Haleema is exemplary in her taking action steps, asking for the help, getting the right knowledge around her, the right brain trust and implementing her vision.”

Shafeek sums up her success in business this way: “I always tell my kids, try not to burn any bridges,” she says. “You don’t know when you’re going to need someone.”

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Shafeek began taking steps toward her current career after leaving the military—she joined the Army in 1990, but was injured during training and was retired out. Shafeek always had an interest in interior design, spurred by her time studying architecture and drafting in vocational school. In 1996, she graduated from Sinclair Community College in Dayton with an associate degree in interior design. After working in the corporate world for several years—including a stint at Huntington Bank as a project manager and some time off to have her first child—Shafeek launched Green Office Furniture Solutions in 2008. The company specializes in sustainable furniture and interior design for companies.

“I’ve always been the type of person that did not want to be wasteful, that always wanted to consider the impact on the environment for anything that I was doing personally in my life,” she says. When Shafeek and her family were building a new home, she and her son began having allergy issues. It led her to investigate the materials used in building projects. “That’s when I started to learn about the things we were using in corporate facilities and public spaces that could be harmful,” Shafeek says.

It was the push she needed to focus her new business on green building materials. She became a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and decided to focus on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects, an internationally recognized green building certification system. “It meant a lot to me—it meant a conscious decision to do something to positively impact the environment,” Shafeek says.

Once Shafeek knew what kind of business she wanted to run, she had to figure out how to run a business. For that, she used her past connections and immersed herself in research and training from the Small Business Administration. When she asked herself who her ideal clients were, the answer came quickly: the military. She wanted to support other veterans and be an asset to government agencies. In her company’s 12 years, it has landed contracts for the US. Department of Veteran Affairs, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Defense Supply Center Columbus and the U.S. Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor. Green Office Furniture Solutions, which goes by GOFS, is now working on a project at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges. Shafeek had to furlough one employee and navigate federal aid. But she sees her field of sustainable design as perfectly equipped to deal with the pandemic—keeping people safe in public spaces.

“Haleema has always been a hard worker and not afraid of a challenge,” says Kenneth Wallace, her longtime friend and the COO of NSi Network Solutions International. “I’ve seen her jump through hoops for clients.”

Brittany Moseley is assistant digital editor for Dispatch Magazines.