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37 Limit Breaking Female Founders Share The Top Lessons Learned from Their Experiences


By Yitzi Weiner and Cam Kashani

(Part Five) (Part One , Two , Three, Four Here)

2018 is here, and pundits and opinion makers are predicting that 2018 will be the “Year of the Woman”. That of course, is yet to be seen. And we have heard this prediction before. Yet it is hard to deny that women have made enormous progress in the past few years. I partnered up with my friend Cam Kashani, a leader in empowering female founders, to profile some “limit breaking female founders” and the lessons that they can teach us.

We hope that you can find empowering and actionable words of wisdom from this Fifth set of profiles.


Elizabeth Zaborowska, CEO and Founder at Bhava Communications

My Background

Elizabeth founded Bhava Communications in 2009 to bring communications pros together with the most promising up-and-coming and established tech companies. An award-winning operator with more than 18 years of experience in communications strategy and services on both the vendor and agency sides, she has a track record of building organizations that deliver standout messaging, positioning, marketing, public relations, social media, and design services to businesses. With an emphasis on data-related technologies, she has worked with enterprise and consumer technology companies, ecommerce businesses, nonprofit organizations, and companies across industries including food and hospitality, transportation, health and wellness, education and the arts. Elizabeth has been named Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the American Business Awards “”Stevies,” Best Female Entrepreneur and Founder by the Golden Bridge Awards, and PR Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards “Stevies.” Under her leadership, Bhava Communications has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America for four consecutive years.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences as the founder and CEO of an award-winning PR firm:

#1: Values before profits. It is critical to identify and be 100% overtly transparent with potential customers about your core company values and how you and your company works — at the beginning of a business, and on an ongoing basis. Don’t take on business from customers who don’t meet the same values you hold or other non-negotiable customer or budget traits you’ve identified, even if the immediate money is tempting. The short term gains are not worth the long term derailment caused by a predictably bad client fit of any kind, and it doesn’t serve you or them.

#2. Invest in your executives. Devote as much time and effort to ramping and growing your senior/executive team as you do your junior and mid level team. It may be obvious as a business leader to invest in your less experienced, up and coming team members, and you should definitely still do that in spades. However, your senior team requires and craves learning and growth opportunities as well, and they need them so that they can be the best leaders they can be for the rest of the team. I’ve learned that its crucial not to assume — and to teach the rest of your team to not assume — that just because someone is coming on board with many years of relevant experience that they are going to immediately fit in to how your business does things. My advice is to give them a formal grace period and training, and make sure your whole team knows to be patient and helpful. Senior people at all levels in all companies need to ramp and assimilate into company culture before they can effectively be productive and additive in a way that is non-jarring for themselves and for your company.

#3: It’s okay to change course. Leaders should be willing and enthusiastic about changing their mind as often as required to get their business on the right path. But be careful to not become a barracuda — shiny thing! — making your leadership impossible to follow. It is okay to divert from your original goal, if that means opening a door to a better way to get to your goal or destination. That better way may come to you naturally, or in response to a failure, or may be suggested to you by someone on your team, or from someplace totally unexpected. Let your team know that you will change your mind based on evidence or sound arguments, so they learn to expect it and not fear it. If you do change your mind or course of action, explain to your team clearly the “who/what/where/when/why” of the change, since they can’t read your mind. This behavior also sends a signal to your team that they can and should be adaptable mind-changers, too.


Priska Diaz, Founder & CEO, Bittylab

My Background

Priska Diaz, M.S. has broken the limits because she questioned the way her baby was fed instead of accepting the false idea that her baby was born sick and prone to suffer with painful gas, colic and GERD symptoms. Her research found that baby bottles cause and/or aggravate a condition like GERD. Traditional baby bottles infiltrate air which babies swallow creating gas build-up; they need to be turned upside down to feed, forcing the babies in horizontal position which induces acid regurgitation; and a constant flow leads to overfeeding behaviors. This question led her to disrupt the infant feeding category by offering a device that feeds babies air-free milk, while in upright position and lets the babies control the flow and pace leading to significant reduction in reflux symptoms.

Since Priska became a mom, she noticed the gas, colic and GERD symptoms from her baby could have been prevented and she designed a feeding system that satisfied this need. The Peruvian-American, mom of two founded Bittylab in 2010, but launched her innovative Bare® Air-free feeding system in February of 2016 in 185 Babies””R””Us stores. Since then, the mom-inventor received thousands of letters indicating the baby’s feeding issues had been resolved, including diagnosed Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, AKA GERD.

The abundant testimonials lead Bittylab to do a pilot clinical study which resulted in breakthrough: after using Bare Air-free for two weeks, 100% of babies showed an average of 52% reduction on their feeding symptoms (gas, fuss, spit-ups and reflux), leading to 75% of babies no longer meeting clinical criteria for GERD. National statistics show that 66% of all 4-months suffer with severe symptoms of GERD, which includes irritation to the internal organs (NIH). The US spends near $18B every year in treatments for infant GERD. The treatments include multiple doctor and specialist visits, expensive branded formula, multiple baby bottles, OTC and prescription drugs, which the FDA has proven to be ineffective in infants under 12 months, yet incurring a long list of side effects.

Today, Bittylab is working towards a medical device version of Bare® Air-free, intended for the treatment and prevention of the reoccurrence of GERD, due to the clinical benefits her unprecedented technology offers.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Here’re 3 lessons I learned from being an inventor and entrepreneur.

1. Having the most amazing product in the planet means nothing without marketing. I took nearly 6 years perfecting my design and mass producing it. After I received the first samples and everything worked as intended, I thought people will buy this product, after all every mom needs baby bottles at one point, and what better than an optimized alternative to this basic feeding elements? Well… no one knew my product, all my social media efforts and my 20K+ fans and followers felt like drop of water in a pool. I basically needed to start over and develop a campaign that can place my product on the map.

2. You can’t make everybody happy! One hard lesson to learned. Parents go thru several phases. When the first baby arrives, the thought of providing only the best for their babies is very well alive. But, by the time the second and third come along, things change. It was extremely important to understand who the market was. The level of education turned out to play a very big role for Bare® Air-free feeding system (who knew?), as well as personality and life style while income level was secondary.

3. Stop doing everything yourself! As a first-time entrepreneur, trying to do everything myself was satisfying but exhausting. As soon as I involved talent, things got much better, very fast. Learning how to let go of my monster-baby was hard but a company is not meant to be ran by one person, that’s why it’s called “company”.”


Kariyma Marie, DEFY Lingerie, Founder & Designer

My Background

Kariyma founded a lingerie brand centered around defying the odds. With butt enhancement procedures up over 250% since the year 2000, Kariyma is using her new brand DEFY Lingerie to celebrate all body types and challenge women to work with what they have.

Kariyma has experience with globally recognized beauty and fashion brands such as L’Oreal, Puma, and Jones New York. Over the course of her career she’s watched digital influence become a dominating force in society’s view of body image.

Her contribution to the intimates category combines functional shapewear with sexy lingerie in a way not seen before. She is virtually redefining the way women view shapewear and their natural bodies with a brand that aims to accentuate but not alter natural beauty. Kariyma is on a mission to uplift women literally and physically by purposefully pushing imagery of versatile women! Women across the US market have been incredibly receptive to this message.“

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1) Never take the power of your platform for granted. When you have a consumer-based business, you are doing so much more than selling product. You have influence and the ability to deliver a message that can change the lives of others. With a niche as personal as body image, ensuring that my message is one of inclusiveness and positivity is always important. The messages I get from customers are often so personal. Anyone of any size and any age could have hang-ups about their shape, their cellulite, their stretch marks, or their postpartum body. I’ve learned that when you have a public platform, you have the ability to wrap your arms around the world and deliver a message that encourages self-love. It isn’t always about your product, it’s about truly connecting with people and uplifting them.

2) Having the right people in your corner can make or break you. It isn’t about hiring a big agency to represent you, it’s more important to work with people that believe in your vision. Build a team of talented people who have similar values and take ownership of their work. When you find those people, treat them damn good. I’m so grateful to have people in my corner who push me and balance me out. I don’t know what I’d do without my colleague Macy Harrell and the rest of the team.

3) I’ve learned that taking a collaborative approach is often better than investing energy in worrying about competitors. I choose to focus on how my business can stand out, collaborate with and even celebrate the success of others, instead of competing against them. It’s true that you always want to be on top of what’s happening in your industry and protect your ideas legally, but when you have a truly unique idea and you operate from a place of love and appreciation, better things unfold for business.


Jill Gwaltney, Founder, Rauxa

My Background

Jill Gwaltney founded Rauxa, an independent direct-marketing firm, in 1999. Rauxa has since evolved into a full-service agency that applies data, technology, and content to drive winning results for world-class brands that include Verizon, TGI Fridays, and Alaska Airlines. Prior to founding Rauxa, Jill spent two decades in the printing industry, working her way from account executive to president of FEC, the direct mail printing company whose annual revenue increased from $5 million to $46 million during her tenure. Currently, Jill lives in Laguna Beach with her husband. She is a graduate of Stanford University where she received her BA in Psychology.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Empathy is essential to success in business, particularly client services, as it allows us to firmly grasp the needs of the client. Ask yourself, “If I was the client, what would I want to know today? What are my concerns?” The next step is answering these questions proactively. Not surprisingly, women in business tend to understand problems and work to solve them.

2. Show up, dig in, and be bold. Bravery is a necessary ingredient in the workplace, especially for young women. Whether it’s in your nature to be brave or it’s something you hope to improve upon, know that bravery comes a lot more easily when you are present and fully immersed in the work you do.

3. Be vulnerable. The atmosphere at Stanford, where I attended undergrad, is famously competitive. It was during my college years that I noticed people often have a difficult time admitting that they care, particularly in the face of potential failure. Know that your hesitations and vulnerability can be your strength, as they are indicators that you care, and that’s a good thing.


Denise Woodard, CEO, Partake Foods

My Background

I was inspired to launch Partake Foods in June 2016 after struggling to find healthy, convenient and allergy-friendly meals and snacks for my daughter, Vivienne, who suffers from several food allergies. Partake Foods provides meals and snacks that are delicious, safe and nutritious for conscious eaters. They are free of gluten, the top 8 allergens and artificial ingredients. Made with real foods like sprouted grains, fruits and vegetables, our products give peace-of-mind to those with dietary restrictions and simple enjoyment to those who don’t.

In June 2017, we debuted three flavors of mini cookies that are now available at over 100 stores in the Northeast, as well as on Amazon. We’ll be launching Whole Foods later this year!

I’ve broken limits in several ways:

*I’m a first generation college graduate — I went from a high school guidance

counselor suggesting I apply to the local community college to graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning an MBA, and having a successful career in corporate America, most recently as the Director, National Sales for Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands division.

*I’ve bootstrapped and got Partake off the ground with no VC funding — literally knocking on doors with samples and making it happen (with lots of support from friends and family!) — You don’t need a big team or a ton of VC funding to grow a brand. We are meeting with Target later this month, will be in Whole Foods this year, and have lots of exciting retailer convos going on.

*You can do it with a family — and while working. For the first year that I was taking Partake from idea to tangible product, I worked full-time at Coke and was a wife and mom to a toddler. It’s hard, but it can be done!

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

The top 3 lessons I’ve learned:

1) Start small, think big, scale quickly — I heard Sara Blakely say this at an event and we live by this at Partake. We started very small — literally self-distributing out of the back of my car, but knowing the entire time that the brand vision is for Partake to be a nationally known brand with distribution across multiple channels and multiple states. But I realized that if we started small, the mistakes (there will be lots!) would be easier and cheaper to fix, and we’d be able to adjust to have things right for when we scaled.

2) Hire the right people — Surround yourself with people who are as passionate about what you’re doing as you are. I’d rather be overwhelmed and do the extra work while we search for the right hires than bring the wrong person in, just to have someone in the seat.

3) Don’t share with people too soon — I quickly learned that not everyone will understand your grand vision. I was asked so many times “”why would you leave your cushy job”” or told over and over again how hard it would be, but luckily I am so strong and firm in my conviction about our brand that I didn’t let those detractors affect me.


Managing Partner at Wolox/ Co-Founder at Muzi

My Background

Agustina Fainguersch is a serial entrepreneur and MIT Innovator Under 35 award winner. She’s the US Managing Partner at her company Wolox, an innovation studio that builds unique digital experiences and products for digital disruption. Based in Silicon Valley, she is in charge of the growth and international expansion of the company. Agustina is also the co-founder of Muzi a health tech startup devoted to democratizing health diagnostics in developing countries. She co-founded Muzi during her time at Singularity University in NASA. Agustina is a global innovator and software engineer from Argentina who has founded different companies, initiatives, hackathons and tech events, mostly focusing on how to leverage technology for good and help with woman empowerment. She is now a mentor and advisor to many startups and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and Latin America and a speaker that aims to inspire women in tech and entrepreneurship in events such as the Mobile World Congress Americas or Wonder Woman in Tech.

Over her career, Agustina has had extensive experience as a backend and frontend developer, manager, director, project manager, event organizer, and marketing and growth consultant. She has had the chance to experiment, research and work on projects with robotics, artificial intelligence, learning perceptrons, cryptographic and security systems and image recognition.

Ms Fainguersch has been awarded a full scholarship by Google to attend the Global Solutions Program and then the Launchpad program at Singularity University in 2016 and also another scholarship to attend the SLEI5 Latino Entrepreneurship program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is an Alumni at The Coaching Fellowship, an executive coaching organization for women leaders. Ms Fainguersch has also been awarded the MIT Innovators Under 35 award in 2017, the “”Woman of excellence of San Isidro” award and has been featured in important press releases such as Entrepreneur.com, La Nación, Diario Perfil and TV shows like “Alabadas”” and “Por el mundo”” from Argentina.

Agustina is passionate about creating a positive impact in the world with the use of technology and she has established her life mission as such.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Proactivity: Choose your battles and be proactive about them, don’t just wait to be told what to do or someone to do something about it. If it’s important for you then it should be self mandatory for you to take action upon it!

Mentor and be Mentored:Being a mentor and a mentee has been by far the most significant learning experience I went through. Being a mentee was an amazing experience as I got to speak with some people I truly admired on a monthly basis. I remember my first meetings with my first mentor as if it were today. His words resonate in my head and allow me to take action feeling comfortable, secure and experienced. Being a mentor has been the same if not better. Advising other people tends to be easier than solving our own challenges as one has the privilege of taking perspective and being an observer when listening to other people’s challenges. Mentees usually give a different perspective and more fresh(as they tend to be younger) and mentors learn a lot from just listening to them.

Be empathetic and embrace diversity:Diversity is the key component to any creative or innovative process. Having likeminded people/things/insights gives no perspective nor critical thinking and that tends to kill innovation. I’ve realized that by diversifying my life, I became a more creative person. But, what does diversifying and being empathetic mean? Diversifying can mean pretty much anything that is getting out of your routine, and that can start with something small like not having the same breakfast every morning. Traveling around the world or your own city can be another way of diversifying, as this gives you the opportunity to interact with people that think differently, have different beliefs, cultures and even interests. It took me years to accept that some people just thought completely differently, but the moment I did and embraced it, I soon realized the impact that had on me. I started to appreciate small facts about other people’s lives that just blew my mind. Being empathetic is a key component to every product creation but for innovation it is completely sustancial. Understanding the needs and pains form the industries, persons or organizations can help to trigger ideas in your head that would have never showed up having not been because you allowed yourself to think like others.


Yi Zhou — YiZhou Studio

My Background

Chinese multimedia artist, influencer and entrepreneur Yi Zhou is widely known in the international creative community for her artistic, fashion, branding and film work. Her work is admired by a highly diverse group of distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood A-listers, wealthy patrons and the young social media audience.

In recent years, Yi Zhou has endorsed a number of global campaigns including Persol, DFST — Galleria, Levis, and others. She was named the first ever brand ambassador for China for Clarins in 2010. Since 2011, she has collaborated with such prestigious brands as Chanel, Hogan, Pringle of Scotland, Lane Crawford and YOOX. She also collaborated with French couture Jewelry house Gripoix, launching a special collection titled “Pineapple Secret. Her animations have also inspired a clothing collection by popular French brand Each X Other.

In 2013, she was invited as the first ever Chinese talent to be hired as a designer and creative director of a brand, to create a 360 degree project ranging from menswear, womenswear and accessories for Italian luxury brand ICEBERG. The “Breaking the Ice” capsule collection was released worldwide in December 2013.

In 2010, she created Yi Zhou Studio, creating employment opportunities for young Chinese talent to collaborate and experiment together on international projects.

A major social media influencer, Yi Zhou has been named Tudou’s art director, art and fashion advisory member at SINA.com, and beauty and fashion ambassador for Tencent.

A passionate promoter of East-West relations, she is frequently asked to speak at conferences and events around the globe, including TEDx (Paris 2012, Beijing 2013, Zheijang 2014), LVMH Labour Day in Paris in 2013 and Financial Times Luxury Conference in 2014.

Yi Zhou has contributed to many NGOs by creating art pieces for the UN Conference for World Climate Change in South Africa in 2011, the UNDP China Rio+20 Projection in 2012, as well as World Oceans Day in 2015. Most recently, she worked with Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation by participating with an artwork commissioned by ETAM.

Yi Zhou ‘s short films have been shown at Shanghai Biennale, Venice Biennale, Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. She was selected by Venice Biennale to showcase her 2011 works, as well as new works from her solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome titled “Fragments of Rome, past, future, parallel worlds.”

She is currently working on several international media projects and is developing her first feature motion picture.

She has a degree in politic science and economics from the London School of Economics, and is now continuing her education at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She speaks fluent French, Italian, English, Spanish and Mandarin.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

I recently started in the entrepreneurial world, transitioning from the pure creative realm to entrepreneurship. I look forward to putting more effort and my creativity in the new business, and am starting to build awareness for my brand in the US and curate my investments. I am also taking some classes at Pepperdine University about hedge funds and investments, to improve my knowledge and skills.

The lessons I have learned are:

I can only control my efforts and I can only influence my outcome / results.

Learn to walk away in difficult situations with a smile.

Learn to lose as much as to win. It’s a cycle.


Ericka Perry, CEO and Founder of The Stork Bag

My Background

Ericka is a successful businesswoman and dedicated mother and wife. She started her first business, MommyMaiDD Services, Inc. in March of 2012 while working on her Master’s degree, pregnant with her 3rd son and working full-time in the nonprofit sector. Soon after, she quit her corporate job to place full focus on entrepreneurship. Ericka launched her flagship product, The Stork Bag®, a leading pregnancy subscription bag, in November 2014. Since the launch in 2014, The Stork Bag has garnered attention from celebrity moms and customer’s attention globally, with customers spanning nationwide as well as in the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, West Africa, Germany, the UK, Dubai and Australia. The Stork Bag has also become the first and only pregnancy subscription to receive OBGYN endorsement. Ericka also published a pregnancy journal titled, 9 Months of Happiness: Maintaining a Blissful Pregnancy, and a postpartum journal titled, 9 Months Later: Preserving Happiness, both titles can be found in most online bookstores. Aside from building a fast-growing brand from the ground up, Ericka also created broke the limits of traditional curated packages by creating 7 private label products that are exclusively carried in The Stork Bag. Now an award winning entrepreneur, Ericka has been featured on Fox, ABC and WCIU as well being named a Mover & Shaker by Chicago Woman Magazine. Ericka’s mission is to inspire and encourage women to reach for the stars even when others in their arena may look different. She advises women to be fearless, stand out, be great and make moves. “Be a quadruple threat!

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Since launching The Stork Bag almost 4 years ago, Ericka has learned many valuable lessons from financial decision making to the power of positive thinking. Of those lessons, these are the top 3.

1. Always negotiate! “When I first started out, I would let vendors pick the price for their products but as I became a but more savvy, I learned that everything is negotiable and if a company really wants to work with you, they will be open to meeting you half way or all the way with pricing. I think women sometimes sell themselves short when it comes to their negotiating power, either they don’t believe in their haggle skills or they fear saying NO and asking for more, regardless of the reason, you should always try to negotiate the price toward your ideal offer.

2. Set goals and constantly revisit to revise, delete and add. “In my opinion, anyone who is trying to get to a certain level of success must have an idea of what it looks like”. Not having goals but working to accomplish ‘something major’ is like going on a long road trip to a foreign land without a roadmap (gps). As you write goals, they may change with time but it is important to constantly measure those goals to ensure you are on the right path to accomplishing the ultimate goal. Writing my goals down helps me keep track of the direction that I am moving in and when a goal is accomplished, its an amazing feeling. Smashing goals feels great!

3. “Stay positive, no matter what! Only speak about what you want and only think on the things that you intend to create and accomplish. “What I’ve learned is talking about all the things that are wrong never really accomplishes anything but, talking about all the things that are right allows me to look at the bigger picture and acknowledge the wins, which in turn helps to keep me motivated.


Miram Ebrahim, CEO Common Connect

My Background

I left Google to launch the future of networking. I worked at Apple for 5 years and constantly found a problem with networking and connecting with like minded people or in different professionals. I launched a smart networking app called Common Connect that literally takes the work out of networking.

On Common Connect, find professionals already in your location based on filtering job titles and industries.

Smart networking as arrived and the future of meeting who you want is as simple as filtering and messaging.

LinkedIn doesn’t work and people want a networking app that’s more social. Connect with people from other 400 job titles and industries based on location, gender, age and filter what you need now to expand your network.

Your network is your net worth.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

I learned to never stop and be a force and never stop believing. If you stop the world will quit on you.


Ayat Shukairy, Co-founder, Invesp

My Background

Earlier in my life, I never saw myself as an entrepreneur. Up until I graduated from college, my path was predetermined because ever since I was very young, I was so sure of what I wanted to do. I was going to be a teacher, and that’s what I did for a couple of years. But then I had the fortunate gift of having my very own child, a daughter. At that moment, I decided in order to give her my all, I simply could not be surrounded by other kids throughout my day. I had to pivot.

It was a life-changing and unexpected change that actually shocked all of those closest to me. Being a teacher is challenging and my hats off to all teachers. But it was also a safe choice for me personally. As a Muslim head-scarf (hijab) adorning woman, going to a classroom and getting judged by children wasn’t as difficult as exhibiting at conferences and getting passed by a bunch of CMOs and CEOs because of my choice to cover. Speaking in front of bunch of parents for me was no big deal, nothing like speaking to a room filled with 200 to 300 marketers on the do’s and don’ts of conversion rate optimization.

I was lucky to get a best-selling book that I co-authored with my business partner. My very presence in such a new field, and learning everything to do with growing, maintaining, and sustaining a business on my own; a complete self-taught entrepreneur and self-taught author, I broke limits. Up until this very day, I have not found another hijab wearing woman that is so out there in my area. I remain to be the only one and still get the shock and awe looks from attendees at conferences, or clients when I finally meet them face to face.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1 . Go with whatever life throws at you: Your story and path in life, in whatever you do, is always every changing. It’s never predetermined or going to end up exactly as you had imagined it. You never know what’s going to be thrown at you, and the key lesson here is: know how to roll with the punches and take on the new challenges. Change can be scary, and you may not know how to adapt with it, but entrepreneurship forces you to adapt because your business is fluctuating and changing day to day, month to month and year to year.

2. Don’t be afraid to be different: I can’t tell you that wearing my hijab in public is every “”easy.”” I’ve learned to accept the onlookers hard gazes and ignore the confused and perplexed looks on their faces. But thinking about how other people are going to perceive you is a dangerous rabbit hole to fall into. You’ll end up doubting yourself, feeling so conscious it can cripple you from moving forward. If you believe in yourself, and believe in your choices, don’t pay heed to whatever others think. Your outward appearance will quickly become a non-issue once you display confidence and a high-level of knowledge in a topic or area.

3. You’re not inferior: Because I didn’t go to business school, like many of colleagues, I used to get a deep sense of inferiority complex. But the thing is, the level of knowledge and experience I have in my area is quite extensive. It turns out the imposter syndrome is a real complex that many entrepreneurs, managers, executives, and even world leaders suffer from. What’s important is to recognize that you may have this complex and treat it by getting help, getting a life/business coach, and in many cases constantly reading and growing even more to help you gain confidence in your knowledge and skills.


Tierza Davis, Founder, Pura Vida Adventures

My Background

Tierza Davis founded Pura Vida Adventures , surf and yoga retreat in Costa Rica, in 2003 when “yoga” studios weren’t on every street corner and the word “retreat” wasn’t used for a vacation you were taking this year.

She started practicing yoga in 1994 and started surfing in 2001. She fell in love with both of these activities instantly. Yoga was her first introduction to her personal spiritual practice and surfing was the thrill she was seeking and made feel alive.

In 2002, she went to Costa Rica and the natural beauty, the culture, and the amazing surf made her want to share her experience with others. At that time, we called it a surf camp because the word “retreat” wasn’t really a marketing word at that point.

In 2003, her little village of Malpais/Santa Teresa was even a rougher dirt road then it is today. Most of the people in the water were men and she was starting a business in a predominately male culture in a Latin American Country. This didn’t stop her.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

- Feel the fear and do it anyways. Starting your own business and especially abroad can be very daunting and scary. But what I learned is that you have to persevere through your fear, belief in yourself and not internalize other people’s fears or doubts. And realize the worst thing that can happen is that you never tried. I feel like the “What Ifs” and “Regrets” can haunt you and make you question yourself. Your intuition and gut will know if it is right. The empowering part of starting your own business is that you did it and can watch something that you created to grow.

- Align yourself with good people. When starting a business abroad, you need to have advocates in those countries that believe in what you are doing. People who can introduce you to the locals and start alliances with other businesses. This will help gain respect in the local community.

- Don’t do everything! I feel like businesses fail or the owner gets burnt out if they try to be the “jack of all trades”. Being the marketing guru, manager, salesperson, etc…it is exhausting. Pick your passion in your business and hire other people to do their passion. It is best for a company to have different people with different skills that can help build the business and keep ideas fresh. If I didn’t relinquish some of the power and give others their voice, then Pura Vida Adventures would never be what it is today. Have people help you grow and make your business great.


Lynn Cooper, Chief Social Officer, Socially Ahead

My Background

Lynn Cooper is the Chief Social Officer of Socially Ahead, a leading integrated marketing agency based in Washington, DC. Known for her seamless ability to navigate online platforms and drive traffic through digital media, Lynn specializes in the training, development and implementation of effective communication and marketing strategies for brands to include Procter & Gamble, Time Inc., Viacom, Hyundai, Verizon, Samsung, Diageo, AARP, Lexus, Lionsgate Films, Ford, McDonald’s, DRM-JPC Brands (Dr. Miracles | Ultra Sheen) and Ebony Media Operations (EBONY & JET Magazine).

Known as the “Digital Instigator,” Lynn has ignited audiences as a speaker at the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Minority Business Development Agency, National Institute of Health, United States Peace Corps, Working Mother,National Urban League, NTEN, Black Enterprise Women of Power and Entrepreneur Conferences.

She is frequently sought out by leading media outlets such as MSNBC, CBS, Black Enterprise, and numerous online publications to offer expert advice and insight regarding strategic communications, marketing, and branding in the digital age.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

In 2008 I began to see the emerging trend of social media and how it would change the landscape of our business and personal lives. When I launched socially ahead we were among the first social media training agencies in the United States.

Lesson One Be Your Authentic Self : As professionals, women are very different than men. Nothing negative or necessarily positive — just different. If we are to achieve positions of leadership in this industry, we must recognize these differences, embrace them and work with them to achieve success. If any woman spends her career in this field trying to act like anything other than her authentic self, she will be frustrated, disappointed and disheartened.

Lesson Two — A Setback is a setup for a comeback : Life is unpredictable however many view failure as the end of the road. However a true leader realizes that in order to succeed you must fail. Once that failure occurs its up to you to learn from your mistakes, taking control of your destiny, focus and take action on your dreams-despite the adversities

Lesson Three- Think Less, Act More- Cut the time you spend deliberating in half and spent that time actively pursuing what you want. Get out of your own way!”


Jenna Tanenbaum, co-founder, GreenBlender

My Background

I went to college at the University of Pittsburgh and graduated with a degree in business and finance. I moved to New York shortly after graduating and planned to make a career out of consulting and banking. I quickly realized that wasn’t for me and started working at a real-time data analysis startup, Chartbeat. Chartbeat was my first venture into the startup tech ecosystem in New York City and I was hooked. I became a data analyst and learned the ropes about business intelligence and SaaS companies. I jumped head first into the tech scene and went to as many meetups and talks I could that related to my vertical.

After a time at Chartbeat, my curiosity started to grow beyond real time data. I wanted to shift gears into something I personally believed in, and that was health and wellness. I had started a fitness blog that grabbed the attention of newly launched fitness startup, Classtivity (which became ClassPass). ClassPass hired me after a conversation we had on Twitter and I started working as the first marketing hire. ClassPass was exciting. I had a crash course in marketing, high growth startups, and community engagement.

Looking back, starting GreenBlender seemed like a natural continuation on my career path — I say this of course looking back. When I decided to quit my job at one of the fastest growing startups in NYC to start something from scratch, I was terrified.

Amir Cohen and I launched GreenBlender shortly after moving in together to a Prospect Heights apartment, in Brooklyn. I bought a blender and started making smoothies for breakfast before work and giving Amir some of the left-overs. Before we knew it, we were both making smoothies every morning and feeling amazing. That’s when we realized that when great ingredients and delicious recipes were easily accessible in our home, it was easy to start our day with a healthy decision. We wanted to bring that experience to as many people as possible.

Amir and I both had careers in online startups before launching GreenBlender. We saw the power an online business held and wanted to create a hybrid of an online experience and a physical product that helped people create healthy habits that lasted a lifetime.

If there is a common thread in my career it is that I relentlessly broke through limits and never took no for an answer.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Look for your passion in every opportunity that comes your way and don’t just wait for an opportunity you are passionate about. Early on, many projects I was tasked with in my career didn’t seem all that interesting. But by giving it my all, doing a great job, trying to learn as much as possible from each task, I could find the passion in the project. Because of this mentality, more opportunities came my way and I was able to become indispensable to every company I worked with.

2. Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. I talk to a lot of young women who genuinely don’t feel like they have enough experience or qualifications. If you truly believe in something, you will find a way to teach yourself the necessary skills to get the job done. Action is better than inaction. Even if, at the end of the day, you don’t end up achieving what you set out to do, think about all you learned in the process. Now think about what you would have learned if you had done nothing.

3. Stay curious and keep learning. You will never learn it all. The market changes so quickly that if you don’t have a curious disposition in life, you will become obsolete. Find the passion in learning new things, getting out of your comfort zone and always reframing the problem back to the end user.


Tressa Azarel Smallwood, Co-Founder and Executive Producer Megamind Media

My Background

Tressa Azarel Smallwood has broken limits in film by independently producing three feature films in 2-years and making Washington, DC a hot spot for movie production. The former English teacher is now a serial entrepreneur specializing in book publishing (Life Changing Books) and film (Megamind Media). As Co-Founder of Megamind Media, she is creative lead on the development of the companies upcoming feature films, scripted and non-scripted television shows. Megamind Media launched with the debut of SECRETS the film adaptation of J. Tremble’s ESSENCE® bestselling novel Secrets of a Housewife. SECRETS was selected as Featured Narrative Film at the 2016 American Black Film Festival. SECRETS made its national television debut Sept 2017 on BET and on Itunes Feb 2018. In Spring of 2017 Megamind completed their second film ALL IN, which stars Elise Neal (LOGAN), Lil Mama (CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story) and Rob Riley (Hit the Floor). 2018 started off with Tressa attending Sundance as the Executive Producer of her 3rd feature film SINNERS WANTED directed by Jimmy Jenkins & Joshua Jenkins. Both ALL IN and SINNERS WANTED will open in theatres Fall 2018. Currently, Megamind Media is in production on more book-to-film adaptations including two movies and pre-production on their first television series, PRIVATE AFFAIRS.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Determination, teamwork, and constant reinvesting into my businesses. Those factors carry over into each entity, which allows me to build bigger and better teams for each. I am an avid believer of having at least seven streams of income. I started my entrepreneurial endeavors as a self-published author and from there I became a publisher, a consultant, workshop facilitator, speaker, film producer, brand ambassador and I invest in real estate. It is important to follow your heart and passion. So many people discouraged me from resigning from my teaching job and I am so glad I listened to myself. I enjoy the work I am doing and that is what’s important.


Marisa de Belloy, CEO of Cool Effect

My Background

Marisa de Belloy’s expertise spans a multitude of fields, including non-profit management, investment banking, strategy consulting, and international entrepreneurial ventures. She has also been a professor and is a frequent speaker on climate change issues.

After receiving her B.A. from Yale and her M.B.A. from Stanford, Marisa garnered 20 years of experience at esteemed companies such as Goldman Sachs, the L.E.K. Partnership, and LafargeHolcim. Additionally, she pursued various international entrepreneurial ventures, including co-founding and running Fotango, an online photo-sharing site funded by leading European venture capitalists that was later sold to Canon, Inc. in 2002. She also formed the Paris-based investment banking boutique Michel Dyens & Co.’s highly successful digital media practice, where she was responsible for many high-profile deals from 2006 to 2012. After teaching M&A finance at ESLSCA Business School and having spent 13 years working in Europe, Marisa returned to the Bay Area in 2014 to serve as COO at Made in a Free World, an anti-slavery non-profit, where she was responsible for accelerating the organization’s growth.

Currently, Marisa couples her extensive background in international business and finance with her dedication to human rights to bring a well-rounded, informed approach to her position as CEO of Cool Effect. She continues to speak fluent French in addition to her native English and serves on several non-profit boards in the Bay Area, where she resides with her husband and four children.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1.) Don’t be fooled by technical jargon. If you’re in charge, you need to get beyond the technical jargon and really find out what is or is not possible on the tech or science side. Trusted outside advisors can help.

2.) Don’t be afraid to change your mind. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness and gets you out of some pretty stupid situations!

3.) Ask open-ended questions: ”What could we do differently?” “How would you do this?” ”How do you think this went?” Leave room for people to tell you what’s on their minds and what they really think.”


Gina Alschuler, President & CEO, Rauxa

My Background

As President and CEO of Rauxa, the nation’s largest woman-owned independent advertising agency, Gina Alshuler leads a team of brilliant marketers, giving them the tools, inspiration and mentorship to produce the best work of their careers. She is responsible for the financial health and growth of the business as well as the quality of thought leadership and overall value delivered daily to clients like Alaska Airlines, Verizon, The Gap, Allergan and Vans. You will frequently see her at the table with team members and clients, digging in and pushing work into new territories, particularly with the use of data science and technology, her passion subjects.“

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Just show up and start. Don’t know how to open an office? Hmmm… find a location online, order a desk, move across country. Check, check, check! Just start.

Next, never give up. I’m not even sure the word “lose” is in my vocabulary. I see it as a temporary setback forcing me to think of a new path forward. Tenacity and grit, genuine love for what you do- you have to bring this every second of the day. As leaders, there is no letting up.

Breaking Limits. I had the confidence to take on responsibilities far beyond what is typical for someone my age/gender/experience: moving east to open our office, becoming President at 32 years old, pitching new work when everyone thought we were crazy because I knew we could do it better than anyone else.


Alicia Williams, Founder + CEO, Aliste Marketing

My Background

Developing a company out of passion and necessity is what fueled the drive to always continue pushing the boundaries. At age 22, Alicia Williams founded Aliste Marketing, a Full Service Digital Marketing and Placement Agency, on a small 12"x 12" laundry room desk- just imagine the amount of clean clothes and work we accomplished at the same time! In 2008, starting a business was highly discouraged and through all of the statistics and advisement to just go get a 9–5 job, Alicia refused to believe that her creativity and passion had to listen to the crashing world around her. Three awards, one published book and numerous publication features, Alicia has taken those limits and continues to break the status quo. Her agency has grown to service companies in a variety of industries including hospitality, tech and medical and spans across the world. She isn’t stopping at just providing digital marketing campaigns and limitless marketing strategies, Aliste Marketing has recently launched AMPS, their Placement Service division aimed at helping companies effectively transition from external marketing support to a direct hire rockstar. With a mind geared at always adapting to the market and needs of their clients, Alicia will continue to pave a new path in the business and marketing world.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

One of the best advice I ever received was from my father, Ralph, who if he is reading this I would like to state is the brainchild behind much of my success! When I was heading out to meet with my first every client he looked at me and said, “”Just remember, regardless of their title, they put their pants on the same way and most likely tripped on their pant leg while doing it.”” Whenever I meet with a prospect or present to a group that saying ALWAYS runs through my mind. It is a humbling statement that even when you’re feeling like business is terrible, you aren’t alone and someone went through this same process, likewise when business is great it is so important to remember where you started and that the person across the desk regardless of their title tripped on their pants as well.

As I built my business another lesson that stays with me is focus. As an entrepreneur we tend to get distracted by another brilliant idea and want to switch gears to run with that concept. Invest in a great notebook and write down your ideas but always narrow your efforts to what idea is going to bring you success in happiness, passion and investment.

Lastly, surround yourself with people that are way smarter than you! This isn’t a new concept but one that I continue to strive for. My family is what allowed me to create a company, in fact the nae Aliste is a combination of my family member initials. My parents have more life experience than I do, my siblings and spouse have worked in different industries that I pull ideas from, my children force me the get to their level and see the imagination that you can create from a single block. Look to your support group, team members and advisors- what do they know that you don’t?”


Sandy Hammer Co-Founder & CMO of AllSeated

My Background

AllSeated founder Sandy Hammer boasts over 20 years of experience in the international events industry. She began as an entrepreneur establishing conferenceART, a company that produced corporate conferences, seminars, forums and brokerage events around the world for customers such as Orange Global, Telefonica and O2UK. Leveraging her events background, she created AllSeated to revolutionize and digitize the event planning process. Her position allows her to pursue her passion for educating and advancing the industry, and she enjoys being a highly sought-after national speaker. Under her leadership, AllSeated has been featured on BizBash, in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, She Finds and Los Angeles Confidential, among other high-profile media outlets.

Growing up in the UK during the Thatcher administration, Margaret Thatcher was a tremendous inspiration for me as she demonstrated power for women with acknowledgements of strength, commitment and tolerance.

Running a business and understanding commitment today is basically the same, even 30 years later. Dedication combined with hard work, a sense of purpose and that sense of flair, still remains as important as it was in mid 1980’s.

I was a corporate planner in the tech industry for ten years. My pure frustrations with operations drove me to want to digitize our industry. It was at the same time that Uber came out and I thought, how can the taxi industry be digitized before our event industry? We are an industry of precision and excellence and we know how to do our jobs (and do them well) but we needed technology tools to help! So it’s then that I co-founded AllSeated, the world’s most innovative event planning platform. AllSeated has transformed the event industry from paper-and-pencil to an all-digital platform by providing collaborative planning tools which allow venues, caterers, planners, vendors and hosts to work together on creating memorable events.

Significantly changing an industry is a huge challenge and undertaking, one that can only be accomplished if you feel and believe in the sense of change needed. The event industry that I started in was pained for sure, as it did not have or show the quality and levels of what could be accomplished with digital tools.

I used my years of event experience in the events world and listened to everyone that would talk to me in order to gain the most knowledge possible to build and complete my task of digitizing the industry. I brought in the expert talents needed to succeed- talents that I did not possess, in order to really break into the market.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Understanding your strength is essential, but admitting your weakness is far more important. This is where your strength is truly tested. I knew that the industry needed technology tools to streamline our processes but the actual knowledge and understanding of how to create those tools is where I needed help.

Immediately, I brought in a partner to assist me in revolutionizing the industry. I chose a person with a strong background in technology, complete with gaming industry expertise.

I understood early on that I needed a tool that was going to be for mass market, meaning it needed to be intuitive and simple yet also equipped with the technology traits to provide the wow factor.

Listening to people and understanding your purpose as it relates to their needs is the biggest asset to succeeding with your venture. AllSeated’s growth, and crossing the 100,000 users within our network, relied upon bringing many avenues of people to the table to help us expand. My years of experience definitely allowed me to undestand how and why to strengthen the network and maneuver my network as much as possible to break through the old ways of doing things into the new ways with technology.

If you surround yourself with the right people, you can do anything! Make them believe and join your purpose, which can really only happen if you yourself are determined and truly believe too.

Any change can be made with the right focus and energy as energy feeds off of purpose.


Marsha Firestone, founder and president, Women Presidents’ Organization

My Background

Dr. Marsha Firestone is the Founder and President of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which began in 1997 as a peer advisory organization for women who own multi million dollar businesses. She is also the Founder and President of the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization, dedicated to increasing access to business opportunities for women’s business enterprises (WBEs).

Dr. Firestone previously served as Vice President of Women Incorporated and as Vice President of Training and Counseling at the American Woman’s Economic Development Corporation (AWED). Her career also includes positions as President of a for-profit educational institution; National Executive Director of Women’s American ORT, a volunteer organization; and a faculty member at the American Management Association Competency-Based Management Development Program, at City University of New York, and at Adelphi University.

In 1998, Dr. Firestone was the Executive Director of The Women’s Economic Summit. She led the development of a master plan for accelerating the growth of women’s businesses, which was presented to Congress and the public in March 1999. In 2003, Dr. Firestone was appointed to a term on the National Women’s Business Council representing the Women Presidents’ Organization.

Dr. Firestone is the author of The Busy Woman’s Guide to Successful Self-Employment and has published research in business and educational journals on adult learning theory, nonverbal communication, and managerial competency. She also serves the worldwide women’s business community as a frequent guest speaker, with recent speaking engagements at Tulane University, Women’s Leadership Network of APEC, Syracuse University, The Center for Women’s Business Research Roundtable, and Unicul International in Tokyo, Japan. She was an official U.S. representative to OECD in 2003 in Turkey and to APEC Women’s Network in Viet Nam in 2006.

Dr. Firestone has been honored with a special achievement award from Woman Inc. of Jamaica; the Applause Award for breaking down barriers for women in business from Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC); The Hall of Fame Award from Enterprising Women; 2004 WMBE Outreach Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce; the Outstanding Alumna Award 2003 from Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University, and as one of three finalists for Entrepreneurial Supporter by Ernst and Young.

Dr. Firestone shares her professional knowledge by serving on numerous boards and advisory councils including: Women’s Leadership Initiative at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Enterprising Women Advisory Board, Forbes Executive Women’s Board, Newcomb College Institute Director’s Advisory Council, the International Women’s Forum, and The Women’s Jewelry Association. She also sits on Mayor Bloomberg’s Commission on MWBEs for New York City.

Dr. Firestone earned a Master’s degree in Communication from Teacher’s College of New York and a Ph.D. in Communication from Columbia University, where Margaret Mead sat on her dissertation committee.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Top 3 lessons learned:

1) I did not realize the power of public relations. Once I understood that building the prestige of the WPO brand through publicity was a key factor in gaining the visibility that would lead to growth, I did more to spend time focused on the public relations effort.

2) For a business to grow, there needs to be a need in the marketplace. Like many businesses, the Women Presidents’ Organization grew as a result of something missing. I created a group in which successful business women could gather together to plan, network and thrive.

3) I would have told my younger self to take every opportunity to network and do more in-person outreach, focus less on “nose to the grindstone.” While women entrepreneurs have made headway in the nation’s media, the growing power of women’s businesses and its profound impact on the economy has not received the attention it deserves. In 2007 WPO launched the listing of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies, now in partnership with American Express Global Commercial Payments, to focus much-needed attention on the vital role that women-owned/led companies have in boosting the economy and enhancing overall job growth.


Pallavi Golla, Founder, Lark Adventurewear

My Background

Pallavi Golla is a mompreneur who founded Lark Adventurewear, which launched in July 2017 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. As a new mother of an active four-month-old son, she noticed a gap in the marketplace for non-synthetic, breathable activewear for little ones. Because all adult activewear is made from synthetic fabric, not suitable for a child’s sensitive skin, Pallavi began a journey to create a soft, special knit that would keep children cool and comfortable without skin irritation. After she spent months searching for safe textiles that wick moisture, it was clear that she had to develop something brand new. Made in the USA, Lark Adventurewear is a result of Pallavi’s tireless work with textile experts to develop a unique, natural cotton-bamboo fabric with a capillary knit that wicks moisture and is UPF50+, breathable and premium quality to easily endure the daily life of an active child. The innovative fabric is not currently used in any adult or children’s clothing in the market.

Before launching Lark Adventurewear, Pallavi had a successful career in the hedge fund industry in New York and Los Angeles and in wine production in California. Six months before graduating from business school, she created an e-commerce platform with an algorithm that discovered new wines based on the customers’ preferences. She ultimately decided to move on from the business and was instrumental in the growth of a similar site called Winc.com, which has hundreds of thousands of members today. Pallavi graduated from New York University Stern School of Business with a BS in Finance and received an MBA from University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Management with a concentration in Marketing. She lives in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her family.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Be Relentless and don’t take no for an answer! Early on I was looking for a textile in the market that everyone told me didn’t exist. I did my own research, learned enough to have intelligent conversations with some knowledgeable textile manufacturers and they were willing to help me create a custom textile in small quantities to test. Knowledge is power. Dive head first into what you are doing. Learning every step of the manufacturing process even though I was a rookie in the apparel industry allowed me to be taken seriously and create lasting partnerships with vendors that have been crucial to the creation and success of my venture.

2. Be passionate about your mission and product. Creating a product that has never existed is tough. I’ve gotten many smirks when I say I make activewear for children. But many more parents and customers have thanked us for developing clothes that make their children more comfortable. That keeps me motivated. People will question you, you may have a few bad weeks of sales, some setbacks when it comes to production, or all of the above. The confidence I have in our product and the ultimate goal of my business keeps me going through the daily ups and downs as an entrepreneur.

3. Stay Humble, Open-Minded and Listen. With my first startup many years ago, I thought I had all the answers and an actionable plan that would be successful. I was wrong and I was too stubborn to change that plan and be flexible. With my second venture (while I am confident about our products), I am continually open to new ideas, communicating with customers and trying to understand what they want out of our products instead of trying to tell them they should want something that we make! The constant process of self improvement and knowing we can always do things better has made me more successful this time around.


Kathy Gendel, CEO and Co-Founder, Delka Ltd. / Gendelettes LLC

My Background

Kathy Gendel is the matriarch of The Gendel Girls’ family empire — and co-founder of the Breezies® brand — the largest intimate apparel brand on the QVC network. This entrepreneur is a business woman, innovator, patent holder, on-air spokesperson, wife and mother all rolled into one. Kathy and her husband Craig left corporate jobs to start a lingerie business in 1994, and after a lot of perseverance and a lucky encounter on Madison Avenue, they found a home at QVC. Their business took off when Kathy first appeared on air in the middle of the night (2am) and sold $138K in Breezies® panties in just a few minutes. Kathy has grown the business from one style of panties and a few minutes of airtime to 50+ SKUs available at any one time and appearing 4–5 times weekly, including one hour shows. With three unique patents for proprietary performance fabric, Kathy has set a new standard for women’s comfort and confidence.

As the company expanded, Kathy brought on her daughters to help with operations, sales and marketing. Raised by mom, this next generation Gendel is instilled with the same passion, work ethic and overall dedication to providing fashion forward quality goods to their customers. Needless to say, the business now provides a healthy lifestyle to the expanded empire. Along the way, the company’s Breezies® AngelLove® intimate apparel extension was honored with the QVC award for product concept. In addition to Kathy’s patent for a performance fabric, she is the patent holder of a bra specifically designed with pockets to secure a breast enhancer or prosthetic enhancer.

Today, The Gendel Girls are based outside Philadelphia. The Gendel Girls have been a mainstay on QVC for 23 years with an average annual growth increase of 22.5%. They have sold millions of bras and panties worldwide. Kathy’s journey has been featured as part of a book entitled “”Millionaire Moms.”” In it, she shares her story and provide tips on business financing, work/life balance and managing business growth.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Flexibility is the key to an entrepreneur’s survival. There’s a lot of truth to the old adage — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You must always be equipped with a Plan B, because Plan A probably isn’t going to work. Always great to have Plans C and D at the ready as well. Be relentless in your desire to succeed, but be flexible as to how you can get there.

Take one day at a time. Some new development may seem like the end of the world, but hey, tomorrow’s another day. Never make a decision at night. Sleep on it. You’d be surprised at how one night’s sleep can bring a new solution, or open up your mind to additional possibilities. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up with a totally different outlook than the night before.

Find out what you do really well and continue to hone it and update it to keep up with changing trends. When we launched our business on QVC, we had no idea how successful the channel would grow to be. But, we were open to the possibilities and anxious to learn. We took what we’d learned in more traditional retail channels and applied it to home shopping.


Lexie Broytman, Founder, EvaDane Jewelry

My Background

EvaDane was initially created three years ago while founder, Lexie Broytman was finishing up her master’s degree and modeling in New York City. The business formed from her appreciation for gemstones and their associated metaphysical properties. The continuing mission of the company is to create meaningful jewelry which positively impacts the wearer, and supports their journey through life. All products are mindfully made from semi precious stones, wood and other quality materials. EvaDane crafts their products in the United States and stays very committed to sourcing the best components to give customers a unique piece of jewelry. “Building this business has been a very rewarding process for me,” stated Broytman. “I can’t say that I ever saw myself owning and operating a business, but I knew I wasn’t interested in a conventional nine to five desk job. I think modeling gave me really solid position to take risks and feel comfortable venturing off on my own.” Now 26, Broytman has become a sizable seller on Amazon. “The marketplace Amazon offers their sellers is quite vast,” noted Broytman. “Even though I hadn’t had much experience with online sales, I decided it was going to be a goal for EvaDane to have a presence on Amazon.” Being a small business means constantly breaking barriers and facing new challenges head on. “There are so many small things that are just more difficult as a small business.” admitted Broytman. “However, with every challenge also brings some little space for growth. Additionally, with new growth comes experience which is completely invaluable in my opinion.” The company continues to expand. EvaDane plans to offer customers hand smithed pieces including silver and gold rings and pendants over the next year.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Owning a business has proved to be an excellent teacher for Broytman. “There have been so many lessons learned along the way and I’m certain there’ll be more to come,” stated Broytman. “My top three biggest takeaways have been: keep the drive alive, hold yourself to a consistent standard and lastly, don’t chase perfection.” Broytman goes on to explain, “I have witnessed the importance of sheer determination over and over. Possessing a strong drive to push past adversity and continue to grow in new ways is a large part of what makes my business succeed.” In addition to possessing drive is the threshold of a strong standard. “I really work hard at maintaining a standard when it comes to anything related to EvaDane. I want to be sure I’m signing off on a certain level of quality which remains consistent over time.” EvaDane strives to be great, but not perfect. “I can’t count how many times chasing perfection has delayed progress for me, especially initially,” recalled Broytman. “Finally, I realized doing the best job I can do is good enough and the rest will follow.” Perfection is not relatable, and Broytman intends for customers to have a connection with her company. EvaDane continues to be a mindful business, focusing on producing beautiful pieces which celebrate their customer’s journey in life.

Kathryn Rose, CEO/Founder, wiseHer

My Background

In 2007 the mortgage market melted down and I was working for a Wall Street firm. They closed our division and I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first child. Right around the same time, my mom had a brain aneurysm that left her a paraplegic. It was a very challenging time in my life but I knew I had to keep going, I had to find something else to do with my life so I decided to learn online marketing, it gave me the flexibility to do what I needed to for my family and the chance to learn something new. The challenge? I had no idea what I was doing! I had to learn from scratch because we didn’t use online tools in my prior career and let’s just say I wasn’t born with an iPhone in my hand. I worked at it and finally started my own successful consulting business in both search engine optimization and social media. I wrote 9 books in 5 years all while raising my children and also co-founded and built a successful technology platform for blog and social media sharing.

About 4 years ago I decided to detour back into corporate and ran sales for a software company. I led the revenue growth to the point that they decided to sell the company. I decided then I was going to go back out on my own. I just needed to find a problem that needed me to solve it, something where I could make an impact. As a woman who’s risen through the ranks in her corporate career and as an entrepreneur I know first hand the challenges women face. I decided to focus there but what? What specific problem could I solve? I spent a lot of of time researching and found that there is a lot of data to support that women are the future of the global economy; not instead of men, alongside them. BUT, women have documented challenges to starting and growing businesses or climbing higher in their corporate careers.

So I’ve built a new platform called wiseHer — an innovative technology platform that provides on-demand expert advice, education and resources to help women thrive in their business, career and lives. wiseHer offers real-time access to experts and advice through a combination of human interaction, AI and training modules designed to help women succeed — and break limits of their own — on their time.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Top 3 lessons

1 — Don’t ever give up — I would write this in all caps if I could. Nothing can stop those who persistently chase their dreams. There were many times I could have given up but I look at my mom who is such a role model for me. Before her aneurysm, she was active, hiking, biking and traveling. Now living her life in a wheelchair but she never complains, she just keeps going, she’s taught herself how to be happy in spite of her challenges. She does what she needs to do to keep thriving and living a full life.

2 — Don’t be afraid to learn new things. The number one thing that holds people back from limit breaking pursuits is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear that they can’t do something. There are so many options today to learn from the privacy of your own home. I took free classes and I taught myself how to code PHP — even while flying on planes! I sought out expert advice on how to build a chatbot and asked a lot of questions so I could understand the ins and outs of building a technology platform.

3- Remember that when you are breaking limits, not everyone will be on board. I’ve dealt with a lot of naysayers in my life and career. Know that you will encounter resistance but that it’s just a sign that you have to keep going, you’re on the verge of a breakthrough that will propel you to success.


Sharon Napier, Chief Executive Officer, Partners + Napier

My Background

“Sharon Napier has broken glass ceilings, defied stereotypes, and raised standards for women (and men) making their way in advertising — and in businesses everywhere.

How did she do it?

As a CEO of a regional advertising agency in Rochester, NY, at a young age, Sharon set out for something bigger, something national. Something that would smash the proverbial glass ceiling and defy the low female CEO statistic.

At age 43, the CEO and mother of two teenage daughters went back to college for her master’s degree. This degree prepared her to navigate a buyout of the Wolf Group, paving the way for the successful launch of Partners + Napier in 2004. To finance it, she and her partners put everything on the line, taking out second mortgages and cashing in IRAs.

Sharon’s ceiling-breaking, tenacious actions created the nationally recognized advertising agency, Partners + Napier. But she didn’t want her name to come first on the door. As agency founder, Sharon deeply believed in putting Partners first — underscoring the critical importance of her colleagues and the deep partnerships they form with clients.

But Sharon’s last name is on the door. In an industry where few women have achieved CEO status (at the time fewer than 2% of CEOs were women; today only 5% are), Sharon broke that barrier. She is fiercely committed to helping other women do the same (witness her second in command: President Courtney Cotrupe and the agency’s amazing employees, 58% of whom are women).

Sharon cites the example set by the hard work of her first-generation, Italian-American parents as fueling her competitive spirit and key to her success as she started to climb the rungs of the advertising business.

From Partners + Napier’s humble beginnings with a handful of clients, Sharon led the agency to create great work for clients like Delta Vacations, Keurig Green Mountain, Bausch + Lomb, Constellation Brands (including Robert Mondavi Wines), Friendship Dairies, BurgerFi, Highmark Health, and more.

Today, Sharon continues to make room for more women in business, and more women in advertising. Recognized as a Trailblazing Working Mother of the Year and the 2018 Athena Award recipient, Sharon has made it her mission to help build an advertising industry that is diverse, inclusive and empowers everyone by paving paths, opening doors and leading the way.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

No one, no one, is successful on their own

I live by this quote from my dad. He was the hardest working person I have ever known but he didn’t do it alone. The success of our agency comes from the 150 people that create, think and execute all day long. My personal success didn’t all come from me — my husband and my daughters had a lot to do with it. By opening up room for my crazy days and long nights in their lives, they helped make it all happen.

Success sure as hell doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

And this is a good transition into my next lesson learned…

Be vulnerable

As a young entrepreneur, I was confident. Many are. You accept that it’s going to be hard, but your energy is high and you feel a bit invincible. That was me.

You get to a point (for me it was 3–4 years into the life of Partners + Napier) where that changes. Hard stuff gets harder. Scaling the company seems almost insurmountable. You’ve built a company and now you have employees that you have to keep employed. And make happy. Same with clients — the work has to stay at a high standard and relationships must stay strong. That’s a lot to take on.

And that’s when it’s time to be vulnerable. Be okay with saying, “I don’t know” and taking the time to figure it out. Be okay with hiring people who have a different approach or skill set than you do. When you acknowledge this, stay humble, and embrace what makes you vulnerable, strength will ultimately come out of it. This helps me be a better CEO.

Blend life and work

I stop interviewers in their tracks now when I’m asked about “work-life balance” for two reasons: 1 — men are never asked this question and 2 — there’s no such thing. For men, women, everyone: let’s take the word “balance” out of this concept. Life needs to become a part of work and vice versa. My husband, who is a lawyer, and I would prep for a pitch (in his case opening or closing arguments) out loud, in our living room. And the kids were there, playing and listening. That worked for us. Later on, they’d say it influenced them. Both of our daughters are building advertising careers in NYC as we speak. You have to figure out what works for you — it’ll be different for everyone.


Zihla Salinas, CEO, Trailer Park Inc.

My Background

I’m what people may consider to be an anomaly as a woman in business — I took on my first major Vice Presidency with an agency at 24 and became a CMO at 33. I was named to DM News’ 40 under 40 list by 34, and built an agency from the ground up when I was 36 — and I had two kids throughout that time. I’m now the CEO of the best entertainment and content marketing organization in the business, and I’m 39. I’ve “broken limits”, but a man with this mackground wouldn’t be considered a pioneer — he’d be one of a dozen who have followed a similar path. Because of this, I have always been a vocal advocate for the empowerment of female executives in business, particularly advertising, as a thought leader and mentor.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I’ve found the most success in my career when I have followed my instincts and kept moving down the path of progress. Favor action instead of stagnancy.

2. You are more valuable than you realize, so never be afraid to stand up for what you are worth. You will never get what you want unless you ask for it, something men never hesitate to do. After all, the worst someone can tell you is no.

3. Take risks! The most rewarding things in my life have come from challenges that absolutely terrified me at first. Without big risk, there is no big reward, so take the leap, despite your fears.


Nadya Nguyen, CEO and co-founder, Hidrate

My Background

Nadya Nguyen is a Russian-born Vietnamese entrepreneur and CEO of Hidrate Inc. At the age of 22, she founded Hidrate after an alarming dehydration incident that almost left her unconcious on a public bus. She then decided to quit her consulting job, live on minimum wage without health insurance, and move to an attic with 3 of her teammates to pursue their passion for helping people live healthier. In March 2015, Nadya and her co-founders made it to the top 1% of startups that were accepted into Techstars, one of the most prestigious startup accelerators in the world.

In 2+ years since its formation, Hidrate has ran a top 1% Kickstarter project, sold over 200,000 units, generated over $10 million in revenue, and powered multiple research studies with Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota, University of Chicago, and University of Pennsylvania. The company has rapidly grown into the leading brand in the smart water bottle category, making a splash on the Today Show, TIME, CNBC, Forbes, TechCrunch, Mashable, FOX Business, Business Insider, and many more.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. As a minority founder, you will hear “no” often. Learn how to separate the “nos” that are grounded in reason from those that are grounded in bias. Ask yourself: does this “no” come from someone that represents my target audience and can help me build my business or avoid mistakes? Or is this just a personal opinion?

2. Your voice represents your internal state of mind and affects how others perceive you. Be mindful about how you sound. And if you want to sound like a winner, then speak like a winner. Personally for me — it’s about sounding steady. When I have to deal with a stressful situation such as a tough negotiation, I intentionally slow my voice down because I know that it makes me sound the way I want to — calm and collected.

3. Dedicate time to think and find your focus. At any point, there will always be thousands of things you and your team can do instead of the exact thing you’re doing right now. Take time to understand how that impacts your ultimate goal. Don’t let the pressure of doing things right keep you from knowing if you’re doing the right thing.”


Samantha DiGennaro, Founder & CEO, DiGennaro Communications

My Background

Many CEOs have Samantha DiGennaro on speed dial and vice versa. Since she founded DiGennaro Communications (DGC) in 2006, Sam’s top-to-top counsel is considered invaluable. Today, DGC ranks as one of the leading agencies shining a light on executives, companies and entrepreneurs looking to grow, develop and position themselves as successful leaders and a source of inspiration and insight to the market. Sam’s energy, creativity and vision drives DGC’s culture and sets the tone for deep and longstanding client, press, industry and influencer relationships.

Sam learned the PR ropes in the ad-marketing industry, having worked for agencies including DMB&B and J. Walter Thompson, where she built and oversaw the New York, North American, and Global Communications teams from 1998 to 2005. It was working in corporate America that Sam saw images of male c-suites and even female leaders who did not seem to champion other women. As a young ambitious woman, she knew there was a better way of doing business and mentoring best-in-class women. When she founded her DGC, she vowed to make it an environment that was not only female friendly, but one that truly empowered women and their career paths. She has mentored countless women, many of whom have gone on to become true leaders in their own right. Sam has successfully broken corporate America’s limits on women in the workplace by making 90% of DGC’s new hires women, year after year. DGC’s leadership is also two-thirds women. And not only is the agency a female-led company, but a family-first company, offering benefits that allow employees to take care of their family and loved ones. In fact, 25% of people who leave DGC come back to continue their careers after realizing how strong a positive influence the company has had on them.

Sam holds degrees from the University of Chicago and has also studied etching at The School of Visual Arts. An alumna of Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School, she has served on the school’s board and that of the Art Directors Club. She also serves as the Membership Integration Chair on the board of The Entrepreneurs’ Organization. An avid adventure traveler, theater lover and art enthusiast, Sam plays competitive softball in her spare time.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

It took Sam 15 years of observing what did and didn’t work within big companies — vis-à-vis organizational dynamics — to determine the type of culture she would like to build at her own company. Sam was grateful for the opportunities to rise through the ranks at global organizations and learn from the industry’s best and brightest, but she was also growing increasingly impatient with office politics, bureaucratic paper pushers, and people who seemed more comfortable maintaining the status quo than challenging it. Not to mention the fact that, more often than not, she was the only woman sitting in the corporate hallway with the c-suite. This frustrated her beyond reason, as she knew she could build and provide a better alternative — and pave the path for young and talented professionals — both female and male — who enjoyed taking risks, solving problems in different ways, and didn’t play by the designated rules.

Based on her past experiences, Sam has seen that good work stems from a positive and encouraging environment. In building her company and feeding her own entrepreneurial spirit, she has also noticed that many employees have the same entrepreneurial bug. This has led to Sam Instilling a culture that provides employees opportunities for involvement, innovation, giving back to the community, and of course — fun. DGC’s culture is both highly entrepreneurial and also nurturing, and Sam’s belief is that good ideas can come from anywhere.

Lastly, Sam has begun to see a shift in the U.S. workplace environment. Not only are more women being more vocal from the recent #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, but in talking to male executives about leadership, she has realized that there’s a greater appreciation for traits that have historically been attributed to females. Women no longer need to be ashamed of or thought as “lesser” for being empathic on the job, building consensus to make decisions, collaborating on projects, and deeply caring about and nurturing colleagues. These are traits that instill true lasting relationships with clients, colleagues and employees.

Liora Dudar, oVertone

My Background

Before co-founding oVertone with her partner, Maegan Scarlett, Liora Dudar had no experience in the corporate world. As a freelance photographer, Dudar was focused on things like art, composition, and lighting — and earning a living. When oVertone Haircare, a color conditioner company the two women bootstrapped and launched while living in separate cities, was born, Dudar and Scarlett quickly found themselves navigating the roles of business owner and employer.

As bosses, feminists, and individuals, the pair made a decision to offer benefits to their employees which they were never provided while in the workforce. One of the first significant benefits they extended to full time employees of oVertone was unlimited sick days. “Maegan and I never wanted to force our team members into a position where they would have choose between their health and their money,” she explains. “It’s just not beneficial to the working relationship on either side.” According to a report by USA Today, about one quarter of the U.S. workforce receives no paid vacation or paid holiday leave whatsoever. In addition to its unlimited sick day policy, oVertone also provides employees with competitive vacation and holiday benefits, as well as “floating holidays” so that individuals can opt to use additional paid time off on dates significant to them.

Just as they have put significant consideration into their employees needs as people, Dudar and Scarlett extend that same attention to the needs of their customers. oVertone’s owned marketing content exclusively features real users and imagery that is aspirational through its authenticity. Since the brand’s inception, Dudar and Scarlett committed to using oVertone’s social channels as a platform to promote intersectional feminism and content that pushes for global inclusivity over narrow definitions of accepted beauty standards. “As a photographer, I never body-shaped or photoshopped to make a person look more ‘ideal.’ I carried that value and practice over into oVertone,” said Dudar. “While it’s more prevalent now, when we got started three years ago it was very rare for a beauty company — especially a hair color company — to say ‘we’re not going to digitally alter images,’ but we did. Promoting body positivity and showcasing visible diversity is important to us. Our product isn’t made for one type of person, gender, orientation or hair type. It’s for everyone who wants colorful hair, and our ongoing goal as a brand is to ensure our Instagram feed and other social channels continue to reflect our diverse community.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

After three years at the helm of oVertone, Dudar attributes one of the biggest lessons learned as a business owner to the process of building a team and cultivating a company culture. “Hiring a skilled person is the easiest thing in the world. But finding an employee whose values align with our own and who will work well with the team is more difficult,” she explained. “Making strategic employment decisions can be hard whether its a new hire or a termination. I’ve found that being available as a sounding board and an active voice in our company culture, while still empowering employees to own their roles, has been integral in fostering and maintaining the type of positive, fast-growing environment we have now.”

Another lesson learned by Dudar and Scarlett early on as business owners pertains to finance, specifically on the topic of outside funding. “You don’t need a venture capitalist to invest in your business plan to launch a company. Just get started with what you have available,” said Dudar. “Less than 3-percent of VC money goes to female CEOs, so as a start-up founded by two women, we were already at a significant disadvantage in the pool of potential investments,” she added. “At the beginning, we had an idea of certain components we thought were mission critical to starting a business. We were working with the lens of the paths we knew, and accepting outside funding was a foreign concept to us. We found that some of the things we thought we needed — which, in hindsight, a venture capitalist could have easily provided to make us feel more comfortable financially — simply weren’t necessary. We were able to pivot and make due with just the essentials. Now we get to enjoy total ownership of a company we built from the ground up, and that continues to grow exponentially.”

Aside from making good decisions in business, Dudar notes that nurturing passions outside of work are equally important. “There’s only so much time you can put off the things that make you happy at your core before it begins to affect you negatively,” said Dudar. “I love the work I do at oVertone and launching the company required a significant amount of my time; so much so that I stopped photographing for almost two years. I didn’t realize how much it had hurt me until I started again,” she added. Practicing regular self-care and making personal passions a priority are essential to sustaining a healthy balance in business and in life.”


Diana Arseneau, Co-Founder & COO, Jamber

My Background

Diana Arseneau is your not-so-average 33 year old mom, juggling raising children (a 7mo old baby and an 11 year old step-daughter) and running a start-up, Jamber, with the goal of nothing less than changing the world.

Diana is an athletic red-head, who became the first person (man or woman) in the history of her Connecticut public high school to attend Harvard College, where she majored in Chemistry. After graduating from Harvard in 2006, Diana joined a New Haven, CT pharmaceutical company, Vion Pharmaceuticals. There, on her first job out of college, she worked with a team of researchers who presented a new drug application to ODAC (the review board that most researchers only ever dream of presenting to; they advise the FDA as to whether a drug should go to market).

Later, Diana was recruited to join the most visible team at Medco, a Fortune 35 pharmacy benefits company in New Jersey. Diana was the youngest member, and the only non-MBA, of the highly esteemed International Business Development Team responsible for bringing Medco services around the world.

In 2014, Diana went on to found Jamber with her then-boyfriend Allen Arseneau (Diana and Allen married in 2015). Jamber creates first-of-its-kind consumer products that enhance the lives of consumers. Their first products are coffee mugs, which they initially created so that Allen’s grandfather could enjoy his coffee without pain. Quickly, the couple realized that all age groups benefit tremendously from their patented and patent-pending invention. After 2.5 years of design, many customers describe their Jamber mug as an extension of their body. The Jamber handle was carefully engineered from a biomechanical perspective to be the most comfortable handle possible and the easiest thing to hold. Jamber mugs are now being used across every state in the U.S., in Canada, and in Europe, and customers report that they are drinking more liquid, and are enjoying their coffee (or water, tea, smoothies, soup…) more. In fact, many customers have reported that they have become obsessed with their Jamber mugs.

Diana is trying to do it all. She believes in raising her children, and she is passionate about her company, knowing that Jamber truly makes a difference in people’s lives. When asked how she balances her time, she responds “One day at a time….with at least 2 melt-downs and 10 diaper changes daily.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

The top 3 lessons that I have learned from all of my experiences would have to be: (1) be persistent, (2) don’t take things personally, and (3) better done than perfect.

Be Persistent. First off, I can’t tell you how many obstacles seem to park themselves in front of you when you run a start-up. I’ve learned that no matter what obstacles come up, I need to be persistent and take action through the issue. I think most entrepreneurs loose steam too soon in the entrepreneurial journey. Remembering to be persistent has really helped me move the ball forward in these 4.5 years of running Jamber. Persistence is how we got our first investors, our first customers, and it’s even how Allen got me to marry him.

Don’t take things personally. There have been more times than I can count when Allen and I are meeting with someone, and they imply or even directly state that Allen runs the company solo. They say, “Diana, you must be so proud of Allen for starting and running Jamber.”

I’ve realized that generally no one means to be offensive. I guess that my long hair and baby in my arms makes people ignore the title “Co-Founder and COO.” I’m not motivated to gain people’s admiration, but I am driven to bring Jamber to the world because I know that Jamber is improving people’s lives.

Better done than perfect. I’ve always been somewhat of a perfectionist. Running a start-up means that I’ve had to leave that pursuit of perfection behind because we have endless tasks and not endless time. The only way to move Jamber forward is to know when good is good enough, and when we can continue to improve in later iterations. Of course, sometimes we have to chase perfection — for instance, with product design, but most of the time, perfection is just not needed.


Dawn Barry, co-founder and CEO, Luna DNA

My Background

Dawn Barry is the Co-founder and President of Luna DNA, a genomic and medical research database powered by blockchain and owned by the individuals that contribute their DNA information. Thanks to platforms like 23andMe and AncestryDNA offering affordable, at-home DNA testing and the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies, Dawn and her team are helping to fight disease, speed-up medical R&D, and improve our healthcare system while rewarding people to share the information they already have.

Previously, Dawn worked as a VP at Illumina, Inc where she was on the forefront of breaking limits in the field of genomics, applying the technology across many aspects of society from food supply to forensics, and accelerating discoveries that weren’t even dreamed possible just a few years ago. Dawn’s leadership and contributions helped open up doors to the use of genetic data for personal health both inside the healthcare system and in one’s own home.

Before Illumina, Dawn worked at one of the first startups focused on personalized medicine and DNA testing. Her primary role was to encourage genetic testing services in pharmaceutical clinical trials for profiling patient’s ability to metabolize medications. While always drawn to the life sciences, she became fascinated by genetics while working at Yale’s Genome Analysis Center. Dawn merged her interest in science with business, graduating with her MBA at University of Connecticut.

Dawn continues to break limits by harnessing the power of the genome for the greater good of the community and medical research. Last year she was named San Diego Business Journal’s 2017 Business Woman of the Year for her contributions to the future of genomics and spoke at the 2016 TEDxSanDiego conference.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Lesson 1: Consistent improvement is a good thing

Over the course of my career, I’ve come to realize the true potential of our DNA. However, it’s been a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario until recently, as we didn’t have affordable tools in place to gather and properly analyze our genetic code. We started seeing a bottleneck in getting the genetic data at scale to the scientific research community who can discoveries. There was a definite need for improving the process of data aggregation and organization, and community involvement, which is why I’ve chosen the career path that I’m on.

Lesson 2: Always be open to new tech

I never would have imagined blockchain would have its place in the field of DNA and medical research. That was until I started understanding how the technology can be used to manage and track data while protecting the contributor’s identity. Now we’re building ways to incentivize the sharing of personal DNA and health information for medical discovery via the blockchain. Exciting stuff!

Lesson 3: Dive into the unknown

Each one of us holds a valuable piece of the puzzle to understand what causes certain diseases and health implications. Unfortunately, today’s approach to medical research and discovery is full of holes and the majority of data collected is siloed, inaccessible to the researchers who can drive discoveries. That’s why I took a chance and decided to venture into uncharted territory to help uncover a holistic approach to medical R&D that allows DNA contributors to engage with medical researchers while owning, controlling and being rewarded for their genomic data contributions.


Cheryl Eisen, Founder & President, Interior Marketing Group

My Background

When I was 24, I left a safe job managing the New York office of a temp agency and started my own firm doing technical executive searches. I was successful for the first 9 years but wasn’t able to survive the tech bubble burst in 2001. I was totally unprepared and, as a result, lost everything: my business, my apartment and most importantly, my self-worth which I had completely built around my success in business.

After several years and another failed start-up, I found myself a job selling real estate- something I knew nothing about but was one of the only jobs I was able to get. It was during this job that I recognized an underserved area in the real estate space: home staging.

I started staging my own listings with great success. Before long, other agents were coming to me to stage their listing as well and I eventually started IMG. Today, IMG has grown into a multi-million-dollar business run predominantly by women. We have over 65 employees servicing 5 states, a 60,000 square foot warehouse of high-end décor and we have so much fun designing some of the most coveted properties in the world

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Take risks, break rules: It was terrifying to leave a comfortable job at 24 to start my own business. Had I not taken that risk, my life would be completely different, and I wouldn’t be where I am today.

2. Don’t be afraid to fail: Once again, had I not failed twice before, I wouldn’t have ultimately found a business plan that was strong and sustainable. The important part of failing is making sure to learn from mistakes and to never be afraid to try again.

3. Always over deliver: You’ll have loyal clients for life and tons of referrals. As a service business, I always tell my employees that we’re all about “”yes””. Nothing is beneath any of us- our clients are always right. The result? We are a 100% word of mouth success story. Our clients know that when they hire IMG we will take care of everything and make sure we make them shine.


Dawn Michelle Hardy, Founder of Dream Relations, PR & Literary Consulting Agency

My Background

The NYC book publishing industry is no easy collective to break into and find a successful niche, however since 2002 Dawn Michelle Hardy, President of Dream Relations, PR & Literary Consulting Agency has built a solid foundation for herself with dual careers in publishing. As a publicist she has aided authors by using strategic promotions to expand their readership, win awards and garner national and local media attention. In a 2013 ‘Cool Jobs’ profile Ebony magazine described Dawn as a “literary lobbyist” for her successful advocacy of debut and self-published authors. A vibrant and sought-after presenter, Dawn facilitates an assortment of workshops on author-platform building, memoir writing and the art of landing a book deal at conferences nationwide. Her drive and dedication to seeing her clients thrive has resulted in authors being recognized with The Phyllis Wheatley Award, The Erick Hoffer Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing, NACCP Image Award nomination, Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY), Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award and USA Best Book Award. As an indie publicist she saw her first New York Times Bestseller with the release of D. Watkins’ debut, The Beastside: Living and Dying While Black in America. Dawn added literary agent with Serendipity Literary Agent to her CV in 2011. There she found her niche in creating highly memorable sports narratives including the 2016 Pen Literary Award shortlisted title Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb of the Washington Post.

A passionate teacher Dawn lends her voice to podcasts and often pens articles to assist writers with best publishing practices. In 2016 Upscale magazine featured Dawn in a business profile and referred to her as a powerhouse who shares industry truths. Her PR brand has garnered maintained a 90% referral rate for over a decade. Dawn is a publicist, literary agent and talent manager who understands that promoting authors and their writing are truly about discoverability, access and an entrepreneurial approach. With a focus on access, in 2017 she created the Speed Mentoring Series: Navigating the Book Publishing Experience to give writers a more intimate connection to industry professionals who shed light on what it takes to reap success. The series successfully launched with teaching brunch events in Philadelphia, NY and panel discussions at the 2017 National Association of Black Journalist Conference in New Orleans.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Waiting for perfection will slow down your productivity. Keep it moving! I’m a creative visionary by nature, however I am not skilled at executing graphics. I delayed so many branding opportunities simply because I was looking for perfection in the visuals. I didn’t have the budget in the early days to pay for premium talent. I’ve since learned to work around the idea of perfection. Things won’t always line up perfectly but that must not delay you in taking one step forward.

2. Look for the signs that you are being divinely guided. I know that working with writers is a part of purpose. I went to school for fashion and international trade. I didn’t possess formal training in publicity, publishing or even entrepreneurship, yet here I have built a thriving career for myself. With 9 out of 10 of my clients coming from colleague or client referrals I know I am doing the work God has requested of me and I love it!

3. Don’t resist the unexpected changes that will arise. I was fired in 2004. I didn’t choose to become an entrepreneur, it chose me. I went from assisting to owning multiple seats at the table. Today I broker the deals instead of setting up reservations for others to have the talks. I was supposed to lose my job working with one author so that I could help hundreds navigate their way to publishing success.


Kate Levenstien, CEO and Founder, Cannonball Productions

My Background

A lifelong foodie with an insatiable appetite for adventure, Kate is passionate about creating big, bold, one-of-a-kind experiences. In 2013, at just 26 years old, she brought her background from LivingSocial and The Oprah Winfrey Show to the world of food and drink, launching the event management agency Cannonball Productions. Today, Cannonball’s signature food and beverage festivals — from the Bacon and Beer Classic to Taco Takeover — draw sold-out crowds across the country.

Kate has grown the company by continually thinking outside the box and negotiating her wildest ideas into reality. After launching a popular bacon dinner series at LivingSocial, she decided to take the concept to the next level: why not serve hundreds of bacon dishes and craft beers inside iconic sports stadiums across the country? Despite having never produced an event as such scale before, she convinced Safeco Field to host her first Classic and has since partnered with nine stadiums (and counting!) from coast to coast.

Kate continues to evolve the event itself, the fastest-growing of its kind; rather than buying out venues, she now brings stadiums on as revenue share co-producers to leverage their local influence. The nationwide popularity of the Classic hasn’t stopped her from experimenting with new event concepts and ticketing models; over the past year alone, she has introduced two new festivals, with a third in the works. To date, over 250,000 attendees have experienced a Cannonball festival. Kate’s career is a testament to the power of thinking big and carving out new opportunities in the world of events and sports.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

The first lesson I’ve learned is the power of thinking big, which will take you a lot farther than following the status quo. Look in the mirror and see a lion rather than a cat. Remember to keep your focus on the big picture as you move forward, too. As a business owner, I’m pulled in 30 different directions each day and it can be challenging to get out from under the small details to focus on the end goal.

Secondly, if you have a good idea, pursue it, but also protect it. At the end of the day, business is business. I’ve learned to neutralize potential competition by forming strategic partnerships and seeking out opportunities for collaboration whenever possible.

Finally, reach out to friends, former colleagues, and even competitors to brainstorm, get second opinions, and have candid conversations. There is so much to be learned from those around you, at every step of your career. I am lucky to have former colleagues who were advocates for me and continue to be supportive with advice and resources. My parents are also great mentors; both were entrepreneurs in their own right, and not only do they help me maintain a strategic mindset, but they also lend their experience and wisdom to the entire team.


Mandy Antoniacci, Founder & CEO, Give Five ™, Angel Investor, Speaker, Activist

My Background

Mandy is one of the most sought-after voices on social and cultural change. Her unique infusions of cultural neutralizers have earned her global recognition and exclusive appearances with social leaders and elite sports figures around the world.

She is the Founder and CEO of Give Five™- the first ever tech company designed to co-create unity around the world through the power of anonymous, positive actions.

As a champion for women’s progress she was the first investor in an all-female tech startup- Foray Collective- and sits on the board of Cyrcadia Health’s iTbra- a sports bra that applies artificial intelligence (AI) to detect early stage breast cancer.

Mandy has successfully conquered male-dominated industries escalating through the likes of Madison Ave, entrepreneurship, sports business, and now tech. During her tenure, she was hand-selected and graduated from Babson College and Harvard Business School’s Graduate Leadership Program.

Her passion and activism make her an in-demand speaker on topics such as social enterprise, women in tech, human connection, and culture. She regularly appears on radio networks such as WGN, ESPN Radio and various sports and business podcasts.

Mandy also advises Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs on how to adapt their voice for today’s socially charged climate.

In 2015, Inc. Magazine tapped her as a Columnist authoring thought leadership and inspiration to entrepreneurs and business leaders.

In 2017, Huffington Post named her one of the “Great Twitter Accounts To Follow” in her field. Mandy’s work has also been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Sports Illustrated, and as curriculum at academic institutions worldwide.

A believer that action combined with education creates empowerment, Mandy is launching the Give Five™ Foundation this fall to provide academic scholarships for students to help co-create the next generation of humanitarians and social change-makers.“

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Every thing was a first time until someone did it.

Every major accomplishment I have made thus far was because I had the courage to do something for the first time. So many people feel that they can’t migrate from one industry or professional role to another because they’ve never done it before or lack the experience. Every thing was a first time until someone did it. If you apply this logic to your life re-writing your own history is inevitable.

2. Forward thinking men invest in forward thinking women.

The progress of women cannot be made without the support of men. Period. I’ve never had a female boss until I became my own boss. But I have been blessed to have countless male role models throughout my career who have mentored me and given me opportunities to showcase my talents. While we still have much more work to be done- especially in areas like economic shifts- what excites me is when I see men attending female-driven conferences I speak at to seek inspiration for how they can better contribute. These men are the forward thinkers of tomorrow.

3. Every thing you do is 90 percent mental.

Last year I ran a full marathon without an ounce of training. This definitely is something I would NOT recommend! BUT, I did it because I knew that a marathon is 90 percent mental and I wanted to test my mental toughness and parlay this to all aspects of my life. The vast majority of what you can and can’t do is what you tell yourself. I crossed the line. I knew I could. But if I told myself otherwise, I wouldn’t have.


Jennifer DaSilva, President, Berlin Cameron

My Background

I’m the president of a creative advertising agency, and I’m a woman. In an industry that is historically a boys’ club, I’ve worked my way to the top of my field and have managed to make invaluable contacts along the way. In a position of influence, I’ve made it clear that not only are women more than capable, they’re often the most talented in the room. At my agency, I launched an initiative called Girl Brands Do It Better, which offers female founded-businesses access to creative branding as well as a full network of brands that are owned and operated by women and often, for women. Through this professional network, we help women break business barriers and create a brand they’re proud to own.

But it’s not just the women we need to be looking out for. Under my guidance, we’ve also instituted Side Hustle days. Once a month, our employees can take one paid day off to work on their passion projects and get them off the ground. Though it may seem counterproductive to our business, we’ve actually seen it encourage collaboration across departments and promote entrepreneurial spirit.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. Know how your company makes money. It sounds basic, but it’s something that is often overlooked. If you’re a copywriter and think your day begins and ends with writing, you’re missing out on crucial lessons that will help you better understand your industry as a whole and more importantly, why your job is what it is. You need to know how you company makes money so you can holistically know your business.

2. Embrace vulnerability. We’re taught at an early age not to let anyone know we’re vulnerable, but in truth, showing that side of yourself will make your relationships more meaningful, whether in a business or personal setting. Vulnerability is nothing you should shy away from. It’s a crucial trait that more leaders need to invest in, especially as younger generations look for these characteristics in their leaders.

3. Network, network, network — and I don’t mean hand out business cards to everyone you meet. Take the time to get coffee with someone and share your talents. In return, you’re likely to make a new connection, and you may even learn something new. Lend a hand when you can and always be conscientious. Your growing network is irreplaceable.“

Carisa Miklusak, CEO, tilr

My Background

“’m the co-founder and CEO of tilr, an algorithmic hiring solution, where I drive the strategic vision and day-to-day execution with relentless passion for the new workforce marketplace. I previously founded and served as CEO of tMedia.

I am often asked, “”How have you become so successful as a woman in business or broken traditional limits?”” The fact is that I never noticed that I was a woman in business, or that there were related limits, until people started asking me that question about five years into my career. As I entered the business landscape almost 20 years ago, I was focused on creating value, solving customer problems, exceeding expectations and being №1. I never took the time to think about the fact that I was a woman doing this or it what it would be like if I was a man. I was in sales early in my career and entering a field that is based on metrics, written on a board for all to see, was an effective way to establish my merit and demonstrate what I could do. I led with results and, therefore, I never gave an institution or a person an opportunity to judge me as a woman. I broke stereotypes that insisted that woman had a harder time advancing in leadership or earning more than male counterparts. Once you establish this mindset, it’s one that you carry with you throughout your career, and one that breeds results.

As I launched my first start up in 2008, I got a slightly different question: “”How do you have the courage as a woman to launch a startup?”” Again, I hadn’t realized that I was a woman building a new business. Rather, I thought of myself as a business leader who had earned the right to try on her own. Fast forwarding to today, I am now acutely aware that I am a “”woman in tech,”” and that I was fortunate early in my career not to recognize limits. I continue to break limits, changing and industry and pioneering better recruitment solutions thought my current startup.

I’ve also taken to a new passion of helping other woman find their path to success. Derived from my main learning lessons, the three things that I tell women as we begin to explore their paths are:

1. Forget that you’re a woman, or that men are men.

2. Make sure to include everyone (men and women) as you create value.

3. Focus on your customers, your solutions, true results.”

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

The three most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences as a woman in business are:

1) Forget that you are a woman and ignore limits. All people have insecurities and all successful people overcome them to blow limits out of the water. This is not specific to women — it’s human nature. Once you accept this you can level the playing field in your own mind, which is more than 50 percent of the battle.

2) Make sure to include men in your path to success. Men can be women’s largest supporters. Men also make up a significant percentage of the workforce. True leaders and stars lead and captivate everyone, not just one gender or type of person.

3) What propels personal success is incremental achievement, day after day, month after month, year after year. Your focus should be on creating new solutions, driving value and producing results. Leverage your passion and discretionary energy to do it better than the benchmark, faster than the limit allows, differently and more effectively than anyone imagined.

Man or woman, success is not created overnight. Success is a commitment, and once those around you know that you are committed, you will find that they will help you to excel instead of working to hold you back.

Sarah Austin, Chairwoman of the board, CodingFTW.com

My Background

Sarah Austin a 2X VC backed renowned entrepreneur with one exit under her belt, and a much beloved internet personality. Austin is known for her work with artificial emotional intelligence agents and has appeared on television shows such as Startups: Silicon Valley on NBC BRAVO.

Ms. Austin didn’t knock on Silicon Valley’s door, she kicked it in. Austin first began her internet fame with webshow Party Crashers, in which she crashed Silicon Valley tech parties, this naturally proved extremely popular.

Austin’s psychographic modelling via cognitive computing has received such high praise as being more advanced than IBM’s Watson’s personality insights API and Cortana when understanding language and semantics.

Having seen Silicon Valley firsthand, Austin is also the founder of Coding FTW. Coding FTW is a non-profit organization established to assess and address the gender divide that is so prevalent in the technology industry.

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

1. You don’t have to be a male to be in tech — it’s for everybody. I think that the media portrays Silicon Valley as a very sexist a boys only club. But the more women leaders we have in technology, the more inclusive it will become. Companies need to focus more on diversity and inclusion and less on the status quo. We need more women math and science teachers, more women CEOs, investors, and entrepreneurs. When young women start to see these examples, they’ll want to apply to tech jobs out of college.

2. Make alliances with other Women. Don’t be afraid to be a “girls-girl.” As a woman it’s impossible to fit into the current male dominated technology business. Use femininity as an advantage to stand out from the crowd. Tech companies are busy building their amazing startup, new app, and world changing technology where business moves at the speed of light. Sometimes it’s hard to get noticed and receive credit for your work by being heads down only. Be bold, speak up, and stand out.

3. Learn to code. The future of business depends on automation. This means that people will be learning to program small hacks to increase productivity and automate much of their own work. The new employee comes with their own suite of tools that will make them as productive as 3 employees combined. How will the existing work force that doesn’t know how to code compete with the new generation of workers coming out of college?


Tina Sharkey

My Background

Should you ever find yourself in need of a humbling comparison, look no further than the dynamic entrepreneur, investor, advisor and driving force behind major initiatives, Tina Sharkey. As someone who has advised Fortune 500 companies — the likes of Salesforce, eBay, Condé Nast, and Johnson and Johnson, to name a few — she’s dramatically altered the landscape, in which businesses connect with their consumers and scale themselves to become leaders in their industry — or the creation of entirely new industries altogether.

Most recently, she co-founded Brandless to bring better-for-you products to the people everywhere and to reimagine the philosophy of what it means to be a brand today. Brandless is a new kind of company, a community that puts people first and makes better products at a fairer price: $3. Within just 6 months since launch, Brandless was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2018.

Driven by her sincere passion for the global community and a clear skill for helping businesses scale to better suit the needs of their consumers, Tina has clearly only begun to change the way we shop and do business. In the past year, Tina has been named one of Entrepreneur’s Most Daring Entrepreneurs and a Top Woman in Retail by Total Retail.“

Here Are The Top 3 Lessons Learned From My Experience:

Take feedback seriously, not personally.

Everyone has a story and everyone develops their skills over time. That is how you get ahead in life. Do what you are great at, do what you love and continue to work with people, companies, ideas, and communities that support, teach and share your similar interests. My sons, dad, sisters, friends and extended family are a source of daily inspiration.

My number one piece of advice would be to always be your authentic self. Don’t try and be what you think others want you to be. Be who you are. It is the only thing that scales.

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