99 “Limit Breaking” Female Founders Share the Top 3 Lessons Learned from Their Experiences

Yitzi Weiner
Feb 7, 2018 · 224 min read
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(Part 4 of 4)

2018 has begun, 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 last set of female founders who are pushing the boundaries.

Jane Mosbacher Morris, CEO, TO THE MARKET

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Here Is My Background

Jane Mosbacher Morris is the Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET, a socially-inspired business connecting ethical producers around the world with consumers and businesses seeking to make a social impact. TO THE MARKET works with large corporations such as Macy’s, Levi’s, Capital One, UBS, Experian, General Mills, and many more.

She previously served as the Director of Humanitarian Action for the McCain Institute for International Leadership, where she managed the Institute’s anti-human trafficking program. She currently serves on the Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. She has traveled, written, and spoken broadly on issues ranging from business and social impact to peace and security.

Her written work has been published on platforms ranging from the National Defense University to Refinery29.com. She is the author of the forthcoming Penguin RandomHouse book, Buy the Change You Want to See: Harnessing Your Purchasing Power for Good. Morris is a member of VF Corporation’s Advisory Council on Responsible Sourcing. She holds a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is married to fellow entrepreneur, Nate Morris.

Here Are My Top Lessons:

1). Move forward with those that support you now. Don’t wait until your dream customer or investor validates you or your idea. Move forward with those that believe in you now. You may never win their approval — and you likely don’t need it.

2). Be your own best friend. The experience of starting a business is filled with extreme highs and lows. During set-backs, it’s easy to beat yourself up. Instead, ask what you would say to your best friend if s/he was in your position. The talk track will likely be a lot more positive — and productive!

3). “Normal” is for the birds. For first-time entrepreneurs, you may hear things like “it normally takes three months to close a round of funding” or “you normally need X dollars of revenue to be taken seriously.” Setting timelines or benchmarks based on other people’s experience is generally unproductive because it doesn’t account for your unique circumstances. Alternatively, set parameters tailored to what is realistic for you and your business.

Tracy Sun, Co-founder & VP of Merchandising at Poshmark

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Here Is My Background

Tracy Sun has spent the last 10+ years between NYC and Silicon Valley, making her no stranger to the intersection between fashion and technology, where she has lead initiatives ranging from the launch of fashion lines to designing data-driven personalization engines.

At Poshmark, Tracy pioneered a social commerce platform that is shifting the fashion landscape, allowing anyone to buy, sell, and share their style, right from their phone, re-creating the physical connection that has gone missing online. Tracy and her team developed a social merchandising engine where personal curation and data-driven algorithms facilitate scalable discovery of over 25M unique items, effectively matching supply and demand. Prior to Poshmark, Tracy founded a social commerce startup, Est. Today, where she focused on product development, merchandising, and growth through key media and fashion brand partnerships.

Before that, she was VP of Merchandising at Brooklyn Industries, a vertically integrated retailer based in NYC, where she oversaw the end-to-end process, from design to monetization, of the Men’s, Women’s, and Accessories collections. She received her BA from Barnard College at Columbia University and her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Tracy has been highlighted as a “Top Female Tech Founder” by USA Today and TechCrunch, a “Woman Making Waves in Tech” by Refinery29, a “Retail Game-Changer” by Marie Claire and is a member of the BoF 500, the definitive professional index of the people shaping the $2.4 trillion fashion industry.

During my undergrad, I pursued neuroscience which I thought would combine my love for working with people and learning about behavior and why people do the things they do. I soon realized the day-to-day wasn’t something I saw myself doing long term and began thinking about other areas I was passionate about. After enrolling in business school, working my way up at a fashion company, and making the move to Silicon Valley to expand my knowledge within the technology and fashion industries, I met Poshmark’s future CEO, Manish Chandra, and our two co-founders, Gautam Golwala and Chetan Pungaliya, and founded Poshmark in 2011.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1) Just do it. Making the decision to change your career is more than just tough. It’s stressful, scary and sometimes exhausting. When you find yourself here, I believe it’s important to just get started. Your new career will start with one first step forward. If you keep your mind open to change and ask lots of questions along the way, you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.

2) You will fall down, but you must get back up. I grew up thinking that you had to be perfect and that you could never fail — a common myth that no one told me was wrong. In each of my careers, I’ve failed, and I’ve failed often. But it’s when I got back up that I succeeded. Because I learned. Failure is a stepping stone to achieving our dreams, so take every chance you have to turn challenges into opportunities.

3) If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? You have to believe in your idea more than anyone else. Be your biggest advocate. It will help you through those days when you fall down and those days when the world tells you you can’t do it. Be yourself, trust yourself and continue to embrace your idea. People are always distracted, but they will notice those making change and will become your support system along the way.

Angela Ficken, Psychotherapist & Entrepreneur, ProgressWellness.com and progressWellnessApp.com

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Angela Ficken

Here Is My Background

Angela Ficken is a psychotherapist and entrepreneur who specializes in OCD, eating disorders, and anxiety related concerns. She writes for the Huffington Post, has been quoted on Bustle.com and PopSugar.com, has a blog on Thrive.com, and is a verified expert on Marriage.com.

Her mission is to teach anxiety management skills and strategies to as many people as she can who struggle with all levels of anxiety. She realized that in order to reach more than the people she helps and meets with in her office, she expanded her creative side and found herself jumping into the entrepreneurial world, hence the launch of the Progress Wellness App! Her mantra is “If it makes me anxious, I am going to do it anyway.” Her full time office is located in Boston, MA.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Flying by the seat of your pants is part of the job description. You don’t always know what you are doing and that is totally fine.

2). Embrace uncertainty and risk. Setting goals, not meeting them, reassessing goals, getting those small and large accomplishments, floundering, failing, restarting, finding ways to keep it moving are all things I’ve learned to embrace and see as learning opportunities. All those challenges are now apart of my experience and help my creative process.

3). Having a team is important. Trying to navigate all the ins and outs on my own was crazy making for me. Creating a team of people who not only support me but help me brainstorm and execute ideas is one major piece I’ve learned in staying grounded and on task.

Without them, I’d be in the abyss somewhere. I think if you have a good group of people behind you it makes taking those risks and flying by the seat of your pants a little easier.

Christina Crawford, CEO, BubblePopBeauty.com

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Christina Crawford

Here Is My Background

From a multi-cultural background, Christina Crawford is the President of Bubble Pop Beauty, LLC, an Atlanta-based, e-commerce hair and skincare brand designed for young female consumers. She was inspired to launch the brand by her eight-year-old daughter.

Before launching Bubble Pop Beauty, Crawford held various positions in marketing, branding, and promotions at various corporations for more than 13 years. She holds a B.A., in Communications from New York University and an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology. Originally from Washington D.C., Crawford currently lives in Atlanta. She is a fashion junkie, an avid reader, loves to travel, cook, exercise, and most importantly, spend time with her family.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

As the CEO of an emerging beauty company, the three most important lessons that I’ve learned that I’d like to share with others are

1). Don’t let failure stop you from moving forward. We all fail at one point or another.

2). Always listen to your intuition.

3). And most importantly, don’t be your own worst enemy and let self-doubt prevent you from starting or growing a business. You need to believe in yourself so others do as well.

Christina Willner, Founder, Amazing Marvin

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Here Is My Background

Christina Willner is a Swiss entrepreneur and the founder of Amazing Marvin. She started out designing and building websites for clients as a freelancer after studying Computer Science at the University of Iowa. Her knack for looking at complex systems and getting to the root of the problem, and her ability to make beautiful and highly functional user interfaces quickly made her a highly sought-after co-founder.

Several startup experiences under her belt, she has learned a lot through her successes and failures, and has become a better designer, marketer, programmer, and team leader as a result.

Three years ago, faced with an ever-expanding todo list and feeling constantly pulled in multiple directions, she realized she needed a tool to get organized and to make it easier to actually get things done. She built the app of her dreams and in 2017 launched Amazing Marvin into the crowded productivity space, no doubt an underdog among giants.

Using principles from behavioral psychology, Marvin’s design and features are unique and truly innovative. Beyond being a task manager and day planning tool, Marvin has a plethora of customizable features that help with everything from procrastination, to long-term planning, to overwhelm. But the vision for Marvin is bigger still: “I want Marvin to be more than just a useful tool. Our long-term plan is to have the app provide fully automated guidance and coaching”, Christina says.

The company is entirely self-funded and there are no plans to take funding. “I don’t want the pressure of creating a high return for investors to distract from the larger vision of creating something truly amazing and helpful.” While Marvin already has a very passionate fanbase, growing the company with limited resources to gain a significant share of the productivity market will be a challenge. But Christina’s passion for helping people overcome procrastination and feel better about their lives is what drives her to keep pushing forward.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. I see many people working themselves into a burnout when building a business. In fact, I had a stress related breakdown myself in 2016. It really brought me to make not just my physical but also my mental health a top priority. Stress can be sneaky. Often it is there without us being acutely aware of it. And that long-term underlying stress is what causes people to burn out.

2). To be an effective entrepreneur, it is vital to have a good system to organize yourself. Not only does this help to keep stress at bay, but the success of your business hinges on you being able to get the important things done. It is easy to lose yourself in the endless sea of busy work that is also part of the job or to procrastinate the important tasks endlessly. Fear of failure and self-doubt are two of the most common underlying reasons for procrastination and most entrepreneurs have plenty of both. Having strategies available to deal with them is vital.

3). If you don’t 100% stand behind your business and love what you are doing, you will not be able to keep going when it gets tough… and it will get tough. Most businesses require unbelievable amounts of stamina and constant motivation. If you aren’t convinced that the world absolutely needs what you are building, you will probably give up sooner or later.

Carmita Semaan, Founder and President of the Surge Institute

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Here Is My Background

It has been said that “high-impact entrepreneurs disrupt the status quo and drive enhanced societal benefits.” These trailblazers create immeasurable positive change for generations to come. And so it is with Carmita Semaan.

Carmita Patrice Semaan is the Founder and President of the Surge Institute, a national nonprofit organization with the mission to educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change in urban education. Surge’s signature program, the Surge Fellowship, is a year-long program that enhances the expertise and aptitude of emerging education leaders of color, empowering them to transform the system.

Carmita is a proud product of Birmingham, Alabama — a city that has significantly shaped who she is, what she values and how she defines her life’s work. Carmita’s career started in Corporate America where her technical savvy, business acumen, faith and commitment to developing others quickly advanced her through assignments in global marketing, strategic planning, and engineering/operations management for Fortune 500 companies including Procter & Gamble and the Danaher Corporation. In spite of her corporate success, Carmita yearned to lead high-impact initiatives that benefit urban youth and transform urban communities; and so began her journey into the nonprofit sector.

This passion for empowering our country’s most underserved young people by providing them with pathways to excellence through education and holistic supports led Carmita to the Chicago Public Schools Office of High Schools. There she served as Chief of Staff under the leadership of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She spearheaded change initiatives as Chief Strategy Officer for America’s Promise Alliance, a youth development organization founded by Gen. Colin Powell. Carmita is also the former CEO of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), a medical research foundation that funds global breakthrough research to find a cure for epilepsy — the disease to which her mother succumbed.

Carmita holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan. She received a 2016 Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence Award and was selected as a 2013 Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund. She was a 2010 Aspen/NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellow, a 2009 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, and she is a graduate of the Broad Residency of Urban Education.

Carmita serves on the Kellogg Alumni Council and on the Board of Directors for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, Marwen, and America’s Promise Alliance.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). My journey has brought with it several lessons, not the least of which is to embrace your purpose by actively pursuing work that marries your passions with your unique talents, gifts and genius. I truly believe that is the recipe for living a life of purpose. When my mother passed away, I was working in a field that paid me well doing work in which I excelled. But I felt empty. I was not pursuing a professional dream I had taken the time to define for myself. Reflection, soul searching and unfortunately a tragic loss helped me realize that life was too short to wait to walk in my true purpose — to use my skills and gifts to dramatically change outcomes for young people and communities whose stories mirrored my own. I took the leap — leaving corporate america to work in urban education. The goal became to change systems that have too often failed my people, and I’ve pursued it ever since.

2). As I rose to more prominent roles in education, it only took a scan of the executive rooms I often navigated to realize I was the only or one of the only people of color at the table. I asked myself why. I am not a unicorn. Brilliant black and brown people are not few and far between, but the opportunities too often are. I learned and embraced the important lesson of not only having a seat at the table, but USING that seat to impact change for communities too often ignored and underserved. When we earn seats at “the table” we have to use them to catalyze positive outcomes…otherwise we dishonor those we serve and do a disservice to those who paved the way for us to be there.

3). Finally, to say that starting something from nothing is difficult is the understatement of all understatements. As a founder, I can say it takes indescribable vision and commitment. But a lesson that my mother repeated throughout my childhood has taken Surge from a idea to a multi-city organization and social justice movement in just four years. That lesson was, “You gotta believe it before you see it, or you’ll never see it.” My emptying bank accounts and cashing in retirement accounts to pursue a dream left others scratching their heads; but I was unwavering in my efforts. I’ve been called courageous and brave, but really all I am is my mother’s daughter. She instilled what some would call an affinity for risk-taking in me by teaching me that I had to believe in my dreams before I could realize them. If I couldn’t see it before it happened, it never would. Surge — and the lives being forever changed through our work — is all the evidence I need to know that this lesson is real.

Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack

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Here Is My Background

Tasia Duske was hired to NYC-based renegade museum tour company, Museum Hack, in March 2016 as Staff Manager and promoted to Chief of Staff in October of the same year. In that role, Tasia worked very closely with Nick Gray, Museum Hack’s founder, and other department managers to support strategic initiatives and staffing leadership company-wide. Duske’s education includes a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Washington University. Though her career began in the world of marriage and family therapy, Duske quickly realized that she could apply her education in the corporate world through staff management positions; making sure the “work families” into which she was hired received the same TLC typically provided in traditional family therapy. As part of the Museum Hack work family, Duske has worked on museum consulting projects with organizations from Kansas to Scotland, and has trained tour guides as Museum Hack expanded into their two most recent cities. Duske’s progression through the ranks at Museum Hack has been swift, and each promotion has been preceded by passionate and intentional hard work to expand the previous position into the role which matched the title she then received. Her entrepreneurial acumen, patience, empathy and hard work paved the way for Duske, at 29, to become CEO of Museum Hack, a $2.5+ million/year company with over 60 employees across North America.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Expand beyond your job description — when I was first hired to Museum Hack as staff manager, the duties I was tasked with were to answer customer service calls, and help facilitate our tours by bringing wine to the guests during a portion of their tour. As the company expanded, I saw opportunities to help grow and establish Museum Hack as a more mature and stable company and I stepped up to help out. I worked to establish and support our accounting and HR departments, add more structure and hierarchy to our guides’ ranks, and equip our department heads to do their best leading our remote team members. I made sure to learn as many aspects of the business as I could, heeding the advice of my mother, “build your resume for the position you want next” by having a knowledge of each facet of our business and the respect of my colleagues in each department, I was able to essentially, create my own promotion.

2). Operate with a “1 year consultant” mindset: Consultants often do not have the luxury of time — they get in, ask questions, and create fierce action plans to address issues quickly and directly. Regardless of which position you’re in or how long you plan to be in that role, operate as if you had only 1 year to do your best possible work and create the largest positive impact.

3). Redefine what it means to be a “Boss”: Think of being a “Boss” as a type of relationship. What are the qualities that make a great friend, coach, significant other, or family member? Develop your style of leadership based on the qualities of a healthy and strong personal relationship because you are responsible for building a healthy and strong corporate relationship with your team and within your company. Also, don’t be afraid to have the regular DTR (define the relationship) talk.

Robin Koval, CEO and President, Truth Initiative

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Here Is My Background

“Robin Koval is the CEO and president of Truth Initiative, the national public health organization dedicated to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.

A leader in the world of advertising and marketing, and a New York Times best-selling author, Koval joined the organization in 2013. She re-launched its award-winning truth® youth tobacco prevention campaign and refocused its world-class research and activism programs to speak, seek and spread the truth about tobacco. The truth “Finish It” effort has already earned a Clio and Cannes Lion for enlisting Generation Z to use new channels of communications to spread their influence and become the generation that finishes the tobacco epidemic.

Koval has deep roots in advertising and marketing. A co-founder and CEO of the Kaplan Thaler Group, she grew that company from a start-up in 1997 to a billion-dollar agency working with Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, Aflac and other cherished brands. She led the agency’s integration with Publicis and was named CEO of Publicis Kaplan Thaler — New York’s fifth largest advertising agency.

She and Linda Kaplan Thaler are co-authors of several best-selling books. Their most recent book — Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary — was released in September 2015.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Throughout my life, I have learned that achieving success is often counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom. As we embark on our careers we often hear that “nice guys finish last,” that to be successful you must be born with a specific pedigree and that focusing on the details is a waste of time. However, in my experience I have found none of that is true.

When I co-founded my advertising agency with Linda Kaplan Thaler, we had six employees and our office was a 600-square foot walk up apartment — we stored our files in a bathtub. Yet, despite our humble beginnings, we persevered and became one of the fastest growing ad agencies in the country by doing things differently. Now, as CEO and president of Truth Initiative®, the national public health organization dedicated to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco, we take on giants like the tobacco industry every day and the lessons below remain the secrets to our success.

Simply put, it pays to be nice. N-I-C-E is one of the most powerful four-letter words in business and in life. In a world where clients, customers and consumers face more choice and complexity than ever, being nice will separate you from the rest and help you build the all too elusive trust that is lacking in so many relationships today. And if you are not nice in today’s hyper-connected world, you will be digitally outed in a nano- second. Remember, there is no delete in cyberspace.

G-R-I-T, and its component traits of guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity, has no gender and is the greatest equalizer in business and in life. Anyone, at any time, whatever their background or resources, can lay claim to it. With grit, there’s no telling how far you can go, how much you can do, or how successful you can be. We all possess it. It costs nothing and it’s never too late to get more of it.

Last, but not least, I want to underscore the importance of sweating the small stuff in our lives and in our careers. Our smallest actions and gestures often have outsized impact on our biggest goals. Did you double-check that presentation one last time, or hold the elevator for a stranger? Going that extra inch speaks volumes to others about your talent, personality, kindness and motivations.

Namaste | Nail Sanctuary

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Here Is My Background

“Mecca Elliot’s background is rooted in the beauty and wellness industry. She was a successful hair stylist and salon owner for over 10 years. Most hair stylists are more than just stylists, often times they become their client’s secret box, therapist, and friend. This is where her desire to coach women on self-healing began naturally.

Three years ago, Mecca was faced with the most challenging time in her life. Her health was failing and she was on 11 different medication for various health issues. In addition, her marriage was on the brinks of expiration. This was that moment in her life where she was faced with looking at the woman in the mirror and who she had become. From that point forward, she decided to practice meditation and discovered her purpose.

She knew meditation was scientifically proven to help with several medical issues but she was not expecting the personal and spiritual shift she experienced during her journey of learning how to meditate. Those around her began to notice and comment on the changes and who she was evolving into. Her clients at the time would ask her to help them meditate, and this is when she began teaching them what she knew from behind the chair. From that moment on in, her salon would only play Deepak Chopra and meditation music to encourage meditation and self-healing.

Early 2017, after about two years of practicing meditation, she decided to become official and get certified by one of the top and best universities in the space — Chopra Center; taught by the very man Dr. Deepak Chopra who, through his teachings, inspired her along this journey. After graduation, Mecca was given the opportunity to share with Deepak the role he played in her journey, and shared with him her plans for Namaste | Nail Sanctuary, a sanctuary for women that combines the necessity of nail salon services with the life changing benefits of meditation, relaxation, and rejuvenation — his reaction was pure joy and encouragement.

Namaste | Nail Sanctuary is disrupting the industry as a nail and meditation sanctuary for women to de-stress, relax and rejuvenate their mind, body, and nails. Even before announcing the franchise opportunity, the brand has awarded licenses for more than 566 sanctuaries and is projected to have 100 locations open and operating by 2021. The first location is slated to open February 19, 2018.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Lesson 1: I was always a “problem solver” and “people pleaser” which came along with being an entrepreneur in a customer service driven industry and working so closely with women. Living my life in this space, I often times held onto other people’s problems in addition to my own, and this ultimately resulted in emotional stress which lead to physical illness. Through my journey of meditation, I have to learn to be a “Vision Holder” not a “Problem Solver” and to choose “Self-First” which has enabled to be a strong, effective leader.

Lesson 2: Know your business inside and out to set yourself up for success. I knew that in order for Namaste to blaze the trail and be disruptive in the beauty/wellness industry, I needed to get the best education when it came to the practice of meditation. I knew my years of experience owning a salon would be useful, but I also knew I needed to be properly educated and trained on meditation, starting with the history that dates back to thousands of years ago and having knowledge of the scientific studies and the physical and psychological benefits.

Lesson 3: The most important lesson I’ve learned being a business owner is very personal to me because it’s my passion and what I currently teach. And that is, regardless of who you are or the business you are in, there is no better transformation a person can make than to achieve improvement over their cognitive, emotional, and internal processes. Basically, living your best life and tapping into your “higher self” with no inhibitions.

Dr. Rebecca Thomley, Chief Executive Officer, Orion Associates

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Here Is My Background

“Rebecca Thomley is an entrepreneur, licensed psychologist, and dedicated disaster relief specialist. She is the CEO of Orion Associates and its ten companies. Orion Associates provides management services for both related and unrelated companies, including profit and non-profit organizations. Orion Associates has been recognized for the past three years as one of the top ten fastest growing woman-owned businesses nationally. Orion and its affiliates have also been recognized by Inc. Magazine’s “”500 Fastest Growing Companies”” list for the past four years. Orion Associates and its affiliated organizations operate in seven states and in Haiti.

Rebecca is one of the founding members of Headwaters Relief Organization. Headwaters’ volunteers have been around the world, responding to floods, fires and tornados in multiple states, a tsunami in the Philippines, hurricanes in New Orleans and New York, and earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal and the refugee crisis, among other disasters. Headwaters operates an ongoing mental health clinic in New Orleans, and has on-going services in Haiti.

Rebecca’s education includes graduate degrees in Psychology and Rehabilitation, Business, Psychopharmacology; Public Health, and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She serves in major advisory roles with the American Red Cross Division of Mental Health and the American Psychological Association’s Disaster Response Network. Rebecca has published, written or edited books on breast cancer and international children’s book related to trauma. She has also published three research studies related to her work in New Orleans, two in partnership with Lesley University and one with Georgetown University. A study related to the organization’s work in Haiti has been published in partnership with Georgetown University with a follow-up study planned for 2017.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“I was part of a grassroots group that founded Headwaters Relief Organization after Hurricane Katrina. Headwaters seeks to inspire individuals to volunteer in service to others. Headwaters has worked nationally and internationally and has volunteers globally. We have worked with teams and people who have vastly different experiences and cultures than our own. We create partnerships in communities wherever we serve. We are open to new opportunities and have not limited ourselves. This has resulted in incredible opportunities for volunteers to unite in humanitarian work.

I encourage others to look for advisors, from both inside and outside of their industries. It is important to work with people with different training and education. They offer new perspectives on all aspects of your business. I also encourage a focus on ethical leadership and how that can impact on your success as well as your own peace of mind. I challenge individuals to open their work for review and to see this as an opportunity for growth. I may also advise someone to look at opportunities through a variety of perspectives. This allows for creative growth. In addition, I encourage careful and thoughtful evaluation and understanding before offering an opinion or making a decision.

I have never felt like I couldn’t pursue my goals because I am a woman. I have certainly experienced incidents where I was treated differently because of my gender. I have tried to manage those situations through humor and as way to educate others about potential barriers and strategies for overcoming them. Instead of focusing on these experiences, I work to create mutually beneficial partnerships in support of other professional women. We can all rise together.

Maggie Winter, CEO and Co-Founder, AYR

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Here Is My Background

As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Winter made and sold graphic t-shirts to a local boutique. She got her first job out of school working as an assistant merchant at J.Crew in 2005. She worked under legendary ‘Merchant Prince’ Mickey Drexler’s leadership at J.Crew and Madewell until 2012, when she left the company to found AYR, a start-up womenswear brand incubated by Bonobos, a pioneer in digital brand-building.

My present experience

Winter is the co-founder and CEO of women’s brand AYR. AYR, which stands for All Year Round, launched online 2014 as a line of elevated essentials. Vogue described the jeans as being ‘like a gift from the denim gods.’ In its first year, AYR surpassed $1M in revenue. In its second year, it spun out of Bonobos and incorporated as in independent company. Dutch, LLC, which owns the brands Joie, Equipment, and Current/Elliot, took a minority stake in AYR in 2016. In 2017, AYR opened its first stores in NYC.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“When we spun out of Bonobos, we had three months to form a company, negotiate the separation and transfer of assets from our parent company, create a free-standing P&L, finance our business, build a new website, hire a team, and find an office. All while continuing to run our existing business during our busiest time of year. It was a crash-course in business ownership.

Just Do It.

You can get lost in ideation. Iteration is everything. You can’t improve until you begin. Start small. There’s an impulse, as a founder with a fully-realized vision, to execute that vision in its entirety. Don’t! Start with one product, one sales channel, one social platform, one sale. Just… start. At our company, we often say, ‘You can do anything. But you have to do it.’

Create Value.

It’s the best time in the history of the world to be a consumer. If you’re making something today, it has to create value. It has to serve a purpose. You will get most likely get paid more and work less (at least in the beginning!) as an employee than as an entrepreneur. So, be sure that you are offering an improvement or an alternative to all the existing choice out there. Before we launched, we produced a small run of our jeans. We thought they were truly the softest, best-fitting, most flattering jeans we’d ever put on. But it didn’t matter what we thought — we needed to test the market. We rented a loft in the Garment District for two days and invited friends, family, and editors to come try them on. Vogue was our first appointment. We sold 200 pairs of jeans in two days. It definitely didn’t guarantee our success, but it did help validate our belief that we were making a product people wanted.

Like What You Do.

Because you’ll be doing a lot of it. All the time. Instead of other things you might rather be doing. At the beginning, your passion, tenacity, and sheer willpower are the fuel that will power this thing. There’s no autopilot, no neutral gear. It will be lonely. It will be hard. Have a support system. Other founders make great lifelines. You’ll appreciate friends and family who don’t care what you do — only who you are.

Pamela Thomas, President and Principal Owner, The Thomas Collective

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Here Is My Background

“Pamela Thomas began her career in broadcast journalism prior to transitioning into the communications industry. As Senior Vice President at Hunter Public Relations, she managed numerous national campaigns within the food and wine & spirits arena, representing the likes of Kraft Foods, McIlhenny (Tabasco) and developing creative for Gallo Wines during her eleven-year tenure. Since establishing The Thomas Collective thirteen years ago, Thomas has worked with some of the most iconic brands in the world — spanning the lifestyle, wine & spirits, health & wellness, tourism, hospitality and luxury industries. Her agency specializes in creating custom 360 communications campaigns, including publicity support, event production, curated digital and social media campaigns and more.

Thomas has created over seven award-winning programs in the past three years alone and she was the recipient of a Stevie Award for Women in Business, citing The Thomas Collective as one of the top ten small business of the year. She holds degrees in Urban Planning and Communications and a M.F.A. from the University of Washington.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“1. A strong work ethic is the foundation of teamwork. The most important preparation for building my business was not the economics classes I took in college or the fancy internship I snagged, it was tending bar and waiting tables. I learned time management, customer service, communication, multi-tasking skills, focus, and most importantly, how to both help and rely on others.

Today, I look for it in every employee we hire, at every level: will this candidate do everything they can to help their team to meet their goals? Will they care enough about their peers that they will do everything in their power not to let them down? Candidates who can deliver on this nearly always demonstrate the strongest work ethic.

2. People matter most. And your behavior should make this apparent to everyone you work with, so take care of your professional community: be fair with your customers, thoughtful with people who provide you with services and generous with your employees. I guarantee that you will see your business grow, because you always win when you surround yourself with good people.

3. Admit your mistakes. There’s no question, this is tough to do. But in doing so, you provide an example of humility and create a culture for your team to do the same. Be accountable, admit when you’re wrong, and the people you lead will do the same. And truly, there is so much to learn from your mistakes, especially if you’re not busy dodging them…”

Nina Faulhaber and Meg He, Co-founders of ADAY

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Here Is My Background

“Nina Faulhaber and Meg He are the co-founders of ADAY, a direct-to-consumer technical clothing brand with a mission to create the clothing of our future: Beautiful, technical + sustainable staples. Both Nina and Meg wanted to simplify their wardrobes and set a new standard for wardrobe staples, one that focuses on versatility + lasts through the seasons.

Prior to ADAY, Nina was a Venture Capitalist at Index Ventures, an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and in a former life a competitive gymnast in Germany.

Before co-founding ADAY with Nina, Meg worked at Poshmark, Cowboy Ventures and Goldman Sachs. Meg has a BA from Oxford University, an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Both Nina and Meg were named on Forbes 30 under 30 in Retail & E-Commerce in 2016.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Lesson 1: Simple is better

Simplifying is a huge part of the ADAY brand and my personal life. When most fashion brands feature hundreds of styles, we launched with just seven, our “simplified wardrobe”. Whilst six out of seven were very successful, most people initially gravitated towards one, our Throw & Roll Leggings, the most unique piece. We could have easily launched with the Throw & Roll only. We thought we had kept it simple but if I were to start over I would launch with 1 to 2 products only, that’s it.

For me, practicing simplicity means downsizing my wardrobe, declining most meeting requests, doing on one thing at a time whenever possible and not taking myself too seriously.

Lesson 2: Whatever you think you know: Your team knows better (and your customer knows best).

The collective usually comes to a better result than the individual. When you hear about the amazing achievements of founders that’s never the complete story. Certainly in the case of ADAY, every single team member contributed so much to what defines our product, what we as a brand stand for and the community we create.

The lesson here is ‘ask the team’. I’m a big proponent of an idea meritocracy and subsequently ideas being refined together as a team. And we like to listen to our customers to know if we’re on the right track.

Lesson 3: Date yourself

This is an important lesson for anyone attempting to operate on her full potential — which is always the case for a founder: Get to know yourself. Keep a journal, go on solo dinners, speak to a coach, ask your team, ask your friends, practice self-awareness.

I thought I knew quite a bit about myself at the start of the entrepreneurial journey but there was so much more to learn. For example, I’ve found it initially difficult to admit weaknesses, not because I’m that great at anything but because of the opposite: I’m a jack of all trades who hops around creative, analytical and people tasks. Now I’ve learnt I’m skilled at initiating, inspiring + thinking bigger in all of those areas but I’m terrible at following through to the end. So I need to work with people that are great at following through.

Everyone has to learn their own lessons here but my lesson is to make some space for reflection no matter how busy I am.

Stephanie Tilenius, CEO, Vida

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Here Is My Background

Stephanie is an entrepreneur and intrapreneur who builds products, platforms, and businesses from the ground up.

She is currently the Founder and CEO of Vida Health, a digital therapeutics platform that helps individuals overcome chronic mental and physical health conditions. Stephanie founded Vida after watching her father deal with four chronic conditions at once. She and her brother struggled to get him the daily care he needed to manage and reverse the conditions. Vida seeks to address the problems in the healthcare system that made it so hard to get her father the care he needed.

Prior to founding Vida, Stephanie held VP roles at Google, eBay, and Paypal. In these roles, Stephanie transformed online shopping. At PayPal she built merchant services from the ground-up to become PayPal’s fastest growing business. She then went on to lead eBay’s turnaround and took the marketplace from negative to positive double digit growth rates. At Google, she built the teams that launched Google Wallet, Google Shopping and Google Express.

Now she’s working to transform healthcare. Vida combines digital therapies with 1:1 health coaching and evidence-based programs to help individuals change their behavior and overcome common physical and mental chronic diseases. “

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. Be intentional about culture and talent from Day 1 — Don’t compromise on culture. You should constantly be aligning culture and talent with the mission, vision and stage of the company.

Your talent needs will change over time. In the beginning, you will need builders and people with a growth mindset who can wear many hats and put out fires. They need to have a growth mindset and be ready to take ownership. As you scale, the need for more specialists will emerge.

You don’t need rockstar assholes, you need a cohesive team that can work together. If a potential hire is super talented but not a culture fit, it’s unfortunately not going to work and you have to be willing to let them go. Similarly, it won’t work if a someone’s ambitions do not match with the company’s stage.

2. Be Fully Present, Everyday — As CEO, everyone is watching you. You have to believe in and live the mission of your company. You have to bring it to life.

Be present for your team and bring your whole self to work. Less multi-tasking and more listening. More sleep and fewer red-eyes. You will make better, more measured decisions and your team will respect you for it. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.

3. Do every job before you hire — As a start-up CEO, you end up doing almost every job before you hire for them because you are people-constrained while you work towards your first growth milestones. This can feel like a challenge — you have to wear a lot of hats at once and prioritize ruthlessly. But it allows you to understand the function you’re hiring for at a deep level. You know what to look for in a potential hire, because you know the ins and outs of the job.

You also have to know when to get out of the way and hire for the position so that you don’t become a roadblock to scaling. “

Anula Jayasuriya, Founder and Managing Director at EXXclaim Capital

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Here Is My Background

Anula Jayasuriya is a Silicon Valley life sciences venture capitalist who “went from pariah to pioneer” when she chose a career in big pharma and investing over academic medicine — bridging the gap between the business and medical communities before anyone else did. On the importance of VC funding for female entrepreneurs she says, “There is a social justice angle, but more powerful than that is the fact that our society, which is fifty-one percent female, is being systematically deprived of important insights, preferences, choices, and management styles of women.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Disruption was never my goal — it’s just what happened. It started when I left Sri Lanka in my teens — and against my mother’s wishes — for study in the U.S. I was among the first doctors to recognize the dramatic changes that would arise from the intersection of business and medicine, and was chastised by my medical colleagues for “selling out” after going for my MBA and becoming a healthcare venture capitalist. Along the way, I caused more family disruption by marrying a “WASP” and bearing a daughter of mixed race. Today my passion is investing in women’s health, a huge under-appreciated market opportunity overlooked by most venture capitalists.

Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned (and still learning):

• One person’s “pariah” might be another’s “pioneer.”

• Live by your values, even (and especially) when they work in your disfavor.

• Demand fairness, reciprocity and integrity from yourself — and appreciate it in others.

Allison Andrews, founder & program director, OmBody Health

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Here Is My Background

Allison believes that health is multi-dimensional, individual, and requires daily practice. So much more than what we eat or how much we move, our level of wellbeing, self-integrity and potential is determined by how in tune and aligned we are with that which we care about most, our core values. The same is true at the organizational level.

Allison was introduced to the world of holistic health and wellness through the lens of yoga and meditation. After almost 10 years of practice, she received her Yoga Teaching Certification in 2012 from the Association for Yoga and Meditation in India. Since then, Allison has undergone additional trainings in both Yoga Anatomy and Adjustments at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, taught over 500 hours of yoga and meditation to a variety of skill levels and body types, and attended a 10-day silent meditation course (Vipassana) during which she practiced over 100 hours of meditation.

In 2014, Allison founded OmBody Health, a Portland, Maine-based workplace wellness company, with the mission to energize corporate culture and brings vibrant health to busy people. That same year she received her Health Coaching Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Since then, Allison has worked with over 30 companies and provided over 130 workshops and group health coaching programs at organizations throughout New England. As the Program Director at OmBody Health, Allison has guided many HR, Wellness, and Senior Leadership Teams in developing and implementing holistic wellness programs, including: onsite yoga, fitness and meditation and mindfulness classes, healthy lifestyle workshops on a variety of topics including stress reduction, healthy eating, and financial wellness, online wellness interest surveys and wellness challenges, and employee health and life coaching.

In December 2016, Allison published her first book, a comprehensive self-care guide titled Wake Up! You’re Alive, But Are You Living? 40 Simple Self-Care Rituals for a Healthy, Abundant, and Purposeful Life. In addition to being a published author, Certified Health Coach and Yoga/Meditation Teacher, Allison has her Master’s Degree in Education with a specialization Corporate Wellness.

Allison is breaking limits by bringing eastern and holistic healing paradigms like yoga and meditation to workplaces throughout New England. These supportive practices are helping employees hone their focus, heal their bodies, and enhance their quality of life. Allison’s vision is workplaces that nurture health, happiness and full potential living. “

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Lesson 1: Entrepreneurship is not all glitz and glam.

Wow, does entrepreneurship look sexy or what? There’s all that flexibility, excitement, and the ideas seem to flow like water, right? Being immersed in entrepreneurship for the past 4 years has taught me that starting a business is the easy part, it’s managing all of the complexities that come along with growing the business that is the hard part. While there are certainly many perks, entrepreneurship for me has meant working when everyone else is taking weekends off, an underlying feeling of being overwhelmed, and in many cases learning through failure.

Lesson 2: We must cultivate yin to compliment all that yang.

Being a female founder has challenged me in many ways, but I would say one of the most prominent struggles has been accepting and embodying the natural inconsistencies associated with being a woman within a world that tells me I should be consistent, dominant, and certain. I continue to ask myself, how can I lead and run my business more like a woman, rather than like a man? The ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang has guided me to understand the importance of “non-doing” to compliment all of the “doing” that is associated with operating and growing a business. When I am proactive about cultivating the yin within, I am more effective and authentic in business and in life — and I am able to conquer the underlying overwhelm, even if only momentarily.

Lesson 3: To be successful, one MUST hustle.

Whether you’re a woman or a man, building a successful business starts with a whole lot of hustle, rejection, falling down, and picking yourself back up, over and over again. At least it has for me. I remember when I first started OmBody Health, I was often at a loss for what to do, so I would just make sales calls (which continues to be the number one thing on my agenda, although it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should). This is how I built my business in year one: doing 100% of the sales and servicing 100% of the clients (aka, hustling my ass off). I did not have a perfect business plan, but I did have a whole lot of grit, and it is the latter that propelled us to grow into a leading workplace wellness organization in New England.”

Janice Levenhagen-Seeley, Founder and CEO, ChickTech

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Here Is My Background

I’m the Founder and CEO of ChickTech, a national nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women in the technology industry and creating a more inclusive technology culture. I founded ChickTech in 2012 based on my experiences as a woman in tech. My husband and I are also co-owners of Aero Teardrops, a 2.5 year-old teardrop trailer building company based in Portland, OR. Prior to starting these businesses, I did marketing and business consulting for small businesses, along with internships at some prevalent tech companies, including HP, Tektronix, and Intel. I have a BS degree in computer engineering and an MBA.

Getting to this point in my career has required that I break down some critical barriers:

I grew up in the middle of nowhere on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. We worked nonstop and couldn’t get ahead–we were constantly on food stamps and worried about losing our home. I was bullied for being poor, and, due to a lack of education and low self esteem, I had my son when I was 16 (he’s now older than I was when he was born!). Growing up in a rural area with no exposure to white collar professionals, having no money for activities or college, and being a teen parent put me in a pretty different class from the middle to upper class people you usually see starting their own business. Although this journey is a much longer story, I credit my love of challenges, my determination to provide for my son, and my strong hatred of failure for taking me beyond those barriers in my youth.

After I chose to go into computer engineering, I encountered other types of barriers. The industry is very male dominated–my program was 8% women. This, combined with my lack of knowledge about tech and the bias of my fellow students and professors, made me feel like I didn’t belong and wasn’t good enough despite my good grades and enjoyment of the work. I also dealt with sexual harassment throughout my college career and beyond. I chose to leave the tech industry after I graduated due to these factors. It wasn’t until I volunteered at an event to get youth into tech that I realized that I didn’t have to be powerless–through starting ChickTech, I not only gained my power back but also provided a way for women everywhere to do the same.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

I’ve learned a lot over my experience of being a female founder. However, the biggest ones have been around people–business would be so straightforward if people weren’t involved!

First, treat other people like you would like to be treated–you would think that everyone would have this down by now, but we all need a reminder now and again. In our high school program, we’ve found that if you treat high schoolers like they’re people, with the respect they deserve as such, they blossom. Same thing, of course, with adults! ChickTech is a thriving organization; we expect to have 2,000 volunteers across the country this year, and I believe this is because we all have each others’ backs and support each other.

Second, help people without always expecting them to give you something in return. For example, I’m often asked for advice on starting nonprofits. I’m happy to provide that because I want it to be easier for others than it was for me. I always hope that they’ll keep that outlook and be willing to help others who come after them. If we can pass on this model of collaboration and support, we can truly create a better society.

Third, be vulnerable and real! There are many different ways to lead, but I’ve found with leaders I follow that the more real they are with me the more I’m willing to follow them…and the more I felt like I could be a leader too. I try to show my employees and volunteers that I’m a whole person, with strengths and weaknesses just like them. It lets me be more real and truthful and gives them the space to be a professional who gets shit done…but who also isn’t perfect. It also builds trust!

A corollary to #3 (but really a way to get a 4th one in here…don’t tell anyone) is to not expect yourself to know everything or be perfect. Everyone who’s started a company has made so many mistakes that we can’t even keep track of them (probably for the best…), and women specifically are so hard on themselves. They often internalize their mistakes as proof that they’re not fit to lead (I do this!), whereas men more often blame external factors. Although you should definitely learn from your mistakes, recognize that they don’t limit your value as an amazing woman leader!”

Lauren A. Koenig, Co-Founder & CEO of TWIP — Travel With Interesting People

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Here Is My Background

Lauren is one of the emerging female stars of the travel and technology industry, and it all started at 22 when she moved to France to teach for the French Ministry of Education. There Lauren became fluent in French, and the idea for her eventual company started to form.

Back in the States, Lauren found The International Kitchen, the world-renowned international culinary tour operator. At TIK, she was both web manager and French correspondent: she created cooking experiences in France, Italy, Spain and Mexico, traveled internationally to interview chefs, hired photographers, corresponded with culinary operators, introduced video and marketing, and managed the company’s web presence. TIK was and is a very tech-forward-thinking company, so Lauren came away with a vast understanding of both travel and technology.

In 2010, recruited to be a model in NYC, Lauren began a rigorous study of travel behavior. She had not forgotten that, at 22, she nearly did not go to France out of fear of traveling alone. And she wondered: How many others deprive themselves of travel for this reason? Thirty-five million people, it turns out — and that’s just in America.

Lauren saw a gap in travel-tech, one that could be filled by social connection and a customized user experience. One-third of would-be leisure travelers in America hold themselves back out of unwillingness to go it alone, while others struggle to tap into experiences tailor-built for them. The problem, Lauren knew, is that people are different away from home — making it difficult for travelers to find the right companions and for providers to pre-identify the right client base. She coined a word for this little-understood notion of travel identity: Travanality®. Through scientific assessment of a person’s Travanality, Lauren could match travelers to travelers, and travelers to experiences, thereby expanding the travel universe and bringing it together at the same time.

In 2013, Lauren and TWIP’s Director Khalil Byrd strategized taking TWIP from concept to enterprise. In early 2014, a lawyer she pitched in a hotel lobby wrote a check for thousands on the spot — and with that the company was launched. She soon recruited female Co-Founder & CTO Heather Wilde, the eighth employee of Evernote, who is credited with taking that company to 100 million users around the world. Today Lauren works 24/7 as CEO, leading her team by example.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. “”The best gift you can give yourself is a passport.”” Self-education through travel is priceless. When I was 12, vacationing in Florida, I met an Irish boy who was temporarily visiting the States. I had never thought much about traveling, but my aunt had insisted I apply for a passport. With that passport came permission to dream. I imagined visiting Ross in Ireland — and eight years later, I did. Soon I was living in France. That passport changed my life.

2. “”All the jobs you do play a role in those that follow.”” Of all the occupations I had, being a model was the single best experience for becoming an entrepreneur: I was my first company. Who knew that modeling would prepare me as CEO? That swimming would help me breathe better into the flute? That playing the flute would help me type faster? That training to be a Division I athlete would teach me never to accept failure? I was working for a yacht charter company when I discovered The International Kitchen. They weren’t hiring, but no one spoke French, so I called regularly and offered my services. Again and again, they declined. In the end I said flatly, “If you do not meet with me, I will never stop calling you.” “Come in on Tuesday,” the president replied. She hired me on the spot. She just didn’t know it was because I’d once been a swimmer.

3. “”You are so much stronger than you think you are.”” I lived through times where I counted change for groceries, and others where I was mentally frayed. In my early 20’s, I was standing on the balcony of the top floor of a hotel in Nancy, France, staring out over the village. European sirens whined from every direction. I did not speak French. No one spoke English. I called home with my MCI card and broke down crying. The neighbors shouted angrily through the door, urging me to be quiet. The sirens grew louder. My mom suggested, “Just come home.” And like that, I snapped out of my despair, put down the phone, and knew I would stay. I wasn’t the type to give up; I just hadn’t known that until it was offered. We are all resilient. The only question is whether you tap into that resilience — and believe.

Tiyo Shibabaw, Executive Chef and Owner, Teni East Kitchen

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Here Is My Background

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Chef Tiyo Shibabaw discovered her love for cooking at an early age. By the time she was 10, she was constantly asking to help in the kitchen and, after a short while, she became quite skilled at cooking. When she turned 18, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to be with family and attend school. Chef Shibabaw promptly fell in love with Southeast Asian food, taking every opportunity to experience the cuisine and learn about her new home.

After working various office and restaurant jobs, Chef Shibabaw took on a challenge that would change everything. In 2006, she accepted a position as general manager of Burma Superstar, an award-winning Southeast Asian restaurant based in San Francisco. Immediately, she began working as an understudy to a master Chinese-Burmese chef who taught her the art of Burmese cooking. In a few months, she helped expand the restaurant’s brand by opening its first East Bay location in Alameda, where she oversaw cooking as well as hiring, training and payroll. After much success, she opened Burma Superstar in Oakland in 2009. In addition to operating the East Bay locations of Burma Superstar for nearly 10 years, Chef Shibabaw contributed recipes to the restaurant’s critically-acclaimed 2017 cookbook “Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia.”

In 2014, Chef Shibabaw and some friends took a month-long culinary trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Taiwan, Thailand, and Burma. After years of cooking Burmese food, she wanted to experience Burmese culture and food first-hand and see the influence of other Southeast Asian countries on Burma’s food. Determined to experience Burma in an authentic way, she visited dozens of eateries, cultural sites, markets and home kitchens. This unforgettable journey left an indelible mark on her and greatly informed her authentically creative approach to Burmese cuisine.

Inspired by her experiences in Southeast Asia and at Burma Superstar, Chef Shibabaw stepped out on her own in 2016 and opened Teni East Kitchen, a full-service restaurant serving delicious, Burmese-inspired cuisine with a California twist. Located in Oakland, Calif., the destination restaurant offers healthy, flavorful, and sometimes surprising dishes that strike a balance between tradition and innovation, and are made with high-quality, thoughtfully sourced local and global ingredients. Named after Chef Shibabaw’s mother, Teni East Kitchen offers a small, carefully curated menu that reflects a fresh and honest interpretation and approach to Southeast Asian food.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. Break out of your own traditions/culture

Be open-minded and don’t be intimidated about learning other cultures and traditions. It’s so amazing what you’ll learn. I’m Ethiopian and people are always asking me why I’m cooking Asian food, and I say why not? I ventured out of my culture because I was interested in cooking Chinese/Burmese food. We use some of same spices (turmeric, paprika,etc.) In the end, we’re all so similar in many ways. I encourage everyone to find your neighbors and cook with them. It’s important to connect with others

2. Love What You Do

It makes things easier because you’ll have the drive to go full speed ahead and make it work. If you have like what you do, you’ll be successful.

3. Relationships with People Are Very Important

Try to understand and acknowledge the people you work with every day. It’s important to invest the time in getting to know your staff. I make it a point to know everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and goals. My business is a team effort and the more you understand your people the less likely there will miscommunication.

Katie Beckley, Founder, Awaken the Peace

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Here Is My Background

“Gemologist, and with a degree in spiritual psychology, Katie Beckley founded Awaken the Peace to offer wearable wellness through high-frequency jewelry that raises one’s internal energy, allowing them to be the best version of themselves. The carefully selected collection of bracelets, necklaces, charms, pendants, and more features energy-rich gemstones and a charm holding a proprietary blend of precious metals, rare minerals, and pure gemstones compiled in sacred geometry and developed by Beckley and a consulting scientist.

As an outgoing only child growing up in Maryland, Beckley discovered the importance of energy and natural frequencies at a young age, and utilized her independence to explore meditation and intuition, and to serve others. She went on to boarding school, then to Goucher College, before earning her Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore School of Law. Her passion for gemology brought her to New York City’s Gemological Institute of America to become a gemologist. This led to a position with Tiffany & Co., which instilled high standards of quality, purity, authenticity, and customer service. With confidence in business, law, and gemology, she eventually left Tiffany’s to launch Katherine Wagner Designs, creating fine custom jewelry for a roster of exclusive clients for 15 years.

In 2012, Beckley came to Southern California to pursue her true calling by earning her master’s degree in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica. Her desire to create mindful jewelry grew from a graduate assignment to construct a co-create project with the Universe that would be of service to others by promoting inner and outer healing. A few years earlier, she had awakened suddenly by an internal voice repeating, “awaken the peace,” and felt compelled to register the phrase without yet knowing its meaning. As her expertise in gemology and fine jewelry converged with her degree, Awaken the Peace wearable wellness emerged in 2014.

Beckley’s mindful creations resonate with many acclaimed chefs — Nobu Matsuhisa, Eric Ripert, Anne Burrell, Scott Conant, and more — as well as alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, and world-renowned spas such as the St. Regis Aspen Resort and Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa, that all recognize the energy, positivity, and high-frequency of the jewelry that delivers noticeable physical and mindfulness improvements.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Two years ago, I expanded Awaken the Peace from a project born out of my studies in spiritual psychology into a dedicated business. I’ve learned a tremendous amount of lessons while developing Awaken the Peace into a line of high-vibrational, wearable wellness accessories including bracelets, pendants, and mandalas. While I have owned businesses in the past, I’ve never owned one whose mission is based upon something seemingly intangible and completely internal: raising ones internal vibration to increase happiness and wellbeing. My bracelets and necklaces work on a visceral level to increase balance, stability, and to calm the central nervous system.

Here are the three most important lessons that I’ve learned from my experiences as the founder and co-creator of Awaken the Peace:

1) Ask for help. I need to be willing to own my mistakes, humbly say when a task isn’t in my wheelhouse, and at times say “I don’t know.” I am constantly learning, or relearning, and diligently researching when I don’t know the answer. Fortunately, there are always many answers and people who can and want to help.

2) Balance goal line and soul line. For me, this has been my most important lesson and something that I dedicate full commitment to — staying focused on my passion for healing, wellness, and philanthropy while also being fiscally savvy. As a founder, I do need to focus on finances, sales, marketing, and proportional margins, to allow Awaken the Peace to continue to share its internal magic. However, I also work to stay true to my soul line by donating to the many causes that touch my heart.

3) Be all in! This is a huge ongoing lesson for me. I remember hearing one of my teachers once say “99% is a b****, but 100% is a breeze.” I’ve found those words to be so true in that the team will energetically suffer if, or when, I temporarily lose focus at the helm. Committing to recalibrate and then recommit over again is crucial to our success. This creates limitless opportunity to rebalance my goal line and soul line, and to course correct by asking “is this decision aligned with why I started this business?” I do my very best to stay in alignment and lead with love.

Joelle Parenteau, XPR

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Here Is My Background

A year ago, I started dreaming. Big dreams of creating the most prestigious and luxurious experiences in Vegas. ‘But doesn’t Vegas already have tons of experiences?’ Yes, indeed. Yet, despite endless experiences for the masses, there is a noted lack exclusive high end experiences. See I have a bunch of high roller friends, and when in Vegas, they want the best VIP experiences. Despite their bankrolls however, these experiences simply aren’t there. So of course I start thinking: What if I produced these amazing limited edition experiences?

Now I know what you’re thinking. How in the world does this little blonde Canadian girl think she is going to create the most exclusive experiences in the Entertainment Capital of the World? Simple, I build a network and stack the odds in my favour. And now we are just about to go live, releasing never-before-seen Vegas experiences every week — starting with a bang with an experience catching a Golden Knights NHL game in a private suite with none other than Daniel Negreanu — the biggest name in poker.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Anything is possible: Turns out dreams, mixed with guts, fused with drive really do come true. So, when less than a year ago I jokingly said “You know what would be ridiculously awesome? Daniel Negreanu on XPR!” — I was only half joking. And when I get an idea in my head… well maybe it wasn’t so ridiculous after all. Cause here we are — launching XPR in Vegas with Kid Poker himself.

Opportunities are everywhere and anywhere: I always seem to find my best ideas in the oddest of places, Los Angeles, Vegas… it’s important to let you mind wander, to take it all in, to be inspired — and recognize where the opportunities lie within all that you’ve observed.

Don’t be afraid to aim high: many are intimidated by the prospects of going after the high end market — it’s a smaller target with higher demands. To me that challenge is exciting and motivating.”

Allison Wood, CEO, Camera IQ

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Here Is My Background

“Allison has been creating new realities since she started her dual MFA in Interior Design and Digital Interactive Art at Pratt institute. Exploring the intersection between design, architecture and human interaction, Allison became interested in how technology could bridge our online and offline worlds.

In 2016 Allison founded Camera IQ on the thesis that the camera is no longer just the camera. Just as the mobile phone became the bridge to the internet, cameras now unlock the path to every imaginable world.

Leveraging augmented reality and the rapidly-growing mobile camera ecosystem, Camera IQ helps brands build new interactive experiences that captivate audiences. Since inception, they have worked with major brands and are in partnership talks with major platforms.

Previously, Allison was part the New Inc incubator, the first museum-led cultural incubator dedicated to supporting innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship across art, design, and technology. There she created REIFY, a “physical music platform” that combined the best of both physical and digital music technology, and created a new way to experience music.

When she began building tools to work across platforms via REIFY, brands become interested in the potential applications across channels. The camera became the perfect meeting ground for Allison’s classical background studying the intersection of space and technology, and the physical world as a virtual distribution channel.

Making the leap from creative technologist and artist to CEO has been a rewarding challenge for Allison. It has also provided her with a unique perspective on business and entrepreneurship, as well as market opportunities. She has learned the value of building an experienced team, and approaching both opportunities and challenges with the right questions. “

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1: You need patience to recognize the right market opportunity.

It doesn’t pay to be ahead of the curve if you are too far ahead of the market. I worked in bridging digital and physical worlds for a number a years before the opportunity fully emerged to make a commercial company, and before we could viably realize the potential of a lot of the tools we were building.

Coming from a artistic technologist background, we are often pushing the boundaries of what technology is capable of. In creating a business, and realizing product/market fit, you are almost inverting that process by looking for how the capabilities you’ve created can have real impacts within mainstream markets.

2: The right team and co-founders are indispensable.

As a founder, you absolutely need the self-awareness to recognize what your strengths, but more importantly, identify your deficiencies.

I’m technical enough to build proofs of concept, but not enterprise software. Finding the right co-founders, and building a diverse and experienced team was always a necessity for Camera IQ’s success, but that starts with recognizing what you don’t know.

3: Asking the right questions is more important than having the right answer.

You may solve an immediate problem by knowing right answer, but the right question can unlock new avenues of thinking or even opportunities that readily apparent.

Removing your ego from decisions even as you step up as CEO to make difficult decisions is a sometimes challenging balance. But you don’t need to have the answer as CEO — you need to be able to ask the questions of the team you’ve built that will not just help you get the answer, but allow you to see beyond it.

Kate Alcaraz, Co-Founder, Beauty Advisor

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Here Is My Background

“Kate is the Co-Founder and President of Beautyadvisor.com — the first online beauty and fitness community where you can discover inspiring looks and services, get advice, connect with experts, and explore product recommendations — all in one place.

Prior to building Beauty Advisor, Kate was a couch-surfing high schooler, who broke limits and entered into the corporate world in the year 2000 at age 16. For more than a decade, she led several lending and software organizations in revenue through her business development efforts, even as she obtained her business degree at night. In 2011, she gained a large amount of experience with community building while assisting a small aesthetics platform in becoming the largest online resource for elective procedures. Although she gained a great deal of her business experience from the tech scene, Kate’s mission was to eventually end up in the beauty industry, as it’s an industry focused on helping people feel good.

After struggling to find a hair stylist and makeup artist for my wedding abroad, my husband/co-founder Mario and I realized that the beauty industry needed a site similar to how the travel industry has TripAdvisor. I wanted to revolutionize beauty by creating the first online destination that isn’t just another beauty website, but an all-inclusive community that offers everything you need when it comes to beauty and fitness. My vision was to create unity within the industry, where users could not only learn how to look their best but be able to learn from the experts themselves. Now live to users nationwide, Beauty Advisor is a platform focused on changing the stereotype that labels beauty as “self-absorbed” or “materialistic.” We’re breaking current industry trends by focusing on engaging beauty professionals to inspire, educate, and connect with day to day individuals. By making the beauty industry more transparent, I hope to help the world move forward as a community that unites beauty and fitness lovers, and is committed to positivity and lifting one another up.

Currently, our team is working with an incredible non-profit organization called The Beyond Project on a campaign called #BeyondBeauty, which will bring awareness to the positivity and support that the beauty industry holds in helping each individual with their confidence journey. At the same time, it will facilitate the ability for beauty and fitness professionals to volunteer their time in helping others who have been through difficult situations. Stay tuned for our awareness video launching later this year online!”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“1. All of us possess certain skill sets that we are naturally born with, but still, need a lot of practice to master. It’s important to discover who you really are, what your strong suits are, and what you are passionate about. Then, find a career in something that aligns with your passion… and practice, practice, practice. If you aren’t naturally great at something, you’ll have to work even harder to get there, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. They say it takes 10,000+ hours of work to become an expert at something, and I wholeheartedly believe this. For example, I naturally possess the love of talking and relating to people, but it’s taken a very long time to become an expert at communication. I’m still learning! The journey of feeling confident at something takes dedication; even when you doubt yourself and have fear, you need to keep pushing.

2. Put yourself in positive environments wherever you are. If your friends lift you up and make you feel good, keep them as friends and do the same for them, but don’t chase unhealthy relationships. On the career side of things, if your work environment is positive, you’ll shine, but if it’s toxic, get out, and find a place that appreciates you. Life is too short to be surrounded by negativity. You’ll really flourish around others who are kind, energetic, innovative and driven. It took me a long time to realize this because I didn’t have much support as a young adult, and tended to be codependent on others. As I grew more confident, I became more picky about who, what, and where I focused my time, and it has been life-changing. Also, being a mom now to an amazing baby boy, a wife, and a business owner, it’s a necessity.

3. Being at a disadvantage can work to your advantage, so don’t focus on your setbacks and let them stop you. As a young adult, I used to compare myself to others and it would make me insecure, but then I learned to embrace who I was, and to appreciate my unique path in life. Us that haven’t been handed opportunities on a silver platter learn to be strategic — we work hard, and we can move mountains with our determination to break the stereotype that we’ll always be average. It’s fun to break barriers!

Kerry Gilmartin, Founder, CEO, Bamboobies

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Here Is My Background

“About Kerry Gilmartin, Founder of bamboobies

Mom invented, mom approved, bamboobies is a self-funded startup energized by a mother who saw a gap in the marketplace. In 2010, Kerry Gilmartin founded bamboobies in Boulder, CO, based on a personal mission to provide natural, comfortable higher-quality and more modern breastfeeding support products for new moms everywhere.

Gilmartin is a serial entrepreneur with a few start-ups under her belt, and a woman with an appetite for creativity and problem solving. In 2010, after the birth of her third child, she founded bamboobies because she was a ‘leaky’ breastfeeding mom who couldn’t find a comfortable, washable nursing pad to help keep her shirts dry. Realizing that eco-friendly bamboo fabric provided a luxurious feel and incredible functionality, Gilmartin launched bamboobies to address the need for comfortable, eco-friendly nursing pads that really work.

Bamboobies was initially run out of Gilmartin’s basement for years in its infancy before the company grew too large and expanded distribution, office space, office staff and more were a must. What began as a singular idea has now grown into a company that offers more than 10 award-winning breastfeeding support products such as: EcoPure® Bamboo Disposable Nursing Pads, boob-ease® 100% Organic Nipple Balm, nursing bras and tanks, as well as the Chic Nursing Shawl and other accessories. Today, Bamboobies award-winning products are available nationwide at Target, Babies”R”Us and Kroger stores as well as online via Amazon and buybamboobies.com.

Gilmartin has a B.S. from Georgetown University and an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and three children (6, 8 and 10 years old) and when not at the office, she can be found hiking, skiing, at her children’s sporting events and with dirty hands in her garden.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Believe in yourself and your product — and your ability to sell (even if you don’t have experience selling)! Can you make such a great product that you can envision getting a customer email that will being you to tears about how much you and your products have helped them? That just happened to me yesterday and I’m so grateful for it every time it happens. If you see this email in your inbox in the future and can a product that merits it — if you believe in yourself, your team and your product, you’ll be able to sell. No one is going to say “yes” if they don’t hear the passion and enthusiasm that you have for your product and potential success. Know that success is something that is achievable and be ready when others agree with you and want to buy your product — what a blast! Then comes the fun of making sure you have enough to fill orders and the right marketing support to move it off the shelves.

Build diverse teams and support networks — you can’t do it on your own. Find support and build a strong, knowledgeable team inside your business and outside with other entrepreneurs. As a mom who invented a product for breastfeeding mothers, I searched out other people who had invented products and other women entrepreneurs for advice even in the earliest days. I am part of a small group of other young mothers that started breastfeeding support products, like mine, and we named ourselves “The Tittie Committee’” for fun. We help each other along all lines and supported each other with everything to sharing retailer sales target lists to sharing trade show booths and social media strategies. Today, I’m active in groups of entrepreneurs that is more varied and the diversity of experience is even more valuable and less tactical. it also feels great to be able to give back by helping others more now. I’ve also been lucky enough to have the cashflow to build a team with industry experience and real guts to innovate in all parts of the business.

Celebrate: giant mylar balloons, champagne, trophies, chocolate and other invented awards go a long way. Monthly events, off-schedule announcements and ‘Cheers!’ make everyone appreciate and celebrate small and big wins. I feel great and it helps everyone from packaging and shipping help in the warehouse to outside contractors feel the love, the excitement and enjoy the ride. If you aren’t having fun doing what you’re doing, then you’re in the wrong business. Don’t get me wrong, it can be challenging and heart breaking, too, but you better get an adrenaline rush every time a goal is hit or an obstacle overcome. It’s your business and you should love it and celebrate the wins!

Lisa Morales-Hellebo, Founder, REFASHIOND Capital

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Here Is My Background

Lisa Morales-Hellebo is a seasoned entrepreneur, product strategist, and creative director with a career that spans 20+ years building companies and helping start-ups to F500s maximize conversions via multi-channel, e-commerce product strategy, development, and brand extension. In 2014, she founded and launched the New York Fashion Tech Lab with Springboard Enterprises and the Partnership Fund for NYC while serving as Executive Director for the first year. Her previous fashion tech contextual search startup, Shopsy, participated in TechStars in 2012 after being selected as one of the Top 10 Women in DC Tech. Lisa is currently Co-organizer of The New York Supply Chain Meetup and is building a venture fund to invest in the future of fashion and retail called REFASHIOND. She has been featured in numerous publications and media outlets, ranging from VOGUE Mexico and Latin America, FashInvest, Women 2.0, WWD, and Refinery 29 to Fast Company, Crain’s, Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, El Nuevo Dia, & ABC 7 Tiempo, to name a few.

As an alumna of TechStars (the #1 global startup accelerator), Lisa maintains an active role in the startup community by serving on the Board of Puerto Rican accelerator, Parallel18, and mentoring at The Startup Institute and The Founder Institute. She currently serves on several fashion tech startup advisory boards while mentoring entrepreneurs around the globe. Lisa works to shine a spotlight on Latino founders by being visible via speaking engagements across the country and highlighting other Latino founders on LatinoBuilt.com. The New America Alliance has recognized her as one of the top Latinas in Business and invited her to participate in the first American Latina Leadership Caucus in NYC.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Lisa went to college in Pittsburgh, where she received her BFA in Graphic Design with University Honors from Carnegie Mellon University. She’s a lifelong lover of all things fashion, is addicted to magazines, new media, technology, entrepreneurship and travel. While living in Norway with her husband for nearly three years, she freelanced and learned the language, adding fluent Norwegian to her list of accomplishments. Lisa currently lives in the NYC suburbs of Westchester County with her husband, two sons, and their lovable mutt, Rocky.

Top lessons learned:

1). The people you surround yourself with can either increase or limit your potential, so choose wisely. I didn’t fully understand the weight of this until around 2007, when I was invited by one of my clients to attend a conference for the top 1% of minority wealth in the US. It was the first time I had been in a room full of brown people that were ALL millionaires and billionaires. Even though I was not among their ranks (having done the web site, marketing materials, and signage for the event), they spoke to me as if I was “one of them” and asked me what I was going to build beyond my design firm. It took me 35 years to understand that my expectations of myself had hit the ceiling of my own imagination and perspective, so I chose to surround myself with people that achieved more and expected more from me.

2). Believe in your damn self. Imposter syndrome is real, but nobody will believe in you until you believe in yourself, your expertise, and your abilities. I’ve had a million people tell me that things I’ve done wouldn’t be possible; that there are experts who’ve been working on xyz difficult problem so I couldn’t possibly know more than them; and that I should just be patient and continue to “pay my dues” after 22 years in business, tech, and design thinking. People project their own insecurities onto you for their own reasons, whether they are intimidated, want you to continue to make them look good while they get the credit, or because of their own personal aversions to risk or failure. Start by asking yourself — Why NOT me?

3). Resilience and persistence are more valuable than sheer intellect. The number or type of college degrees does not define someone’s value or capabilities. Grit is the single most valuable commodity and it cannot be faked or learned in school. I’ve have been obsessed with the fashion industry since childhood, spent my 22+ year career in tech, and have always been a good 10 years ahead of the innovation curve in predicting where the global fashion industry was going. Now that I am building REFASHIOND Capital to invest in future ready infrastructure for the global apparel industry, my persistence is matching up with the perfect moment in time to build a fund for the industry, by the industry. I’ve never given up on my vision and understanding of this fashion’s future, but required the persistence to persevere until the industry caught up.

Nicole Witt, Executive Director of The Adoption Consultancy

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Here Is My Background

Nicole Witt is Executive Director of The Adoption Consultancy (www.TheAdoptionConsultancy.com), as well as, a frequent speaker on adoption and infertility. The Adoption Consultancy is an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within 3 to 12 months. Nicole has helped hundreds of people to realize their dream of becoming parents. Beyond Infertility is an online magazine and a community support forum for those who are expecting and/or parenting after having been through infertility.

Nicole earned her BA from Lehigh University and her MBA from Cornell University. She spent over 10 years in Management Consulting and Strategic Marketing before founding The Adoption Consultancy.

Nicole is recognized as an information source; she has been interviewed by Today, World News Tonight, Fox News, Daytime, Redbook, More magazine, E! Online, and many radio programs. She has also been interviewed for articles appearing on www.WebMD.com and www.CBSNews.com. Her articles have been featured in local and national publications such as “Family Building” magazine.

Nicole is a member of the Florida Adoption Council, the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE), the World Speakers Association (WSA), the American Professional Speakers Association, and the Florida Speakers Association. Nicole is also an active professional member of RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, serves on the Resolve Editorial Board and co-founded the Tampa chapter of the organization in 2007.

Lessons Learned:

1). Knowing it was time for Second Act: Nicole was in Brand Management/Strategic Marketing for large consumer packaged goods firms at a difficult personal time of going through infertility. At the time, she was quite successful, but also quite miserable at her job. After Nicole’s personal battle with infertility, she just couldn’t go back to something that seemed so meaningless along with justifying all the hours away from her kids (i.e. lack of flexibility solely for a paycheck.) Therefore, she started The Adoption Consultancy helping other infertile couples and singles to build their families. She basically serve as a ‘wedding planner’ for adoption helping her clients to navigate the maze and avoid the pitfalls of adoption. We take a proactive approach that enables our clients to adopt healthy newborns within 6 months, on average. Now she does something that honors her personal struggle in the past, that truly makes a difference for others, and that allows her the flexibility & lifestyle that I desire as a working mom.

2). Expanding: The Adoption Consultancy has been a huge success for Nicole. She wanted to focus more on issues and aspects of beyond infertility and the struggles women and couples go through after having a child (whether natural, adoption or foster) and the emotions, feelings, ups and downs someone goes through during this process. Nicole expanded her brand with BeyondInfertily.com in the past year to be a social website for those going through the above to have support and advice.

3). Being a Worker Transition Into A Working Mom: Those first months and years after returning to work after becoming a mother can be especially crucial. Enlist your husband (or a key support person) to be available in case of morning setbacks, last-minute daycare pickups, etc. They can get away with a little tardiness or absence from work much more than you can right now especially if you are an entrepreneur/small business owner and clients/staff are depending on you.

Katherine Homuth (Hague), Founder and CEO, Sheerly Genius

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Here Is My Background

Katherine Homuth (Hague) is the Founder and CEO of Sheerly Genius, the first-ever rip-proof, snag-proof and all around life-proof brand of pantyhose. She is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. Katherine’s first venture backed startup, ShopLocket, was acquired in 2014 by global manufacturing and design company PCH. Following ShopLocket’s success Katherine went on to become an active angel investor. To help support other women getting into startup investing Katherine founded Female Funders, an online education platform which was acquired by Highline Beta in 2017. She has been named one of the Women to Watch in Wearables, one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and one of Flare’s Sixty Under 30. Katherine has been quoted in the New York Times on fashion tech and was recently interviewed for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

My Top 3 Lessons Learned:

In the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I quickly learned to never take no for an answer. As a founder and an inventor, you have to think differently and challenge assumptions.

1). When we were starting Sheerly Genius everyone we talked to from manufacturers to suppliers told us it wasn’t possible. If we had stopped at no, we wouldn’t have even gotten started. We had to learn the hosiery business inside and out, so that we had the confidence to push back and bring new ideas and solutions to the table.

2). Throughout this journey, I also learned to surround myself with other badass women. I am lucky to have a close network of other female entrepreneurs. It feels like we have grown up together in the startup world. Being surrounded by other ambitious, smart entrepreneurs pushes me to do more — but also gives me a support network of people that understand what I’m going through to fall back on. 6 of these ladies even angel invested in Sheerly Genius.

3). The third and most important lesson I learned was to know your strengths. I am far from perfect, and surround myself with amazing people that complement my strengths. I enjoy and adapt well to change, but the flip side of that is that I’m not great at long term planning. I’m great at painting the big picture, but horrible with details. Over time I’ve learned to lean into my strengths and not try to be good at everything.

Heather Aman, Principal, Aman Architecture LLC

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Here Is My Background

I have found that running away from your life can sometimes get you exactly where you need to be.

Growing up, I wanted to be a banker. Finance, with it’s elegant equations and global impact, intrigued me so I studied economics as an undergrad. Conveniently that sent me to New York, where I had always wanted to be. I got a great job as an analyst at Chase Bank and moved shortly after graduation. Like many young people, I fell in love with the City immediately. I bought the whole package: the people, the culture, the art and, especially, the built environment. I wanted to know every building in New York and walk every street. I took every city tour offered by every institution that had tours.

It finally became obvious that I should find a way to make the architecture a vocation, not just a hobby. So what did I do? I ran away! To buy the time I needed to think, I got work as a second mate on a motor yacht. I floated up and down the east coast for a year, working and reading. Eventually, my next step became clear. I moved back to New York and started taking drawing and design classes in preparation for architecture school.

After graduating from Columbia University with my M. Arch degree, I considered my employment options in the architecture world. Of course I dreamt of designing the next branch of the Guggenheim Museum, and believed that working for a big firm was the only path to that goal. At the time, however, twenty years ago, there were very few women leading large firms. I knew it was unlikely I would be able to combine the architectural work I loved with the leadership role I knew I could fulfill.

So what did I do? I ran away! Not from New York but from architecture. I did temp work, mostly in investment banks. After about six months, I made my decision. I chose to work for a small firm. I thought it would be the best way to develop the architecture and leadership skills I needed to move forward. Before long I began winning clients of my own (and, yes, some of those clients were the investment bankers I had previously temped for!) I’ve been heading up Aman Architecture ever since.

Did I ever get to design a Guggenheim? No, not yet. Not even close. But I’m still in the game. I still love architecture. And I plan to keep learning and growing as long as I possibly can.

My Top 3 Lessons Learned

1). Ask for help. I come from a long line of stubborn, stoic Scotch-Irish folk so asking for help doesn’t come naturally. This worked fine when I was eight years old and just trying to fry some eggs. It worked less well when figuring out how to run a business. How do you manage your money? How do you manage your time? How do you manage your employees? No one is born knowing these things. Fortunately there are tremendous resources out there: entrepreneurial organizations, networking groups, continuing education, city and state business services. Reach out to all of them. I have also found that successful entrepreneurs and business people are often very generous with their time. Many are happy to share their knowledge and experience with you if you ask them.

2). Stop trying to be perfect. The goal is impossible so the pursuit is fruitless. Endless dithering is almost always followed by never finishing. Also, the quest for perfection affects your ability to delegate. As an entrepreneur, you start off doing everything yourself. It’s hard to believe someone else can do a particular job as well as you can. But that doesn’t matter. They don’t have to it as well as you they just have to do it well. So whatever it is, do your best, or delegate, and move on.

3). Show some grit. Grit beats brains and talent most of the time. Some people are seemingly born knowing this. Others, like me, have to learn it. And by learning it, I mean practicing it. You’ve got to get up everyday and just go do it. Even when you feel lousy and you’re barely making payroll. And there are more benefits to grit than meet they eye. Yes, grit gets your work done. More importantly though, the consistent application of grit begets confidence, more everyday.

Melissa Lamson, CEO, Lamson Consulting LLC

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Here Is My Background

So, I’m walking down a street in Berlin called Friedrichstrasse, I’m 28 years old, I’m alone in a city I’ve never visited, I have no real contacts, don’t speak the language, and I’ve decided I’m going to live there and start my own business.

I knew I had to move beyond my home country if I wanted to achieve my goals. I really didn’t know what I was in for, but I was savvy enough and lucky enough to make it work. I was curious and confident and I knew there was a lot to learn.

I sought out people who had done what I was going to do. I learned what they did and how it worked or didn’t. That saved me from making some awful blunders. I did research and tried to plan things as much as I could.

I’m thankful to my clients and friends and all the people who do research on different business cultures. They helped me a lot, but in the end I had to learn and adapt as I went along.

In 10 years, I founded two companies, ran them each with staff and a research team. We served clients in over 40 countries, creating strategy, training programs and coaching executives. Our clients included; Ikea, MTV, SAP and 3M.

In my 10th year, I sold one of my companies, moved back to the US, and re-started my firm and brand all over again. It was exciting! No-one really knew me but I quickly grew my network and within a few years had a 7-figure business.

I’m Melissa Lamson, CEO of Lamson Consulting, LLC and I love what I do — growing leaders, bridging cultures and empowering teams.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s important to try out new ideas, new things. And they might not work. In fact, most won’t work. But when they do, its hugely rewarding. If you don’t try, you won’t know. You really do learn from mistakes, they help you grow. So take risks, learn, and eventually you’ll succeed.

2). Learn to live with conflict. I’ve upset customers, business partners, had conflicts in my team, and even broken up office love affairs. (not mine!) You can’t always be liked or popular if you want to be successful. Hard decisions can cause friction. But conflict is essentially disruption and disruption helps you grow as a person and a leader.

3). Trust your gut. It’s taken some time for me to trust my instinct, or I should say its taken some time for me to FOLLOW my instinct. You know what’s important to you, who you can trust, and what your boundaries are — with your team, customers and partners. Don’t just go for the money or prestige, but stick to what you want to achieve and be true to it. I’ve always been most successful when I have.

Jocelyn Loo, Co-founder & CEO, ICBRKR

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Here Is My Background

Jocelyn Loo, 5 time startup Founder. CEO of Social Networking Brand, ICBRKR and Event Management Tool GuestsNow, based in Los Angeles, CA.

After getting a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics from a tech school, I got my initial work experience in finance and event planning. My entrepreneurial spirit quickly took over and I started my first three businesses: an event planning service, a women’s t-shirt company and an on-demand beauty app. The event planning and t-shirt companies did not work out, but I have no regrets. I learned so much from running these businesses, from accounting and legal to marketing and operations. I learned how to build a strong mind and that I should not rush into getting business partners and co-founders.

My first tech startup — I couldn’t escape my tech background! — almost broke me. Working 10–12 hours a day to launch the app, manage operations, design and code the website, manage the designers and developers, fine tune UX and develop the business was challenging. In addition, I had a very demanding and abusive investor. I sold and exited the company and used the fund to start my 2nd and 3rd startup.

I took my previous mistakes and newfound knowledge and applied them to launching my second and third tech startups (my fourth and fifth startups in total): Guestsnow, an event management app, and ICBRKR, a social networking app. I still feel like I learn something new every day and break the limits by continuing to pursue what I believe in, using past mistakes to drive me forward. Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do; prove to them what you can do.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Stand back up again and again after feeling defeated or failing — Determination and a strong mind are essential as an entrepreneur. Every day is a challenge and your boss will not tell you whether or not you are doing a great job because you don’t have one. You need to motivate yourself to get back up when things don’t work out, be honest with yourself about why, then dust off and try again.

2).Take your time to find your business partner or co-founder — Starting a business with someone is like getting married. You see that person almost every day and spend most of your time together, good and bad. Your skills not only need to complement each other, but you also need to trust and get along with each other. You will fight, make no mistake, but you need to be able to work it out and not have any bad feelings toward each other afterwards. That’s why it is crucial to take your time to find and get to know the co-founder with whom you’re going into business.

3). Start your business in what you know best — If your background is in healthcare, it does not make sense to start a business in fashion. From your years of training and being in an industry, you know how that industry works. Going into something you don’t know well is almost a set up for failure.
Additional — Always Test your products always — Sometimes it seems like the best idea in the world but you need to test out your ideas with your friends and your target demographics. Also, make sure you have people who are experienced in what you are doing to test out the products. . Get feedback from others to help refine your product before you hit the market. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback; because it not only helps you improve your idea, but also teaches you to be more accepting.

Dr. Asima Ahmad, Co-founder, and Chief Medical Officer, Carrot Fertility

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Here Is My Background

Dr. Asima Ahmad is the co-founder and chief medical officer of Carrot Fertility, which makes egg freezing and IVF easier and more accessible for employees. Companies use Carrot to offer a modern, comprehensive fertility program to attract and retain talent, without breaking the bank. Before starting Carrot, Dr. Ahmad received her medical and health care training from Harvard University, Yale University, University of Chicago and UCSF Reproductive Center.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Turn Big Problems into Bite Sizes
When you are to transform an industry, you often become overwhelmed with the various ways to tackle the problem. Remember, identifying the problem is just the starting point. Most people are surprised to learn the first solution you think of is often wrong. It takes many variations before you finally come up with the right product/market fit.

2). Use Startup Flexibility to Your Advantage
Startups aren’t just nine to five — they require you to be flexible with your time. This can be tough; who wants to be stuck on a conference call during the middle of dinner? Other times, it can be great; I was pregnant as we were pitching investors and was able to build-out my schedule in a way that worked best for me and my family.

3). Being Willing to Sound Stupid is Smart
When you’re trying to build something new, the most powerful questions you can ask throughout the day are “Why?” and “What does that mean?” Don’t be afraid if it makes you look stupid in front of others. Who cares? You’re trying to solve a problem you’ve decided is worthy not just of your own time and energy, but your team’s, too.

Kristin Marquet, Creative Director, Creative Development Agency

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Here Is My Background

Kristin is the founder and managing director of Creative Development Agency (formerly award-winning firm, Marquet Media). She oversees the day-to-day operations of the agency as well as directs all client accounts and projects. Kristin also develops, manages, and implements various internal and external communication and social media initiatives. With a strong eye for creating memorable brands and a diverse range of knowledge, Kristin provides strategic counsel to clients interested in developing successful internal and external communication programs across all media platforms.

Passionate about learning, Kristin has studied at MIT, Boston University, and New York University, and holds degrees in Literature and Marketing/PR. In 2015, she authored of the book, Squash the competition and Dominate Your Marketplace: 55 Easy Tips to Generate Big Publicity for Your Startup or Small Business.

As someone who loves everything about the startup world, Kristin launched the design studio FemFounder.co to help emerging entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). I can’t do everything by myself. I have to hire the right people if I want my business to scale effectively.

2). I’ve also learned that I need a mentor because there are certain things that I just can’t learn on my own or it would take years to learn on my own.

3). The last important I learned is that I need to be organized and have systems in place if I want to scale my business. Doing things haphazardly will lead to failure.

Priska Diaz, M.S., Founder & CEO, Bittylab

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Here Is 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 is evident 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 Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

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”.

Natalie J. Egan, CEO & Founder, Translator

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Here Is My Background

Natalie J. Egan is an openly transgender B2B software entrepreneur who is on a mission to scale empathy and equality through technology. As CEO and founder of Translator, she empowers companies with innovative digital solutions to promote open and inclusive cultures while driving employee productivity and protecting their corporate brand. With perspectives as both a male and female CEO, Natalie is uniquely qualified to help employees in corporate America become their true and authentic selves.

Natalie has over 20 years of experience driving digital change. Prior to founding Translator in 2016 — and prior to her transition — she was CEO of PeopleLinx, a venture capital backed social selling technology solution. Natalie founded PeopleLinx in her basement in 2009 and before helping sell her venture to a leading sales acceleration company, grew the team to over 50 employees. In addition to her entrepreneurial pursuits, Natalie has also worked in various leadership positions at LinkedIn, Autonomy, and Ecolab.

Based in New York City, she spends her free time with her three children, mentoring female entrepreneurs and LGBTQ youth, or running and biking in the outdoors. Natalie is a graduate of Cornell University and The Villanova School of Business and is currently writing her first book about her experience transitioning from a male to female CEO in corporate America.

I spent the first part of my life as a white, cis-gender hetro-normative “alpha” male, living in a bubble of access to resources, status, and privilege. No one questioned my identity and I was well-positioned to succeed. When I transitioned from a male to female CEO, that changed and I discovered a new side of business.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). I have always worked hard. I thought I earned everything, but I never realized how privileged I was. I discovered that it is in fact much harder to start and grow a company as a woman, or as a person of any marginalized experience outside the center of white-male-power. The cards are truly stacked against us in a way that I could never see before. As a transgender CEO, there is also a newness to my presence that complicates matters even further. I was shocked by this reality and, as a result, became passionate about helping women and minorities succeed in business by using my experience from both sides of the table.

2). Empathy and authenticity have the power to improve the world and make businesses more productive. This was one of the greatest lessons learned when I became my true self. I don’t think I could have defined the word “empathy” before — I would have confused it with “sympathy”. Now I see that empathy and authenticity teach us how to better understand and communicate with each other — not only in our personal lives but in the workplace. In 2018 and beyond, these skills can no longer be underestimated. Companies that embrace this first will have a competitive advantage driving productivity, engagement, and better results for employees and their company.

3). Before transitioning, I never experienced bias, discrimination, or hatred for being me. I knew these problems existed, but I didn’t understand why or where they came from. Then I discovered they are learned or inherited behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs, handed down through cultural conditioning, parents, peers, or layers of communities that shape who we are. We aren’t born with hate and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it is developed over time. My biggest realization was that only technology can help us unlearn what we have learned. The worldwide conflicts are just a big misunderstanding. We are one human race, one big family. Not one person is better than the other.

Felicia Alexander, Founder, BoxUnion

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Here Is My Background

Felicia’s love of building community through fitness started at a young age. By 10, she was organizing tournaments and obstacle courses for the neighborhood kids. She quickly went on to play competitive soccer, inviting her teammates to try the latest fitness routines as a fun and engaging way to train (yes, this includes Jane Fonda workout tapes), and finding innovative ways to raise money to fund out of town tournaments. While her grandfather was an amateur boxer, it wasn’t an activity most young women pursued at the time. But after the sudden death of her father when she was only 16, Felicia discovered her love of boxing.

The car ride to train with Jesse Valdez, the 1982 Olympic Bronze Medalist and owner of the San Diego Boxing Academy was over 45 minutes away, but putting on gloves unlocked a sense of power Felicia had never felt before. Boxing also proved to be a transformative experience that kept her hooked. It gave her a taste of the strength she not only had inside, but the passion she would later share with others.

A graduate of Stanford University and the UCLA Anderson School of Business, Felicia went on to have a successful career in tech and as a Sales & Marketing executive for companies including Sun Microsystems, Sony, Mattel, and Demand Media (now Leaf Group). Both inside and outside of the office, she never failed to recruit new friends and members of her team to come together through fitness.

In 2016, she decided to leave corporate America to chase her childhood dream. Together with her business partner, Todd Wadler, BoxUnion launched in March of 2017. With the goal of creating an accessible and welcoming studio that builds fitness and confidence through boxing, BoxUnion’s first location in Santa Monica has proved a hit.

“I was highly influenced by my time on the soccer field, supporting each other in our successes and failures as a team. I wanted to create a space where people of all ages, fitness levels and backgrounds could build their strength, fitness and confidence as a community in a uniquely fun and empowering way. Boxing is so often associated with 1:1 fighting and we wanted to turn that concept on its head and use it as a tool to bring people together” says Felicia.

With early success, BoxUnion is already expanding to new locations in Los Angeles. While you can often find Felicia at the 6 AM class encouraging others to unleash their own strength on and off the bag, she can also be found hiking the nearby trails in Pacific Palisades with her husband and 10-year-old son, volunteering with a variety of local charities including Children’s Action Network and sampling dark chocolate treats around Los Angeles.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Be the voice you wish you had: I wanted to create a space where women in particular would feel welcomed to not just have an amazing sweat session, but empowered to find a strength they might not have known they had — its something I wish I had when I was growing up. It’s incredible to be boxing in between a 20 year old college student and a 60 year old grandmother, both encouraging each other to push even further in their workout — it’s a sentiment that is critical now more than ever inside and outside of the studio.

2). Build a team based on respect and shared passion. When you are truly passionate about a concept, you attract the right people. We have had long nights of brainstorming the best way to order gloves from across the world or driving back and forth from my house because the washing machine broke and we needed to clean 300 towels. No matter what the position, when we bring people on, our first question is “are you willing to be a leader and empower the people around you to be leaders as well.” Some of our most innovative ideas have come from the team because they love BoxUnion just as much as we do.

3). Be fanatical about your “why” and the mission of your business. Have a healthy dose of persistence mixed with grit to defend it. People are going to give you all sorts of unsolicited advice about what you should or shouldn’t do with your business. When we told people we were going to box to the beat of music, they said we were insane. Most of this advice comes from good intentions, but you have to be clear about your mission, what your product stands for, how you plan to deliver it, and why you truly believe it is going to change lives, so you can make decisions with greater ease and conviction.

Shannon Susko, CEO/ Business Coach/ Author, ShannonSusko.com

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Here Is My Background

Shannon has more than twenty years of experience building and leading high-growth technology companies in the financial services industry. She co-founded, served as Chief Executive Officer, and led the sale of two companies in less than six years: Subserveo, Inc. and Paradata Systems Inc. She was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 2000, and was awarded the Sarah Kirke Award for Canada’s Leading Women Entrepreneurs in 2006. She currently serves as a corporate director, as well as a leadership coach, helping CEOs and top executives in a variety of industries keep their companies on the path to growth and predictable profit.

Shannon’s first book, The Metronome Effect, was released in 2014 and was acknowledged as an amazon best seller. This book guides you on your journey to predictable profit. It ensures the habituation that excellence is derived from is ingrained in your organization. Every leader is empowered to set their metric beat to make sure the company is doing everything it needs to do to grow their profit. This book draws on the wisdom of some of the best business minds of our time, as well as the author’s own experiences as a serial entrepreneur, to create a methodology that shows you a practical step-by-step process; how to rhythmically integrate all the crucial parts of your business. Shannon is near the release of her second book, focusing on her strategic tool: 3HAG.

It wasn’t until the success of my the first company where I was a co-founder and CEO — did I realize that people regarded female founders and CEOs as different. When I co-founded my second business — I realized this was special and leveraged it. Now having founded by third tech company — I realize that these are the most important lessons that have held as a foundation for all three successful companies regardless of what other people think.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Passion: Focused on the BHAG, 3HAG and 1HAG is key. Know where you are going — make sure you know with clarity what your core values and core purpose are, know and believe in your 10–30 year goal, your 3 year Highly Achievable Goal, know where you want to be in 1 year and know where you need to be in 90 days. I always had a 10–30 year goal for my companies, 1 year goal for my companies, a 90 day plan BUT what really brought this all together was being absolutely laser focused on the 3 Year Highly Achievable Goal that bridge the long term with the short term and aligned it with strategic execution.

2). Belief: Believing in yourself. With this absolute passion of the goals above — what came next was believing in myself. Knowing where I was going — with clarity gave me confidence to execute.

3). Team: Having clarity of the path forward — believing and knowing that I was the leader who could get there allowed me to attract an A Player Global team 3 times over. And at the end of the day it is lining up a team that has the same core values and beliefs as I did, with clarity of the plan wanted to achieve the same things I did.

At the end of the day: I believed in myself. I was passionate about what I was doing. And thankfully I was able to find a whole-team of like-minded people who wanted to achieve the same goals. Looking back it was the inherent support of my family, friends, teachers, and coaches and their belief in me. This is the recipe for success and we realized it in my first two companies with to success exits — this first one was good, the second one we hit it out of the park and the 3rd one is still in play! Stay tuned.

Fiona Frills, co-founder & Girl Boss, Frilliance

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Here Is My Background

Fiona Frills is a 14-year-old beauty, makeup, fashion, lifestyle influencer and entrepreneur. Since launching her YouTube channel at the age of 10, she has amassed a fan base of over 800K followers.

At the age of 13, Fiona decided to turn her obsession of makeup into a beauty brand, Frilliance, and began developing her own makeup line specifically for teen-prone skin, Frilliance. She personally formulated and designed all the products in the line, which are available now on FionaFrills.com. Fiona started her career as a model and actress, appearing on Disney Channel’s GameOn and several national commercials.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). It’s all the little things that add up. There is saying something like “success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration,” which is so darn true. I didn’t realize all that it takes to create a product. Coming up with an idea is one thing but taking all the little steps to make it happen is key and so much more work. Sometimes the steps are forwards, backwards or sideways or just wrong ways but it’s all these steps that add up to create the product. I realized there wasn’t one big thing that happened along the way.

2). Everything takes longer than you think. I first thought launching my makeup line would take 4 months. Well, it ended up taking a year. A lot of what took longer was getting the formulations perfected for teen-prone skin. I didn’t want to settle for just any formulas. Product development is critical for what I wanted to do and sometimes it takes longer than anticipated, but it’s worth the wait (and effort) to make it right.

3). Create your own product category. If you can’t be the first in your product market category, then create a new category! That is what I did with my makeup line Frilliance. I wanted to find a way to be unique in an ocean of makeup offerings. I coined the term ‘teen-prone skin’ as a kinder, gentler way to say acne- or pimple-prone. My makeup line is targeted specifically for teens and teen-prone skin. If you have teen-prone skin (acne, blackheads or are prone to clogged pore), using noncomedogenic makeup and skincare like Frilliance can help reduce the number of breakouts you get.

Martha Krueger, Co-Founder & CEO, The Social Lights

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Here Is My Background

I’m Martha McCarthy Krueger, Co-Founder and CEO of The Social Lights® (TSL). TSL a women-owned marketing agency that specializes in developing social media strategies and content for some of the world’s largest brands. Fueled by helping businesses and individuals grow by fostering meaningful human connections, my team has helped over 90 brands and trained over 175 individuals in strengthening their social capabilities since 2011.

What’s so special about a social media marketing agency?

We are an independent marketing agency focused specifically on social media services. And our knowledge runs deep. Some of the world’s largest brands trust TSL exclusively to power their social media content and/or command center (aka war room). We partner with clients to use social media throughout their business, not just on the digital marketing front. We manage brands ranging from 5,000 to over 190 million followers and everywhere in between.

We believe that social media marketing should always tie back to business goals. Because of this, we hire team members that are capable of being both business consultants and social media experts. Our process gives clients confidence and peace of mind, knowing that when their brand is fully supported, nothing falls through the cracks.

[We’re proud, because] we’ve developed a unique service offering that provides companies with the resources they need to develop and maintain a sustainable social capability. Our process is timely, cost-effective, and generates significant value for client brands through reach, sentiment, engagement, and sales.

In order to get here, we’ve had to face several traditional limitations along the way, including: Age. Lack of Experience. Skepticism. To overcome these 3 key challenges, we banded together, put our heads down, worked tirelessly, and most importantly, had faith in ourselves, our fledgling business, and our instincts.

Our startup phase can be characterized as exactly that, a stereotypical startup phase. We didn’t launch in a garage, but our first desk was, quite literally, a beer pong table in our college rental house. Resources were extremely limited — especially those oh-so-important financial ones. Launching a company in 2011 just out of college meant we had little choice than to be 100% bootstrapped. We faced age discrimination, were constantly challenged on our level of experience, and a lingering sense of skepticism permeated our every move.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Age. When we started the company, Emily [Pritchard] and I were freshly minted [undergrad] graduates. We were 22-year-olds with no direct experience managing people, let alone navigating business development or client satisfaction initiatives. Turns out, our naivety bred clever solutions to issues within the burgeoning field of social media marketing.

2). Experience. Lucky for us, very few individuals had quantifiable “experience” within social media marketing in January 2011. We were early adopters, and when coupled with our classroom knowledge of entrepreneurship and business communications, we’d found a unique combination of knowledge + know-how that was hard to refute.

3). Skepticism. This one was especially tough. In founding TSL, the most difficult hurdle we had to overcome was the forging ahead despite skepticism, rejection, and negativity. At every stage of the startup journey, I heard comments like “your idea will never work,” “don’t start a business based on a fad,” and “no one will ever pay for that.”

There were dozens of naysayers. Far more of them than supporters at this stage. We faced this during pitch competitions. When family and friends asked what my plans were after college… and I continued hearing this when visiting with prospective clients and partners. In the beginning, it felt like they may be right. That our prized business idea was just a hobby vs. a company with monetization potential. Deep down, Emily and I knew that wasn’t true. And if we walked away we’d always regret it. So we took the plunge. Decided if we couldn’t cut ourselves a paycheck within the next 90 days we’d call it quits. So, we put our heads down, worked tirelessly, and most importantly, had faith in ourselves and our instincts. We channeled the negativity into motivation. The difference between an abandoned dream and a multi-million-dollar business could be as simple as sticking to your guns. It was for us.

Theresa Price, Founder of the National College Resources Foundation

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Here Is My Background

Compton, California native and CEO, Dr. Theresa Price founded the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF) a 501c3 non-profit organization in 1999 in a direct response to the passing of California’s proposition 209 that banned affirmation action programs in California colleges. Since its inception, the organization has secured and distributed more than $300 million in scholarships & grants to over 400,000 students (over 200,000 first generation students) through 100 College Expos produced by NCRF.

Dr. Price graduated from California State University Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast/Journalism and a minor in Speech Communications and in 2016; she received an Honorary Doctorate Humane Letters from Virginia University of Lynchburg. After noticing a surge in high school dropout rates, primarily among the underserved and underrepresented students, she was determined to make a difference. As a strong proponent of education and having little resources of her own, Dr. Price set out on a mission to create/find something that would help curtail the high school dropout rate and offer resources that would help underserved, underrepresented, at risk and low resource students and families. She wanted to give them the hope and the help they needed to have a fair chance at success.

With a heart to help and having no idea of the magnitude of what she was about to embark upon, Dr. Price launched the Black College Expo™, a portal providing college resources for as many as would come. Now, nearly 20 years later NCRF is a fully staffed agency based in Diamond Bar, California providing production support, marketing and outreach for the Black College Expo™, a seven-city tour with a presence in Los Angeles, Oakland, Atlanta, DC/Maryland, Houston, Miami and New York, along with several other California based education driven events including the Latino College Expo™, Students Think S.T.E.A.M. Expo and All Sports Expo. Dr. Price’s passion and concern for the future of our youth transcends color, religion, socioeconomic status and gender.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

As Founder of the National College Resources Foundation, I have learned many lesson’s over the years.

1). I truly had to face that every market, every city is different. Although the needs may be the same, the same approach may not have the same outcome. We hosted our first Black College Expo in Los Angeles in 2000, and we had an awesome experience. We drew over 35,000 excited students and parents. We never expected to draw that amount of people, however it told us there was definitely a need for information on college access, educational resources and opportunities. As we began to expand I made the mistake of thinking every market would draw many people as well, however, we lost thousands of dollars in thinking that each market would be the same. It almost took us out of business because in doing events, nearly all monies required to execute is needed upfront. And although we were a non-profit the entities we had to deal with didn’t care they just wanted their money. Literally, every market is different.

2). I also learned not to depend solely on any one thing because anything can happen and affect your whole outcome. Therefore, you have to have a backup plan and then an another back-up plan to the backup plan. Also when you are doing events or focus on underserved markets and then a partnership or sponsor budget gets cut, its usually yours. So you have to find sustainable ways to continue to do business. You have to take a deep look at yourself and your god gifted talents and focus on those gifts to be the assets to grow or maintain your business.

3). I learned that sustainability is everything. You have to constantly review your business models and look for ways to create additional streams of revenue. The market changes so fast that you can get left behind. And as a nonprofit, if you don’t look sustainable on paper you won’t get funded. Funders want to know that if they can’t fund your program, it will still continue on without their assistance, which kind of sucks because that’s why you need funding to survive. It’s kind of funny that you have look like you have money in order to get money. And lastly, you must have a handle on your accounting. You have to know what needs to go out and what needs to come in. You can’t just bill, you have to actually have a system in place to collect.

Marina Shumaieva, Co-founder and CTO at CruiseBe, Inc.

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Here Is My Background

Marina Shumaieva, Co-founder and CTO at CruiseBe, Inc. CruiseBe provides cruise lovers with an amazingly simple cruise itinerary aggregator for B2C and SaaS B2B solution that proposes day-by-day schedule of a cruise with a complete list of attractions in each port of call and offline route navigation system on the ship.

I am experienced programmer, tech lead and travel enthusiast. I have Master degree in Computer Science and 3 years of experience as certified SAP Consultant. Among my interest are music and piano.

Being a female tech founder is not an easy thing to do when the gender gap is said to be the biggest in tech. I`m responsible for all the technology development processes in my company CruiseBe, in addition to programming 24/7, coordinating other male developers and at the same time finding way to look nice and pitching on the stage. The combination of charisma and technical knowledge sometimes helps to go beyond the standard perception of me as a woman.

Together with my husband Alex Shumaiev, CEO and co-founder at CruiseBe, we attend different entrepreneur`s events (like TechCrunch Disrupt in SF`17) and what I find amusing is when people always turn to my husband as he is CTO and treat me as ‘marketing person’. And almost always when we start talking to potential partners about the technical part, and when they realize that I have knowledge no worse than them or even better, then the gender boundaries and stereotyped perception are erased. So probably, the formula that helps to go beyond limits is theoretical knowledge, general erudition, charisma and a good mood.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Don`t be afraid and never give up. It doesn’t really matter which city or country you live in, it doesn’t matter what area you are passionate about, what industry you want to work in, and what market you are focused on. I realized all of that when I was starting my third startup as female tech lead in faraway Ukraine, creating a new company with the product for the rapid growing sector of the North America travel market — cruise industry.

I felt lack of knowledge and I faced various difficulties because there is no such type of traveling in my native country. Moreover, the way people run business in Ukraine is absolutely different. I had lots of doubts, I made mistakes, but I never gave up. Together with my co-founder Alex we have always supported each other. We overcame our fears, came to the US and successfully launched the company.

2). Dream big, dreams come true. No matter how trite it may sound, but dreams come true… sooner or later. Very often we are afraid to dream, relying on the pragmatism of the modern world, believing that dreams can lead us to a dead end or become our imagination. And this can be rather far from the true mercantile goals. But this is not true. It seems to me that dreams are such a secret female weapon, a clue of our subconscious mind, which sooner or later (if you really believe in them) lead to success.

3). The main lesson I learned would sound like an oxymoron, if I had to give advice to someone: “The main advice: do not listen to anyone’s advice”.
Almost always, friends, mentors, wise people around who give advice, do not have that full view of the problem or situation that you have, simply because they haven`t spent hundreds of thousands of hours over the “business of YOUR life”.

This does not mean that these people were not right. It means only that when you are listening to their advice, you should carefully filter them, process, remember and make the right conclusions. Our intuition is a woman’s sixth sense and very often it helps to determine the main vector and to separate the wheat from the chaff. Therefore, always listen to people, always consider their opinion, but afterwards you should very carefully filter it and trust your intuition — it should not fail.

Dava Davin, Founder + Principal, Portside Real Estate Group

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Here Is My Background

I founded Portside Real Estate Group in 2012. Portside, one of the fastest growing real estate companies in Maine, has three locations and annual sales of $225,000,000. I moved to Maine in 2008, the same year I left a lucrative career in the pharmaceutical industry to follow my passion for real estate. The real estate market was crashing badly, I didn’t know a soul in Maine or even my way around. I started from the bottom as an assistant at a large franchise and in just four years I opened my own company.

Five years later, I am the sole owner of one of the largest real estate companies in Maine. I recently acquired a RE/MAX franchise, one of the only times for a local real estate company to buy a national franchise, it is always the other way around. I dedicated to give back and stay connected to my community so I started Portside Foundation. Portside is an company committed to giving back to our Maine community through hosted fundraiser events that directly benefit four local nonprofits, donating over $20,000 each year.

I also lead a sales team which sold over 100 properties in 2017, ranking us in the top 5 of all residential agents and teams in the state of Maine. I believe my success comes from old fashioned beliefs, hard work, determination and providing a delightful customer experience. Along with my real estate goals I have completed FOUR Ironman triathlons (2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/ 26.2 mile run) and qualified for the Boston Marathon several times. I am also a proud wife and mom to two awesome teenage boys.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

That you have to be consistent to be successful for the long haul. If you are committed to doing small productive disciplines daily, they add up over time allowing you to achieve greatness.

Day after day you won’t see big strides, in over the long term it adds up and the success is real. For example, sending two handwritten notes per day every day, ten minutes studying your industry every day, logging 10 outbound sales calls every day, etc. You have to do things that your future self will thank you for. Training for an Ironman competition takes months and months of following a dedicated training plan. There are mornings when the iPhone alarm goes off at 4:15am, you can’t hesitate, you have to jump out of bed and be grateful that you have this opportunity.

Your mindset has to be that the workouts are non-negotiable. You have to be consistently discipled so on race day you can thank yourself and trust in your training. Believing that anything is possible helps to keep the energy high and the drive strong. Dream Big. I set my one year vision every January and I am always thankful when I exceed my dream accomplishments.

Heather Bowerman, CEO and Founder, DotLab

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Here Is My Background

Heather Bowerman is the CEO and Founder of DotLab, disrupting the $119 billion endometriosis industry. For her work as a biomedical engineer, she has been recognized as one of the Top 35 Global Innovators by the MIT Technology Review, the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs, and a World Technology Award Finalist for Health & Medicine.
Heather is originally from Clovis, California, the heart of California’s agricultural economy.

After she graduated from the UC Berkeley College of Engineering with a degree in Bioengineering, she loved the idea of moving discoveries from lab to market and moved to New York to become a biotechnology investor. She worked on the acquisition and launch of one of the major portable technologies to diagnose avian flu (H5N1) and swine flu (H1N1). She then went to Harvard for a master’s degree, worked as a McKinsey consultant in healthcare, and then led business operations at one of the first Silicon Valley startups applying machine learning and deep learning to medical image data.

In all of these roles, she saw how research and the deployment of technology severely lagged in women’s health, and led to worse outcomes for women. She started thinking about what the best point of entry could be to eliminate this systemic bias and bring healthcare equality to women. That was her inspiration for founding DotLab to help the 1 in 10 women worldwide who are affected by endometriosis. This neglected disease is truly a hidden drain on women’s success.

Meanwhile, women suffer without the correct drugs they need to manage endometriosis and its impact on their daily lives. Diagnosis currently requires laparoscopic surgery under general anesthesia, and the average timeframe from onset to diagnosis is ten years. DotLab has developed the first-ever diagnostic test for endometriosis, and the company’s goal is to help women live more productive, healthier, and happier lives.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Know what motivates you, and follow that.
In my career, what I have loved about working in healthcare is that your work can directly enrich the lives of others. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing from patients whose lives have been changed.

2). Know your worth.
In business negotiations, the other parties always have their interests in mind first. I found myself in a situation in which another party tried to push me into a poor deal by creating an artificial deadline and using tactics similar to bullying. Your strategic partners, employees, and investors should be team members whose interests are aligned with your own, so don’t let yourself be bullied.

3). When you’re leading a company, be decisive.
As long as you’re compliant with regulatory requirements, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially when you’re shipping your first product. Your users will tell you what they need from your product next.

Liat Sade-Sternberg, CEO of fuse.it

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Here Is My Background

Liat Sade-Sternberg serves as fuse.it CEO, leading the startup to a new revolution in the augmented reality segment. Liat was recognized by ‘Vivendi’, a French multinational mass media company, as a Promise Entrepreneur. She was the first Israeli and the first woman who won MIDEMLAB, the biggest startup competition in the music industry in 2015. Additionally, Liat lead her company in its commercialization process within Coca-Cola USA as part of the Coca-Cola “The Bridge” program.

Formerly, Liat served as a VP Sales & Marketing of Babylon, leading the marketing strategies execution to meet the company objectives. With average of 31.3 million daily unique visitors, Liat was leading the development of B2B value propositions, business opportunities and partnerships. Liat was responsible for managing multimillion dollar marketing and sales budgets, and during her role the company income had grown significantly representing an increase of 540%.

Currently, Liat is traveling over the globe as a feminine ambassador of the high-tech industry, telling her personal story, and inspiring other young women to step forward, and take positions in the Israeli technology scene.

Liat is married to Amit, a pianist and entrepreneur. Liat is a mom of 3 kids, Yali (14) is a promising teenager studying mathematics, physics and computer science, Mika (12) who recently won the Israeli championship in Sailing 2016 and Maya (4).

In her spare time, Liat mentors in the 8200 EISP, lectures in Google TLV Campus for moms, participates as a leading member of Magma Challenge, and speaks in universities and schools to encourage young women to follow their dreams.

Liat holds a B.A. in Sociology, Anthropology & East Asian Studies / Chinese Language from Tel Aviv University and an M.A. in Law Studies from Bar Ilan University.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). The only thing that can stop you, is you — As a leader, you are going to make many mistakes. Know that they will help you to grow in the long term. Don’t let small mistakes and issues discourage you from progressing, stay focused on your goals. It is not easy to raise money or convince people to believe in your dreams and be a part of it. However, if you will not do it, it’s for sure not going to happen.

2). Know your employees — Find talented and smart people to work with you and learn how to encourage them to join your team (through benefits, work-life balance, flexibility, etc.). They are the talent and the ones that help to drive and grow the business. Your company is your family, you want employees that you trust and love to work with. You are going to spend more hours with your team than with your family so see them as family. Compassion and lack of ego should help you obtain your company goals.

3). Have a family-friendly ecosystem to surround you — As a CEO with three kids, time management is integral. I’ve learned that it’s important to put trust in your partner to help you and do it with you and appreciate your partner for that. It is not easy at all to share their life with entrepreneur. Find ways that can help take the small things off your hands — you can still be a great mom without focusing 100% of your time on household tasks.

Grainne Kelly, Founder of BubbleBum

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Here Is My Background

Grainne Kelly is a former travel agent who revolutionized the child travel industry and broke limits by inventing BubbleBum: the world’s FIRST inflatable car booster seat for kids ages 4–11. BubbleBum weighs less than one pound and can deflate in minutes, making it simple to throw in a backpack or purse. It was also designed with belt positioning clips instead of armrests, making it possible to fit three booster seats across the back seat of most vehicles. It is the perfect travel companion for road trips, everyday use, vacations, cab rides, fly-ins, and more.

“As a mother of two, my primary goal was to offer travelers a safe way to transport their kids. I was frequently traveling between my native Ireland and England to visit a sick relative, and I always had to transport cumbersome fixed booster seats back and forth on the plane due to the lack of car booster seats available from car rental desks. I came up with the simple idea for an inflatable car booster seat and invented BubbleBum as an affordable, lightweight car booster seat that could travel easier than a child does.” — Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum

A must-have for keeping kids safe in the car, BubbleBum meets and exceeds all Europe and U.S. safety regulations (even in the deflated state) and has also won multiple awards and honors, including the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) Best Bet award 6 years in a row and NAPPA. BubbleBum gives older kiddos (ages 4–11) the perfect “boost” to prevent the risk of slouching (which happens with flat car booster seats) and seat belt abdominal injury in the event of a crash. The air filled design provides extra comfort and utilizes memory foam technology to help create stability and structural integrity in the seat with side positioners to correctly position the lap belt.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Maintain a positive attitude, because that is essential for success. Energy is the fuel that feeds our attitude and it needs to be replenished on a daily basis. Having a positive attitude is a conscious choice, so when negative thoughts creep in, stop them in their tracks and replace them with positive self-talk. Repeat words or phrases that focus on affirming truths about you. Surround yourself with like-minded women who are an inspiration and who will provide encouragement. Positivity allows you to see the potential that lies within you and gives you the faith to step outside of the box to achieve your dreams.

2). Have a motto that you believe in and live by, as it will motivate you when the work gets difficult. The one question I always ask myself is: What is the worst that can happen? Every day, I also always tell myself: If you do things for the right reasons, only the right thing can happen. Do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.

3). Don’t let “no” or an obstacle stop you. Adversity cultivates inner strength, so don’t throw a pity party when life gets tough. Instead, look for the inner lessons to be learned and apply them to your life. Character isn’t born from an easy life — it is forged through pushing through trials and being persistent.

Lisa Furuland, Founder of DockATot

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Here Is My Background

Lisa Furuland has broken limits, as she is the creator of the 4th most-registered baby product in the U.S.A: the DockATot multifunctional lounging, playing, chilling, resting, and snuggling dock for baby that you can take anywhere. The Swedish-designed, highly portable, and 100% breathable DockATot creates a healthy, safe, and soft surrounding for baby to co-sleep, nap, or even get in tummy time while feeling snug and comforted with a cocoon-like shape that mimics the womb.

“I created the DockATot multifunctional baby lounger to help simplify my life as a mom. When my son, Ilias, was born in 2006, I searched unsuccessfully for an alternative to the blanket, the cot, and the baby lounger. I craved something more snug and at the same time more versatile. I came up with the name DockATot™ because I’m living [with my family] in a small seaside town where docks are considered safe harbors. I wanted our docks to serve as a secure place for parents to place their little ones.” — Lisa Furuland, dockatot.com

For a baby to be perfectly comfortable and safe, we need to think not just about their global climate, but also about their microclimate as well. DockATot is hypoallergenic and made with the most nurturing and hygienic fabrics that also have excellent air-permeability. DockAtot provides the ideal microclimate and is even safety tested in the UK for air permeability. It has won awards such as the prestigious Junior Design Award, NAPPA, and The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Reevaluate if your product or brand is growing and not standing still. Always move forward. Never settle. Even the word ‘settle’ makes me cringe.

2). Give yourself some slack: Life is short, so buy the shoes and eat the dessert! As much as I can, I prioritize family time before work. I know that these precious days when the children are young won’t come back. When they are teenagers, I know I won’t be thinking ‘Oh, I wish I had gone on more conferences and business trips when they were young. I also think women in general could support one another more. Be happy for other women’s accomplishments and cheer each other on, be it personally or professionally. If you and your accomplishments are recognized, it does wonders for your energy levels.

Kathryn Petralia, co-founder and President, Kabbage

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Here Is My Background

Kathryn Petralia is the co-founder and President of Kabbage, a fully automated online lender helping small businesses get the capital they need to grow. Before co-founding Kabbage, Kathryn spent nearly 15 years working with large and small companies focused on credit, payments and ecommerce.

She also served as Vice President of Strategy for Revolution Money, an Internet-based credit card startup, and was a corporate development executive with CompuCredit Corporation, where she was responsible for entering new markets, developing products and establishing strategic alliances. In 2017, Kathryn was also named one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes, ranking among Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel, Melinda Gates and Oprah. In August 2017, Kabbage raised $250 million from Softbank, representing the largest equity round every raised in the online lending space.

With Kathryn at the helm, it also represents one of the largest equity rounds for any company in the technology industry with a female co-founder. The success of the company is due to Kathryn’s focus on challenging tradition and breaking the status quo of how small business access capital. With Kabbage, in less than 10 minutes, small businesses can apply, be approved and access to an ongoing line of credit up to $150,000, not requiring trips to the bank, paper-heavy processes nor weeks of waiting. Kathryn and co-founder, Rob Frohwein, built the company on the premise that a small business owner’a credit worthiness extends far beyond their tax returns and historical bank statements. Rather, using the rich data from small businesses — from bank accounts to payment processors, accounting software, UPS shipping data and even Facebook — Kabbage can make a credit decision in moments that’s more accurate and telling of the business’s character and credibility than manual origination processes. And it’s proven true, today Kabbage has more than 1.5 million live data connections across more than 130,000 small businesses, the largest customer base in the online lending space, and has funded more than $4 billion.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1) You don’t need to prove yourself: I get asked all the time, “How did you overcome VC challenges as a woman?”, or, “What should future female entrepreneurs know when seeking funding?” The answer I always give is: you belong. I haven’t experienced the overt harassment or discrimination as I’ve read from others seeking funding, and I would undoubtedly be outraged if it happened to me. Investors want to invest. If you have the knowledge and experience to give them a lucrative investment opportunity, they’ll listen. You, however, need to show up and be the expert in your business. It has nothing to do with proving yourself or earning their respect. They’ll respect you because you hold the keys and knowledge to their success.

2) Be slow with no: Studies show that you may seem “smarter” to others when you criticize an idea (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15298860701668986), but the real winners find ways to say yes to new ideas. Rather than jumping to a no when someone proposes a crazy idea, evaluate it on its own merit, even if it seems improbable on its face. Not only can you uncover some great new ideas for your business, you foster a culture of innovation that’s a better, more successful place to work.

3). Be committed: Especially when it’s part of a core value. At Kabbage, we were often asked often if people would be willing to share their financial data with us to get access to working capital, and our unwavering commitment to real-time data meant we never allowed manual applications to become part of our standard process. This commitment has been one of the greatest contributors to our success as a data and technology company, and is the key driver of the customer experience that has garnered such attention.

Jess Davis, Founder & Chief Rebel, Folk Rebellion

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Here Is My Background

Jess Davis is the Founder of Folk Rebellion, a brand and movement which promotes slower-living and mindful use of technology. The company leads coaching sessions and hosts travel and adventure retreats promoting digital wellness and a return to simpler living. It also creates apparel and goods with a message — encouraging living off the grid. Most recently (January 2018), Folk Rebellion also became a media company — launching The Dispatch, By Folk Rebellion. The Dispatch is a monthly print newspaper aimed at helping subscribers unplug. It advances the mission for a return to offline living and living in real life rather than a screened-in world.

Why did Davis go with the name Folk Rebellion? FOLK are the keepers of a valuing a traditional way of life. REBELS are independent thinkers who go against the grain and resist “herd mentality, naysayers, conventional wisdom, trained behaviors, and ‘it is what it is’ shoulder shrugs.” Put that together and you have FOLK REBELLION. And as Davis likes to say, “When you don’t see something the world needs, a rebel goes out and makes it,” making her not only the Founder of a brand and leader of a movement, but also Folk Rebellions “Chief Rebel”.

As a formerly plugged-in, award-winning digital strategist and brand consultant, Davis’ fast-paced tech career allowed her a unique perspective from the inside-out about the pros, cons and misuse of technology. Technology’s purpose is to simplify life but after more than a decade of working with individual clients and brands to find their digital voices, Davis realized she was in fact helping to create a society that was no longer present or truly connected. After much soul searching, research, and family imposed offline vacations, she discovered her calling: to use her megaphone to inspire folks (and herself) to return to living in “real-life” … all while balancing their digital one.

Davis is a speaker on the topics of unplugging, technology, balance, and advocate for incorporating a more analog way of life. She is a regular contributor for Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and Wanderlust. Jess’s story has been featured in publications like Inc., Well + Good, Delta Sky Magazine, Observer, Cameron Diaz’s The Body Book, and VOGUE. She is also on Yoganonymous’s 20 Female Yogapreneuers to Watch list. Her workshops, coaching, and corporate wellness programs help promote digital wellness and minimalism.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Mindful tech doesn’t mean being anti-tech…. except analog is better.
Mindful tech (or technology) is a practice. It’s you controlling your technology, not it controlling you. It’s making conscious choices about how, when, and where you use it. Technology in all its glory and distractions is here to stay. I believe that if we set controls, parameters, guidelines, and warnings tech will be used in the way it was intended — to make life easier, and have more time to enjoy it. Folk Rebellion is not anti-tech. No Luddites here! We practice ‘mindful tech’ meaning we use it but set important boundaries and balance around it.

At Folk we use an online presence to build and educate our community. Our social media channels are filled with prompts and useful tips to remind people to balance screen time with time away from devices. We launched our monthly, print newspaper The Dispatch, By Folk Rebellion to encourage subscribers to spend more time reading and digesting thought-provoking, well-researched, longer-form inspirational articles and stories rather than swiping through headlines and synthetic content. It’s all about creating meaningful balance when it comes to unplugging.

2). Spending time in nature not only regenerates the soul but fuels ideas.
Yes, we all know (or should by now) that time in nature is good for our soul. There’s plenty of research about how time outdoors reduces stress levels and fuels biological needs. Science aside, I can look back on each major decision, shift, and idea in my life and attribute it to time in nature. When I feel scattered, unsure, or not-grounded I drive to the closest green space I can find around Brooklyn.

Sometimes it is as easy as biking into Prospect Park with a blanket to just be idle under the trees. Other times it is a 5-day escape to my hometown and a deep immersion into what I call my “home place”: the Adirondacks. When I am surrounded by the sounds of the outdoors I eventually absorb the pace of it. I also feel the space of it in my mind, my breath, and from that, see my perspective in the world. In that newly created space is where the ideas creep in. Without the space our brains can’t process what’s bothering us. If our minds are constantly dealing with information overload and “busy” how are we to innovate, create, and grow? I always knew I felt better on a mountain but it wasn’t until I started talking about how I created Folk Rebellion that I put things together. Each “a-ha” moment happened when I was wandering where the wifi is weak.

3). Busy is not a badge of honor. At some point in the past few decades being “BUSY” became a badge of honor, a status symbol showing how important or successful a person is. Our attachment to tech amplifies this. Emails, texts, and notifications? It’s basically like having someone throw hundreds, if not thousands, of digital communications AT. YOUR. FACE. ALL. DAY. LONG.
How can you put your best foot forward when you’re living under a waterfall of data?

Waterfalls never turn off. Instead of bathing in digital waterfalls, plan tech-free time away to splash around in a real one. I discovered that the best way to get people to change a habit is to get after them where they are. That’s why Folk Rebellion hosts tech-free retreats to locations like Russian River Valley, CA and the edge of the Arctic Circle to experience the Northern Lights. It’s wonderful to attend a retreat or take a vacation where you can unplug and return to the basics. Our retreats are different from others because while it’s all well and good to go off the grid for a bit, if you don’t LEARN how to manage your tech when you return to the real world then no changes have been made. OUR retreats include programming which leaves people with actionable changes they can make, a more educated way to look at it all, once back home.

There are also small changes you can make every day. I live and die by batching:
-Setting expectations on times for email communication throughout the day (Ex: 10am, 1pm, 4pm)
-Only using social media on my computer (30 minutes total per day)
-Keeping phones out of the bedroom
-I’m offline from 9pm — 9am
-I never use an iPad (iPads are also off-limits for my son)
-Spend time offline reading books or feeling the fine print of publications like The Dispatch! You can’t smell or feel the pages of a kindle or iPad.

This is what helps me. It’s not always perfect, but it is better.

Cristina Mariani-May, Co-CEO, Banfi Vintners

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Here Is My Background

As with many industries, the wine business has gone through a massive consolidation — there are essentially two big players left standing in a distribution network that had dozens only a decade ago, and the big-box retailers have further compressed the trade. Additionally, the number of suppliers has increased tenfold in the past 20 years. This dynamic gives the buyer all the leverage, presenting daily challenges to a mid-sized winery like Castello Banfi.

For example, an important customer recently insisted on being the exclusive retailer of Castello Banfi. It’s a common request we receive not only in the United States but also in the 90 markets worldwide where Banfi wines are sold. Of course, you can’t give everyone exclusivity, so the challenge is how to appease the customer while retaining the integrity, brand identity, and heritage we’ve been building for Castello Banfi since its inception 40 years ago. It’s critical to be authentic, to remain true to who you are.

In this case, we worked with the customer to establish a creative compromise — we gave them limited exclusivity to some of our unique top-end wines in exchange for their help in telling our story. It was a win-win for everyone — the retailer enjoyed the respect and status that comes with providing carrying world-class and collectible wines; their customers had access to “affordable luxury” in the form of those wines; and, in addition to getting the sale, our brand benefited by having our story told in the form of videos shown in-store and on local TV — beautifully produced by the retailer.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Be flexible and open minded to meet the needs of the customer. Work with customers to find a solution that works for both sides.

2). Consider not only what you have to offer but also the strengths of the customer, and how you can combine efforts and resources to grow each others’ business together.

3). Hold tightly to your heritage and think about the long-term health of your brand rather than the short-term gain. At times that means walking away from a deal. At other times, as in this case, that steadfastness establishes respect and results in a committed, invested business partner who shares your vision.

Jessica Postiglione, CEO + Co-Founder, OLIKA

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Here Is My Background

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for business. My first job in high school was working as an office temp, answering phones, filing papers and delivering mail. From there, I worked my way up with each subsequent position. After graduating from the University of Chicago, I took a role as an M&A investment banker and held a number of of corporate strategy roles after attending the Harvard Business School. It was a risky decision to leave the corporate world but I jumped at the chance to build an innovative brand and product from scratch.

My vision was to create the most sophisticated, hydrating hand sanitizer on the market. An audacious goal that was greeted with skepticism from many potential partners. However, I knew from months of research and my own encounters with the personal care category, that the hand sanitizer market was ripe for disruption. Before OLIKA, the experience of using a hand sanitizer was not a very pleasant one. We researched, revised and tested more hand sanitizers than you can count. We married the data we collected on hand sanitizer usage with a bit of imagination, to create a final product that goes above and beyond a simple formulation update. From this, the concept of Birdie was born. An innovative solution that has since been named “the world’s most beautiful hand sanitizer” by media experts.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1) Find your personal network or advisory group. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet other amazing female founders in the consumer products space, who are incredible sounding boards and collaborative thought leaders. Regardless of industry, we are all challenged with the same issues: How to find the best accountant? How to best utilize social media marketing? How can I find a talented sales person? Talking to others who can relate and share tips on building a business is invaluable.

2) Don’t obsess over everything. Being nimble and flexible is a start-up’s competitive advantage. As such, sometimes getting a project or task to 95% is good enough. There aren’t enough hours in the day for every deliverable to be perfect. Not every piece of social media content is going to be A+; not every presentation is going to be a homerun… and that is ok. It allows you to free up time to focus on making what needs to be perfect, perfect.

3) Don’t be afraid to fail. We have had some really brilliant ideas fall flat, and conversely we have had some unusual ideas that turned out to be huge hits. We learned something from those bumps in the road and are better for it. Many of the ideas that fell flat were revised into winners. We have found that taking away any stigma associated with failing, allows for more openness and creativity.

Anna Zornosa, CEO of Ruby Ribbon

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Here Is My Background

Anna Zornosa is CEO of Ruby Ribbon, the Silicon Valley-based apparel company known for its shapewear-based collections (bras, camis, swimwear and more).

Anna, a veteran of tech and media companies like Yahoo and Knight Ridder Digital, founded Ruby Ribbon in 2011 after being inspired to create a unique everyday shapewear apparel company, whose products are only available through social commerce.

Anna has raised more than $11M from investors Trinity Ventures, Mohr Davidow Partners and DBL Partners. She’s taking on industry giants like Spanx to capture a piece of the $10B shapewear market. Not only does Ruby Ribbon differentiate itself with its wire-free, variable compression product line, the company sells its apparel products directly to consumers using a nationwide network of technology-empowered independent stylists.

She serves as an Advisor to several other startups including: Trulioo.com, Motista, Inc, Glam.com, and Chloe & Isabel. Previously, she served as EVP of the Cobalt Group, Vice President, Yahoo!, Chief Marketing Officer, Knight Ridder Digital, and CEO, Topica, Inc. She has both a Masters and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and lives in Burlingame, CA with her family.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Slow down and listen carefully. When I first started Ruby Ribbon I had no idea our shaping camisole would become our runaway best seller. Turns out, customers were using it as a bra replacement. I didn’t know it, but our customers and the Independent Stylists who represented our product did. Listening to them, deeply and with respect, was the engine of our success.

2). Prioritize confidence. Starting a business is a leap of faith in yourself, your goals and strategy. Set backs are part of life. But surrounding yourself with support, doing the things that make you feel strong, and focusing on gratitude can be the source of strength.

3). Always send a sympathy card. The little things matter. A card might seem like a small thing, but as someone who’s been there, I can tell you it is very appreciated. You will never regret acknowledging someone’s loss and being there for them. You will always regret having said nothing.

Susan Stipa, CEO, Mc-Day PR

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Here Is My Background

Susan Stipa has thirty-five years in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology world. A chemical engineer by training, she began as a process engineer at Hoffmann La Roche, where she ran the bulk powders step of the largest Vitamin C plant in the world at that time. Wearing a hard hat (and learning quickly not to wear dresses on the manufacturing grated staircases), Susan tourned FDA through the New Jersey facility (now owned by DSM) and later worked for the fluoropolyer division of the Pfaudler Company. Most recently, Susan became SVP and Commercial Director for Foster Wheeler’s pharmaceutical division, in Philadelphia.

Susan was often given sales and marketing responsibility in every scientific/engineering role she had, because she was “good with people” and “a creative engineer,” (often voiced with surprise!). McDay’s focus, not surprisingly, is on PR and strategic marketing for technical clients that supply to the drug discovery and manufacturing side of the pharmaceutical industry. Susan’s science background, coupled with right brain creativity and determined focus on client revenue generation, has fueled many a client’s success in her four years running the McDay organization.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Trust your younger self. It is the strengths and idealism you had as a youngster — The purity of purpose you had as a child will fuel your CEO zeal if you’ve learned to trust those strengths and that idealism.

For example, I’m feeling the certitude of what was originally just a young girl’s personal mission — that being kind, not saying a bad word about anyone, and doing good things for others, not only pays off in the long run in life, but is great for business.

It isn’t weak or less professional, or less serious to make kindness a core business value. I’ve never been involved with a business plan that is executing so precisely to plan and beyond by focusing on this one purpose, for our people and our clients. Kindness means treating others like you’d treat your children, your grandmother…and you know what? It also means listening, getting inside their heads and hearts, their desires, and then, executing against that!

2). Functional Skills Matter

However, for all the high level purpose you set for your company, inside the office of the CEO, I’ve found that it is simple functional skills that really make it all work. I built our business around providing engineers who love creative marketing and PR to our clients, but really? It is just as much that 1978 typing class and a love of reading that have made me able to DO the job, not just DREAM the job.

3). No matter how well you delegate, no matter how great your people, this role is a lot of work. There is just a lot of material to go through, all the time.

I thank my mom and dad all the time for gifts they bequeathed me — an ability to read uncannily fast (thousands of childhood books read, and still reading 3–4 a week), and the ability to write quickly and effectively. An innate ability to make decisions fast has turned friends and family’s “Susan” vocabulary from “headstrong” and “dissatisfied” and morphed it into “decisive”and “visionary.” Success alters a lot of people’s viewpoints and that’s just something to enjoy — and all the more reason to trust your own inner strengths and keep pushing ahead.

Devin Graciano, CEO, Use Me Hair

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Here Is My Background

Devin Graciano, CEO of Use Me, founded the universal hair care product line in 2017 with the intent to simplify people’s everyday hair care routine. After graduating college in Southern California with a degree in cosmetology and business, Graciano furthered her training through Toni & Guy USA, which matured into over a decade of experience with Toni & Guy and TIGI International corporations, before launching a product line of her own.

Graciano is a natural-born hair guru, who inherited her passion for hair from her father, a 60-year industry veteran. Her skills have since been refined as an international educator, fashion week(s) and professional hairstylist for major hair care brands like: Bed Head, label.m and Toni & Guy USA. Graciano has been recognized as the “quickest to rise,” by Toni & Guy USA, and North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) finalist, one of the most widely recognized awards in hairstyling.

Currently, Use Me is being hand-crafted by experts in the first USDA-certified organic lab in the United States. With each product, Graciano strives to deliver the necessary change in the hair care industry through development process, customer connection, product consistency and performance, while celebrating different generations’ lifestyle and communication processes. As the company grows, Graciano will introduce unique yet relevant product lines to ensure a simplified solution to all types of hair care needs.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

  1. Overhearing all of the corporate conversations, about rebranding one product by merely changing a scent or a label, and filling it with an old formulation and calling it “new.” The more I was exposed to this, the more I realized how we, as consumers, are being deceived. I knew I wanted to end this cycle by creating my own unique, fully transparent brand.

    2). From my experience, I realized the importance of creating of a luxury brand at an affordable price that is different from these national mainstream brands. I want my products and brand to reflect my lifestyle. The formulations themselves are created in a USDA certified lab in the U.S. In these labs, they listened to each detail I wanted to get from my products, to me picking out specific ingredients and implementing them into the formulation. Most brands don’t do this, because it eliminates sub categories in “new lines” (like moisture, treatment, volume, curly, straight, etc.). A lot of these are simply marketing tactics.

    3). Overcoming self-doubt. This was a very important lesson because, as a Virgo, a woman, surrounded by A-list creators, I put these innovators on a pedestal. While a lot of hairdressers can be artists and carefree, I always look at my work and leave saying, I could have done this better. Even if I walked out with a first-place award, I would go back and think, how they’ve created household names. Times are different now. I’m overcoming this by, going with facts and my gut. Facts say this is what we’ve never had before. My gut says, now is the time.

Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D, CEO, Co-Founder of Science Exchange

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Here Is My Background

Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D., is the CEO and Co-founder of Science Exchange, co-director of the Reproducibility Initiative, and part-time partner at Y Combinator.

Launched in 2011, Science Exchange aims to accelerate scientific discovery by radically improving the procurement and delivery of outsourced research and development (R&D) services. Today, Science Exchange serves thousands of organizations on both the supply and demand sides of outsourced R&D, including 12 of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies.

Prior to launching Science Exchange, Iorns investigated breast cancer development and progression as an assistant professor at University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, where she remains an adjunct professor. Iorns speaks regularly at thought leadership events, such as the 2017 TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, 2017 Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening Annual Meeting and 2016 MassBio CRO/CMO Symposium.

Elizabeth serves on the board of directors for the Drug, Chemical & Associated Technologies Association (DCAT). Her numerous awards and honors include Nature’s “Ten People that Mattered,” WIRED’s “50 Women Who Are Changing The World,” the “Kauffman Foundation Emerging Entrepreneur Award,” Goldman Sach’s 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2017 and the 2017 Stevie Women in Business Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

Elizabeth earned her doctoral degree from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the University of Auckland.

As a young scientist who needed to access outsourced R&D services, Iorns was able to quickly see there had to be a better way to find and collaborate with organizations providing scientific services. She founded Science Exchange to solve that problem — to disrupt the status quo and make it easier for scientists to focus on their research, and not on the administrative tasks required for access to the scientific services they need. Iorns is passionate about her business, realizing that Science Exchange is actively accelerating scientific discovery by helping researchers make connections.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

My top three lessons learned throughout my career include some of my most challenging moments at Science Exchange and how I overcame them.

1). Create a successful business model — The idea to start Science Exchange was a disruptive one, and along with my co-founder, I had to develop the right business model, the right emerging technology and build credibility within the biotech/life sciences industry. This industry can be averse to change, so implementing new systems and processes can be challenging.

2). Managing challenges that any startups might face — for example,
- Navigating the need for financing, and learning how to protect your investment while giving investors the opportunity they need to get excited about our company.
- Hiring the right people — I have been very focused on building our culture carefully, and putting the right team in place who share the company’s mission and purpose.

3). Preparing for growth and failures — I realized, early on, that I had to be ready when opportunities arise, and be able to scale the business quickly when the world’s biggest biotech and biopharma companies come knocking! On the flipside, I’ve had to prepare for upsets and make sure I always have a plan to to rebound quickly.

Lastly, It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true — I’ve learned never to give up. Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t take your dream and make it happen. I’m living that every day.

Sarah Ayala, Founder and CEO of The Kiwi Importer

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Here Is My Background

Sarah Ayala is the founder and CEO of The Kiwi Importer, an online retailer and wholesaler of natural food and home goods. The Kiwi Importer brings the natural goodness of New Zealand to the United States with an emphasis on fair trade, conservation, and charity.

An immigrant from New Zealand, Sarah topped her Master of International Business class, and completed a PhD in Global Collaborative Business Innovation while looking after two young children and launching her business.

Prior to starting her own company, Sarah was in the fresh food industry in New Zealand and Australia. In this male dominated landscape she excelled as a female leader, in charge of tens of millions dollars of sales. She was also the first to export Australian mangoes to China and advised in International trade negotiations.

Her company today continues her success in international trade as the sole US importer and distributor of some of New Zealand’s best natural products.

When she’s not taking the international business world by storm, she also practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with her husband and children.

When it comes to limits, Sarah doesn’t think about breaking them because she doesn’t see herself defined by limitations. She continues to move onward and upward, pushing the boundaries for immigrants, female entrepreneurs, and working mothers everywhere.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Doing business and doing good are not mutually exclusive: I find myself drawn to working with businesses that have a deeper purpose beyond the bottom line. For example, Tahi manuka honey’s business model places conservation and community at the same importance as commerce. Profits from Tahi honey go to replanting native forest, reestablishing wetlands and rebuilding sand dunes. My beeswax reusable food wraps are made by New Zealand moms in need of flexible work; our vanilla range started as a trade aid project after a devastating cyclone hit Tonga and the income continues to build up the grower community and Tui balms donate 100% of profits to registered charities. We also support groups with goals and priorities that fit our company values, such as donating to the recent United Nations Women’s Entrepreneurship day conference in NY, a movement to empower women in business around the world.

2). Don’t let fear stop you from thinking big: taking big steps such as signing your first warehouse lease, bringing on employees and buying large shipments and capital items require a whole new level of courage when you’re risking your own money. Of course, reckless leaps aren’t advised, do your research, but making well thought out yet audacious and intrepid plays are required to succeed.

3). Mistakes are learning lessons: If you are making bold moves, there is no way to avoid some of them being mistakes. Entrepreneurs are naturally optimistic people. There is no one that would take the risks and work as hard as we do if we didn’t think the future was bright. However, when weighing up big moves I like to take time to consider the worst-case scenario and work out how I would bounce back up from that. This process means when things don’t go as well as I had hoped, I own it, take action to fix it, learn from it, then hold my chin up and move on.

Liz Maida, Founder, CEO, Uplevel Security

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Here Is My Background

Liz Maida is co-founder and CEO of Uplevel Security, the industry’s first adaptive system of intelligence that uses graph theory and machine learning to modernize security operations. She was formerly a senior director at Akamai Technologies and served in multiple executive roles focused on technology strategy and new product development. Liz holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from Princeton University and dual master’s degrees in Computer Science and Engineering Systems from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). The ability and desire to learn is critical to success. When building a startup, the character of people who make up your core organization matters as much, if not more, than their credentials. I’ve learned that intellectually curious people who aren’t afraid to admit what they don’t know, are eager to learn and are intrinsically motivated will find any way possible to achieve success.

2). Seeking perfection can be a distraction. We need to admit that failure is inevitable, but doing nothing can be worse. Executing, even if the conditions are not perfect, allows you to continually learn from experiences and use knowledge gained to inform and improve future endeavors.

3). Don’t wait for permission. We’re all faced with situations, especially in business, where we have to make judgment calls. There’s something to be said for moving forward and “just doing” what you can, even if it only incrementally works towards your larger goals. This involves some level of risk, but entrepreneurs can’t function or succeed without some risk. It’s important to keep moving forward, and its okay to learn as you go.

Genevieve Piturro, Founder of Pajama Program

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Here Is My Background

Genevieve Piturro is the founder of Pajama Program, a national nonprofit organization which believes that every child, no matter their circumstances, has the inherent right to a loving good night, complete with the comforting bedtime ritual of changing into clean, warm pajamas and enjoying an enchanting story. Genevieve Piturro founded Pajama Program in 2001. To date, the nonprofit has provided more than 5 million new pairs of pajamas and books to children and teens in the United States.

Genevieve’s Background:
My background is in marketing, first in the television syndication arena for many years and then for an event planning company with offices in London and NYC. I am a professional speaker, and a contributing IMPACT blogger for Huffington Post. I am currently writing a book, The Pajama Story, about Pajama Program and my personal journey to find my purpose. I am a founding board member of the Spirit of Hope Scholarship Foundation, a non-profit inspired by Pajama Program which offers college scholarships to High School seniors in foster care. I have a Bachelor’s of Art Degree from Fordham University and reside in Irvington, N.Y. with my husband, Demo DiMartile.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). We all need our Mission Statement

A Mission Statement, or Purpose, should be personal, something that resonates with our heart, inspires us and brings us back to our path when our doubts and fears pull us off center. It has to be put in a place where we see it every day. Sometimes it’s a statement we come to ourselves and sometimes it comes to us from an observer who sees us when all we see is fear or uncertainty.

For the children:
• We shall walk, hand in hand, the pathways of light to reach the children who have been neglected, orphaned and abandoned.
• We shall be the inspiration to uplift their heavy hearts and foster the smile of hope that they so rightly deserve to wear upon their precious faces.
• We shall read them marvelous stories to expand their imagination, and return the wonder to their eyes.
• We shall nurture their hearts with caring, open their minds with books and comfort them with warm cozy pajamas for bedtime to lessen their dreaded fear of not belonging.
• We shall encourage them to dream their dreams filled with desire and the magic of possibilities.
• We shall take comfort in knowing that we have touched the children deeply, tendered their gentle souls and sown the seeds of love that they so desperately needed.
• We will be filled with an inexplicable joy knowing that in giving we truly made a difference. And when the sun sets upon our mission, we will all have moved together through the darkness and awakened to a brighter day.
• And on that day, the children will belong to themselves, walking hand in hand as one with us the pathways of light, reaching out to the neglected, the orphaned and the abandoned.

2). Trust Yourself — Support often comes “out of the blue”

The amount of pressure I put on myself during the first year of Pajama Program was staggering: Even though through all these early-stage nerves I knew I’d found my purpose, I wasn’t quite ready to swallow that the world would conspire to help me. Momentum around Pajama Program was growing but I was more uncertain, terrified of failure, and questioning if I had indeed had the fortitude to make it succeed.

My husband was already working from home so as I struggled to turn our one-bedroom apartment into a 2-office space, I received a call from a supportive friend who knew how crowded and hectic things were for my little project. One day “out of the blue” he called to offer me a cubicle at his firm where I could work until he hired another employee.

It was one of those moments when you think, “Is there a catch here? I’m sure he means for a couple of weeks, no longer than that.” I was both beyond excited and scared to death. This was a sign that someone else was taking a chance on me — me, someone who was shooting from the hip with lots of prayers along the way, every day. What if I let him down? How embarrassing that would be.

David saved the day and probably our marriage, with his offer!
I was beginning to see that things were falling into place easier than ever before. Sometimes it feels a little spooky when all of a sudden events shift to make possible what had been impossible an hour before. Coincidences reinforce our belief that we are on track with our purpose.

3)One person can make a difference

Looking back I am shocked at how one moment, one little girl who didn’t know what pajamas were helped so many of us make a difference. I won’t tell you it was easy, but I will tell you, you can do it, you are enough.
In the early days when I didn’t get what we needed for Pajama Program — and there were lots of days like that in between the “out of the blue” support, my fears had to be kept at bay and I learned to trust that silver linings can come anytime and from anywhere.

Iva Pawling

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Here Is My Background

Iva is the Co-Founder/CEO & Chief Fire Put-ter Out-ter, of Richer Poorer, a men’s and women’s innerwear brand founded in 2010. The brand is sold in over nine hundred retailers across the globe, and maintains operations out of their California based office in San Juan Capistrano. Iva’s career began in the PR closet of Kate Spade in New York City, back in 2003. It was there she learned about the inner workings of the fashion world where she knew her interest would keep her. From there, Iva continued down the PR path to the furthest location possible in the US, Hawaii. There, she was an Account Executive at Bennet Group Public Relations, focusing on clients in the fashion and lifestyle space. A move to California propelled her back into the brand side, joining her sister’s namesake jewelry brand, Gorjana. She was the VP of Business Development there, and after four years of cutting her teeth at the start-up, she took the leap to start Richer Poorer. After five years of growing Richer Poorer, Iva and her Co-Founder, Tim Morse, managed an acquisition to Shoes.com at the end of 2015, achieving the much-desired start-up exit. The two quickly realized the brand was better off as its own entity, and were able to take Richer Poorer back to an independent company with private investors in December of 2016 — what a year. Iva resides in Laguna Beach, California with her husband Andrew, their four-year-old son Ford, and is awaiting the arrival of baby #2 in March of 2018.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. It doesn’t ever slow down.

I think I spent the first five years of running Richer Poorer convincing myself that things would slow down eventually, and then I would have time to do x, y, z. Seven years in, and it has never slowed down. Leading a company or even just working at a start-up is a high pressure, fast-paced environment where no two years are the same and often no two months are either. Things are constantly changing and you are constantly growing. The experience can swallow you whole, so the best thing to do from day one is to set up personal boundaries to force yourself to unplug at times and just try and enjoy the ride.

2. Always have a plan B.

When my co-founder and I sold Richer Poorer to Shoes.com at the end of 2015, we thought we made it, our goal was reached, and that it would be smooth sailing from there on out. We were SO sorely wrong. While our parent company was struggling, we quickly figured out we were going to need a back up plan. Instead of waiting for the worst case scenario to happen before we took action, we moved quickly and creatively to take the brand independent again and saved the business by the skin of our teeth.

3. Being an entrepreneur is isolating.

Social media has very much glamorized what entrepreneur life is like, and it could not be further from the truth. Starting and growing a company is one of the hardest things you can ever do, and so few people in your life, despite trying, can understand what you are going through. The self doubt, lack of sleep, anxiety, stress, you name it — is overwhelming and isolating — and that’s if things are going well. Find other entrepreneurs to befriend, they are worth their weight in gold to help you keep your sanity and get through the dark days.

Liz Bentley, Founder of Liz Bentley Associates

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Here Is My Background

Liz Bentley is the founder of Liz Bentley Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development programs for both individuals and companies. Drawing upon her background in psychology, 10 years of experience in sales and management, and a lifetime of experience in competitive sports, Liz has a unique appreciation of mindset and the power it has to change patterns of behavior. To her presentations, seminars, and one-on-one coaching, she brings her own insights and combines this with the most current research on how people perform best.

She is a thought leader in the industry and a highly sought after expert. She delivers keynotes to companies and conferences across the country including Sotheby’s Global Networking Event, Microsoft, SHRM and IBM. Liz frequently share her expertise and guidance in the media including Marie Claire, Fast Company, Cheddar, NBC News, and more, and was the career coach for the 2017 Know Your Value conference in New York City.

Liz works with high-level corporate executives and entrepreneurs within companies of all sizes. Recent clients include Microsoft, Hearst, Wells Fargo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sotheby’s International Realty, KORG-World Leader of Musical Instruments, Stryker, Pitney Bowes, and Ernst & Young. In many cases, her client relationships span multiple years while she helps these organizations boost their leadership, transform their culture, plan for leadership succession, bridge generational divides and onboard Millennials more effectively.

Liz received her coach training from the New York University Certificate in Organizational and Executive Coaching program, and the David Rock Results Coaching System. She received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Prior to coaching, Liz worked in advertising sales for Condé Nast Publications and CBS Network. She has also been a competitive athlete her whole life. She played Division I Soccer and Lacrosse at the University of Virginia. She taught skiing at Aspen Highlands in Aspen Colorado, has run the NYC Marathon twice, and currently plays competitive platform tennis, tennis and ice hockey. She lives with her husband and 3 children in Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

  1. Say “Yes” and Take Risk
    When I first started my business, I was asked if I gave speeches. At the time, I had never done one before. Not wanting to turn down any opportunities, I overcame my hesitation and said “yes.” The speech was only 2 weeks away, so we scrambled and worked many hard hours to figure out how to do it well. The speech went well, and they hired me to do another one. I have since become a well-known public speaker, traveling across the country to speak to audiences of all sizes.

    This has been the case with many aspects of growing our business. We always lead with “yes” and figure out how to be successful with new projects. This has propelled us to try new things, be current with our clients’ demands, and grow out of our comfort zone.

    2). Discipline Yourself to Do the Hard Things First
    In business, there are things you like to do and things you don’t. Unfortunately, we have to do them all. What’s hard for one person may not be hard for another. It’s human nature to put off the undesirable tasks; the danger is that we put them off for too long and our business regresses.

    It takes discipline to tackle these tasks and make them priority. My strategy has been to develop habits to make it easier. I struggle with organization and keeping up with all the jobs that need to get done. Scheduling time on Sunday to review the prior week and plan the upcoming week has been a game-changer. Once I did it a few times, it became second-nature, and I’ve never looked back.

    3). Adapt to the Current Business World
    The business world is constantly changing in ways that may be uncomfortable to your style and thinking. Being aware of trends and keeping up with them is essential.

    Creating a look for myself has been a key part of my adaptation. I grew up with three older brothers and always played competitive sports, so fashion was never my focus. Seeing this was a deficit for me, rather than trying to study style, I hired a stylist. She gave me a look, taught me how to accessorize and told me what to buy. It was an easy and critical fix. Asking for help is key to adapting quickly and appropriately if it’s not an area of your expertise.

Kate Finley, Founder + CEO, Belle Communications

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Here Is My Background

Millennial entrepreneur and Top Women in PR recipient Kate Finley is the CEO and founder of Belle Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm based in Columbus, Ohio.

Kate launched Belle Communications in 2013 at age 28 with just a laptop and passion to do PR on her terms. Although public relations is a female-dominated field, women only hold about 30% of the top positions in the industry. PR is also consistently rated one of the most stressful jobs in the U.S. Because of the demands of the job, women in PR often face a choice between career and personal life.

Kate experienced this strain firsthand early in her PR career. After leaving a high-pressure, toxic culture at an agency, complete with 90 hour work weeks, Kate saw an opportunity to create a PR agency that went against work-obsessed norms. She landed on a purpose statement for Belle Communications that would become its foundation and driving force: “to empower meaningful work and thriving relationships.”

True to Kate’s vision, Belle Communications is leading the way in workplace innovation and empowerment of women, offering benefits like unlimited vacation, eight weeks paid maternity leave and a flexible work-from-anywhere model. The agency recently received a 2017 Smart Women Award from Smart Business Network in the “Progressive Organization” category and grew revenue by 73% in 2017.

Ranked as a Top 10 PR Firm in Central Ohio, the Belle team connects PR to business goals through a smart, scrappy approach. Kate and her team serve local and national brands in the restaurant, food + beverage and professional service industries, such as The Halal Guys, Piada Italian Street Food, Nestle, Enevo and Lextant.

Kate is the youngest member to ever serve on the executive committee for the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy and has received numerous awards including PR News’ Top Women in PR, Columbus Business First’s Forty Under 40 and Smart Business Network’s “Smart 50.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Don’t Be Afraid to Say No.
Define your vision for your business and say no to everything that doesn’t move you toward that vision. (It really helps to have a clearly defined company purpose and core values. I recommend the book Traction by Gino Wickman to guide this process.) Sometimes you don’t realize a relationship is the wrong fit immediately — a bad hire or a client that isn’t aligned with your values. As soon as you recognize the fit is wrong, don’t wait to change it. Dragging things out will negatively affect your team, hurt your culture and pull you off course from your vision. It’s not easy, but I’ve found that saying no when it’s not the right fit opens the door to something better.

2). Cash is Queen.
As a founder, you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your business. That means keeping your sales pipeline full and getting (and keeping) cash in the bank. As a boot-strapped, debt-free business I can say it’s taken years to do this but the relief that comes from having six months of business expenses tucked away in my savings is a game-changer. It’s the ultimate stress relief and empowers me to think bigger for my business and be proactive.

3). Keep Raising the Bar.
My entrepreneurship path hasn’t been easy and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. To be a limit-breaking founder you have to be willing to stretch yourself and your team, take risks, set goals that scare you and continually innovate. Comfort kills creativity and — it’s boring.

Barbara Bates, Global CEO, Hotwire

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Here Is My Background

Barbara Bates is the Group CEO of Hotwire, a global communications firm and the former founder and CEO of Eastwick Communications, which was acquired by Hotwire in 2016. She has more than 25 years’ experience working with brands to tell their stories, accelerate growth and build value working in Silicon Valley and beyond. Bates has partnered with some of the world’s biggest technology brands to create high-impact communication strategies and was proud to be named in Business Insider’s 2014 list of 50 Best Public Relations People in Tech and one of the Top 5 Women in PR by the PR World Awards and Inc’s Fastest Growing Companies in 2015. A respected connector and participant in the tech ecosystem, Barbara received a 2011 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for her impact on Silicon Valley.

Barbara Bates is the Group CEO of Hotwire, a global communications firm and the former founder and CEO of Eastwick Communications, which was acquired by Hotwire in 2016. She has more than 25 years’ experience working with brands to tell their stories, accelerate growth and build value working in Silicon Valley and beyond. Bates has partnered with some of the world’s biggest technology brands to create high-impact communication strategies and was proud to be named in Business Insider’s 2014 list of 50 Best Public Relations People in Tech and one of the Top 5 Women in PR by the PR World Awards and Inc.s Fastest Growing Companies in 2015. A respected connector and participant in the tech ecosystem, Barbara received a 2011 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for her impact on Silicon Valley.

How I’ve broken limits and what I’m most proud of:
• Five months after Eastwick, the agency I grew for 25 years was acquired by Hotwire, I was named Global CEO of Hotwire. Significant for several reasons but one being our industry does not have a great track record of promoting or hiring women at the CEO level.
• Hotwire unveiled a new brand identity in September. It’s so much more than a new logo or website. It’s our new story. Our new brand challenges us to be limitless — beyond PR, beyond borders and beyond B2B. The hot pink is a constant reminder to our staff of the contrast we need to create when working with clients to stand out.
• The 25-year stellar reputation of Eastwick in Silicon Valley.
• The power of the Eastwick network. Employees from 20+ years ago are still loyal fans, clients and even employees. Most former employees are still in touch with each other. That says something about the quality of the people and the relationships.
• My role in mentoring agency principals who started their firms long after me and have sought my advice on everything you can imagine. Running and growing an agency is not for the faint of heart so the fact that I can share my experiences to help other entrepreneurs is really fulfilling.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Focus on your people. Building an employee-first company is the smartest business decision you can make, especially since in our business — our people are our products. I’m really proud of the reputation Eastwick had for creating opportunities for our staff and it’s one of the things that attracted me to Hotwire.

2). Innovate. If you’re not innovating and moving forward, you’re actually falling behind. Change is a necessary part of business strategy in this market.

3). Earn trust. Although this may be the hardest part. We earn trust when we’re informed (study people, geek out, get out), have a ready tool kit of knowledge and experience (understand stories, zoom out), have the courage to be honest (master the counterpoint) — and when we embody the integrity that’s core to in any communications pro. Develop these skills and you’ll rise as that go-to person who truly creates impact with your work — and you’ll get a lot of satisfaction to boot.

Yuliya Tarasava, Co-Founder, CNote

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Here Is My Background

I was born and raised in Belarus, a former Soviet country. I moved to the USA when I was 20 with $200 dollars, no English and burning desire to study finance as an economic development force. I paved my path in the financial world from the data analyst to the head of the quantitative due diligence for AMG Funds, global asset management firm and later moved into the wealth management space, co-developing the risk management framework for over 10B in assets at Summit Rock Advisors. And here i was, an immigrant girl with six figures salary, working and living in her own apartment in Manhattan, traveling to Europe for a weekend, while others felt “she is winning”, i felt “I was loosing, loosing to myself”. I quit Wall Street and joined Acumen Global Fellowship Program to learn how to built businesses that solve critical global problems. I was placed in Kenya, to drive strategy and operations for a micro-finance institution, with the mission to get farmers out of poverty through financial tools and services. This was a turning point in my career and life — I evidenced how properly designed financial services can “serve all”, rather than contributing to inequality. Upon my return to the USA, I co-founded a company called CNote with the idea to create financial products that generate both return and impact. We keep hearing that only 10% women think financial products are created for them. Time to change it. We also hear that women don’t get enough capital to start their businesses. Time to change that also. CNote is on the mission to change that and we are doing it. Half of our users are female and over 50% of capital go to women led businesses.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Surround yourself with the group of “angels” that believe in you more than you do.

2). Ignore the voice inside that tells you “you can’t do it”, “you are not good enough”, “you are not worth it”. If you can’t, rely on your group of angels who can remind you it is all in your head.

3). Enjoy the journey, if you are the one who is questioning the status quo, does not want live within the box and pushing the limits, there will be ups and downs on your path, BUT you can only get through them if you enjoy the ride, stay connected to what matters to you and remember that after each sunset, there is always a sunrise and it is always gorgeous.

Steph Korey, Co-founder & CEO, Away

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Here Is My Background

Steph Korey is the co-founder and CEO of Away, a travel and lifestyle brand designing thoughtful objects for modern travelers. Before starting Away, Steph was the Head of Supply Chain at Warby Parker, where she built and led a team handling product development, manufacturing, and fulfillment. In 2014, she left to earn an MBA from Columbia Business School while consulting on merchandise strategy and supply chain development for Casper. In 2016, Steph was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Retail and E-commerce.

Female founders received just 2% of all venture funding in 2016, and yet my co-founder and I were able to raise $31 million, one of the largest seed financings for a female-backed start-up.

I hope that our culture is turning a corner, but I also know that widespread change will only happen if more women share what’s worked for them. I often give fellow female entrepreneurs a few points of advice when it comes to fundraising.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). First, don’t think of your investors as people who are doing you a favor. Flip that assumption on its head and recognize that it’s actually the other way around — you’re doing them a favor by providing an incredible opportunity to be a part of what you’re building. That shift in mindset will help to take the pressure off of what could be an awkward ask and allow you to look at it in a new, more objective light.

2). Second, always talk about your company in terms of what could go right, not what could go wrong. People will get behind you because of your vision for the future, and your confidence in how you’re going to get there. Too often, women tend to hold themselves back for fear that they might fail. But that’s life! And definitely part of being an entrepreneur. Of course it’s always important to be aware of potential risks and setbacks, but don’t let that stall progress or — worse — cause people to mistakenly doubt your potential.

3). Finally, understand that some people just won’t get your vision. In some early conversations, people told us they thought people would never get excited about luggage. Rather than getting discouraged, we listened to the feedback and took note of things that resonated, but then quickly forgot the rest and moved on.

Rosemary Denney, Founder of Wealth Matters Consulting

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Here Is My Background

Rosemary Denney founded Wealth Matters Consulting to help firms in the wealth industry find their unique voice and develop the tools so the world can hear them. Rosemary has worked in the wealth industry since 2007. Now serving multi-family offices and independent advisors, she works with her clients as part of their team, using a systematic and proven process to address their challenges, increase their visibility and achieve their objectives. After starting her firm, Rosemary quickly realized there was a lack of specialized marketing and PR support with experience with a financial background. Staying in this niche has allowed her to provide specialized assistance for firms who were previously unable to find marketing help in the wealth management industry.

Prior to founding Wealth Matters Consulting, Rosemary worked at GenSpring Family Offices, one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing multi-family offices. She joined GenSpring in 2007 as the firm underwent a complete re-brand and name change to form the now globally-recognized brand. Managing projects in marketing and media relations, she worked with national media and industry publications including Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times, Bloomberg, Investment News, Family Wealth Report, Private Asset Management, RIA Biz, and many others. Gaining notoriety in the media for GenSpring, she worked to create and execute the marketing and public relations plans for all of GenSpring’s 14 offices nation-wide. Working on a wide variety of projects, including small, intimate learning events, to large, multi-day symposiums, Rosemary has experience across a wide spectrum of educational and creative projects. Rosemary began her career in politics, working with the City of Tampa’s Mayor Pam Iorio as part of her media relations team.

BREAKING LIMITS: Rosemary founded her firm after having her 2nd and 3rd daughters, twins. When her boss at the time refused consider a flexible work schedule to meet her family’s needs, she decided to leave and start her own firm. She believed that she could “have it all” so she made that vision a reality is now turned Wealth Matters Consulting into a national consulting firm with clients across the United States.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Never take “No” for an answer. Everything is negotiable if you’re willing to be creative. When I started my company, I was told by several people who were very close to me that it wasn’t a good idea. But I knew in my gut that it was. I learned then that if I had stopped at the word “NO” my life would be very different. Since then I’ve had to convince people many times to do something that was outside of their comfort zone but in every case, we never regretted it. When someone tells you “NO,” it just means they need convincing.

2). You get more flies with honey. My mother always told me this, and it wasn’t until I was out of college and into my second job that I realized how powerful it is just to be nice. Being nice to people often takes them by surprise because they’re just not used to it. Once their defenses are down, it is often easier to talk to them and come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

3). Don’t force business. This is probably the hardest and most valuable lesson I’ve learned. If I have misgivings about someone early on, and still try to force a relationship, I always regret it. I usually know right away if someone is going to be difficult to work with, and yet often I will still try to make it work because I like to help businesses succeed. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again, and am still learning. It’s ok to walk away from business and in the long run, something better always comes along.

Jen Rubio, Co-founder & Chief Brand Officer, Away

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Here Is My Background

Jen Rubio is the co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Away. Before starting Away, Jen was on the executive team at global fashion retailer AllSaints. Previously, she worked on social media and brand initiatives at Warby Parker. Jen was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Marketing and Advertising in 2015. Under Jen’s creative leadership, Away has been named to the Fast Company 2017 Innovation By Design Awards and was labeled a Breakthrough Brand of 2017 by Adweek.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Before Away launched, luggage companies were talking about their products’ features, but none were talking about travel. At Away, we know that building a brand takes so much more than just a good product. Throughout my career, I’ve been obsessed with good storytelling, and the connection companies form with their customers. My experience at Warby proved the potential for good branding to make an everyday item (eyeglasses) something people could get excited about.

From the beginning, it’s crucial to understand that the difference between a good product and a good brand is emotion. What’s the story your company is trying to tell, and how do you want that story to make people feel? For us, it’s about making people feel as though everywhere is within reach.

We know that the more interesting narrative doesn’t revolve around a suitcase, but about what that suitcase will allow you to do. Our entire brand has been built around this idea.

We tell the story of Away in a number of ways — whether by curating content through our editorial platform (which includes a print and digital magazine, Here, as well as a podcast, Airplane Mode), partnering with other brands or people to create new and limited product lines, or creating physical experiences that bring the brand to life and make for buzzworthy moments (like the time we launched a hotel in Paris during Fashion Week).

Ultimately, having a clear an unwavering vision for the story your brand can uniquely tell — and being able to stray from traditional tactics to do it — will help to set you apart.

Jessica Rovello, CEO, Arkadium

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Here Is My Background

Jessica Rovello is the CEO and co-founder of Arkadium, which provides interactive content and AI tools to 500+ of the world’s largest publishers (such as Washington Post, CNN, USA Today and more) to improve audience attention, increase reader loyalty and drive new revenue.

At age 24, Jessica pioneered digital viral marketing by producing the website for The Blair Witch Project. Blairwitch.com was acknowledged as a key driver in making The Blair Witch Project the most successful independent film of all time. Jessica is the winner of the American Business Award for Executive of the Year, the Stevie Award for Entrepreneur of Year and is a Crain’s New York “40 Under 40” winner.

When Jessica co-founded Arkadium with her husband Kenny 16 years ago, they sought to create an inclusive and motivational workplace culture and work-life balance. She firmly believes that it is her job as CEO to provide her employees with a work environment that they enjoy being a part of and to acknowledge and reward the effort that her employees put forth on a daily basis. These actions have led to “Best Places to Work” awards from Inc., Crain’s and AdAge, among others.

Jessica’s ‘limit breaking’ moment came in 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea — the site of Arkadium’s second office at the time. As a result, President Obama placed sanctions against U.S. companies doing business in the region. The company’s Crimean office technically became illegal and it was up to Jessica to decide what to do next. She decided to turn to her employees for the answer. Since most of the 100+ employees that worked in the office either lived in or had family in Crimea, she knew that relocating would be divisive. Out of the 100 total employees, 50 said they were willing to move to another city Jessica had never heard of — Krasnodar in Russia, the closest city to where Arkadium had been which wasn’t under sanctions. Over the span of two weeks, the company shut everything down, moved everyone and their families and all their belongings to this new city, and opened up an office. Just over two and a half years later, Arkadium now employs 75 people, and 2016 saw its highest revenue it has ever had as a business.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Don’t take anything for granted.
“Unfortunately it’s a sign of the times that we live in. We hadn’t opened an office in Iran, or Libya, so you wouldn’t expect that we would be in a region that was ripe for being sanctioned by the American government. It was not something that was on our radar. It made me realize that there’s a lot happening in the world that’s dramatically affecting businesses on a daily basis that can many time be out of your hands.”

2). Put your setbacks in perspective.
“There was nothing we did that caused this [Crimea takeover], nothing we could do to influence this, or to to change this, so it does help in that when these quasi-big things happen in the business now, we’re able to more easily put it in perspective of the fact we control our destiny here,” Rovello said. “We’ve been in situations before where we didn’t, so we’re at an advantage now where at least we can.”

3). You can’t have a “give up” attitude.
“This was definitely the biggest knock down we ever had. Although we didn’t know why it was happening, and we suddenly had a lot of sleepless nights, and there was a lot of tears, I think underneath it all we knew, because this is how we tend to live our lives, that everything happens for some reason, whether we know it in the moment or not.

This real tragedy for the business was very heartening for us, because everybody also showed their true colors. They really showed that we as a team could kind of come together and get through it. Especially if you think of the animosity, especially at a political level between the American government and the Russian government. The fact [the employees] can ignore all of that and just work together for the good of the business and each other, I find to be really inspiring.”

Rianna Alberty, Founder & CEO, RIMIX Cosmetics

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Here Is My Background

Rianna Alberty, founder of RIMIX Cosmetics, studied Business Management at St. Edward’s University and soon after started her career working in fashion and accessories. Gaining invaluable experience working in small design houses, Rianna learned the inner workings of running a business and what is takes to launch a brand.

Beauty products have always been a passion for Rianna. She started working on RIMIX in 2012. The line expanded to full faceware in 2014 when she was having trouble keeping her skin clear and her makeup in place while teaching Pilates.

The RIMIX product vision was inspired while Rianna was living in Edinburgh, Scotland and traveling throughout the U.K. This inspiration fueled development of a makeup collection with sophisticated character and a worldly personality.

The company launched in 2015 and opened their flagship headquarters, RIMIX Beauty Bar, in 2016 in the heart of downtown Austin. Being born and raised in Austin, Texas, Rianna is proud to call Austin the birth place of RIMIX Cosmetics.

2017 held a host of accomplishments for the brand but most notably, Rianna worked on the London Fashion Week SS18 makeup team, where her work was published in Vogue. Now, in 2018, RIMIX Cosmetics is expanding rapidly in a very saturated market throughout Texas and growing a nationwide fan base via sales through website and Amazon. Through this upcoming year, RIMIX is looking to expand with Westlake Dermatology, world renown dermatology office in Texas and branching out through other national shopping networks to expand globally.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1). Nothing Comes Easy.

Make no mistake, being an entrepreneur is a hard road that requires a person who has a very unique set of personality traits. I have always wanted to have my own brand. I knew it was something I would always create one day, I just wasn’t sure where exactly my brand would land. Once I identified the specific market I wanted to be in, it took me about 2 years to create the brand and product line I wanted to present to the world. It took another 2 years before I felt my business had actually reached a respectable level that gained attention and praise from others in the market. The lesson learned here is that nothing comes easy. You have to work hard every day for a long time before anyone is really going to pause and notice what you are creating.

2). Your Network is Everything.

It’s true what they say about networking, it can make or break your company. When it comes to utilizing your network, its crucial to scratch each other’s back. I have been lucky to have a large network of influential people who love what RIMIX Cosmetics stands for and strives for on a daily basis. Because of these connections, I have been able to accomplish some amazing things this past year, including being selected to work on the London Fashion Week makeup team. The lesson to take away here is that you should always be open to what others are striving for and what you can do for each other. You never know when a good connection will help you get to your next goal.

3). Follow Your Heart and Keep Your Prices High.

So many times through this journey I have doubted what I was doing and asked myself if I was crazy for wanting to spread the word about my brand and share it with the world. In reality, it just takes time. Nothing happens overnight. You have to feel so strongly about your mission and your brand that nothing can sway you from it. Many times I have wanted to lower the price of my products with much resistance from my team. In fact, often times raising the price of your product is what gains the attention you seek, especially in the luxury products market.

Kalliope Barlis, Phobia Relief Expert, Building Your Best

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Here Is My Background

Kalliope went from playing golf on weekends to becoming a professional golfer in just two years. She did this by applying Neuro-Linguistic Programming®, the core skills for any high-level performance and business. Her national best seller book series, Play Golf Better Faster describes the skills so that others can do what she did. There is no other book like it for golfers.

When Kalliope realized golf wasn’t her calling, the magical uses of NLP® became more important to her. She started using NLP to help others master their own game, and lives.

She has educated thousands of people — from foster children to celebrities — to overcome their unreasonable fears and worst unhappy memories with ease, quickly in just one session for most people.

Her international bestseller, Phobia Relief: From Fear to Freedom, goes into detail about these skills so readers can learn and apply them on their own, have more control of their life, and gain more freedom. Stress and anxiety are replaced with well-being and an easier, sometimes more humorous life.

Her book and services are proudly featured in the “Everybody Wins” gift bag for the 2018 Oscars nominees in the five major categories and hopes to become of value to the Time’s Up movement.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

The top 3 lessons I have learned from my experience is the following, followed by more detail of each:

1). There is no such thing as failure, only feedback so you can feed forward.
With every golf shot I took, I took some moments to mark what happened with all shots, great and otherwise in order to learn from each experience. If the shot went well, I anchored it by imagining it over and over again — the flight of the ball, the sound as the center of the club face struck through the center of the ball and how light my body felt throughout the experience. This way, I developed a resource that I could access in a future similar shot. With not so good shots, I would take moments to revision the shot adding the sound and the feelings so I would not only learn from the mistake but also gain knowledge for improvement. This was more helpful than judging my ability because I gave my self the room to learn which is what life is all about to succeed in anything you do. I apply this to my business and management of my Building Your Best team.

2). You can always change who you are and what you do when you change how you think.
Thought has structure. When I wanted a golf shot to land in the hole, I saw it vividly huge in my mind and had six holes in one the first six months I started playing. I nearly did it left-handed too as a righty. How does this relate to what I do now with people’s fears? Most people who fear see it in their minds as a massive snake, spider or what ever else. I shrink the fear as I would a bad golf shot, then replace a big picture of them with feeling comfortable at the top of The Empire State Building.

3). Everything you do is planned even if you think it isn’t.
I’ve seen so many people miss their chance of opportunity by being late. They’ll say “Its not like I planned it”. Oh yes you did. If you plan on being somewhere on time, backtrack the things you would have done to get their on time. If you live in New York City like I do, I know to leave thirty to forty-five minutes before I think I should in case of transportation not being on time. This is how opportunity has been steady in my life.

Jennifer Barnes, CEO, Pro Back Office

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Here Is My Background

Jennifer is the CEO of Pro Back Office and broke limits by becoming the first female CEO of a Southern California outsourced accounting company, a traditionally male dominated industry. Pro Back Office was recently named #892 on the Inc 5000 with over 300 clients and 80 employees.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelors’ degree in Finance and Marketing. She moved her way up the ladder quickly and a few years after graduating found herself in a consulting role as a Controller or Director of Accounting for numerous companies and non-profits throughout San Diego. Jennifer earned an MBA from San Diego State University in 2008 (EMBA 17) and completed the Becker CPA courses in 2011.

Jennifer has sat on many boards in her career and currently sits on the board of The Better Business Bureau, The Business Executives Council, The San Diego Food Banks Leadership Council, and Junior Achievements Young Executives Board. She also volunteers time at SDSU by participating in the mentor program and also as a judge in various student competitions. She is currently a member of Rotary, The San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Vistage International, The Lincoln Club, YEC and Sage Executive Group.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

I am a work in progress and am always learning from my experiences.

1. I’ve found that you need to be very careful in what you write in emails. Always start and finish your emails with something pleasant. Whenever possible, pick up the phone. If the email is going to be verbose, it’s usually best to call someone. Then, its ideal to follow up the phone call with a brief email so that everyone is on the same page. Saying too much in emails has gotten me into trouble in the past, and now I am extremely careful as to what I am writing and how the person on the receiving end could perceive my words.

2. Another lesson I have learned is that people interpret things differently, so clarifying your expectations with some specific examples helps to make sure that people don’t misunderstand you. People are unique and everyone is motivated by something different. Some are motivated by a pat on the back and others in monetary ways. Its good to find out what motivates your employees, so you know how to best lead them. Also, when someone comes to you with a problem, I now ask how can I help, rather than just jumping in and solving their problem. Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them.

3. Lastly, I believe it is very important to find time to have a personal life outside of work. Bringing your work home with you on a regular basis is not healthy. Delegate often and don’t do tasks below your pay grade. Whenever possible, find someone on your team that you trust can do the work. Even if it will initially take you longer to explain the task, the long-term benefit of passing the work to someone outweighs the initial time investment.

Meganne Wecker President and Chief Creative Officer of Skyline Furniture, and Co-founder Cloth & Company

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Here Is My Background

“As President and Chief Creative Officer of Skyline Furniture, Meganne Wecker has created a name for herself as a pioneer in fashion-forward furniture design. For over 70 years, Skyline Furniture has been a trusted name in custom, direct-to-consumer manufacturing and with Meganne at the helm as fourth generation of the family-owned wholesale furniture company, sales have grown exponentially year after year.

In October 2016, Meganne expanded her resumé when she teamed up with design entrepreneur, Christiane Lemieux to launch Cloth & Company, a Chicago based furnishing company that brings the fast fashion concept to the home. Boasting one of the industry’s most efficient inventory free business models, Cloth & Company leverages digital design and printing technology to bring collections to market in a matter of days, and to produce custom affordably priced product that delivers in two weeks.

Meganne’s success was borne from the ability to predict shifts in the industry and pivot accordingly. After a few years of working with some of the country’s largest brick and mortar retailers Meganne saw a gaping hole in the industry for affordable fashionable upholstery, and she knew she could fill it. She led the design and development at Skyline to offer new fashion-forward furniture with unique styles and bold fabrics at a rational price point.

Skyline’s successful domestic business was focused on the catalog segment of the furniture industry. With a made-to-order, direct to consumer shipping model, Skyline was a key supplier to many of the world’s largest catalogs including Spiegel, Montgomery Wards, Sears and more. However, in the early 2000’s Meganne realized there was a change in consumer spending habits as Internet shopping began to grow in popularity. She quickly shifted her focus to the online consumer. She knew she could take Skyline’s successful direct to consumer shipping model and apply it to the newly emerging world of ecommerce.

The combination of fashion-forward upholstery, affordable pricing, made to order product and shipping direct to the consumer quickly became a winning one. Skyline was a risk free, no-inventory solution to the country’s fastest growing retail space. The business began to explode with both existing customers like Marshalls and Fields Direct who became Target.com, as well as new retailers coming on the scene like Amazon, Wayfair and One Kings Lane.

Embarking on a new phase in Skyline’s remarkable history in 2016, Meganne’s vision for unique fashionable furnishings at a moderate price point came to life with Cloth & Company, a brand that offers digital printing and a 3-d shopping experience with an elevated design feature, customizable textiles and unmatched delivery times — a venture that no other furniture brand has attempted.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“I attribute a lot of our company’s success to embracing change and being nimble. We were very early adopters of e-commerce, making us one of the first in our industry to focus on the .com space and the possibilities it offered. As with anything new, we were forced to try new things and pivot a lot. Today is no different, we are constantly looking for ways to improve on our core competencies. This past year has been a great example of this as we became first furniture manufacturer in the country to buy a digital printer and a have it installed in the factory to print fabrics on demand.

One of the biggest lessons Ive learned is to trust myself. It can be easy to second guess your decisions, especially in challenging situations. Ive learned how important it is to trust that experience and knowledge will guide my instinct, and to rely on my ability to work hard to achieve my goals.

A great company is powered by a great team. Growing up in a family business that my grandfather started I learned very early on how important people were to the success of the business. I grew up with an understanding that the people who worked for our company were family, and that we were all in it together. Today, over 70 years later, we continue to employ generations of families not just mine. ​In addition, many of our executives are women. Manufacturing has traditionally been a male lead industry but I feel strongly that our female focused team has driven our success as they understand the primary consumer of home products- women. “

Tara Foley, Founder & CEO, Follain

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Here Is My Background

Back in 2009, Tara was on a completely different career path, working long hours, and trying to stay healthy. It occurred to her that she focused on fitness and healthy eating — but not what she put on her face and body. So she started asking questions and launched a blog focused on finding clean options. The response showed her how many of us wanted to understand what we’re putting on ourselves and where to find effective, luxurious, nontoxic options. When the concept won a national retail business plan competition during her MBA program at Babson, she knew she was onto something! After years of hands-in-the-dirt learning both on a lavender farm in France and with a private label beauty company, she founded Follain in 2013 because she believed and still do that no one should have to sacrifice health for beauty. With degrees in public policy and business, Tara’s vision, passion, and activism fuel Follain’s growth, and its mission of improving the health and lives of others.

Tara Foley launched Follain in July 2013, as the healthy beauty retail alternative, and a catalyst for cleaning up the U.S. beauty industry. Before Follain, Tara researched safe and sustainable skincare, apprenticing on an organic lavender farm in France, and with a private label skin care company in Maine. With degrees in public policy and business, Tara’s vision, passion, and activism fuel Follain’s growth, and its mission of improving the health and lives of others. “

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Let me preface this by saying that I’m learning more about these daily. But the three biggest lessons I’ve learned to date are:

Reflect daily on why you started — the values, mission, and disruption that inspired you enough to jump off a bridge, change your life, and start your own thing… With the endless amount of tasks to do, solving for this a little bit every day is what matters most, right?

Surround yourself with experts. As someone who started a company with zero employees but now has an awesome team, I uniquely appreciate how much having intelligent, inspired, motivated experts by your side makes a huge impact.

Know and Grow with your customer. Who have been your best, enduring customers since you started? I build a personal connection with this important group to figure out what keeps them coming back. Think about how those customers have evolved since they started shopping with us and in turn we need to evolve to adapt to their needs.”

Julia LeClair, Co-Founder, Orchard Mile

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Here Is My Background

“Julia LeClair is Co-founder of Orchard Mile, a online shopping platform created for consumers to experience the full collection of the world’s top luxury brands in one beautiful place.

Prior to her role at Orchard Mile, Ms. LeClair was the Founder and CEO of MyDROBE, an innovative fashion e-commerce website and iPhone application which personalizes, enhances and simplifies the way consumers shop and discover products and brands. She was instrumental in developing Mydrobe’s proprietary technology, which provides an automatic virtual stylist and personal shopper while being the ultimate social network for the fashion community. Previously, Ms. LeClair served in various roles in fashion media, including integrated marketing for ELLE Magazine and advertising at Glamour Magazine, where she started her career. She advises various startup and technology companies across the U.S., where she has also helped design their sites and prototypes. She is credited with launching a foundation for a $250 million biotech fund.

Ms. LeClair has a Masters degree from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, preceded by her undergraduate double major in Marketing and Management. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, and Women in Business Club. Ms. LeClair’s passion for technology and the way people shop online were influenced by her trailblazing father, who created Alta Vista, one of the first search engines for the internet; as well as Engage, the first online target marketing company; and Booklink, one of the internet’s first web browsers.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“You have to just go for it. There is no right or wrong way to do something — the beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you get to create the rule book. Starting your own company is like skydiving: you are so excited to do it but when you are about to jump off the plane it’s incredibly scary. The doors open and you are looking down and you feel like you can’t jump. The most important lesson I learned from my experience as an entrepreneur is to just take the plunge. It’s only those first 30 seconds that are scary, then it’s the most unbelievable ride. If you don’t take the risk, you’ll never know how great it can be!

While it is important to pay attention to detail, being a perfectionist can sometimes be to your detriment. It is so easy to hold off launching a new feature or product because you want it to be absolutely perfect, however, perfection is in the eye of the beholder. The most important thing you can do it get the leanest version launched and learn from your users — after all, they are the ones whose opinions matter the most.

Unlike Notorious B.I.G.’s song, “Mo Money Mo Problems”, when it comes to a start-up you need the right money and funds (and lots of it!). However, it is important to remember that not all money is good money. You want to make sure you are bringing in the right strategic investors who can add additional value to the company besides just having deep pockets. It is also important to remember that there are no cheap shortcuts in marketing. Spend the extra money on doing it right and you will get much farther in the end. The worst thing to do it risk your companies reputation by making yourself look cheap with subpar marketing and branding. “

Cheryl Kaplan, Co-Founder & President, M.Gemi

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Here Is My Background

“A retail veteran, with over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, Cheryl Kaplan began her career as a buyer honing her skills in merchandising, assortment planning, analysis.

In 1999, Cheryl joined Nickelodeon-backed start-up Red Rocket where she pioneered the movement for commercial brands to embrace the digital marketplace and create online experiences to match changing consumer behavior.

The following year she was introduced to Ben Fischman at Smart Bargains. Over the next seven years, Cheryl oversaw the brand’s creative, user experience, production, and merchandise programming.

In 2007, Cheryl took on the role of EVP and Chief Member Advocate of Rue La La, developing the overall brand strategy and implementing a seamless customer experience across merchandising, programming, product, mobile, customer service, brand and creative.

Following the sale of Rue La La, Cheryl again joined Ben Fischman to launch M.Gemi, a brand reinventing the luxury market by bringing the highest quality, hand crafted, Italian made footwear directly to consumers at uncommon prices. As President of M.Gemi, Cheryl oversees creative and brand management, technology, client experience, merchandising, planning and programming. Under her stewardship, M.Gemi has seen rapid growth in the 2 years since launch- swiftly moving to the forefront of the new luxury market and setting a new standard for the direct to consumer movement. “

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Keep the future in mind, not just the present.

Many years ago, I took what some might think of as a step-back in my career by taking a less defined role to work with a team I truly believed in. It was the best thing I could have done. It allowed me to broaden my experience, which long term allowed me to have a broader role. It taught me to always balance short and long term goals. What seems like a step back in the moment, might actually end up proving to be better in the long run. If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith earlier in my career, I would have never built the relationships with my co-founders that ultimately led to us launching M.Gemi.

Recover Quickly

There are lessons that I have learned from each of the different roles I have had throughout my career. I have learned both what to do and what not to do along the way, but in the end it’s those timeless truisms that lead to both individual and collective success: Making mistakes is fine but it is the recovery that matters most. Never be or think you are the smartest person in the room: learn and surround yourself with smart, talented people who have wildly different skill sets. Abide by the critical golden rule — treat others as you would want to be treated and regrets will be nominal, successes plentiful.

Always keep learning.

Find a place, position, and peers who keep you learning. Actually talk to people; get your colleagues out of the office to really learn about their professional path and experiences. Ask. Be curious. If you continue to listen, learn and ask questions you will always continue to grow. This is important no matter what position you have within an organization or what stage you are at in your career. We have a few workplace tenets at M.Gemi — Ask. Decide. Own. Push. Share. “Share” has always resonated the most to me, as ultimately a team that is always sharing, teaching and learning — sharing ideas, sharing feedback, sharing questions, etc. is one that is engaged, is passionate. And that’s what it’s all about: passionate people solving problems together, creatively. That, to me, is what’s thrilling about going to work every day.”

Villy Wang, Founder, BAYCAT

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Here Is My Background

Although Villy Wang was raised by a single, immigrant mother in the sweatshops of New York City, she broke through the cycle of poverty and became a banker on Wall Street before earning a law degree and pursuing a career as a corporate lawyer. However, even after achieving material success and professional acceptance as a woman of color, something was missing.

That something eventually led her to found BAYCAT, a unique, non-profit social enterprise with a mission to end racism. BAYCAT seeks to change the cultural conversation by changing the storytellers.

BAYCAT creates a direct path from education to employment for low-income youth and for persons of color who are historically underrepresented and misrepresented in media. Kids who, like Villy, grew up in the projects. After 13 years, BAYCAT has educated close to 4,000 students in media production, trained and employed over 200 interns through its studio, created media for over 250 organizations and nonprofits, and provided over $1M in pro-bono media services. They serve the youth and young adults who need it most by maximizing delivery of its services to 100% low-income youth and young people of color.

BAYCAT tackles the lack of diversity in the tech, media and creative industries, and has placed 80% of graduates — primarily women and young people of color — into creative careers with partners like Lucasfilm, Pixar, SF Giants, Golden State Warriors Studio, HBO, Netflix, Autodesk, and Wired.

BAYCAT’s award-winning youth media has appeared in 44 film festivals and has created international, national, and local impacts for clients such as Super Bowl 50, Yahoo!, Bank of the West, Union Bank, Citibank, Golden State Warriors, The San Francisco Foundation, The Japan Society, The National Park Service, United Way Bay Area, and the SF Public Utilities Commission.

“When I was starting off as a lawyer I was at a corporate event and there were a few women there, but I was the only Chinese person and the only Chinese woman in the room. I remember being approached by somebody, introducing myself, and the first words out of this corporate attorney’s mouth were: ‘Wow! Your English is so good,’” recalls Ms. Wang. “It made me wish I was a man. I wished I wasn’t Chinese.”

Villy is a Jefferson Award winner, a TED Speaker, and one of SF Business Times’ 2017 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business. BAYCAT earned the San Francisco Foundation’s 2017 Innovation Award.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“The first lesson Villy learned was the importance of accepting herself and overcoming her own poor self-image.

“I think part of the problem is I never saw anyone who looked like me in the media,” says Ms. Wang. “I never saw anybody that looked like me in the media. There were no Chinese people. Even today, I’m reminded daily how invisible Chinese women are. We are the invisible ones.”

Growing up poor and as a woman of color she had to give herself permission to pursue her dreams and overcome restrictive stereotypes. It’s a personal lesson she sees repeated by the youth at BAYCAT who are mostly people of color.

A 2016 Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity concluded, “The film industry still functions as a straight, White, boy’s club” and that “characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups are also excluded or erased from mediated storytelling. No platform presents a profile of race/ethnicity that matches proportional representation in the U.S.”

When BAYCAT youth become creators and not just consumers of media, they naturally challenge negative stereotypes about themselves and their communities. And the process of going from ideation to completion — with room to fail and improvise — and the presentation of their completed work to a live audience, is transformative for their confidence and self-esteem.

“We believe that if we change who the storytellers are and we give them access and opportunity to tell their stories, the scales will start to tip. Truth is truth and stories have a unique power to bring people together,” says Ms. Wang.

The second lesson Villy had to learn was to follow her passion, despite what anyone said. She had to overcome her own fears in order to found BAYCAT. “When I left my secure, well-paid job to start a non-profit, all my colleagues thought I was crazy. It took my entire life to have the courage to start BAYCAT,” says Ms. Wang.

BAYCAT builds bridges between communities that are plagued by diverse issues like incarceration, immigration, violence, bullying, housing crises, gentrification and, health disparities by telling stories that unite individuals. This creative and entrepreneurial approach to addressing both practical issues such as job skills training and also larger societal problems like racism, is exemplified in the BAYCAT motto, “Don’t feel sorry for us. Hire us.”

The last lesson Villy learned from BAYCAT was to dream big and open it to other people. Starting an organization to end racism, after all, is insanely ambitious.

“There’s a massive amount of negativity in our media and it’s dividing communities. I believe we’re at this place where media is either going to be part of the solution or it is going to be the end of us,” says Ms. Wang.

By amplifying underrepresented voices, BAYCAT not only celebrates diversity, but models it, and illustrates daily that every story matters.

Kathy Morris, Founder, Inner Journeys, LLC

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Here Is My Background

Kathy Morris is a creative channel who shares her gifts with the world through her poetry, writing, and energy work. As a survivor of incest and domestic violence, her experiences gave her a unique perspective while working as one of the first 100 women on the Philadelphia Police force. She saved lives and brought compassion and humanity to the community while experiencing sexual harassment and racism from her fellow officers. She persevered for twelve years until she was hit by a car while on duty. This disabling event was the catalyst for unearthing the childhood trauma that began a 15 year journey of traditional and non traditional talk therapy. As a result she was able to find joy, forgiveness and the artist within. In 2000, she established Inner Journeys, LLC, a holistic healing practice to provide support, healing and coaching to her community. She uses art and writing as healing tools. She published her first book of poetry, Inner Journey, The Birth of a Poet in 2008 and collaborated with Stephen Wise-Katreil to create a musical CD under the same title. Her second book of poems, Inner Journey , the Walk of a Poet in included in her memoir, Up From The Ashes. She continues to paint, write and counsel with people around the world.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

When I took all the tests to join the Philadelphia Police Department, I was interested in working outdoors and the increase in salary. I had no idea it would take several years and a federal class action law suit to get me in uniform. I was one of the first 100 women accepted. From the academy to walking the beat, it was never easy and my fellow officers could never accept a woman being in a blue uniform. However, I was determined to protect my community and prove a women could do the job. I worked the force for twelve years until I was hit by a car, and disabled. I endured excruciating pain for years and decided to pursue a holistic approach to healing. This resulted in me traveling the world to study indigenous healing methods. I founded Inner Journeys LLC , a holistic healing center in 2000. Since then, I have offered what I learned to individuals, families and groups.

I learned, that no matter how impossible the situation seems, there is always a solution. It is more important to focus of finding the solution, then worry about the problem. This approached helped me to survive in the Police department and find innovative answers for clients.

Using Patience to navigate challenging situations is key. Taking time out to to use decernment, intuition and wisdom helps bring clarity and solutions.

In negotiations, be fair. Holding the final desired results in your mind, make sure everyone leaves the table feeling heard. No one should feel that they have not been treated fairly

Iman Oubou, Founder and CEO, SWAAY Media

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Here Is My Background

“Born in Morocco, this young media founder has accomplished so much before the age of 30. Not only has Iman launched a groundbreaking, fast-growing media brand on track to reach half a million unique visitors (in just 10 months), Iman is also a beauty queen and a published scientist. As a multifaceted woman who was named Miss New York US in 2015, and holds degrees in Biochemistry and Bioengineering, Iman has always been interested in the intersection of style and substance. After spontaneously deciding to stay in New York after her layover from Morocco to Colorado, she went on to win the title of Miss New York US, and launched a podcast called Entrepreneurs En Vogue, where she would go on to interview thousands of female changemakers. Through the podcast, which would eventually go on to become #2 on iTunes “New & Noteworthy” section, and ranked in the Top 5 Best Podcasts for Women Entrepreneurs by Inc Magazine, Iman discovered her passion for storytelling, and decided to leave her biomedical career and launch a media company, despite being an outsider in the field. She created SWAAY, which is dedicated to uplifting women who are challenging the status quo and female stereotypes.

From its conception, Iman wanted SWAAY to be different from any other digital publication in existence. Iman’s goal is to unite the hard-hitting substantive content found in business magazines with the aspirational, fashion-forward look of lifestyle magazines. Between her podcast and media brand, Iman has shared almost a thousand inspirational journeys of today’s ceiling-busting generation of women.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“1. The biggest lesson I learned about advocating for my business (whether to investors or the public..) was a simple one: “Pitch a story, not a business.” This simple lesson has helped me really focus on crafting the perfect narrative to show investors and others that what I am building comes from a place of purpose and has the potential to impact millions of other women.

2. In a world that’s overly obsessed with optimism and positive visualization, it’s important to remember that pessimism is essential at times. Realistically speaking, more often than not, things never go as predicted, especially when they are outside of your control (investor timelines, clients last minute cancellations, advertisers not paying on time…). Therefore, understanding worst case scenarios and preparing a plan to address them is much better than being in complete denial. It helps you, the CEO, stay in control and pivot as needed.

3. The biggest thing that can kill a startup isn’t the lack of money, it’s the lack of focus. As entrepreneurs, we are overly creative and full of exciting ideas, and at times we want our businesses to become everything to every customer, which is impossible when you’re still growing. Pick an area that you really want to be known for and go all in on perfecting your craft. Focus, focus, focus! Your customers will become loyal to you for being an expert at something and doing it really well. So do NOT let your competitors change your course of action and distract you from what you are good at in the first place.

Sarah Mehler, CEO, Left Field Labs

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Here Is My Background

“Sarah Mehler is Founder and CEO of Left Field Labs, an experience design company dedicated to humanity’s profound relationship with technology. She leads a team of 60 designers, developers, and strategists that have launched hundreds of digital products and experiences — from VR and websites, to apps and experiential installations — for clients such as Google, Discovery, Android, Estée Lauder, Uber, and Disney.

LFL has deployed over 200 Google initiatives and global launches, including Gmail, Pixel, and Android.com’s custom 404 page (which turns the traditional error page on its head and makes the experience a fun and rewarding exploration). These collaborations exemplify a hallmark of Sarah’s vision in business by fostering unique moments that surprise and delight, while appealing to the human experience.

Sarah firmly believes in a shared responsibility to the global community, and is constantly exploring how art and engineering can elevate the world around us. Ultimately, her mission for LFL is to assist brands and organizations with initiatives that evolve the greater good. One such example is #ShootaTweet, a Shorty Social Good Award winning app that lets Twitter users directly reach their representatives and help end domestic gun violence. LFL is also currently developing a digital platform for civil rights education in collaboration with Harvard University and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Sarah’s approach is unique within a traditionally male dominated industry, successfully earning business and breaking boundaries. As a woman, mother, and entrepreneur in the design and technology industry, she continues to shape a new paradigm built on a workplace environment that values mindfulness, health, and radical inclusivity — whether through weekly yoga in the office, or drop-in staff workshops at LFL’s R&D think-tank.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“The top three lessons I’ve learned from being a technology entrepreneur:

1. Although I started my company as a direct response to the hyper-competitive world of traditional advertising agencies, I quickly discovered that fear has a way of making the “dog-eat-dog” paradigm seem sensible. Through a long (and ongoing!) process of trial and error, I’ve learned to identify when fear is present, and respond to the heightened energy with excitement instead of reacting with dread. By aligning any fearful energy with the mission at hand, I find I’m able to more successfully navigate business relationships, and co-create mutually beneficial outcomes.

2. It’s easy to design and build technology, but it’s difficult to create experiences that connect on an emotional level. Through my work with LFL, I’ve learned to look for the deeper — and sometimes hidden — opportunities to positively impact people’s lives. When I move past the bottom line, and stop simply checking the boxes on what my peers are doing, the opportunities to create meaningful connections tend to become clearer.

3. When I first decided to go into business for myself, I thought the endeavor would be intensely individual. As an employer, partner, and leader, I’ve discovered my personal purpose actually has much more to do with facilitating the group than achieving something on my own. I’ve learned that when I harmonize my vision with those around me, we’re all suddenly able to see a much bigger picture.

Jen O’Neal, Founder & President, Tripping.com

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Here Is My Background

“Jen O’Neal is the founder, president and executive chairman of Tripping.com, the leading metasearch engine for vacation homes. She served as the company’s CEO for 8 years and, in addition to being one of the only female CEOs in the travel industry, she’s ranks as of the few female founders to have ever raised over $55 million from investors in Silicon Valley, Asia and Europe. Under her leadership, the company has grown to over 11 million property listings worldwide and was valued over $100 million after their Series B financing.** O’Neal has broken through the glass ceiling of travel, technology, and Silicon Valley start-ups, which should be no surprise considering the path she took to get here.

A San Francisco native and longtime tech geek, O’Neal took her first job — making smoothies as high school sophomore — to save money for a 14.4 internet modem. She was enthralled by technology but her classmates actually knew her more as an athlete, given that she played competitive tennis both in school and in USTA tournaments. From second grade until senior year, O’Neal was the only girl on an otherwise all-boy’s tennis team. It was a great experience: practicing, traveling, and competing with her male teammates taught her valuable skills that have since helped her stand out in the male-dominated fields of sports, gaming and travel.

After graduating cum laude from UC Berkeley with degrees in English and Italian, O’Neal started her professional career as StubHub’s fifth employee, where she developed and led the company’s marketing division before its 2007 sale to eBay for $310 million. For several years after StubHub’s founding, she was both the youngest team member and the only woman at the company. She had to work hard to earn the respect of her colleagues and business partners: it often happened that companies like ESPN would ignore her in meetings and only address her male reports, who would then point at O’Neal and say “You’d better talk to Jen. She’s the boss!”

Soon after she was offered a role running marketing for a top online poker company (which was legal at the time), and she jumped at the chance to live abroad again. The position was based in Costa Rica and, though O’Neal knew no-one in the country and had to build the new office from scratch, she was excited by the challenge. She moved to Central America, managed a $20 million marketing budget, shot TV commercials off the coast of Colombia (among other crazy things), and backpacked solo every chance she got.

Then one of StubHub’s founders convinced her to move to London to help him build another company, Viagogo. So she packed her bags and was soon back in the startup trenches, running marketing campaigns and managing relationships with Manchester United, Madonna, FC Bayern Munich and other major brands. O’Neal loved living abroad and traveled often, which ultimately inspired her to start Tripping.com.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences


Whether you’re building a company or embarking on a new adventure, a million things will go wrong along the way. You can let those things get you down until you just want to pack your bags and call it a day. Or you can learn from what’s happening, adjust your plan, and keep moving forward. Sure, it’s hard to stay optimistic when it feels like the earth is crumbling beneath your feet. But it beats feeling like you’re going to go down with it.

I’ve always believed that positivity leads to endless opportunity. Here’s an example of how staying optimistic helped us build Tripping into a global brand:

In 2011, my cofounder Jeff and I closed a $750k seed round for Tripping.com. Though small by today’s seed standards, it seemed like a fortune to us. We were grateful that our investors had taken a chance on us and we were eager to show them what we could do. Within a few months, our excitement dropped: we realized that our existing business model wasn’t going to work. Rather than drown our sorrows in cheap beer (we were still on a tight budget despite the funding), Jeff and I looked for something better. And that’s when we spotted the opportunity to become the first metasearch site for vacation rentals. Within a month, we had completely pivoted the business and we were moving fast to capture the new opportunity in front of us. Seven years later, Tripping.com is now the market leader and staying positive helped us get here in a big way.


In the midst of raising Tripping’s Series A, everyone said we needed to meet investors in Silicon Valley. We were told there was a playbook to raising venture capital and it involved driving up and down Sand Hill Road, pitching investors in their cream-colored conference rooms, and praying for term sheets. The firms along Sand Hill Road also had a playbook and they often looked at deals the same way, offering similar terms with similar valuation multiples. Even the investors themselves looked similar with their dark jeans, checkered shirts, and — if the weather dropped below 75 — matching North Face vests.

One day as we were driving back to San Francisco after a series of pitch meetings, my cofounder Jeff and I wondered why we were following the playbook. There’s a lot of capital outside of Silicon Valley, we reasoned. Surely some of it could be used to back a travel company like ours. We decided to go after it.

In 2014, we raised our Series A out of Tokyo. A year later, we closed our Series B with a hedge fund in New York. And a year after that we raised our Series C out of Hong Kong. Working with international investors has given us access to unique perspectives, global networks, and resources to launch into foreign markets. So if you’re looking to raise capital, look outside the Valley. You never know what could happen when you toss a playbook out the window.


It’s easy to stay in one industry for your entire career, especially once you’ve gained a reputation and built up your network. That said, there are huge advantages to working in different sectors. While the learning curve is steep as you transition from one market to another, making the jump will give you a deeper understanding of how business is approached across different categories. It’s also a great opportunity to learn new things and broaden your network. And your experience will give you unique perspectives that enable you to innovate and solve problems in ways that your colleagues (who have been drinking the kool-aid for too long) haven’t been able to do.

For instance, I spent my early career in the ticketing space at StubHub. Now I work in travel. Weirdly, there are parallels between the supply-side of both sectors. Having a solid understanding of what worked well in the ticketing industry has helped us figure out the best way to manage supply in the vacation rental industry. This has been a terrific advantage for the company, since few of our competitors have experience in the ticketing world and may not see things the way we do.

I once asked one of our investors (the former CEO of a publicly traded travel company) if my background were detrimental to the company. He responded, “No way — it’s an asset. Most travel founders only know the travel world. Since you’re an outsider, they have no idea what you’re going to do next. You’re keeping them on their toes.”

Elaine Wilkinson, Property Developer, Landlors and CEO of www.hollywoodmirrors.co.uk

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Here Is My Background

I am a serial Entrepeneur I have owned over 20 types of businesses from property, construction and retail. I currently have two E-commerce businesses www.hollywoodmirrors.co.uk that sells illuminated mirrors and www.decorelo.co.uk that sells designer furniture, lighting and homewares. My expertise is starting a business trying to grow it quickly to a max value and to sell it two or three years later.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

My top three lessons I have learned in business is having a sound financial plan before you start and just go for it. There’s no point in starting if you cant make the numbers work on paper before you start.

My second lesson is perseverance nothing worth having is easy, turn up every day be consistent, persistent and believe.

My third lesson gets a very good bookkeeper some of my companies have gone into disarray because of a poor bookkeeper. You cant know the results of your decisions if you don’t know the score., and if you don’t see the score, you cant tell the winners from the losers.”

Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry, co-founders (and twin sisters), Allocadia

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Here Is My Background

Kristine and Katherine are twin sister co-founders of Allocadia, named “”marketing technology of the year”” in 2017 and “ultra-hot marketing technology startup” by AdAge. They’ve raised $24M through series B in a time where Female CEOs receive only 2.7% of all venture funding, and only 13% of female founders reach a B stage of financing.

In addition, they’ve hundreds of marquee customers from some of the world’s most successful organizations including Microsoft, GE Digital, Pitney Bowes, Box and many more in a crowded marketing technology industry, and have been recognized most recently for 852% revenue growth since 2013 by Deloitte — that’s serious traction in a very crowded industry that pits 7,000 marketing tech companies against each other for the same share of a CMO’s wallet.

With Kristine at the helm as CEO and Katherine driving product innovation as Chief Product Officer, marketers around the globe have managed over $25B in global marketing investment through the Allocadia platform, which helps them save over 1 million work hours and drive an estimated $5B in global growth.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. Letting go is critical. To truly scale a business, you have to trust others to make decisions and take things forward, but this can feel counterintuitive when building something that’s come from your own experience in the world. Leaders must learn to state the objective, and resist the urge to “”do.””

2. Trust matters in two ways. Firstly, you may often face self doubt, but there is always a way to find your voice. Leadership comes from regular girls who evolve to trust their voice, unique style, and story. Secondly, knowing how to build trust throughout the business has been critical — and over time you learn it has to be built and nurtured to be successful. Part of this is working more collaboratively, and less hierarchically.

3. Leadership is about serving others. It’s not about making decisions, it’s about serving your team, customers, and your community. A true leadership role is about listening and being the voice of those groups, about representing them all respectfully and equally, and trying to serve the needs of the larger whole and greater good. We build products by listening to what our customers need to do their best work, trusting them, consolidating those needs, finding themes, and moving forward on those.

Amanda Zuckerman, Co-founder and Creative Director, Dormify

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Here Is My Background

“I wanted to reach out and introduce Amanda Zuckerman, a 26 y/o co-founder who launched a mega-successful online retailer for décor inspiration when she was in college. Dormify is the one-stop-shop for small space decorating for the fashion-minded.

It all started in 2009, when Amanda Zuckerman went shopping with her mom, Karen Zuckerman, to find items for her first dorm room, the soon-to-be college freshman grew increasingly frustrated. Amanda felt nothing represented her personality and did not want the traditional bed-in-a-bag solution that didn’t allow for any creative expression. After launching a Wordpress blog dedicated to college life and decor, she started with a simple site and small collection that really fit their mission to give the college student the product and content they needed to design a space they would love to live in (all during her freshman year of college!) Amanda managed to bootstrap her business and was able to scale.

Dormify officially launched in 2012, a website offering style-minded college students a better and more stylish way to decorate their first abode. Five years later the company has disrupted that 6 billion dollar business. Since launch, Dormify has introduced a ‘guys’ line and opened their first-ever showroom in NYC. They’ve also expanded offerings with an apartment line, APT by Dormify, launching when Amanda was moving into her second apartment in New York allowing her to grow up alongside her own company.

Dormify simplifies the shopping experience by curating product into styled, shoppable looks which makes decorating both stress-free and fun. With Amanda’s direction, Dormify has grown tremendously and has caught the attention of Forbes, Business Insider and Good Morning America. Most notably, Amanda was just honored as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for 2018 — breaking boundaries one step at a time.

We’d love for you to consider Amanda for this story as she has truly broken limits from starting a mega-successful business at such a young age. Please let me know if there is any more information I can offer. Thank you!

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“When I was young I didn’t really understand the value of networking. I used to think it was something you did by going to events and schmoozing with people. I wish I knew back then the true meaning and value of networking. My network of peers, mentors and partners have given me the ability to solve any problem and has inspired me to follow my dreams. Learning from peers and people I have met, all over the world has enabled me to have a greater creative vision.

It may sound corny, but the concept of gratitude has really helped me overcome challenges with work-life balance. I co-founded Dormify when I was 20 and in college. Balancing work and my social life in college, and even my first year out of school, living Manhattan, I always felt like I was missing out on fun times when work obligations would take over. Over the past few years however, I have felt more grateful than ever for the opportunity that I have to lead such an incredible company and team….and I own it! This is the path I have chosen, so missing out on a social event every now and then, and having a somewhat “”unbalanced”” life at times does not get me down. I am doing what I love and I am thankful for that.

The ability to delegate work and trust the people you work with. I was starting to have too many little things to do, so I couldn’t think about the big picture. I had to learn to trust other people and effectively delegate work, manage a team, and foster their personal growth.

Chrissa McFarlane, Patientory

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Here Is My Background

Chrissa McFarlane is the CEO of Patientory, a global currency and population health management service that regulates and secures patient data, Named as one of the top women “leaving their mark on the medtech field” by Becker’s Hospital Review, Chrissa launched Patientory in December 2015 after seeing the need in the market for a more personalized and secure population health management solution. She resides in Atlanta and Tweets at @ChrissaTanelia.

Chrissa exudes creativity and is a high-performing strategic thinker and excellent team-builder. She’s an entrepreneur with a passion for creating cutting-edge healthcare products that transform the face of healthcare delivery in the US and abroad. She brings over 10 years in the healthcare industry conducting research and managing teams. She holds notable international published research in healthcare and has helped create breakthrough digital health companies that have provided services to companies such as Tumblr, Blue Apron, Casper and Meetup.

Her passion for health care began as early as high school, where she conducted microbiology research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and won top honors at the Otto Burgdorf Research Competition. Later at Cornell University, Chrissa worked with organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture-Robert Holey Center for Agriculture and Health and Cayuga Medical Center. After teaching Math and Science for a year in an underserved community inside the Atlanta Public School system, Chrissa decided to pursue business school. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude from Cornell, and a Masters in Management from the Wake Forest University School of Business. “

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Hundreds of companies conducted ICOs/token sales, and millions of dollars were raised for technologies that promised a realization of what blockchain can do to radically change the way we connect and communicate in a digital world. What 2018 will reveal is what companies and technologies have the goods to meet those promises. That requires a focus beyond the blockchain, to the vertical industry applications that will deliver on those promises.

Patientory is in the business of improving people’s lives and the well-being of patients around the world. That is one of the reasons why the Patientory community is so engaged and passionate. It understands what is possible and that now is the time to transform healthcare for the individual.

Dr. Mirela Mitan, PhD CEO of MMXV INFINITUDE Skincare

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Here Is My Background

Dr. Mirela Mitan spent more than 25 years working with some of the largest and best-loved beauty companies. A pioneer in the field, she has been instrumental in both discovering and sourcing the most effective ingredients and creating the most successful formulas and products. With a PHD in Biochemistry and an MBA in Luxury Marketing, Dr. Mitan is the author of more than 25 publications and patents.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. Be Patient. Everything takes longer than expected (But the End Result is Worth It): I expected for the creation of the product to take the longest time, but it was actually the opposite; for me. Since I have over 25 years of experience in the skincare market I know every single ingredients and how to formulate it. Therefore, it surprisingly took a shorter amount of time than having the packaging design finished.

2. Have A Realistic Budget. Everything is more expensive than expected to create your vision: I always underestimate the selling cost and the minimum order quantities. A good rule of thumb is to expect I that everything is 10 times more expensive than expected.

3. Keep an Open Mind When Collaborating with Others. When you have partners, keep in your mind that their influence will need to be taken into account, at all times. Even their spouses and significant others are likely to give their input, especially in a cosmetic business. In the beginning I considered starting the company with a couple of my friends who are experts in financing and not in cosmetics. I soon realized that having more than one cook in the kitchen is not a good idea.

Emily Lyons, CEO and Founder, Femme Fatale Media Group

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Here Is My Background

“I’m the CEO and founder of 4 successful, Toronto-based companies. The first company I founded — literally from scratch, with less than $100 in my pocket — is Femme Fatale Media, a leading event staffing and experiential marketing agency. I forged this business when I was 23, without only a high school education; a lot of people told me I couldn’t make it happen unless I first went to college.

I decided to prove my doubters wrong, and catapulted myself into action. It wasn’t too long before my budding agency had landed major clients — national and global brands, as well as celebrities like Justin Bieber and Drake. With this first company a breakout success, I flexed my entrepreneurial muscle and launched Lyons Elite, an upscale matchmaking firm. At this point, I already had a large network of corporate executives, celebrities, and other men and women of influence who had worked with me. By marketing Lyons Elite to this network, I managed to rapidly get the company soaring off the ground; within the first week of its launch, it made 6 figures in revenue.

Next, I created two other companies: True Glue, which secured an investment from a Dragon on the popular show Dragons’ Den; and JWLS, a line of contemporary watches. A percentage of all profits from JWLS is donated to Cystic Fibrosis Canada — a non-profit devoted to fighting cystic fibrosis. I chose to launch JWLS as a tribute to my beloved sister Julia, who passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2011.

The limits I’ve broken are both mental and professional. I overcome self-doubt by developing an unyielding faith in myself and my abilities. Professionally, I have achieved a high degree of success in the highly competitive industries of events and cosmetics. And my companies are only getting bigger and bolder.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“My experience in the past 10 years has taught me several lessons. First, it taught me to always believe in myself — completely. The truth is this: there will always be people who doubt you, who don’t think you can do what you set out to do.

This is true no matter where you are in life or in business, so you won’t get anywhere if you’re always listening to those who have no faith in you. An ironclad confidence in yourself will take you far. When I was building my first company, I could have looked at the small amount of change I had, the cramped apartment, and thought to myself, “Maybe they’re right. Maybe this isn’t something I can do.” But I told myself that I could do it, and the payoff has been well worth those grueling early days of my business.

My experience also showed me that opportunities are everywhere — you only have to look for them. That’s how I came upon the idea of creating Lyons Elite. Many opportunities may seem invisible, but they are there. Finally, I learned that vision is everything. If you don’t have a vision that inspires you, that kicks you awake in the morning when you’re tired and exhausted, then you won’t survive the toughest challenges in your pursuit of business success.

Tina Anderson, Founder and CEO, Just Thrive Probiotic

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Here Is My Background

Tina Anderson, Founder and CEO of Just Thrive Probiotic had a thriving career as a lawyer in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years when her passion for natural health took her life in an entirely new direction.

Through the hectic career and family-building years, Tina strived for a natural and holistic lifestyle for her family — avoiding antibiotics, eliminating over-the-counter medications, living an active lifestyle and eating whole, real foods. She focused on her family living a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle in order to stay healthy and prevent illness.

Tina learned that an imbalance in the gut leads to the majority of the chronic illnesses we face, and in order to rebalance your gut you need to take a daily probiotic. Unfortunately, the majority of probiotics on the market simply don’t work and are not natural.

She set out to find a probiotic that was nature’s true probiotic and found it in spore-forming strains that are now used in Just Thrive Probiotic. Working closely with Dr. Simon Cutting, a world-renowned probiotic expert at London University Royal Holloway, she gained access to the most widely studied probiotic strains in the world.

Just Thrive Probiotic & Antioxidant was born!

The fascinating thing about these bacillus strains is that they “read” the condition of the gut and have the ability to eliminate pathogens; and they also create compounds and nutrients to help our good bacteria flourish. It’s like being the gardener of the gut. Just Thrive gets rid of the weeds and helps grow the plants that have been stepped on and trampled on. This approach to gut health is much different (and more effective) than the majority of probiotics on the market. What has been most satisfying is the profound impact Just Thrive has had on customers’ health and well-being. Tina always says “Just Thrive is ground zero for optimal health.”

Tina has made it her mission to bring these totally unique spore-forming probiotic strains to the U.S. and has been breaking limits within a saturated industry with a game-changing probiotic. Further, educating an industry on the new science surrounding gut health has been a huge obstacle to overcome but she’s doing it one day at a time. A recent clinical study published in peer-reviewed World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology showed that the powerful strains in Just Thrive Probiotic & Antioxidant are healing leaky gut in as little as thirty days!

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Experience is a great teacher and there’s really no substitute for it. Here are Tina’s top three lessons from her experience:

Find your life’s work and do it.

When you do work in line with who you are, everything falls into place and the rewards are much greater. (And it’s a lot more fun!) While you need to have a plan, be open to change. Be willing to try new things and to go off track when inspiration hits. There is really no replacement for hard work. Stay focused and remember that slow and steady wins the race.

Read! Read! Read!

Reading is the gateway to learning and knowledge.

The one habit ultra-successful people have in common is that they read a lot. Knowledge builds up, like compound interest. Learn from other people’s experience. Read books and articles from entrepreneurs and motivational leaders to inspire and educate yourself. Make a daily habit of reading and sharing what you learn with your team.

Invest in the best.

Invest in the best products, the best people, and the best ideas. When you find something that is the best, be willing to take a risk to fulfill your vision. Surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. And remember to be grateful to those who help you along the way.

Dr. Vivian Chan, Founder & CEO of Sparrho (sparrho.com)

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Here Is My Background

Dr Vivian Chan is founder and CEO of Sparrho, a science discovery platform that helps citizens and researchers keep on top of the science that matters to them. A self-described ‘learning geek’, she is passionate about entrepreneurship; after completing her PhD in biochemistry at Cambridge University, she was selected to represent Australia in the Novartis BioCamp, held as a platform for exploring the innovative and entrepreneurial aspects of biotechnology. A participant of the inaugural cohort of Entrepreneur First, where she met her co-founder Niluka Satharasinghe, Vivian was this year named one of MIT Tech Review’s 35 Under 35 innovators & one of the Top 100 Asian Stars in UK Tech. Vivian’s determination and business acumen has achieved Sparrho over $3m in seed funding in 2017 alone, and she has recently addressed the EU Ministers of Research and Innovation about Open Science in Amsterdam.

“I’m always pushing myself to challenge norms and reject limits. I chose my undergraduate programme, a BBiotech, because it was a new degree at the University of Queensland — so from the start, I’ve been averse to following the beaten track. This ethos has directed me throughout my life, and when faced with potential limitations I choose to look beyond them: as symbolised by the skylights in Sparrho’s new office, the sky is the limit!””

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Don’t let the external dictate the internal: find your own truth and follow it.

My experience as a CEO has primarily taught me that self-discovery and self-confidence are key: knowing who you are, and what is and isn’t comfortable for you, is vital to your success. There is a pervasive idea in society — which is particularly reflected in industry — that successful people look and act a particular way, and that in order to be successful, it’s necessary to shoehorn yourself into that mould. When this ‘mould’ is analysed, it tends to be largely based on male-dominated patterns of language and behaviour: women with ambition are expected to adopt typically masculine styles of speech and even dress, and the role models we’re given are almost always men. Initially, I did feel the pressure to conform to these patterns, but over time, I realised how much more important it is to learn exactly who I am as a person and as a CEO, and to live that out in practice day-to-day.

Put your team’s mental and physical health first.

If each team member grows individually, the business will grow exponentially — and one of the biggest things a leader can do to block her team’s growth is to ignore their health. I believe in putting well-being first, particularly when it comes to mental health. In this industry we deal with smart people with a tendency to overthink and overwork, and we need to make sure that our working style and team ethos prioritises flexibility. In order to build something amazing you need the best possible team, and in order for any team to work at their optimum capacity, its members need to cultivate good health — meaning careful maintenance of a good work-life balance — to avoid burnout, a real possibility when it comes to working with high-achieving people.

Learn how to adapt to any and every circumstance.

Finally, the ability to be flexible in the face of changing situations is vital. A good leader needs to know how to spot problems early on, work through them to come up with solutions, and then test these solutions with their team. A successful company is one that’s constantly growing and adapting, but if its leader thinks ‘growing’ simply means ‘adding more people’ without reassessing team structure and culture to ensure each member thrives, that’s where failure begins to set in: it’s important that your team is being grown for the right reasons. “

Thora Dowdell, Co-owner and COO, Club Tattoo

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Here Is My Background

Thora Dowdell is the Co-owner and Chief Operating Officer of Club Tattoo, a wildly successful chain of upscale tattoo and body piercing studios in the southwest. Club Tattoo was founded in 1995 by Thora’s husband, Sean Dowdell, and late business partner Chester Bennington (the lead singer of Linkin Park). Thora joined the company shortly after, and quickly garnered attention and praise for being one of the most successful and few female entrepreneurs in her industry.

Club Tattoo currently has six locations, with two on the Las Vegas Strip, and is recognized as one of the most successful brands within the tattoo industry. The Club Tattoo business model currently generates $10 million dollars in revenue annually. Thora provides leadership, management, and ensures that the company has the proper operational controls, administrative procedures and people systems in place to effectively grow the organization, and ensure financial strength and operating efficiency. She has curated several global licensing deals for the brand that translated into multimillion dollar revenue streams. With over 20 years of operations and management experience, persistence and an unrelenting work ethic, Thora has built a success-oriented company that mimics her core personal values.

From growing up in a lower middle-class family in a small rural town — to becoming a self-made multimillionaire running an empire — the mother of two doesn’t have time for “no’s”. Thora is a solution-based thinker who breaks barriers with attitude, unmatched tenacity and drive. Her strategic thinking, leadership style, and driven work ethic has made her a sought-after business consultant and mentor. By bringing a previously out-of-focus industry into mainstream business culture and raising the bar of expectations, Thora Dowdell is inking an indelible mark on the business world at large.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. Take Advantage of Being Underestimated

As a high powered female executive, you will be underestimated. Use this to your advantage to shift the landscape of any negotiation. As a woman in the executive world there are inevitable hurdles that will arise, and some will be based on your gender. It was a challenge, but I’ve learned to avoid taking it personally. Not being fearful of delivering a strong response can garner respect from the other party. Being prepared is something that I cannot stress enough. To be successful, you must continuously be proactive and educate yourself; be confident; let those previous doubters fuel your drive to learn; and don’t waiver from your goal. Once your skills or knowledge, based on any superficial judgement, has been underestimated, you can assume a first control position in the negotiation. Capitalize on this at the launch of conversation, and stay focused on your desired outcome. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated, and develop their confidence in you using your strengths and expertise. As with any negotiation, thinking win-win is the best approach. Communicate this approach directly after the initial underestimation, it can bring everyone involved into a more closely aligned conversation. You’ll earn respect and close the deal.

2. Expect Failure

One of the best lessons in building a successful company is expecting failure. It fosters growth and strategic thinking. Spend time learning how to be a good thinker. Teaching your team how to be thinkers versus taskers, can make the difference between being a good company or a great company. Rational thinking in the beginning, while establishing processes can help save valuable time later when failures start to occur. If everyone is prepared for some failures, it’s easier to change the approach to get to the vision rather than being reactive to the challenges along the way. Don’t confuse risks with fear, instead improve your company by eliminating fear of failure.

3. Stay Committed

Staying committed to your goals and flexible with your methods to achieve them can fast track your accomplishments. Life doesn’t always go the way we plan it; however, life often adapts to our own sheer determination. The equations of creating a successful company have many facets and my personal experience of not taking “no” for an answer has been an important factor in building my company and personal career. Energy flows where the gaze goes and if you get distracted by the undesired answer, you won’t get to your goal. Keep your passion and never stop going the extra mile. “

Laura Jennings, CEO, Knack

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Here Is My Background

“Laura Jennings is the CEO of modern gifting company Knack. Prior to Knack, Laura was a venture capitalist with the international private equity firm Atlas Ventures. Laura began her career at Microsoft, where she ran a number of core businesses including the email division and MSN. She is an expert in consumer gifting and internet technology. She was one of the first execs in technology when females were not in these positions and has been of the few female venture capitalists and was one of the first. She has built a multi-million dollar business from the ground up.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“Starting Knack has been one of the most exciting moments of my career. I’ve always been drawn to early stage companies, whether when I was an intrapreneur at Microsoft or now as an entrepreneur. There is something about the chaos and excitement that I find endlessly interesting and educational. I continue to learn a multitude of lessons, but my three top are these:

1. Take a very active role in your career and think of every move you make as a building block: how will this next role make you more valuable, more versatile, more self-sufficient?

2. Be a voracious learner and try as many things as you can: a wide foundation of familiarity is useful as you grow into management roles. Seek out mentors you can learn from.

3. Hire A players with positive attitudes — anyone who sees the glass as half empty isn’t going to last long in a startup. Listen hard for ideas everywhere you find them, but don’t lose sight of your true north. Enjoy the journey!”

Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO, iFundWomen

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Here Is My Background

“Karen Cahn is the Founder & CEO of iFundWomen, a fundraising ecosystem for women-led startups and small businesses. The mission of iFundWomen is to close the funding and confidence gap by providing a crowdfunding platform, coaching, and connections all designed to help female entrepreneurs start better businesses.

Karen is a pioneer in the digital media space, and was an early Google employee where she spent 10 years leading various monetization teams in search, display and video. Most recently, Karen spent three years as General Manager of AOL Original Video, and was responsible for business strategy and strategic partnerships. In this role, Karen built AOL’s female creative economy in video and as a result, nabbed AOL it’s first-ever Emmy nod.

Prior to AOL, Karen spent ten years at Google and YouTube, where she held various leadership roles in video, search and display advertising. Most notably, Karen started the Branded Entertainment business at YouTube, where she concentrated on the marriage of big brands and video content.

Karen is on the board of advisors of Girl Rising, an organization dedicated to girl’s education in developing countries. She is also on the Springboard Media Council, a highly respected group of experts across the world of digital media, content management and discovery, TV, advertising and other media verticals who invest their “human capital” in Springboard and their pipeline of high-growth, women-led companies.

Karen holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, double majoring in African-American Studies and US History. Originally from the suburbs of Boston, Karen migrated to New York City in 1998 to be a part of the early days of the digital media revolution with Salon.com. When she’s not working, Karen can be found in her kitchen in Montclair, NJ baking Toll House cookies with her kids (because there is no substitute for Toll House), or outside doing something sporty like playing golf, yoga, tennis, tetherball, or any sport involving a ball and maybe a bat.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. You must prove there is demand for your product or service before you invest in building out your offering.

We started iFundwomen specifically to create a platform designed to turn traditional business economics on its head. Instead of supply and demand, iFundWomen gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to generate demand before they invest in supply. It’s a smarter approach to starting a business. Crowdfunding offers an extremely efficient, low risk opportunity for women to step outside of their comfort zone, and test out their ideas.

2. Crowdfunding coaching and a well-prepared marketing plan are essential to a successful campaign.

Crowdfunding is like skydiving (but with a much lower risk of physical injury) — if you’ve never done it before, you really have no idea what you’re in for. The emotional rollercoaster that you will inevitably ride will likely make you want to vomit at times, but at the end of a successful campaign, you feel like you can do anything. And you can.

My team and I experienced the crowdfunding free fall first-hand before building our product, and we have identified the key factors that are essential to a successful campaign. Most importantly, we know that coaching works. When comparing campaigns that have succeeded versus those that have struggled to reach their goals, the results show that entrepreneurs on our platform who invested in coaching raised 4.5 times more money than the ones who did not. Data like this is why we’ve changed our product offerings to include free coaching for everyone who launches a campaign. We have built a toolkit and a peer-to-peer coaching system that has reduced the time to market for our entrepreneurs dramatically, while increasing the success of their campaigns.

3. You need to be legit to win.

This is so basic, but it needs to be said. The support of your network is dependent on how you present your business through your campaign. Your potential backers are going to expect you to have the fundamental markers of a legitimate business. This means that you must have 1) a website that clearly states what your business or passion project is about, and 2) a professional video that tells the story of your company and efficiently explains what your campaign is all about. There are very straightforward ways for you to successfully crowdfund and it starts with having a great idea, but ultimately you can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it. Prove that you’re serious about your project with a website, a video, your social handles on point, and a built-up audience of people who believe in you. You are what you do, not what you say.

Agustina Fainguersch, Managing Partner @Wolox & Co-Founder @Muzi

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Here Is 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 healthtech 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.

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 “”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 by leveraging technology and she has established her life mission as such.

Throughout her career Agustina has struggled through many different things, being a Latino Female Founder in Silicon Valley is a taught journey. Starting as a coder and engineer she taught herself entrepreneurship and started organizing communities, events and then building companies in the fields she thought she could create an impact. As she became a more experienced entrepreneur (but still very young) she decided she wanted to go to Silicon Valley, where the best entrepreneur in the world were. She was the youngest female Argentine to get selected for Singularity University and that opened her the door to then move to Silicon Valley. Today she’s the only Under 30 female Argentine entrepreneur in the Bay Area and she works every day to change this and incentivize more Argentines to build companies, building a strong bridge with Silicon Valley.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“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. “

Sissy McGill, Founder, Solid Gold Pet

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Here Is My Background

“Sissy Harrington-McGill founded America’s first natural and holistic pet food brand in 1974 when she decided to take on the largely male-dominated industry with simple purpose of wanting to make higher quality food for her pets. Born during the Great Depression, Sissy was taught at a young age that success takes a lot of hard work. Working multiple jobs and pushing herself through school, Sissy received her Master’s Degree from Columbia University. After working as a teacher and applying to be a principal at multiple schools, Sissy became discouraged by blatant gender discrimination and decided to adopt her first two Great Danes, Warlock and Max. Her unconditional love for these dogs became the driving force behind her new focus: competing and showing champion Great Danes. Sissy competed in dog shows all over country, and during this time, two of her dogs died of bloat. Losing her dogs was devastating to Sissy. Sparked by her discovery that dogs in Europe were living longer than the Great Danes that she owned, bred and fell in love with in the United States, Sissy decided to take action and tackle the evident difference between the two: their diets.

Using only natural and holistic ingredients, Sissy started to make her own dog food. Decades ahead of her time, Sissy incorporated nutrient-rich ingredients with known positive health benefits, now commonly referred to as Superfoods, into her recipes. She gave out samples at dog shows and decided to go into the dog food business full-time. Word-of-mouth brought her Solid Gold brand a strong customer base and eventually put it on the shelves of small boutique pet retailers, as well as Petco and even into Europe where she added the Queen of England to her list of customers.

Through years of ups and downs, Sissy continued to pave the way in ensuring that every Solid Gold dog and cat food, treat and supplement led with the highest quality of nutritional ingredients for our furry friends.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

“1) Nothing great comes without hard work. Pioneering a new trend in pet nutrition and creating America’s first natural and holistic pet food brand was no easy feat — especially not back in the ’70s in a largely male-dominated industry. Being born in the Great Depression, Sissy was taught that success takes a lot of hard work. She took on multiple jobs throughout her teenage years and young adulthood and eventually put herself through school, earning her Master’s Degree from Columbia.

2) Use your failures as stepping stones. After receiving her Master’s, Sissy worked as a teacher and applied to be a school principal at multiple California schools. She became discouraged by blatant gender discrimination and decided to adopt her first two Great Danes, Warlock and Max. Her love for these dogs became the driving force behind her new focus: competing and showing champion Great Danes. Sissy competed in dog shows all over the country, and during this time, two of her dogs died of bloat. Losing her dogs was devastating to Sissy. Sparked by her discovery that the same breed of dogs in Europe were living longer than the ones she owned, bred and fell in love with in the states, Sissy decided to take action and tackle the evident difference between the two: their diets.

3) Never take “no” for an answer. Through years of ups and downs — including surviving a divorce, trying to excel in male-driven industries and enduring a brief 6-month stint in federal prison for making a natural dog food claim in an industry where it hadn’t been approved by the FDA (yet) — Sissy continued to pave the way for natural dog and cat food with Solid Gold — essentially creating a multi-billion dollar industry, but more importantly, better nutrition for pets.”

Lori Caden, Belly Bandit

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Here Is My Background

Lori began her professional career in the promotional product’s industry. In 1998, along with her sister Kari Caden, they established Caden Concepts, a full-service promotional branding agency. With the heart of a salesperson and the mind of a marketer, Lori’s vision was to build an agency that was client-focused and creatively driven. The result is Caden Concepts, a leader in the branded merchandising industry with a highly diverse and prominent clientele including, Disney, Universal Studios, Home Depot, T-Mobile, and more!

Lori’s entrepreneurial spirit and her personal “body after baby” experience led directly to the formation of her second company, Belly Bandit. Frustrated when unable to bounce back after the birth of her daughter, Lori her along with her two sisters, Jodi and Kari went in search of an answer. Their postpartum solution, the Belly Bandit® Belly Wrap, revolutionized the maternity world by reimagining and modernizing the ancient practice of belly binding. Since its launch in 2008, the company has seen tremendous growth. It has evolved from its signature product, the Belly Bandit®, and expanded to include maternity wear, nursing bras, and a complete line of compression shapewear, the Mother Tucker® Collection. Belly Bandit® products are available in 1000 retailers and 86 countries, and have a long list of die-hard fans and celebrity customers, including Kourtney Kardashian, Christina Aguilera and Whitney Port.

Lori credits the success of her family-based businesses to hard work, commitment to innovation, and the support she receives from her three biggest fans, her husband, Warren, daughter Charlee and son Chase.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

When you own a business you learn a lot of lessons the hard way. Yes, the rewards are great, but one of the things I quickly learned is nothing worthwhile comes easily. I live by the mantra if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. As an entrepreneur, you expect to work hard, it’s part of the deal. So, the first lesson you learn is to keep your eye on the goal. It’s difficult at times –the obstacles are inevitable and often success is determined by how you hand setbacks. If you are determined, believe 100% in what you are doing, surround yourself with a strong team and stay focused you’ll get the results you want.

If I could “package” thick skin, I’d be a billionaire! Any businessperson will tell you that it is an essential element in developing a successful company. The lesson I learned early on is that you can’t take anything personally. And, if you think that’s easy, you’re wrong! I’m fortunate that my business partners are my sisters. We all work hard to have each other’s backs and to protect one another from disappointments. Ultimately, having a thick skin allows us to focus on business goals while keeping personal feelings at bay.

Innovation is the key to operating a successful company. That’s why one of the key lessons in business is to keep trying new things and to remember that not every new idea will be a success but without new ideas, there can be no progress. Encouraging creativity is key in everything from instituting new processes to developing new products. Innovation has been the hallmark of our business and has helped us adapt, grow and thrive within our industry. “

Kate Torgersen, Founder and CEO, Milk Stork

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Here Is My Background

“Kate Torgersen is founder and CEO of Milk Stork®, the first breast milk shipping service for business traveling, breastfeeding moms. Launched in August 2015, Milk Stork provides working moms with everything they need to ship or tote their “liquid gold” home to their babies. For progressive, family-friendly companies, Milk Stork provides an in-demand employee benefit that helps attract, retain and supports working mothers.

As a full time, working mom of three kids, Kate was committed to breastfeeding all of her children for the recommended 12 months despite the many challenges of pumping at work. In 2014, when faced with a four-day business trip, she struggled to get her breast milk home to her eight month-old twins. After returning from her trip with two gallons of breast milk and eight pounds of melting ice, she was determined to create a solution. Within a year, she launched Milk Stork, effectively lightening the load — both physically and emotionally — for countless hardworking, business traveling, breastfeeding moms across the U.S. Fueled by grassroots word-of-mouth among moms, Milk Stork quickly became in-demand, employee benefit with many of the country’s leading companies and firms.

Kate’s mom-led innovation and entrepreneurship have been chronicled in publications such as the Harvard Business Review, New York Magazine, Lifehacker, Fortune and Travel + Leisure. In 2016, Kate was named one of Red Tricycle’s “Power Moms of the Food World” and, in 2015, Business Insider named Milk Stork, one of the “19 Coolest Companies in San Francisco”.

While launching Milk Stork, Kate was senior executive communications manager at Clif Bar & Company. From 2000 to 2007, she served as the company’s national field marketing manager. Prior to joining Clif Bar, Kate chased her wanderlust to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where she worked as an archaeologist and wild land firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. In the winter, she was a professional ski instructor at Squaw Valley–Alpine Meadows ski resort.

Kate holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and she earned her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. When she isn’t working, playing with her kids or picking up Hotwheels, she is running or pursuing her quest for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Milk Stork is the first breast milk shipping company for business traveling, breastfeeding moms. Milk Stork supports thousands of moms and has become a “hot” employee benefit and the nations top companies.

The idea for Milk Stork came to me at a very inconvenient time — I was working full time, I had infant twins and a 2.5-year-old. At the time, I had a million excuses and reasons to dismiss my idea — I was sleep deprived, busy, and just had my hands full — but, I decided I wasn’t going to let this one go. I have come to appreciate that great ideas strike BECAUSE of difficult times, not in spite of them. So, if you have a great idea, now is the only time act — there will not be a better day when you have more sleep or less to do, there is only now.

As an unexpected founder on an unusual product, I get a lot of advice — some of it I ask for, a lot of it is unsolicited. Advice is critical, but it is also important to be critical of the advice you get. In my experience, advice comes from one of three places: support, doubt or fear. Before I consider any advice, let alone take it, I make sure I know which of these areas it is coming from.

Lastly, as a founder, one of the most important aspects of my job is stay open-minded, to continue to ask questions and to challenge the business. This is the only way to forge ahead into the white space and grow the business. The day that I think I know everything and have everything figured out, is the day that the business stops growing, evolving, and innovating.”

Theresa Payton, CEO & Founder, Fortalice Solutions

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Here Is My Background

“Theresa Payton remains the cybersecurity and intelligence operations expert that people and companies turn to regarding efforts to strengthen their privacy and cybersecurity. Named one of the top 25 Most Influential People in Security by Security Magazine, she is one of America’s most respected authorities on security and intelligence operations. The first female to serve as White House Chief Information Officer, Payton oversaw IT operations for the President and his

staff from 2006 to 2008. Previously, she held executive roles in banking technology at Bank of America and Wells Fargo, facilitating her broad knowledge of cybersecurity risks and measures in the financial services industry. Currently, as the founder, president and CEO of a world class cybersecurity consulting company, Fortalice Solutions, LLC and co-Founder of Dark3, a cybersecurity product company, she remains the expert that organizations call for discretion and help understanding and improving their IT systems. Fortalice was recently

named one of the Top 5 Innovative Cybersecurity companies in the D.C./MD/NoVa region and Theresa was recently awarded the Enterprising Women of the Year Award.

Payton was recently featured as the Deputy Director of Intelligence Operations in the new hit show CBS’ Hunted. Payton collaborated with cybersecurity and privacy attorney, Ted Claypoole, to author two books focused on helping others learn how to protect their privacy online. Hailed as ‘must-reads,’ Privacy in the Age of Big Data and Protecting Your Internet Identity, outline peoples’ rights, as well as tips and strategies for building and maintaining a positive online image. Jon Stewart had Payton on “The Daily Show” to discuss her book and the emerging threats to our privacy and security.

Payton is often sought out by national and international media news outlets to explain complex security issues in business and consumer terms to get behind the hype to understand, in layman’s terms, how to protect your privacy and security. She has been a repeat guest on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox Business Shows, Fox News Shows, CBS Morning & Evening News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC.

Recognized as a 2015 William J. Clinton distinguished lecturer by the Clinton School of Public Service, Payton passionately protects her clients, from the board room to the conference room, and helps them understand the business risks to their organization’s cybersecurity. She and her team provide insight and methods critical to protecting people and organizations from rapidly evolving cyberattacks.”

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1) Your word is your bond. It’s crucial to maintain your integrity throughout your career and one of the most important ways to do that is not to make promises you can’t keep. It’s equally as important for the small things and the big things!

2) Everyone is valuable regardless of position, status or rank. President Bush was an amazing example of treating everyone equally, and it’s a lesson that I keep with me to this day. It doesn’t matter if you’re the porter or the prime minister, everyone contributes their unique gifts and talents to the organization.

3)Be creative! The field I work in, though highly technical, is also incredibly innovative. Never be afraid to speak up with a radical or unconventional idea. It’s often the off-the-wall comments that spark creative thought among your peers! “

Jenny, Founder, Studio ATAO/Wednesdays

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Here Is My Background

I’m a 27-year-old professional chef in specializing in experiential dining. I work with various restaurants and brands to create experiences that engage their audiences in an immersive way. I’ve worked with companies such as Pepsi, Plated, and Blue Marble as well as foodservice — from small cafes to worldwide chains. My love for experiential dining started after I founded Wednesdays (http://wednesdays.nyc) a tasting restaurant in NYC that combines fine dining with intellectually stimulating conversation. Since 2014 we’ve hosted 100+ events and connected 1,000+ people. We’ve been featured in outlets such as Business Insider, UrbanDaddy, Thrillist, Village Voice, 7x7, Bustle, The Huffington Post and more! Wednesdays is shifting into a VR meets immersive theater dining experience, the first installation will be launching in summer 2018 (www.studioatao.org).

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

Live outside of your comfort zone. After leaving a cushy management consultant position and taking a sabbatical at Columbia University Business School, I cooked at restaurants, interned in PR firms, sold smoothies to venture capital firms, worked as a barista and hostess — all sorts of odd jobs to help me learn. I eventually broke off to start my own consulting business, which I feel fortunate to say has been successful and afforded me a comfortable life. For a year, the business was humming along but I realized I hit a plateau and I was bored. So I decided to dive into augmented and virtual reality, a field I literally know nothing about. I just finished my first VR + food project in Nicaragua. Life is about living, and the only way to live is outside your comfort zone.

Learn how to embrace failure. It’s not failing that defines you, it’s what you do after the failure that truly defines you as an individual. Heartbreaking disappointment, bad defeats and hard nights will mold your character much more than winning ever will. Failure will open up your life more than winning ever will, success is not a straight line. If you never fail, that means you aren’t putting yourself in any situations that actually matter.

Don’t take anyone’s advice too seriously. If you have 10 people giving you different direction, you’re bound to overthink things. If you try to please everyone, it feels like you’re doing a lot, but not really getting anywhere. I call that “”wasted movement.”” You have only one person to please: yourself. Your best shot at success will be in doing something authentic.

Jackie Berlowski, CEO and Founder of GreatHerGood

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Here Is My Background

I am the founder of GreatHerGood.com, the online community that supports women in business. We do this through our platform showcasing fellow entrepreneurs and our public relations services. Our mission is to get YOUR passion out into the world. As a native New Yorker, I have a diverse background in television production, celebrity booking, public relations, entrepreneurship and marketing. My expertise, media know-how and passion for the entrepreneurial journey results in major PR power for growing brands. I’ve learned so much from my experience being on either side of a pitch…receiving countless pitches to be featured in the press, to creatively crafting my own pitch as well as positioning other brands to get the press they deserve. I’ve pushed the entrepreneurial limits by taking over 13 years of lessons and experiences and turning that knowledge into my own business. I now provide that expertise and passion for others who don’t know where to start. I’ve made my passion my business and that results in happy clients and a happy business owner. To get paid to do the work you love is truly a blessing and an obstacle that is worth fighting for every day.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1.) It’s worth following your passion. Just start. It’s much easier to talk about your ideas for 2, 3, 4 years, but it’s another to actually make the leap and commit to the journey. And yes, it will be a journey. That means a marathon, not a sprint. Often times, the doubt, the obstacles and the “”what if’s”” get in the way but I promise, it’s usually scarier in our minds than what is actually is. The journey of starting my own business, ups and downs included has been more than worth it and I am so grateful that I made the leap 2 years ago.

2.) Education is key. What I mean by this is, not everyone will understand or get it. Part of my job is educating brands on WHY PR is important and HOW it is valuable for their business. I often discuss with other entrepreneurs that PR and being featured on our platform, will NOT make them millions tomorrow. The purpose is not to jump straight into their sales. PR is a reputation builder, a source for credibility, a way to gain trust and momentum in order to build their brand. Then, the sales will come. We implore brands to build PR and brand awareness into their model from the BEGINNING. It’s often over looked, seen as a luxury and put last on the list. A good reputation is the most valuable thing a brand can attain. Without that validation, credibility and trust, your brand will be among the large amount of businesses that don’t survive after year one. When entrepreneurs fully understand and embrace the right strategy, the process is a successful one. Taking the time to educate potential clients or customers on what you do can be the most valuable part of the process.

3.) There is great value in your network. I am big believer in people and still believe the most valuable asset of any company or network is its people. That goes across the board from the ones you hire, to your friendships, to family members, to your partners. Positive people are essential in making the journey a successful one. For example, partner with other well-respected brands that are in line with you and could help elevate your mission and passion. Surround yourself with friends that support your ideas and are excited for you. Positive energy is contagious and only perpetuates a culture of new ideas and open-mindedness.”

Lisa Besserman, Founder/CEO, Startup Buenos Aires

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Here Is My Background

Lisa Besserman, Founder and CEO of Startup Buenos Aires, has been named as Business Insider’s “Top 100 Most Influential Women in Tech”, and the 2015 “Business Innovator of Latin America” by the Council of the Americas. She has also been credited as “The Woman Behind Argentina’s Startup Revolution”

Lisa moved to Buenos Aires from New York City to create Startup Buenos Aires, the organization that represents the startup, tech and entrepreneurial community of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Startup Buenos Aires has been one of the main catalysts for strengthening the tech ecosystem in Latin America, by bringing global startup initiatives, development projects and investment opportunities to the region. The organization has over 8,000 global members, and has brought over $2M into the country of Argentina.

Under Lisa’s leadership Buenos Aires has been credited as “Top 3 Growing Startup Cities” by CNBC and “5 Emerging Global Tech Hubs” by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Lisa calls herself an “”accidental entrepreneur””. She never expected her career path to lead to entrepreneurship, however when she arrived to Argentina she saw the opportunity to start a business, create a community, and make a real impact. She knew I had to leave everything behind in the U.S, take the biggest risk of her life, and choose this new, unexpected path.

By being a foreigner and female in a new country, Lisa broke all limits and was able to build one of the largest entrepreneurial organizations in the region of Latin America. She succeeded against all odds and was able to not only create a name for herself, but also helped change the lives of thousands of people around the world. Her organization has worked with governments, Nonprofits, as well as some of the largest corporations in the world.

Lisa is a Google Mentor, advises startups around the globe, and has been a judge for many international startup competitions in the sectors of energy, smart cities, iOT and technology.

Lisa has been recognized as a successful entrepreneur in Forbes magazine, and was selected as an International Spotlight Entrepreneur by the United States Department of State.

Here Are The Top Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

1. Be your own champion.

Running a business requires hustle, hard work, passion and unwavering dedication. Don’t be afraid to highlight your successes, or promote yourself, whether it be as an entrepreneur or employee.

Ask for that raise, negotiate that deal, publish that article, do whatever you have to do to take your career/company to the next level.

You cannot wait for anyone to do it for you, or worry about self promotion, you must be your own biggest champion.

If you don’t have a seat at the table, be so good that they create one for you.

2. Find balance and a support system. Celebrate the victories, and don’t let the failures crush you.

One of the toughest lessons I had to learn about entrepreneurship was finding balance, and how to ride the daily rollercoaster of emotions. In one day, you can experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s important to recognize that moments of failure do not define you as a person or entrepreneur. It’s also important to celebrate the victories, and allow yourself to recognize moments of success, no matter how big or small they may be.

Learning to find balance is a fundamental element of making it out of entrepreneurship alive and sane.

It’s also important to have a strong support system, where you can share your struggles, successes and escape the daily chaos of running a company. These support systems can range from friends, family, partners, organizations or entrepreneurial networks. The journey of entrepreneurship is hard, and at many times isolating, you don’t need to go at it alone.

3. Be rigid in your vision but flexible in your execution.

This is one of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received, by fellow entrepreneur Chris Dessi.

Markets change, companies pivot, business models fail, but if you allow yourself to change with these factors, yet stay true to your mission, success may still be achieved.

Elizabeth Zaborowska, CEO and Founder at Bhava Communications

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Here Is 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 Three Lessons I Learned From My Experiences

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.

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