Another 99 “Limit Breaking” Female Founders Share The Most Important Lessons They Learned from Their Experiences

Yitzi Weiner
Jan 17, 2018 · 229 min read

By Yitzi Weiner and Cam Kashani

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 second set of profiles.

Amilya Antonetti, CEO AMA Productions, Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Amilya gained national popularity as a leader for women in the early 1990’s after discovering the life-threatening effects cleaning products had on her infant son. She successfully founded/CEO of Soapworks, which became one of the fastest-growing privately owned household product companies in North America. She sold the company in 2002 and it remains a wholly owned division of a major household company.

Over her career she has lead more than 40,000 employees across multiple companies. She has built a strong reputation in ​disrupting industries with her expertise and entrepreneurial spirit in ​strategy, technology, data mining, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and innovation. This expertise combined with her network in sports, media and entertainment make for a unique skill set when applied to her passion for mass consumer goods and experience marketing.

​Since 2010, Amilya has ​become a go to expert and media personality. Appearing regularly as a business expert on Fox News & CNBC as well as, Oprah and Dr. Phil. In 2014, she hosted her own radio show “Amilya!” on Cumulus Radio 77WABC.

Early 2015, she returning back to TV as a contributing business expert with “The Steve Harvey Show” and other daytime appearances. In 2017, Amilya was casted as a judge & investor on a new show “”Elevator Pitch”” with Entrepreneur magazine.

Amilya has received numerous awards and accolades for breaking ground for women including “Smart Woman of the Year Award”, Fastest Under Forty-Woman to Watch, The Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneur Award, The Wells Fargo Award of Excellence, and Inc. 500. Her management has been recognized by Working Woman Magazine in “The Best Places to Work” — a testament to her leadership style. She’s been nominated for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of The Year Award and additionally, her business model, that focused on the needs from women & children, once considered “out-of-the-box,” is now a required study at many worldwide business schools.

Her passion for helping people/brands by moving them from “”where they are”” — to “”where they want to be””- remains just as strong today as we kick off 2018.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“There have been SO many important lessons learned along the way, I could fill a book, especially lessons that speak to women. When I started this journey, as a woman in business, there was not role models like Oprah, Mary Barra or Melinda Gates. Learning the “rules of the game” and important lesson needed for success, came from feet on the street experience and hard knocks.

One painfully important lesson, unfortunately came from first-hand experience and reinforced to me by advice from Oprah Winfrey, “Sign your own checks.” This lesson I will never forget. No matter the size of your business or your household income, your attention to detail impacting your cash flow is critical for sustainable financial success. Helping women gain confidence and the right mindset when it comes to money and investments continues to be one of my passions. Financial independence is so deeply connected to a person’s true sense of freedom and their authenticity. There is a HUGE difference between making ends meet, being rich and being wealthy. It has become abundantly clear you can NOT get from one level to the next, without the thoughts, beliefs, habits and actions that are attached to each of these different levels. I make it my mission to continually stops people from their “broke” thinking and convert their thinking and words into healthier and wealthier ways.

Another lesson, I wish I understood earlier in life, is the value of my friendships, teams and network. I am big believer in people and still believe the most valuable asset of any company or network is its people. This lesson was so critical I became obsessed with the study of human behavior. This study has helped me become a stronger leader and gain a deeper understanding of who I am, my unique abilities and the abilities of others.

Lastly, I would say the lesson of following the fire in your belly, tenacity, relentless pursuit of your passion, however you refer to the action oriented, cross things off the list mindset that moves some people forward. Learning the power of NO and eliminating negative energy from my life by releasing the “talkers” who are ‘gonna do” something and surrounding myself with positive minded “doers” instead. The good news, I have learned that people have 100% control over which person they choose to be.

Heather Monahan, business expert, Boss In Heels

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. The anecdote for overcoming self-doubt is taking action and developing your confidence muscle. There are so many ways you can boost your confidence and get yourself to take action. Who you surround yourself with is everything — fire negative people in your life and watch how you take off. How you see yourself is how others will see you — speak kindly to yourself, make yourself a priority, and spend time doing things you love. Journal to see how far you have come and keep track of all of your small wins. Turn scarcity into abundance by writing down three things a day that you can be grateful for. Removing the mask and being your true self, the more you can speak your real thoughts and be the authentic you that you really are the stronger you will feel. Speak up in meetings, speak up for yourself and speak your truth.

3. Fear is a Liar. This is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned over the last decade. In the past, I was letting fear stop me from doing so much. Fear stopped me from making a commitment in my relationship, from pitching my fantastic ideas to investors, from speaking up in meetings or speaking up for myself. Fear had been holding me back and the realization that none of these fears were real has empowered me to take action and take chances. Now I see that fear is not real and there is nothing to lose in the pursuit of something I believe in. The moment you begin to experience fear accept that everything you want is on the other side of it and get moving.

Jacynda Smith, CEO and Inventor of TYME

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

In 2015, Jacynda was faced with a make-or-break moment. With two kids and a husband who played professional hockey, her family soon saw themselves between a rock and a hard place with her husband’s career-ending knee injury. It wasn’t until watching ‘The Secret’ that she learned the power of what she calls “following your excitement.” Little did they know, with Jacynda’s desperation and creativity combined with following her excitement, that their world was about to change.

At age 35, after spending 2 years in the beauty industry as a hairstylist, Jacynda and her brother Kierre launched TYME in 2014. With satellite offices in Arizona, Iowa and Colorado, TYME products are now available to purchase in 40 countries worldwide.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

When you learn to follow your excitement, it allows you to see things in an entirely different way. Learning suddenly becomes easier because you have a true personal investment in what you’re doing and that is one of the most powerful things when it comes to business.

Lesson #2: Insistence equals resistance — Once you have an idea that you are excited about, then start working towards that goal. The trick is to make sure you do not insist that every step on your entrepreneurial journey go a certain way. Take time to realize that better routes to reach your end goal will become available. The key is to be open-minded enough to see when a better (or different) opportunity arises. Things will not always go according to the plan, it certainly didn’t for me but the best thing I could do was be resilient and come to the realization that this course of action was meant to be.

Lesson #3: No Frustration, Just Clarification — In most circumstances where frustration arises it usually stems from needing clarification. So if you are interacting with an employee, a colleague or a customer, the best thing is to take whatever it is that they are telling you as “neutral” and aim to derive where the frustration is coming from to quickly develop the solution to the problem. More often than not, you’ll notice that simply just more information is needed to be delivered.”

Mylène Besançon, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Tunedly

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Nothing is done until it’s done. In business, it’s easy to get your hopes up but I learned that anything can happen as long as the ball is still in play. That lesson was learned when a potential investor “changed his terms” at the last minute, which meant not getting the funding that was initially on the table and winding up right back at square one.

2. Nothing happens before the time. When nothing seems to be happening, you might get impatient and feel like lowering your standards. You may even start feeling self-doubt. However, I learned that in business, it’s best to stick it out and exercise patience as much as possible. When the investor I mentioned above failed us, we were obviously disappointed. However, we stuck to our guns and eventually ended up copping an even better deal with another investor, which came at the right time.

3. Things only work when you make them. In other words, you have to make a conscious effort to make things happen. It’s easy to cast blame on other people, on the weather, even on failing technology, when things don’t go the way you want them to. But I learned that if I really wanted something bad enough, all those excuses were just that…excuses. Do what you have to do, but whatever you do, make it happen.”

Jennifer Schwab, CEO & Founder Of ENTITY

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Through grassroots efforts ENTITY has become one of the fastest-growing women’s media companies over the past year. But it’s not just a publishing platform and social media juggernaut (15M monthly reach), it also encompasses the “ENTITY Women’s Leadership Academy”, which includes a rigorous curriculum based on leadership training and digital marketing, 27 speakers, and 18 activities — taking place over one summer in ENTITY’s Boyle Heights Headquarters.

ENTITY is not only about finding women jobs, but also guiding them into a life and career they are passionate about and have the skills to succeed in. It’s about creating #WomenThatDo.

Jennifer graduated with a B.S. in Accounting and started her career at Ernst & Young, Chicago office. She went on to study environmental design and sustainability at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Away from work, Jennifer follows design avidly and is a long time hobbyist pilot trained in high-performance multi-engine aircraft.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Never underestimate the value of a female mentor. When I was first climbing the corporate ladder at a top-tier accounting firm I was largely on my own in a sea of men. It was clear that the few women who did work there were all vying for the token “women” spots at the top, so rather than helping each other, we were seen as adversaries. But this isn’t how it should be. The past year or so has proven there is strength in numbers when women band together — from the Women’s March to taking down Harvey Weinstein, we can make a huge difference not only for ourselves but for other women. Studies have shown this as well, when a boardroom goes from one woman to two or three women ALL women are heard more. This is why women who are just entering the workforce should seek out female mentors, and women who are already in middle management or the C-suite should be open to helping other women rise in the ranks. In essence, for our gender to get ahead we need to be comfortable paying it forward. At the end of the day when women support women — rather than see them as competition — all women have a better chance at success.

3. Don’t call yourself out as an expert on something until you really are — understand with age comes mastery and mastering a skill takes time and discipline. I truly believe that putting the time and effort into building a valuable skill set is the key to success. People often start something and stop the moment they aren’t good at it, but we need to remember that skills and mastery take time. I never called myself a good pilot until I had over 300 hours of flight time, 900 landings, and 700 hours of ground study. Not until I truly felt in charge of the cockpit.

You can apply that same lesson to business. Take the time to learn from as many people as possible. Don’t think just because you worked at a company for 1 or 2 years you know everything. As business leaders we are in a constant state of learning and that’s a good thing. Not only that, it builds trust. People will know that when you do finally call yourself an expert, you’re not blowing hot air. Your word will actually mean something.

4. Your life will consist of multiple “mini-lives” — embrace each of these micro journeys for their life lessons, as well as their unique beginnings and endings. So many people get caught up in reaching the pinnacle of “success” as quickly as possible — they think they can go from intern to CEO in two years — and when it doesn’t happen they feel inadequate. An important lesson in business is to take the journey, learn as much as you can from each experience and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing all the time. You’re on YOUR journey and that’s okay

Fran Maier, CEO, Babierge, Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

She is frequently asked to be on radio and TV shows and is quoted in the media on the topic of gender equity in Silicon Valley. When the Ellen Pao case broke, she was featured as an expert on the topic on PBS News Hour and in other national media. Recently, she commented on NBC regarding sexual harassment allegations against Dave McClure.

Fran’s broken barriers and has more to break:

At, in the mid 1990s, Fran established credibility and trust in the emerging online dating industry, making the #1 online dating brand (which it still is), even though many thought that this category was sleazy and unattractive.

In her years leading TRUSTe, she built the company’s business and brand by driving TRUSTe’s flagship web privacy seal program as well as introducing new services to address emerging privacy issues. In 2008, recognizing that privacy and security issues were only growing larger, she convinced a very reluctant non-profit board of directors to convert the company from a non-profit industry association to a for-profit enterprise (and raised $10.5M) to develop new technologies and services to enhance privacy protections.

After leaving TRUSTe in 2012, Fran became a very early Airbnb Superhost in her San Francisco home (she was reluctant to tell her friends, fearing that it would look like she was some old lady that fell on hard times and had to take in boarders). That extra money and the experience, led her to look for new business ideas that would leverage the collaborative economy, hence Babierge. Despite her experience and track record, Fran had some difficulty in raising seed capital — was the market big enough? Could this business scale? and sadly, Is she too old? (seriously was asked why she was still hungry for this!). Yet she persisted and found both prior investors and new investors to back the company in addition to attracting former colleagues from and TRUSTe.

Fran speaks widely on several topics relating to women in business, including opportunities for women in the collaborative or gig economy, addressing the lucrative family travel segment, women in entrepreneurship and on boards. With Emmy Award winning journalist Kym McNicholas, she hosted a radio show/podcast called “”Female Seeking Start-up”” which featured interviews with female entrepreneurs. She serves as an advisor to many startups including Ruby Ribbon, Portfolia, Women’s Start-up Lab,, Kango, and Dabbl.

In 2010, AlwaysOn named Fran among the Top 25 Women in Tech to Watch in Silicon Valley. In 2011, San Francisco Business Times named Fran among the 150 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business. In 2015, she was named one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Tech” by Hot Topics. In March 2016, Fran was honored by the Stanford Graduate Business School with the Latino Leadership Award. In addition, she is a Member of Women Corporate Directors and is Chair Steering Committee for Stanford Women on Boards.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1) Embrace the Female Market. Despite the media’s obsession with artificial intelligence or driverless cars and guys wearing hoodies, remember that women control more and more of the purchasing power in the United States — not just at home! (FYI, not implying that women don’t also do AI and other technologies). Women know the women’s market and the products that women want. Focusing on women was the key to’s success and is true now with Babierge.

2) Play to Win! Too often women entrepreneurs play to survive, not to win. We need to think big, with confidence, and see what options and ideas that opens up.This might mean taking bigger risks or spending more than you may want to, but that’s what winning takes. This past June, at Babierge, when funding was getting tight, one former team member wanted us to pull back spending and team; I argued that the Summer travel season was critical to demonstrating the market opportunity, so we forged ahead and reached a $1M run-rate

3) Get Help. With your business. With your home. For yourself. Again, women tend to short-change themselves, feeling that they have to do it all. Or not wanting to spend the money for an assistant or a consultant (see #2 above). Or having too much pride to ask for help. If I had asked for help in 1998, when was sold to Cendant for $7M and change, I could have led the investment and got what I deserved. No one told me that I could have done that (and I’m sure if I were a guy someone would have suggested it) but I failed by not asking my network for help. 10 years later, when I converted TRUSTe from non-profit to for-profit, I did ask for help which ultimately helped me get the non-profit board onboard, find the lead investor, and get what I deserved.

Other quick lessons:

Ask yourself what a guy would do (often reframes the issue””

Stop saying “”I’m sorry”” (credit to Margot Smorak at Hostfully)

Write shorter emails (makes you look more confident)

Don’t suffer jerks, life is too short.

Briana Valdez, Owner, HomeState

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“Lesson One

Trust in yourself is paramount. I can’t count how many times I’ve been faced with a risky situation, or one I felt unprepared for…and in those moments, you really have to believe, deep in your bones, that your passion, your vision and your resilience will get you through pretty much anything. Because this business will throw it all at you.

Lesson Two

Surround yourself with folks who interest you, not those who echo your every word. I am incredibly blessed to have a core team of people who surprise, challenge and inspire me on a daily basis, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If a potential candidate for your team seems like someone you’d want to have over for a dinner party, that’s probably a good sign.

Lesson Three

The phrase “it’s not personal, it’s just business” is a complete lie. Business is personal. It’s about people, and interaction, and empathy. It’s about individuals with specific desires and needs, which is a truth that applies to guests, to coworkers and to vendors alike. It’s our job as hospitality professionals to invest time in learning about those desires and needs, and to work to fulfill and, if possible, to anticipate them. This is the very core of good hospitality, and should be the cornerstone of any great business.

Beatrice Fischel-Bock, CEO & Co-Founder, Hutch

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Beatrice launched Hutch (formerly known as ZOOM Interiors and Homee) in 2012 during her final year at George Washington University after coming to the realization that interior design was an untapped resource in the technology sector. She soon began virtually designing her friend’s apartments — earning $1 million in revenue, while still in school.

Shortly following graduation, she appeared on Shark Tank to pitch the concept and piqued the interest of Tinder Founder Sean Rad, who helped raise $2.2 million in pre-seed funding. Immediately following that round, she raised an additional $5 million in funding in a seed round led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

Her 2016 TEDx talk focused on how to fail fast, fix fast and learn fast, a mantra that has carried her through the trenches of the startup world. In July of 2017, she closed a Series A funding round for $10 million from real estate platform Zillow.

Beatrice was named 2018’s Forbes 30 Under 30 for Retail & E-Commerce.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Coly Den Haan, Owner, Vinovore

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Larissa Russell, CEO, Pod Foods Co

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Because of how products currently reach retailers, starting up a “”good food”” business such as Green Pea Cookie is nearly impossible without millions of dollars in the bank. The outdated fax-machine practices of major players in natural foods distribution have horrific environmental and food waste consequences, and push forward brands that fit their mold despite rapid growth in consumer demand for transparency and for food sourced and produced responsibly. Since 2017 we switched companies to address these issues, and have created the first data and software enabled food distributor designed primarily for local food systems, which we are piloting in the SF Bay Area. We have seen eager adoption from both retailers and food manufacturers, with interest nationwide, and are regularly identified as the “”food distributor for the 21st century,”” arriving at long last.

As former cookie makers, we’ve broken limits by looking at the larger picture and sacrificing our dear cookies to take on a multi-trillion dollar, decades-old industry. As a person, I’ve broken limits by forging my own path and living the life I had imagined… even when not many people understand what I’m doing, when people don’t see why my pealicious cookies never made it into Whole Foods, when I’m supporting myself on money made from sporadic acting jobs in the Bay Area that promote other people’s tech companies. As a female founder I’ve broken limits by considering myself just a regular, person founder, and believing that females can own companies and redesign industries that have nothing to do with fashion, birth control or tampons, too. (What’s so male about everything else?)”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

It’s hard to be a female founder in particular, and harder still when you look like you’re still in college, if not high school. People don’t want to take me seriously. I’ve been rejected and ignored, I’ve been talked down to, and I’ve been kissed on the head. And it sucks. And it sucks even more that I can’t spend any time whining about it or fighting it because it is not productive. Lesson #2: know that people will be biased against you, but don’t let it bias your opinion of anyone else and don’t let yourself be a victim. It will only hold you and your company back. Also, don’t work with jerks. You can succeed without them.

There’s the rest of your life. Lesson #3: Have hobbies and other interests. Do work hard, with everything you have to give. Don’t get obsessed. Don’t forget your mom’s birthday.”

Sarah Cannata — founding editor, This Woman Can

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

I am a big daydreamer but I’ve never been afraid to get my hands dirty to transform a dream into reality. I’m ambitious, hard working and I always remember being able to write pretty effortlessly. I lead with compassion, empathy and determination.

I have a Bachelor of Journalism and over 7 years’ worth of experience in Communications. My career began writing about movies and editing a magazine as I worked my way up to earn the promotion that would allow me to obtain the corporate role that I so desperately wanted at the time. After a lot of dedication, which involved working pretty much 24/7 (I don’t recommend it) and excelling in my field and the business I worked in for 5 years, I was offered what I felt was the dream role. Higher pay, more career opportunities, less workload… the only problem was that I was miserable and bored.

It was then that I discovered entrepreneurship and soon enough, I’d handed in my resignation to start my own professional writing business. I had zero experience in running a business and it was a pretty bold move. But in my books, there’s nothing worse than feeling empty and hollow because you know you’re capable of so much more. I knew that the next chapters of my story would see me breaking new limits.

Fast-forward almost 3 years and here I am. I’ve continued honing my skills in Communications and have extensive experience in Public Relations (PR). I’ve been published in The Huffington Post, Mamamia, The Age, Women’s Agenda, Kochie’s Business Builders, SBS Online and have helped many clients, working across numerous industries, to share their stories with the media.

When I was transitioning from my former role into running my own business, I yearned to read stories from women who I could relate to. I couldn’t find these stories anywhere so I created with This Woman Can.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Lesson #2: Invest in yourself, however you need to. Humans are wonderfully complicated so get to know yourself on a deeper level and pinpoint the areas you need help with. Whether that’s business, mental health, leading a healthy lifestyle… no investment will reap better rewards than the ones you make in yourself.

Lesson #3: Running a business is likely to be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. It will test you in ways you never expected and bring out both the best and worst in you. Have patience, be kind to yourself and always come back to why you started down this path — good things don’t happen overnight and always trust your gut instinct. It never leads you astray.”

Tina Hedges, Founder & CEO of LOLI BEAUTY

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Tina has been featured on CBS NEWS, CNBC, BLOOMBERG, and in WWD, and ADVERTISING AGE. She is on the advisory board of GCI and is a board member of NGO Friends of Caritas Cubana. Of Cuban decent, Tina grew up in Jamaica, and was a performing member of the NYC Ballet.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

As a marketer, I spent my corporate career spinning stories versus truth-telling. To engage and to divert consumers’ focus, we created myths around a brand or a product’s authenticity and efficacy — like that pricey, algae-based burn cream which is supposedly fermented to the sounds of crashing ocean waves. The “spin” can work, but its impact is diminishing in an age of full disclosure. When I began fundraising for my latest start-up, I purposefully discarded a selective pitch focused exclusively on the highs of my career and the bountiful business opportunities awaiting LOLI. Instead, I opted for a naked narrative, speaking genuinely and openly about the misses along my professional path and the reasons why LOLI could fail, and how I was going to make sure that it didn’t! The result? My approach pre-empted the dreaded “tough” questions by fostering a relationship of trust with my audience. And I raised $1 million dollars.

2. Your audience is everyone.

When offered a business introduction, the common response is to scan linkedin and make a judicious decision on the value of this connection. I’ve come to realize that you should never turn down a business blind date. Never. In the very least, each connection offers an inherent opportunity to inspire others to share your story and, linkedin aside, you still never know who they know. Case in point, it was a 20 minute charitable chat with a potential intern that led me to an interview with one of the members of Grand Central Tech Accelerator’s management team — and here we are now, in the Class of 2017/18. Be open to every conversation offered because you never know where the next piece of the puzzle will show up.

3. It’s not about you.

Most start-ups are stamped by the founders’ identity, passion and tenacity. This is a positive, for the most part, after all, the founders’ grit turned an idea into reality. There’s always a moment for every creator, though, when they’re encouraged to refine or, at worse, challenged to pivot. Peter Thiel once said “customers will not come just because you build it”. It’s the “you” in this phrase that struck me. If you’re over enchanted by your own narrative, chances are that you will have a litany of reasons why these insights are neither relevant nor actionable. Resisting change is staying stuck in the “you” of the build. I started LOLI Beauty as a 3-month surprise subscription MVP. We’re now launching multi-functional, customizable products. The pivot was key to transforming an occasional, novelty purchase into a sustainable business.”

Michelle Zatlyn, Co-founder and COO of Cloudflare

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Before co-founding Cloudflare, Michelle held positions at Google and Toshiba and launched two successful startups. She holds a BS degree, with distinction, from McGill University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was awarded the Dubliner Prize for Entrepreneurship. Michelle has been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, one of the Top 15 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc., and a 40 Under 40 leader by San Francisco Business Times. She was also featured as one of ELLE Magazine’s “Women Who Rule Silicon Valley.””

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2) If you ask 10 smart people for advice, you will get seven different answers. At the end of the day, you are in charge of your career, life, and all the decisions that come with them. We’re all learning from our daily decisions as we go about our lives, and there is rarely one right answer. Experiences are personal and meaningful, so choose the path that works for you.

There will always be those who will doubt your actions or disagree with your decisions. When met with doubt, you can either believe them and figure out what to do next, or you can stick your neck out and show there is another way.

3) People, people, people. Always optimize for people over everything else. The best part of my job is the people I get to work with. I feel so fortunate to learn from my colleagues every day — whether we’re talking about the latest in cryptography, a new marketing tool or an emerging policy debate. It is amazing how much you can learn by asking questions and engaging those around you.

Whenever possible, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. It’s uncomfortable, but every time you’re in a conversation where you don’t have a full grasp, you’re stretching yourself. Take these opportunities to listen, absorb, and reflect.”

Iesha Sekou, CEO & Founder, Street Corner Resources

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

SCR’s mission is to help young people, by providing greater access to education, training opportunities, real employment and other resources, which help improve their lives and help them stay away from gun and gang violence.

Iesha, a noted pillar of the community, encourages the use of innovative methods to challenge youth to improve their lives. She facilitates life-shaping and mind-changing workshops including, “”Rekindling the Inner Spirit to Succeed”” and”” To Be or Not To Be”” — an anti-gang workshop.

While she wears many hats, Iesha’s primary focus for SCR, includes managing the Cure Violence Anti-Gun Violence program. Street Corner Resources is one of 18 Cure Violence sites throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Cure Violence strives to stop the spread of violence in communities by using methods and strategies associated with disease control — detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals, and changing social norms around violence.

Congressman Charles Rangel proclaimed her a visionary whose work has made a significant impact in Harlem. Iesha is known for her ability to captivate any audience. Not only is she a dynamic motivational speaker, she is recognized as a premier New York advocate against gun and gang violence.

Iesha Sekou is a graduate of Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach Florida, where she received her BA in English. Sekou’s career began in education, which explains her relentless enthusiasm to uplift and empower young people.

She has spent countless hours at rallies and press conferences denouncing violence. You can also find her facilitating panels around the city, working to raise awareness of the ills of urban youth violence.

Last year, Governor Cuomo reached out to Iesha for advice on creating the toughest gun laws in the country.

Reverend Al Sharpton named Iesha Sekou the Anti-Violence Coordinator for the National Action Network.

NYPD has routinely invited Iesha to address its new recruits on community respect and interaction.

A member of the New York State Board of Regents Blue Ribbon Committee, she examines the educational challenges and opportunities young men of color face daily. In turn, she provides strategies to address challenges and expand opportunities to increase their educational success.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Begin with what you are asking for. Don’t beat around the bush, be confident in your ask. And with that, know that it doesn’t always come the way you envisioned it, nor will it be perfect. Any dream, large or small still requires work. And once you get what you ask for, know that it requires even more work to keep it going. So don’t ask for things for personal gain but ask for them with the intent to serve and know that in that service, it usually creates more work.

3. Albert Einstein said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself,” or in this case a woman to herself. While I worked to build my work with antiviolence, engaging young people and helping them to improve their lives, my personal life was constantly challenged every step of the way. It had me questioning my values and reevaluating relationships. There is something to be said for not having money in your pocket while working tirelessly on your vision. The difficulty was great. There were countless losses and lessons. I had to become stronger, more dedicated and see myself on the other side — triumphant.

Samantha Rudolph, Co-Founder and CEO, Babyation

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Eventually, I transitioned from the content department into business operations, development and strategy, and, I never again held a job that anyone else had. I essentially became a serial intrapreneur at ESPN and was part of launches for new departments, products and technologies. Whenever I evaluated a new job, I did so through the lens of what that opportunity could offer me. Most people look to build on what they’ve already done and continue to hone a skill. I took the opposite approach.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

This is similar to what I said above, but I firmly believe in surrounding myself with experts and then getting out of their way. A few years ago, I was responsible for staging a live boxing match from the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show. That event went off without a hitch only because of the tireless work of at least 20 people. I may have put the right people in the room and facilitated the conversation, but the credit belongs firmly in their hands. It’s the same for my company. I am privileged to work with the best of the best for marketing, social media, community, PR and strategy. They make us look good!

Lastly, I think dealing with rejection is an underrated art. Because I was constantly pitching new roles and approaches at ESPN, I was told no far more than I was told yes. I even created a failure folder to keep me humble! That experience was invaluable in starting a company and going through the fundraising process. I am constantly selling my vision, and I know that not everyone is going to buy in. The trick is to celebrate the wins and not to get derailed by people who don’t get it. Being an entrepreneur is 90% mental, and remembering why I’m doing this (for moms!) definitely keeps me on track.”

Sascha Phoenix, Co-Founder and President of Plotaverse

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2) Sascha’s second but equally important advice: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As a woman I used to try to be perfect all the time and that limits your success. Don’t worry about being perfect. You’re more likely to hit success by trying than trying to figure it out be before you even test it.” Co-Founding and leading her startup company from creating a first to market product to establishing a suite of effects, Sascha had to face countless risks with unpredictable results. She overcame natural doubts by taking the plunge and diving straight into creating and testing the product. Only then was it possible to find and fix bugs and develop the software which is now used by millions of people world wide.

3) Last but not least, Sascha advises: ”Don’t assume. Walk into a meeting, video taped interviews and presentations with confidence, knowing that your voice will be heard. A lot of women in the workspace assume that they will not be taken seriously before they even start.” At the young age of 17, Sascha was driven to help artists monetize their work. She quickly adapted to confronting fierce tech industry competition and high expectations. With the drive to succeed she approached leading tech giants, carried her mission with self assurance and turned her visions into reality. Sascha quotes: “”Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right, — Henry Ford””

Kristina Roth, Founder, SuperShe & SuperShe Island

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Mindi Nemeroff, Founder & CEO, Goal Goodies

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Mindi transitioned from an executive role with a large, established company to bootstrapping her own startup with a lean budget and a fat learning curve. Though it was an adjustment to cultivate her tech knowledge, the oddest adjustment for her has been going from an industry with so many women to one with nearly all men. Mindi looks forward to seeing women’s numbers in tech continue to grow and working with lots of them again.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Entrepreneurs, by nature, love to fix problems. Most of the time, my inclination to wrap my hands around a problem until I can wring out a solution is a good thing. But I’ve also learned how painful it gets to keep gripping and twisting after it’s time to let go. My worst — and most embarrassing — example involves a developer on my team. Like a few bad boyfriends I had in my 20’s, this guy was brilliant and — when I had his attention — there was no end to the magical things that could happen. He would bang out magnificent code at a stunning pace and find elegant solutions to complex user flows. But, like the bad boyfriends, he was inconstant and unreliable. He would disappear for days, not responding to anyone from the team. The fixer in me addressed it with him immediately. The over-fixer found ways to work around it when it kept happening. Once I finally accepted that it was more productive to end it than fix it, things got better for the team — and taught me to know when to let go.


I remember the moment I made the decision to start Goal Goodies. It was intoxicating. Blissful empowerment. Unicorns flew over rainbows. I “knew” it was going to be challenging but hadn’t I been successful in my previous career because I simply adore challenges? My founder-self looks back on my dreamer-self and says, “Honey, you have no idea.” There’s no way to prepare for the continual obstacles, disappointments and harsh realities that founders face; except to learn to be surprised when things go the way you want them to, instead of when they don’t.


Startups are intense for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is the treacherous combination of no precedence and no do-overs. The margin for error is pretty thin, so your skin better be pretty thick — and your harshest critic should be you. But there’s a fine line between giving yourself a kick in the ass and beating the shit out of yourself; and it should never be crossed. You can’t tackle challenges if you’re wallowing in pain.”

Rachael Bozsik, CEO + Founder, The Brand Girls

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

At 2 a.m. in her college dormitory, Rachael Bozsik (CEO + Founder of The Brand Girls) had an “a-ha” moment. The reason why her brilliant friends were settling in their careers was not that they lacked a skillset but rather they severely lacked professional confidence to take on their dreams.

Using her instinctive networking skills and ability to inspire, she taught her peers to craft their life mission, define their purpose and build confidence over tea in their college dormitory.

This mentoring transitioned into a full workshop + professional sisterhood focused helping young women shift the way they think about themselves and their professional potential in order to land their dream job. SAT workshop = Dream College… The Brand Girls = Dream Career.

Since its founding, The Brand Girls has connected with thousands of millennial women supporting them to land roles across many industries including breaking into male dominated fields companies include…Tesla, GE, Louis Vuitton, Columbia Medical Center, Discovery Channel Oscar de la Renta, PETA (to name a few.) Rachael has been nationally recognized in Forbes, Glamour, Teen Vogue, Business Insider, Huffington Post etc…

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Abby Chao, COO and Co-founder, CollegeBacker

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Lisa Wang, CEO and Founder, SheWorx

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Lisa has helped thousands of female entrepreneurs streamline their fundraising process, increase confidence in pitches, and connect with relevant investors. More recently, Lisa is helping reform sexual harassment policies at the VC level. She bravely spoke out about her own experiences as a woman fundraising, and worked with Senator Jackson’s office to propel the Unruh Civil Rights Act that will prevent investors from discriminating against entrepreneurs.

She was inducted as an honoree of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2018 in Venture Capital, and was named one of the Top 20 Female Entrepreneurs to watch in 2017 and 2018 by CIO Magazine.

Lisa has been a keynote speaker at conferences including the World Entrepreneur Forum, World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Chief Innovation Officer Summit, IBM Think Leaders, CES and more.

Lisa is a columnist at Forbes driving the movement for gender parity in funding and championing a new model of leadership. In 2017, she began a Forbes series highlighting investors who are authentically committed to supporting female entrepreneurs.

In 2018, Lisa launched the Enoughness Podcast, focused on humanizing the leadership journey and exploring the question “How much is good enough?” Lisa coaches entrepreneurs to recognize their innate strengths, and takes lessons from her years as an elite gymnast to talk about harnessing the power of “Enoughness”” and “antifragility. Lisa is a graduate of Yale University.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

The media has glamorized what it means to be an entrepreneur, as a result, there is an influx of people creating companies who are not meant to be founders. What the media misses are the lonely depressing stretches of time when you question whether any of it is even worth it. You need to understand not only what you want to build, but why you want to build it. The why cannot simply be “to make money” because statistically, being an entrepreneur is one of the worst and least likely ways to get rich. Instead, you need to ask yourself, ‘What is my mission?’ ‘What impact do I want to have?’ and equally important, ‘Am I the right person to build this company?’ Fully fleshing out your vision, your North Star, understanding your why, will continue to motivate you even in the lowest moments. There is no ‘I can’t’, there is only ‘I don’t want to.’

2. Prioritize and don’t let little things get to you

What are your big goals for today? For this week? For this month? For this year? For your life? The visions you set for yourself will have a trickle–down effect and allow you to prioritize your days accordingly. Having this focus is often the difference between having or not having a productive day/month/year. As distractions come up, ask yourself if they’re in line with your vision. If not, let them go and don’t dwell. If you make a mistake, learn, and move on. This, too, shall pass.

3. You are the reflection of the people you surround yourself with

The people you surround yourself with should be bringing you up — not holding you back. I used to have “friends” who, with tight, fake smiles, half-heartedly congratulated me when I succeeded. As a result, I learned that success was a zero-sum game, and believed friendship was built upon competition. That belief was shattered when I finally let those people go and discovered friends who showed me empathy, kindness, and genuine delight when I succeeded. Today, I surround myself with people who are have growth mindsets. who are “antifragile” and treat failure as an opportunity rather than a setback. The outer conditions of your life will always affect your inner beliefs. Make sure you’re proud of those beliefs.

Shannon Keith, CEO, Sudara

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Shannon has developed an organization that is creating systemic change, and can also be felt on a personal level. Each of the prints that Sudara sells is inspired by and named after a woman her organization has helped. Vandana is one example of a woman who is now living in freedom. After her father died, traffickers forced Vandana’s mother into the commercial sex trade. She contracted HIV after several years, which made Vandana vulnerable to being forced into the sex trade by those same traffickers. Her mother wanted a better life for Vandana and, after learning about the programs offered at a Sudara partner center, asked if we could help. Vandana is currently enrolled in computer-skills courses and lives in safe-housing. She is focused on her work and looking forward to finding a job in the technology industry after she graduates. This story and many like it are possible only through Shannon’s thoughtful, outcome-driven design and partnerships for Sudara.

Shannon is the 2017 Bend Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year. She participates in many local, caused-based organizations, including Oregonians Against Human Trafficking (OATH) and Guardian Group. She also founded and is a key member of the nonprofit Sudara Freedom Fund. She is a 2016 Bend Venture Conference (BVC) Social Impact Winner, Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) and TedX Speaker, and member of Opportunity Knocks (OK). She works for gender equality rights both across the world and in her own community by spearheading women’s equality initiatives, working with MUSE, and consistently meeting with a local women’s CEO group. Shannon cherishes and prioritizes time with her family. Her personal interests include snowboarding, mountain biking, running, camping, traveling, enjoying great food and wine, and reading.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Don’t ignore your instincts: Sudara was originally founded as a nonprofit and while I wasn’t sure if that was the perfect model for my vision, I often heard — if you want to help people you start a nonprofit organization. It wasn’t until I gained experience, listened to my gut and we transitioned to a social enterprise benefit corporation that I realized how rapidly we could grow and the potential for extreme impact. Get advice from others, but listen to your internal wisdom as well.

3. Creating a new path means failure is a part of the experience: We are doing something new, and building a new type of business. It is hard work and can often be frustrating, there is a lot of failure involved. Failing fast, learning from each mistake, and accepting that this is part of the process is so important. This is not a clean, linear way to success, this is a multifaceted and messy path for a vast and complex problem.

Georgia Weidman, Founder and CTO, Shevirah Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Turns out, I could have the most super, awesome, fantastic idea for a security product in the history of the world (And I really do! You should check it out at, a version already built, and be ready to infiltrate the enterprise, but if I don’t write a good user manual, no one is ever going to use it. And if I hide in the corner and work on code at a networking event (but it was networking code!), I miss out on meeting three potential customers. So, at this point, I would staunchly argue that it’s those very soft skills that we so called technocrats scoff at that make or break a company.

A second thing I’ve learned is, simply, how to fail. I’d never really failed at anything. But in startups, things are going to go wrong, like all the time, if you are lucky, only a couple of times a day. For a high strung, overachiever this is very difficult to deal with, especially considering that early stage startups are so fragile and any one of these failures could be the one that puts your magnificent company into its death spiral. While I’ll admit I’m far from a Zen master of startup life, and before too long you will probably catch me under a table quoting Hamlet over some tax form that didn’t get turned in ahead of time, I do think I’ve learned to have a little perspective about it. IBM loses deals. Booz gets an unsatisfactory customer rating. Nobody is perfect. It happens. Deal with it and move forward.

And, finding myself running out of space, the third thing I’ve learned is if, heaven forbid, the unthinkable, your startup should fail, put your crazy startup founder court jester hat back on and do it all over again.

Anna McNaught, Founder, The Liked Photo

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

In the largely male-dominated-digital-manipulation world on Instagram, I wanted to be the premier female photographer and digital artist. I would make a niche for myself, combining my love of photography and graphic design. If there wasn’t a job for me, I was going to create it. I took a chance and started posting my surrealistic photography creations. These pieces quickly gained recognition opening up a whole world of art shows, galleries, and new creative challenges. I wanted to return my appreciation to the community. After long hours of research, classes and pep talks, I started a blog (The Liked Photo) to teach people how to take better photos and market themselves more effectively on Instagram. Now here I am one year later with over 75k followers and a successful, growing business. I recently decided to leave my full-time job to pursue freelance work. Setting my own schedule also allows me the luxury of travel to expand my horizons. I find inspiration in these experiences that I hope will become the creative drive in my work. This is just the beginning. With my motivation and determination, I plan to continue evolving and expanding as an artist and exceeding the limits presupposed by others!”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“1. It’s a brutal world out there and it can swallow you up if you’re not on your guard. Young people are particularly vulnerable because we want to openly share our talents and are so anxious to make it. Yet sadly, there are many who take advantage of that position for their own gain. Experience is a great teacher, but hopefully not everyone needs to fall into the pit first. You need to learn to recognize real opportunities from false, empty promises. Be open and flexible, but at the same time guarded and detached. Above all else, it’s important to remain true to yourself, not sell out and know it’s always right to stand up for what you believe in.

2.) Expect that not everyday will be a killer creative day — allow yourself to have off-days and listen to your body and mental state. Creativity is not a constant. It comes in bursts and is dependent on your situation and surroundings. It’s important to acknowledge that this will happen and not allow it to overwhelm your progress. These stagnant moments are there to push you forward and force you out of your comfort zone. Whenever I hit a creative roadblock, it means it’s time for a change in scenery!

3.) Maintain a strong support system because you will need them. These are the people who love and stand behind you whether you are at your lowest low or highest high. For me, that’s always been my family and most trusted friends. We all want to be successful and able to say we made it on our own. But knowing when to reach out for guidance and support or just to share a triumphant day is a critical aspect of “making it”. A friend of mine once told me, “it’s all about the team and who backs you up.” She said, “Think of any amazing band, they sound that way because of team work and a support system.” Behind every founder, leader and go-getter, there are the people that helped get them there and they shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Debbie Roxarzade, founder & CEO of Rachel’s Kitchen

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

After the success and notoriety of what were ultimately seven restaurants in Los Angeles, I decided to relocate to the newest culinary capital of the world, Las Vegas. Home to more celebrity chefs than possibly anywhere else in the world, I knew this was the perfect location for my newest venture.

Named after my daughter, the first Rachel’s Kitchen was opened in 2006 — a quaint fresh casual café featuring delicious and reasonably priced bistro fare. My concept was simple: serve fresh, high quality and great tasting food with a gourmet touch at affordable prices.

Ten years later, that single location has blossomed to eight unique locations around the Las Vegas Valley, including a coveted spot inside McCarran International Airport.

In a sense, I believe I am helping break glass ceilings in the restaurant industry. While women account for 71 percent of all servers nationwide, only 19 percent account for chefs and 45 percent account for management. Additionally, I am honored to have won the Women Who Mean Business Award in 2014 by Las Vegas Business Press, and in 2016 I was named one of the Women to Watch by Nevada Business Magazine. I have also been honored as one of the Top 100 Women of the Year by My Vegas Magazine for two years running. I hope to serve as a role model for other young women, proving that glass ceilings can be broken no matter the industry.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Cricket Lee, CEO, Fitlogic

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

During her career, Lee has done research, product development and created marketing campaigns for British Airways, PricewaterhouseCoopers, JCPenney, Ralph Lauren, Sara Lee Corporation (Hanes, Bali), Haggar Clothing Company, HSN, Warner Brothers, Ford Models and others. She created the first all natural bath, hair and skincare line and invented pet jewelry — mentored by Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus. Lee oversaw marketing of Multiples by Sandra Garrett, with first year retail sales over $240 million. Lee holds 72 awards for creative excellence in advertising including a National Addy Award.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

No-one else can have my dream (or yours if you are true to it).

The fashion industry is full of copycats. Because they are trained to look at other peoples designs and emulate them, many thought they could do that with my fit system. I can tell you days that I was so freaked out as they blatantly promoted shapes that looked (not acted like but looked like) mine. Over time, they all abandoned their programs because they didn’t know how I did it, and of course, not the real deal. I’m glad I didn’t give up.

I’m glad I never let go of brand control.

Wear horse blinders if you have to, but don’t listen to any naysayer ever. I can’t tell you how many people told me that I would never be able to standardize fit and to compromise for a quick buck. People will come along (mostly those with money) and have a “better idea”. They don’t know — only the innovator does. Most of us have a clear vision in a few hour period. Have faith in yourself and say NO. I have never compromised my dream for any reason — not the concept — not my investors. It will pay off.

I had to let go of my need for material comfort.

After 15 years of R&D and struggling to continuously find people who believed I was doing something worthwhile, I learned early on that stability was not part of the deal for an outside of the box dreamer. I lost everything, slept on air mattresses, traded out stock for apartments, wore hand me downs from friends (I still do). Because the industry would tell institutional investors it would never happen, I couldn’t raise a big chunk of money. In this game you have to choose your dream over everything and I do mean everything.

Ally Karsyn, founder, producer and host of Ode

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

More than 80 stories have been told across 13 events to sold-out crowds, and my work on this now award-winning series led to an unexpected career change from newspaper reporter to public radio producer — even though I had no previous broadcast experience. Ode has been an endless source of goodness and grace, but it’s also forever tied to the moment I knew my marriage was over.

After setting up for Ode’s first show, my husband stayed out with my coworkers and spent $500 between two bars and a casino. I could no longer ignore the fact that I was living with a high-functioning alcoholic, and I didn’t like my life. I knew what I needed to do, but financially, I didn’t think I could leave. I was a 26-year-old journalist. So when I couldn’t find courage, I found an excuse, telling myself, “Well, it’s not so bad. At least he’s not beating me.”

When I said that out loud for the first time, I was so ashamed. But Ode offered a safe space to be myself, to be seen and heard. It taught me that healing begins when vulnerability is met with compassion. It taught me that the most important story is the one you tell yourself.

Personally and professionally, I pushed my limits. I changed my story. Like a poetic prophecy, I got divorced one year and two days after Ode’s first show in which the theme was “Breaking Points & New Beginnings.” It’s amazing — the things we get to come back from, the second chances we are given if only we can move beyond fear.

Now, it is one of my greatest joys to help people through the writing process to find whatever they need to find within themselves. Hope. Healing. Acceptance. Kindness. Courage. Strength. I know their thoughts and their voices have given those things to me.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Only you can define success for yourself. To me, success is creativity, connection and honest expression. I can do something every day to work toward those ideas. That’s much harder to measure than saying success is making a six-figure salary or winning a Pulitzer. But once you’ve made those achievements, what’s next? Another award? Another pay raise? What if you don’t get those things? Are you a failure? Absolutely not. You get to decide what has value and meaning in your life. If look at success as a way of living instead of a line on your résumé, you can be successful every day.

3. Challenges are choices. In your personal and professional life, things won’t always go as planned. But that doesn’t mean you stop trying. Because to avoid “failure” is to avoid joy. Sometimes the best — and hardest — thing you can do is just be open to limitless possibilities. And know that you can always choose to begin again.”

ISHR Group

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Monique Honaman founded ISHR Group in 1999. Several years later, both Stacy Sollenberger and Ellen Dotts joined the team as subcontractors and immediately began making an impact on the business. In 2007, we made the decision to formalize the working arrangement and create a partnership. It was a really big deal. For nearly a decade, Monique had birthed this business as a solopreneur and, frankly, to give up control was a scary thing. It was the best business decision she’s made. At first, the partnership was formed as 80/10/10, but Monique quickly realized that value-add that Stacy and Ellen were bringing was making ISHR Group a stronger entity. We literally moved from one level to the next when we all three began acting as owners. Collectively, our commitment, our intention, our focus, and our investment was bigger and stronger. It was an easy decision to alter the partnership agreement yet again to reflect equal partnerships at 33.3%.

Fast forward, and today ISHR Group is a consulting firm that provides leadership assessment, development and coaching services globally to mid- and large- corporate clients and many private equity groups. Revenues have increased year over year, even during the down-turn of 2008/2009.

What makes it work for us? We have seen many examples of partnerships that have failed and the dissolution is like a difficult divorce. We believe we are successful because we started this partnership with a clear understanding of what strengths we each bring to the table, and we don’t assign a value to one over the other. What one of us is good at, another of us can’t stand to do. We quickly became grounded in what it was that each of us would bring to the partnership, and we haven’t really varied from that in the decade that we have been business partners. We understand that at some times one of us might be busier than others, but that over time it all equals out. We know that individually we are strong contributors, but collectively we make an amazing team.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Lesson 2. Fair doesn’t mean equal: There are times of the year when any one of us may have more on our plates than another person, and we’ve learned that’s OK. Early on skeptics asked us how we would “manage our hours.” We said we would figure it out, and we have. We all go through busy times where we may have more on our plates than another. We’ve learned to ask for help if needed, and we’ve learned that this is part of the process. Over 10 years as partners I don’t believe any of us would say we feel taken advantage of in terms of contribution.

Lesson 3. You support one another. The last lesson to share is the importance of having business partners who are more than simply partners, but rather who are also there to support you no matter what. Over the last decade, each of us has had moments where life has bumped up against us forcing us to step away or lose focus on the business at hand, while we attended to our personal lives. In each instance, we were there to support one another until such time that we were all back in play. We cannot over-emphasize the importance of this. When life comes knocking, you want to know that your team has your back.

Monique Honaman, CEO, Contender Brands

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

I’ve founded three companies in the last 20 years. The first, ISHR Group, is a global consulting firm focusing on leadership assessment, development and coaching. The second, High Road Less Traffic, is a mission-based organization focused on helping families thrive through divorce and is really grounded in writing and speaking. The third, Contender Brands is a product development business and this is what I want to focus on today.

I had an idea. You have an idea. So many people have great ideas of things they would like to invent, yet most of the time we simply think about it, and then shelve it.

I was like that too. I had an idea for a portable ring cleaner nearly a decade ago. The idea stuck with me and would periodically crawl in and out of my head like a song tune that you can’t get rid of. At one point, I wrote up a business plan. Another time I completed an exhaustive competitive analysis. Yet, in spite of these actions, I never really did anything to bring my idea to fruition. Finally, while on a romantic weekend away with my husband in Los Angeles, we had a conversation where I decided I was tired of talking about it. Then and there, I decided I was going to move forward and see if I could bring this idea to fruition.

We came home from that trip and I immediately began taking steps to translate this from concept to consumer. I founded the company as a woman-owned business, and brought my husband on as a partner. Fast forward three years (yes, three years) and our portable ring cleaner is just about to hit the market. During that time, we designed it, prototyped it, patented it, trademarked it, and manufactured it. Remember, prior to this, we knew absolutely nothing about building a product. It’s a time-consuming process, but what we discovered is that once we opened the floodgates on our first idea, the other ideas kept coming. We have now launched three other products as well. Has it been easy? Absolutely not. Has it been stressful? Absolutely. But, there is something incredibly rewarding about having an idea and seeing it come to fruition. Truly, nothing ventured nothing gained.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Be comfortable with taking a risk. Launching big ideas and stepping out on a ledge is risky. That’s precisely why so many people who have big ideas don’t do anything with them. They are risk averse. They are scared of what might go wrong. If you intend to launch any idea you have, either for a service or a product, you have to be comfortable with taking a risk, you must be comfortable with hearing no, and you have to be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to love your idea. It’s all part of the process.

3. Be dedicated to seeing it through. This will take longer than you expect, and then some! For those who don’t count patience as one of their strongest virtues (ourselves included) this is one area where you learn that you must be patient. Not everyone is on your timeline and everything seems to take longer than you think it should. It’s all part of the process.

4. Be in it for more than just money. Lastly, I have learned that if you are launching a business solely to make money, it likely won’t be successful. You have to be passionate about your ideas. You have to make it fun. You have to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. We have had many bumps along our journey so far, and certainly haven’t recouped our initial investment as of yet. But we are having an absolute blast, we have learned so much, and we have experienced so many new adventures. I can seriously say that I wouldn’t change anything. We are enjoying this adventure. No risk; no reward. It’s all part of the process!

Laura Weidman Powers, co-founder & CEO, Code2040

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

In summer 2016, Laura joined the Obama Administration for a six month term as a senior advisor to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. At the White House, Laura focused on issues of diversity and inclusion related to ensuring hiring practices, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and the tech products and platforms of the future work for all Americans, particularly those from historically marginalized backgrounds.

Most recently before co-founding Code2040, Laura served as head of product at a consumer web startup. Prior to that, she co-founded two organizations in the education space, one nonprofit arts education organization in West Philadelphia that is currently celebrating its 12th year, and one for-profit tutoring company that gave rise to a book.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

I see this across our community: Fellows who demand new pathways for Black and Latinx talent; companies that revamp their hiring processes to be more equitable; volunteers who share their insight and experiences to encourage others to get involved. The stories are endless but the impact is the same: The people we serve take what they learn, bring it back to their communities, take action, and encourage others to take action as well.

2. Trust your team: In 2014, Code2040 was still building our reputation with funders, and as we struggled to share our story effectively, things got dicey: we almost ran out of money. I pulled the team together and shared our financial state: We only had six weeks of cash left, but if we cut every expense, even during our busy season with the Fellows Program, we could extend to four months. This meant everything would have to be done in the scrappiest way by us and by volunteers, and that the team would have to lead everything else while I fully applied myself to fundraising.

What happened was nothing short of amazing. The team led a successful summer program on an absolute shoestring budget, while I spent all my time fundraising, eventually succeeding in bringing in $2.3 million in cash and commitments before our four months were up. I realized that if you are transparent about your failings and needs as a leader, a great mission-aligned team will step up and rise to the occasion to create impact despite challenges and adversity.

Make revenue a priority: Another critical lesson I learned then and keep in mind each day: Ensuring that your organization has the funds it needs to create space for experimentation and impact. Without adequate resources, you risk sacrificing the very things that make your organization and community thrive. But getting enough revenue to keep your programs running well takes time, so you’ve got to make sure that as a leader this is your top priority. I always keep a close eye on revenue and cash on hand, and we commit to having six months in cash and commitments at all times, which gives space to do our work and think ahead.”

Eileen Gittins, CEO & Founder, Bossygrl

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Eileen has been at the intersection of the Internet, consumer and enterprise software, imaging systems, search, and digital photography throughout her career. She has lived and worked all over the world with Kodak and as VP at Wall Data before and after its IPO, CEO of Personify and Verb, outside Board Director at Qbiquity and Popular Demand, and even a stint at a boutique investment bank. In 2009, Eileen was named by Fast Company as one of the top women in technology.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

As a founder CEO your instinct might be “I can cover that” — either because you haven’t found the “right person” or you don’t want to spend the time recruiting or because you think you can save money by not making the hire. Don’t fall into that trap! Hire a contractor if cash is tight, but focus on getting some of the things that are not what you should be doing, off your plate. You may think you are saving the company money, but if you are spending time on the wrong things, you are actually costing the company.

Your customer is your truth serum.

Make it a committed practice for everyone on your executive team to have “x” number of direct conversations with customers every month; ideally including at least one face to face meeting. These conversations, especially at the executive level, will give your team a shared perspective when making product, people and strategy decisions. While sometimes painful and humbling, these customer conversations can also be remarkably exhilarating and motivating.

Don’t run out out money.

At my last company, Blurb, we had a mission: we were going to become profitable within 2 years. We actually ended up getting there within 18 months. That early discipline of watching the cash like a hawk was a tremendous forcing function for prioritizing what mattered: understanding who our customers were, how best to efficiently reach them with almost zero marketing budget, and delivering value to them via a product that was well-tuned to their needs.

Ainsley Braun, Cofounder & CEO, Tinfoil Security

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Ainsley earned two Bachelor of Science degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2010; one in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and the second in Writing. She holds five patents, and has published two papers.

Ainsley also worked as a Senior Researcher at MIT’s Brain & Cognitive Sciences, at the Sinha Laboratory for Vision Research. The goal of this research was (and still is) to understanding how the brain recognizes objects, scenes and sequences by using experimentation with humans and computational modeling. As a primary electroencephalogram (EEG) researcher with Sinha Laboratory, Ainsley’s most rewarding memory was working in India for Project Prakash, creating eye-care camps in the medically underserved parts of India.

Upon graduation, she went to consult with Booz Allen Hamilton as a member of the Strategic Technology and Innovation division, where she worked largely with US Department of Defense (DoD) clients. Ainsley quickly realized the deluge of vulnerabilities facing almost the entire SMB market. She also unexpectedly discovered how many of the same security risks extended to larger enterprise companies. This led her to team up with fellow MIT alumnus, Michael Borohovski and build Tinfoil Security, Inc. Since its launch in 2011, Tinfoil Security has provided security for tens of thousands of clients, ranging from SMB’s to Fortune 100 companies.

Alongside her academic and research pursuits, Ainsley was also a passionate and competitive rower/coxswain. She began competing in high school, and went on to compete for the U23 Canadian National Rowing team at the global level, placing fourth in the world rankings. Ainsley also coached at Row New York, helping to spread her love of the sport to under-resourced communities and enhancing Row New York’s mission by teaching the values of teamwork, tenacity, and commitment to self and others.

As a StartX company, Ainsley became involved as mentor and continues to assist fellow alumni companies with enterprise challenges. She assists on the selection committee for incoming applications to the StartX program, and on the StartX Alumni Advisory Board.

Ainsley is a member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), an organization founded in 1978 by David Packard (of Hewlett-Packard), which represents more than 400 of Silicon Valley’s most respected employers on issues, programs and campaigns that affect the economic health and quality of life in Silicon Valley.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help: No matter how famous or well-known somebody is, they’re still just human. There’s no need to idolize somebody or put them on a pedestal. We all have problems, need help, and have the ability to find a passion. If you find somebody interesting, no matter who they are, don’t be afraid to approach them and learn from them. There is no one person who knows everything! When building a company, an important lesson I learned is that you have to be able to ask for help. I initially thought this may be seen as a sign of weakness, especially as a woman in a male dominated industry. But the fact is I see top leaders and the best, well-known CEO’s do this on a daily basis. Now, not all help/advice is created equally, so while this is an important lesson, it’s even more vital to make sure you create a trustworthy, genuine, and credible network of people who you can go to for help on various topics. Make sure to do your homework and reference checks on people you plan to get help from. I know many incredible founders who have been burned by mentors with malicious intentions, as well as ones with good intentions but that had no experience in what they were talking about. Never rely only on one person either; gaining a few different perspectives can be a great learning opportunity. You don’t have to follow or agree with the advice you get, but you should be open to understanding and adapting concepts to make the best decisions for running your company.

2) Assume everything will go wrong: You need to be ready for surprises, both good and bad. You will not always have a plan, but you should prepare for every scenario possible when building out and releasing products, and as much as possible also for marketing, sales, and operational decisions.

3) Make time to give back: One of the values I made sure to instill in our company culture is to strive to build an environment where we’re always willing to pay it forward, even if we have no expectation of any return. This was important to me, as I see giving back as helping to keep me grounded. reminds me of how fortunate I am, even on days when it seems the world is against me It reminds me there is a world outside of my own bubble and that there is more to life than just being focused on yourself.”

Shevonne Joyce

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

With her collective brands in 60 countries and counting, Shevonne has developed and monetized a global personal brand. She has established herself as a trusted thought-leader who refreshingly gets real about helping women to be successful through personal branding strategies that deliver real results. She’s famed for her #truthbombs about what it really takes to be successful. Some examples of her original thought leadership include the idea that the customer is not always right, how the pre-occupation with being positive is damaging to success and how freebies are the true killers of businesses (combating the phenomenon of exposure being treated like a tradable commodity in business).

One of her recent projects included creating a whole new niche of business conversation, dubbed ‘the business real’, through The Business Experiment podcast (with co-host Jemimah Ashleigh). The podcast was designed to talk about the ‘real’ of what it takes to be successful in business; the good, the bad, the ugly. It was named by Kochie’s Business Builders as the #3 business podcast you should be listening to in 2017, next to Ted Talks Business and reached over 3.5 million people on Facebook alone.

Additionally, Shevonne was recently appointed as a judge of both the 2017 Telstra Business Awards and Women’s Business Awards and named as one of the Top 10 Australian Women Entrepreneurs for 2017 by My Entrepreneur Magazine.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Success in entrepreneurship is all about taking the opportunities that present themselves, yet so many women are absolutely terrified of putting themselves out there and potentially being rejected. Success will not come to you, it’s something you create for yourself. The best motto to live by in this business is ‘the worst they can say is no, the best they can say is yes.’ This will enable you to win so many amazing opportunities you never thought possible. Many people ask, ‘how did you manage to achieve that?’ The answer? Often having the courage to put yourself forward for it! Of course, the answer might be a no, but what if it’s a yes? Make friends with rejection, you’ll be very acquainted! It’s part of success.

Lesson 2: Money is never the problem

This is an uncomfortable business truth, but a necessary one for being successful in entrepreneurship — money is never the reason why your prospect has decided not to buy — even if they truly believe that it is. It’s never about cost, it’s always about value. People will pay money to solve their problems if it’s truly important to them and you’re the right expert who can help them. When someone is saying they don’t have the money, what they’re saying to you is either that spending the money on what you have to offer isn’t a big enough priority for them or you’re not the right expert to solve their problem.

For example, a ticket to see Tony Robbins varies between $800-$2000. Tony Robbins fans aren’t saying, ‘oh gee, that’s a bit expensive.’ Instead, they’re figuring out where to find $1000. Whereas, those who aren’t Tony Robbins fans likely wouldn’t pay $1 for that ticket. It’s about value.

Lesson 3: People don’t buy from those they ‘like.’

Contrary to popular belief, they buy from those they respect, who have positioned themselves as authorities in their field of expertise. If you’re pre-occupied with being liked, it will limit your ability to have the impact you’re capable of, because you’ll spend all your time trying to be everything to everyone instead of pioneering the change you’re capable of. Your ideal buyers are waiting to hear and see what you’re capable of. Not everyone will dig your jam, but not everyone has to. Your ideal buyers will.”

Diane Vrkic, Founder & CEO, Waypoint

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Today Diane is an active leader in the commercial real estate industry and she is dedicated to improving the way commercial real estate decision-makers access and use information to enhance the performance of their assets and drive productivity improvements across teams.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

You don’t have to solve every problem before you start, just start. Early on in my life, my key to success both academically and professionally was to always do everything well… be prepared, be thorough, plan ahead for all scenarios. As an entrepreneur, you can never fully prepare and should not allow that desire or tendency to stop you from moving forward. As an entrepreneur I had to relearn how to be successful. Success meant acting before having all the answers and getting comfortable not being great at everything that I needed to do. It was a painful paradigm shift, but one I am so thankful I made.

Life is not as risky as you think it is.

The best entrepreneurs are not careless risk takers, they are fearless risk mitigators. The path of a startup, by its very nature, is risky. I have come to appreciate that great entrepreneurs are not motivated by risk, they take on risk and then work every day to minimize it as they push towards success. I found great strength when adopting this mindset. The act of just starting is one of the most powerful things an entrepreneur does. However, it’s the act of embracing risk, looking for the greatest obstacles to success, and working to overcome them is what then defines success.

New ideas are special — they should be sheltered and protected

In the startup world, only about 10% exist post the five-year mark. There are more reasons why a startup should fail than why it should succeed. Early on, realize that most people cannot see what you see. When seeking advice for a business idea, most people will not see the opportunity you see because it’s harder to envision how an idea can be successful before it actually is successful. People will try to give you advice and protect you from risk, but in the end, highlighting why your idea shouldn’t be successful hurts the idea. Advice is important, however, if you believe in your idea, protect it from too much negativity and give it the opportunity to come into its own.

Yeva Hyusyan, Co-Founder & CEO, SoloLearn, Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Half of her professional life was spent in traditional settings ranging from design and implementation of the World Bank and US Government programs in business and education, to sales and strategic partnerships as a Microsoft Armenia Country Manager, to inter-government negotiations. An MBA from a business school in the Netherlands and an Executive Program at Stanford helped a lot then.

In the new life, Yeva built a startup accelerator that created mobile games, robots, and ag-tech solutions. To pay for this, she opened a coding school/bootcamp that still boasts 90%+ placement rate. It was all about learning on-the-go, from our own mistakes, from non-existing resources. All of these experiences got reflected in SoloLearn aiming to change the way programmers learn, build their professional reputation, and get a job.

The extreme experiences of studying and living in the Soviet Union and the West, seeing the war and post-Soviet business opportunities, good tech and non-tech education have been the greatest movers to date and have shaped the attitude of “nothing is impossible, no matter what is happening now”, a so much needed mindset in the challenging, yet fun, world of entrepreneurship today.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

• While it’s relatively hard for a woman to get a “seat at the table” in today’s man-dominated business world, we, as women, get a unique and unfair advantage when we are “at the table”. Interestingly, while our “womanly” behavior is the main obstacle to get in, it happens to be a great asset afterwards when we get so much attention and appreciation for being different, innovative, and feminine. And this strategy of following the “accepted” rules to get in and being yourself afterwards (rather than complaining about how unfair things are) is probably the quickest to improve the man-woman balance we’ve been striving to achieve, so much needed by our economies and societies today.

• Success and happiness is a combination of one’s genetic code and environment. So creating the right environment in our families, schools, and workplaces is just as important as for the geneticists to find the right DNA code and structure.

Carolyn Rodz, co-founder and CEO, Alice

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Debbie Sardone, Founder

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Debbie’s nonprofit was launched in 2006 and has received massive publicity every year since it’s inception for the work they do. To date, Debbie’s foundation has helped over 17,000 women battling cancer receiving free house cleaning services, valued at more that 4.5 million dollars in donated services. Debbie travels all over the country speaking on behalf of the foundation and has attracted top name brands such as Swiffer, Walmart, Staples, Zep, and more to partner as sponsors. Some of Debbie’s top requested talks are on “Cause Marketing” and “Branding With Purpose”.

This is Debbie’s online retail business which manufactures and sells green cleaning products as well as a wide range of cleaning products, tools, and equipment to both consumers and businesses.

Debbie started this business out of the trunk of her car in 1981. She has been an absentee owner since 2004. She has a staff of nearly 40 and is one the largest independently owned maid services in the country.

Debbie launched her speaking and consulting business in 2006 based on her 35 years of building businesses that run without her

Married 39 years to sweetheart, soulmate Steve Sardone (a retired police offer), two grown children (both entrepreneurs with post graduate degrees), 4 grandbabies. Loves sailing, reading, and tropical vacations.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. The power of small disciplines and seemingly insignificant actions –It’s rarely one big significant event or act that produces the biggest results and the most success. It’s the opposite. It’s those little mundane acts we perform day in and day out, good and bad, that reap the most significant results in our lives and business. Little habits, little disciplines amount to massive impact over time.

2. The steps to extraordinary success are simple, but not obvious. Most people are trying to guess their way to success and complicating their business and programs. When you boil everything down to a few simple ideas or steps, you create a repeatable, scalable business model that can be followed by others you’ve delegated to.

3. Don’t try to go it alone — The most successful people hire mentors, coaches, and consultants. If you want to be in the 10% of your field you have to be a student for life. Read books, attend seminars, hire the top gurus in your field. Learners are earners.

Aja Edmond

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

But Aja didn’t want the lifestyle of the typical Silicon Valley founder, so decided to redefine what it meant (to her) to be an entrepreneur.

Aja started a personal development and professional consulting platform that became profitable in its first year.

She set up her business to sustain itself with few employees, little overhead, and a substantial passive income stream that pays the bills and then some — allowing her a flexible and fulfilling lifestyle.

Prior to founding her business Aja worked in finance then in lifestyle marketing. “

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“There’s no one model of entrepreneurship and you certainly don’t need to look to Silicon Valley as the only way. If you can take the risk to start a business that fills an actual need or untapped opportunity in a way that makes money, you are an entrepreneur.”

“Think about the lifestyle you desire before starting a business. If I just wanted to make a lot of money I could have stayed in finance with less of the risk. Entrepreneurship to me meant creating a business on my own terms … one that made money and allowed me to live freely (for example traveling or living wherever I wanted in the world).”

“There are so many oversaturated markets — for instance fashion and beauty e-commerce — that most entrepreneurial women sort of default to. I made that mistake too when first considering different business ideas. It’s worth getting creative and figuring out less sexy markets where there’s still ample opportunity to stand out.”

Lily Liu, Founder, The Lobas

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

The second lesson is about letting go of full control. If you are able to accomplish lesson #1 and work with great people, then loosening up control not only feels better but it produces better results. In sports like tennis and golf, some of the best techniques involve loosening your grip to produce more controlled results. Reducing injuries from jumping, falls and landings is to relax your body and roll. By holding too tightly, the stiffness works against the power of the sports equipment and your body. The same concept applies in work and life! By loosening up, things can work as they were designed to, which will lead to better and often more controlled results. Remember that it’s cheaper and smarter to trust than to control. It’s almost impossible to fully realize your groups full potential by tightening your grip so let go for 2018!

Put things into perspective. Everything feels like a fire in a startup company but I’ve learned to take it in stride and see the bigger perspective on these issues. It’s easy to confuse urgency with emergency when you’re starting a new project or company. It’s impossible to keep up a pace of responding to fires in a company. Focus on working towards constructive, strategized goals and build urgency with purpose. And when you really do encounter a crisis, you’ll have the bandwidth to respond smarter and hopefully find an opportunity in the process. “

Alexandra Booze, Founder, East Coast Contessas

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Karolyn Hart, COO & Cofounder, InspireHUB Technologies Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Karolyn has been covered in The Globe and Mail, CBC, The Chicago Tribune, GCN and SD Times. Her technical white papers have been published by various industry magazines, and her 2017 white paper garnered the support and participation from leading engineers in Google Chrome and Samsung Internet.

In 2012, after 17 years of making people feel uncomfortable that she was working in technology with no degree, Karolyn decided to make them more uncomfortable by obtaining a Bachelor of Religious Education from Emmanuel Bible college. She is happy to report that neither the science nor religious communities have yet to be able to remove her sense of humour.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Don’t be afraid to be the ONLY voice.

In 2013, we were considered crazy to spend our development efforts on “web apps”. In 2014, we decided to use a remote workforce and were told it wouldn’t be successful, especially as major tech companies announced they were moving away from this. That same year, we decided to give our people full autonomy and take as much time off as they needed and were once again challenged. The results speak for themselves.

Just after we provided “unlimited vacation” to our staff in 2014, Richard Branson announced he was doing the same thing. We already knew it was a successful model because our productivity had skyrocketed and we found ourselves having to enforce vacation time.

The “remote work” debate got annihilated as those companies who had restricted remote-only did not have the success they expected. Now in 2017, “remote-only” is a viable career path. The Wall Street Journal reported that two-thirds of companies now offer this as an option. Once again, we had already directly experienced the productivity benefits and it also helped our small startup fight off headhunters and poachers of our talent.

Finally, our decision to work in web apps in 2013 evolved to us being the first company to adopt Progressive Web App technology into our platform. In 2017, the growth of brands (including big technology brands) adopting this new technology has officially made it the next big digital shift. This last December Apple announced a significant shift for their app store away from templated-app-services that is now positioning Progressive Web Apps as “the” go-to solution for small business. Suddenly, our decisions don’t seem so “crazy”.

2. But be the voice that brings all the voices together.

When something is early and new, it is absolutely critical you find other like-minded voices to build a movement. In 2016 we launched @prowebapps and began promoting everyone and anyone who was working in the field of Progressive Web Apps including our potential competitors. It also established us as a leader because we were confident enough to promote everyone.

3. Never stop learning.

Learning keeps you hungry for more and humble enough to ask questions. As you do this, you WILL end up finding the next new thing to be the ONLY voice on again and the cycle of success begins again.

Cassy Aoyagi, president and co-founder, FormLA Landscaping

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

FormLA Landscaping and Aoyagi promote an approach to development that recognizes the importance of unbuilt spaces and plant life native to a specific region. Their work has been featured on the International Greenbuild Tour, covered in InStyle, Sunset, Dwell and the Los Angeles Times, as featured on HGTV. Aoyagi has also written for the Los Angeles Times’ SoCal Garden Clinic and Houzz.

Aoyagi is an accredited designer in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and a former board president of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants. She has been recognized as a small business owner of the year by both California Senator Carol Liu and the Los Angeles Business Council.

Aoyagi and her husband and co-founder earned bachelors degrees in environmental horticulture at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“​1.Find the spoon full of sugar. Particularly in the early and non-drought years of her business, Aoyagi had to sell her distinctive landscapes using the same pitch as any other landscaper. She focused on the beauty of the unusual plants and materials she recommended, rather than their plentiful ecological, health, cost saving or social benefits. That opened the door to for her to provide a deeper understanding of the benefits of her approach to clients over time.

As California, and LA, in particular were hit with extreme drought, Aoyagi was in a position to lead the conversation about possible solutions. As the Los Angeles Times noted, this meant her business thrived while others closed up shop, slashed prices or retired. It also meant that the authentic, lush, leafy look of LA had an advocate when people were tempted to “plant” gravel and cacti in an effort to save the city.

2.Look for help: Over time, Aoyagi was asked for help by organizations trying to recreate public gardens as drought friendly landscapes. That phrase is like nails on a chalkboard to her! Yet, she moved forward, feeling empowered to educate people about the difference between simple drought-tolerance and authentic resilience. The opportunity to influence what we see every day in our unbuilt public spaces gave her the “aha moment.” That is, that she doesn’t need to save the world on her own. People actually want help, although their perspectives and strategies may vary slightly. Seeking out strategic partnerships where synergies and some measure of common ground exist has been the key to building momentum without burning out.

3. Be whole, unified. Aoyagi’s personal mission has always been to enjoy and protect nature — in fact, that is what led her to the landscaping profession in the first place. While her business evolved from that love, for years, this personal mission remained somewhat siloed from the day-to-day efforts of building a business. It was when Aoyagi was pressed to make every moment count that she began to see that the highest value place for her energy was in the activities and spaces that matched both her personal and business missions.”

Savannah Peterson, Founder & Chief Unicorn of Savvy Millennial

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Savannah thrives on bringing new products to the market. She is a passionate design thinking need-solver, always looking raise the bar of form and function while engaging new, unique communities. She would be honored to speak at your event, lead a workshop or collaborate with your team.

Before starting Savvy Millennial, she was the Director of Innovation Strategy at Speck Design and Massive Labs. She was also previously the Director of Global Community at Shapeways, the world’s largest 3D Printing community in New York City, where she empowered and enabled the over 25,000 3D Printing businesses.

Savannah has helped friends, clients, and fellow creatives raise over $4.5M through crowdfunding. Before diving head first into design, Savannah worked at Fox Sports Northwest, the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement at the University of Washington, and founded her own Social Media Marketing Agency, Savvy Marketing Seattle a decade ago- long before it was cool.

Savannah is an avid mentor for women and men in tech. She teaches entrepreneurship, community innovation and digital marketing at Stanford, NYU, UCLA, PACE and Xavier. She has been featured in/on NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, the BBC, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Gizmodo, CNET, The Verge, and more as a consumer technology expert.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

I have a group of wonderful humans I refer to as “the nest.” The only rule of “the nest” is brutal honesty. We help each other out 1:1 in complete confidence and aren’t afraid to tell the truth about our businesses or personal lives. It’s essentially an advisory board of dear friends whom I compensate with an equally empathetic and strategic ear. These are the people I text when I need a boost of confidence before a negotiation. The people I call when I need a reminder I’m on the right path. And the people I celebrate the wins with. I love my nest. I recommend you build yours today.

You Can’t Get What You Don’t Ask For: The world owes you nothing, and it’s going to show you that. Ask for help, and earn it. The faster you learn how to (repeatedly) pull yourself up by the bootstraps and hustle another deal, the more respect you’ll earn from those who’ve been there. Show a potential mentor the kind of value you could add to their live or projects, and negotiate advice in exchange. Look to your peers to get started. Trade industry secrets from your specialty for those from someone in a completely different role on the team. The easiest way to learn is to ask questions. Leadership knows this, too.

When I first started in the Silicon Valley, I asked a Designer and an Engineer to teach me one “”design word of the day.”” It was a bit embarrassing at first, but now I can hold my own in any meeting, no matter how technical. I also nominated myself for Forbes 30 Under 30. If it was going to happen, I wanted it to be because I earned it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, and what you feel you’ve earned.

Build a Community, Not Just a Customer List: It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product, service or serenity — what unites your base needs to be more than whatever it is you’re selling right now. You will be copied, someone will offer what you have for less, and the only way to weather the storm is if people believe your vision (and future product line) is one worth supporting. This will give you room to breath, and to pivot.

Sharlrita Deloatch, Business Strategist, Speaker, Author & Boss Women Elite Founder, SJD Enterprises LLC

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Having been a convicted felon, Sharlrita is no stranger to making bad choices in life but she chooses to use this misfortune and pain to Propel her into her purpose through Speaking, Writing and Coaching other Women to do the same and also show them they too can make it. Through this, she has captivated and influenced a lot of women to nurse their relationships and love themselves despite their flaws. With her demanding approach to living on purpose, she makes a great impact on the lives of individuals and corporations each time she opens her mouth.

What’s more, Sharlrita used her Pain of not being able to “find a job” by leveraging the 15 years of customer service experience and launched her own Customer Service Consulting Company “New Phase Career Solutions”. Where together with her team she helps small businesses and non-profits improve their bottom line profitability by teaching, training and providing strategy so that the company can provide the best customer service to each client every time.

Her ability to keenly learn, readiness to learn and penchant for excellence is what has seen her get to where she is today but nothing is as inspiring and rewarding to her as the glowing reviews from her clients.;

Experience: Over 15 years of customer service and an experience with a failed business. Sharlrita is committed to showing other women through coaching, speaking. writing how to use their gifts and talents to create a business.

Broken Limits: I’ve broken limits by not being a statistic. Many felons receive a record and go back to the life of crime. I’ve decided to use my bad and turn it into good. Turn it into stories, speeches and give others hope that regardless of what you have been through you can overcome and create a life you truly want.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Lesson 2: Stay in a position of learning. You don’t know everything and you never will. Always stay in a position to learn and grow more better. Make a commitment to invest in you

Lesson 3: Go ahead and fail already. Many of us would have never started our business if it wasn’t for a trial or failure that happened to us. If you fail at something so what get up and keep going. It’s in the failure that you learn more about you and about your business.”

Jordann Windschauer-Amatea, CEO and Founder, Base Culture

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

When Jordann started her 30-day Paleo challenge, it changed her life. Physical fatigue, mental stress, and sleepless nights disappeared, but her sweet tooth remained. Despite her efforts, she couldn’t find any delicious, truly Paleo baked good, so she stepped up to the challenge.

In 2012, out of her post-grad apartment Jordann started baking a line of treats that took off like wildfire. Her Paleo CrossFit buddies, gluten-free friends, and even family with no dietary restrictions couldn’t get enough of these sweet snacks. Her passion for helping others, served as the foundation of her new business, as she wanted to provide individuals healthy alternatives to improve their lives.

Now at the age of 27, Jordann has transformed Base Culture, form its humble beginnings as a popular treat among her local community, to a nationally-recognized leader in the Paleo industry. Base Culture’s variety of products are made using minimal ingredients with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Their assortment of breads, brownies, granola, almond butter and energy bites are 100% paleo certified, certified gluten-free, kosher certified, grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free and non-GMO verified. Everything is done in-house to ensure the quality of their products are held to the highest of standards. Each step of the process is done under one roof to give control over every aspect of production.

As a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Jordann is motivated by Base Culture’s mission to bring people back to their base by providing them a different way of looking at life by supporting their interests in living a clean and healthy lifestyle. Embracing your roots is important, that’s why they never forget theirs.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Be Disruptive — To make a positive impact, you must redefine the way the industry works. What was known as the good ol’ boys club is no longer, and what was known to be a standard operating procedure is not set in stone. Everything is possible if your able to keep an open mind. For example, I was told that it would be impossible to produce certified Paleo, gluten free, non-GMO, kosher products in an SQF Level 2 facility. We then built a facility that accomplished exactly that. Fresh and eager perspectives are not shackled to “industry experience”, and create opportunities to take a new look at what is possible.

You don’t have to have all the answers — However, you better know where to find them! If you let the fear of the unknown paralyze your ability to make decisions, you simply will not move forward. You need to make the best decisions you can in that moment with the information you have, and if tomorrow you are given different information, you use that information to alter your course. You must realize that problems will arise, and mistakes will be made. Use those mistakes as stepping stones on the path of your success and not a wall that keeps you from working towards your vision.”

Katelyn Wollet, Photographer/ Artist, Katelyn Wollet Photography

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

The photos I take are a glimpse into what we are thinking and feeling at a specific moment in time. You only need a second with a photo to know exactly what was happening, the excitement or peace felt in a moment. Even though they are small, photos are reminders of larger moments in our lives and they can become beautiful pieces of art.

I believe we are all creatives, even if we don’t feel like it. Often we are too busy to allow ourselves to make and explore, but it is absolutely necessary to live a full existence. Art is an artifact to show that we were here. To say that we existed. To show that we felt. That we loved. When I create art with people we create more than a photo, we create a story that will one day be told to your grandchildren. That they will share with their children. The giving goes on and the art goes on. I wish that I had more photos of my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

When people come to me, I want them to know we’re going to have an amazing adventure together and I’m going to photograph them being themselves. No posed photos. No script. Yes, love. I have dared to go beyond simply taking a beautiful photo of two people. Instead I capture their quirks, interactions, and authentic selves. When I photograph a couple, I create images highlighting the unexplainable connection between two humans. Each couple brings two individuals together: two minds, two hearts, two souls, as one. I’m searching for couples who are truly in love. They are bold. They are real. They have identified who they are, and what they want in their wedding, their love, and their life. Their interactions reflect that and I capture that reflection with my camera.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Create Personal Work: Keep learning, growing, and making. You’ll prevent burnout and keep the creativity flowing. Your professional work is only going to get better if you take the time to play.

Don’t Forget You Need to Run A Business: If you’re in a creative field, it is easy to get sucked into making the art. Remember you need to make money to keep making art. Stay in business.

For all of these and other goals you bring into your life, consider finding an accountability partner to keep you both on point. Share your work and yourself fearlessly. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

Jennifer Kessler, CEO/Co-Founder, Bizzy; Chiara McPhee, COO/Co-Founder, Bizzy

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Chiara and Jen’s personalities and background at first seem a bit at odds — a good thing the two both agree. Chiara is both soft and well-spoken, assertive, and a visual thinker driven by arts. Jen comes off a bit bolder, speaking with intrepid intensity, while remaining thoughtful, and grounded by mathematical logic.

Those differences intersect at a common desire and aptitude to solve marketing problems that satisfy both the art and science component of marketing issues. When Jen and Chiara formed Bizzy the weekend before receiving their MBAs from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2013, they made a pact that they would tackle every marketing problem they faced with an answer that satisfies both the art and science component of the issue. As a result, the pair were able to create a disruptive startup that caught the attention of a leading digital communication platform provider.

The pair joined SendGrid in early 2017 when SendGrid acquired their marketing automation software company, Bizzy. At SendGrid, Chiara and Jennifer are now Directors of Product Management where Jen is responsible for leading SendGrid’s Marketing Campaigns solution and Chiara is responsible for leading SendGrid Labs, SendGrid’s R&D and innovation team.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Embrace not being “normal”

“Investors and entrepreneurs alike have historically been mostly male. Investors are trying to determine the risk of investing in a given business. So, they develop pattern recognition based on the successful investments they’ve made in the past. The thing is, you can’t apply an identical framework to everyone and we broke the standard pattern. So, we actively helped investors understand our risk profile.

My advice: Highlight why your unique profile is a key asset for the business. Make sure you’re excited about what you are building and that you’re the right person to be solving that problem for customers. Show investors that they would be missing out on a huge opportunity by NOT investing in YOU to build your particular innovation.”

Jennifer Kessler

2. Search for people with a “side hustle”

“When you’re a small team with limited resources, everyone must bring something new to the table and have distinct roles and responsibilities. The art and science yin yang has been a huge asset in Jen and my time working together at Bizzy and now with SendGrid.

As far as hiring and building out our own teams, we made sure to look for people with a natural curiosity, an ability to figure out their own answers, and those who people wanted to work with over and over again. Those who tinker with side projects or those who have a “side hustle” are usually, by far the best. Formal training only goes so far and you really need to have an inherent curiosity to get to the bottom of things.”

Chiara McPhee

3. There really are no dumb questions

“Don’t be afraid to sound dumb. Ask questions. Get to the bottom of things. You can only build an innovative solution if you truly understand the current state of the world. Moving forward without understanding is how you make bad decisions.”

Nina Pfister, Founder & President, Mooring Advisory Group, Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Pfister had spent nearly a decade grinding in the corporate world, gaining professional experience in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales at a global media company (& PR agency in between).

When Pfister’s son was still an infant, she made an aggressive career decision to take on an executive sales role at a tech startup that allowed her to work remotely, assuming more flexibility without an office commute. But, the position required lots of travel with little room for balance at home, which left her feeling as though she had to choose one: family or career.

Pfister’s breaking point happened on her final business trip, when she finally admitted to herself that she had bitten off more than she could chew, and decided it was time to transform her own life in order to stop sacrificing what was most important — her husband and son.

After the final plane ride away from home, Pfister had important conversations with her husband, family, friends and mentors who all encouraged her to follow her gut and venture out to build something from scratch.

Pfister founded Mooring Advisory Group, Inc. just one month later — a full-service Marketing, PR & Sales boutique agency for local, small-medium sized businesses…and she’s never looked back.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

My story is a great example that demonstrates Happiness is often times a deliberate choice, especially when you become a new parent. We can tell ourselves that our personal wellness is out of our control, that it’s “”normal”” to feel discontent because of external factors like work, exhaustion, relationships, or general negative energy. But at the end of the day, it’s up to each individual to navigate their own unique path and make significant and challenging decisions that dictate our future, for better or for worse.


When I left my executive position, I had a simultaneous wave of both relief and horror come over me. I was so excited to build something new and venture out on my own, but at the same time, I began doubting my own capabilities as a standalone leader. What if I made a detrimental mistake? What if I didn’t succeed? It’s important to let go of the “”what if’s”” and instead leverage mistakes as a learning opportunity, and capitalize on your strengths to build your brand.


My transition to entrepreneurship as a new mother is living, breathing proof that growth is easier with a village behind you. Some would argue that “”you can’t have it all”” — but I’m a strong believer that you truly can, if you have an amazing support system behind you. I brought Lauren Gill, our Growth Consultant on board when I was overflowing with business last year, and it was the best hiring decision I’ve ever made. Asking for help is not a knock on your competency, it’s a growth opportunity. Moreover my wonderful husband Steven, family, friends, and professional mentors have supported me tremendously on this journey…and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Madeleine Park, President & Founder, Together She Can

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Park also works with franchise and consumer businesses to help build their brand, increase awareness, drive sales, and expand across the globe. Park has landed coverage in print, digital, and broadcast outlets including Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Fortune.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Find a niche that people will gravitate towards.

A company is only as good as what their consumers think of it. Before starting a business, do market research on what companies are doing well and what the current buyer landscape looks like. You’ll want to enter into a growing industry; starting off in an place where consumers need you will help expedite your success. If you already have your business idea in mind (and have found that the market is saturated), find a way to advertise your business so it stands out, be sure to appeal to a different sides of your target market.

2. Have multiple plans in place for the growth of your business.

When I first started Together She Can, I thought it would be a very slow growth process and I would have time to build my business plans accordingly. Fortunately enough, we entered into a niche that attracted consumers/donors at a rapid rate. I wasn’t prepared for the accelerated expansion and ended up spending more time working in the business in the first year than on the business. Moving forward we now create multiple business plans for each quarter that reflect different levels of growth.

3. Surround yourself with team of independent, smart, hardworking people who believe in your mission.

No matter how hard you work, you can’t do it alone. When building your team, hire people that believe in your mission and that you trust to make executive decisions. Your team will be the lifeline of your business (and become your business family), don’t be afraid to be picky!

Lastly, you have to take the first step. Starting and running a company may sound like a huge endeavor (and it is) but it can be accomplished. Take one step at a time, ask for help, and keep your goals within reach.

For future female entrepreneurs — don’t get discouraged if you find yourself hitting the glass ceiling. Be persistent, be determined, and remember diamonds can cut through glass.

Donna Miller, Founder, C3Workplace

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

C3Workplace — which has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Dun & Bradstreet, and Mogul Moxie — offers co-working, office space, education, consulting, and administrative support/staffing services for second career, B2B professionals. It’s the first independently-owned organization of its kind in the NY/NJ region.

Donna, who is a pioneer in the national coworking and shared office industry, is passionate about helping small businesses to thrive. She believes companies should be a force for good, that we should teach what we know, and that it’s the obligation of all business owners to help the next person along on their journey.

Over the last 20+ years, Donna and C3Workplace have helped to start and develop thousands of companies that have created tens of thousands of jobs across the state. She has designed C3’s business and facilities to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and grow their business communities.

When Donna began C3 in 1994, coworking and shared office facilities were rare. But her innate entrepreneurial instincts allowed her to see the logic and opportunity of shared space as well as shared services. When the business climate shifted and economic swings in the marketplace emerged, Donna responded by offering new services that have allowed C3 to stay relevant, competitive, and financially stable.

Donna is the recipient of numerous industry awards, including Leading Women Entrepreneurs’ Top 25 Women Business Owners in New Jersey, SmartCEO’s Brava Award, and the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners’ Businesswoman of the Year. She’s the author of the book “”Breakthrough Results: Tips, Tricks and Techniques from Today’s Experts for You and Your Business”” (CreateSpace) and was a contributor to the book “”Big Bold Business Advice from New Jersey Business Owners”” (Woodpecker Press). She’s also the host of Small Business Evolution on the Biz2BizTV web channel

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

I believe this is what creates culture and distinguishes your brand. Having clearly defined my values, I use them as barometers for every decision that I make. C3’s hiring process starts with making sure that a candidate shares our values. Even our vendors must mirror our values. I find that the more that I live my values out loud, my team’s culture benefits — and that carries through powerfully (and profitably) into the marketplace.

We’ve built a vibrant community that believes what we believe. We even turn down clients if there’s a values clash: doing otherwise never works out well.

2. Collaboration trumps competition… every time.

At the core of our values is collaboration. I’ve built C3 with strategic partnerships. I believe there’s enough for everyone and that we should focus on how we can help each other. Two organizations that share the same target market and values can find ways to expand their reach without stretching their resources.

The collaboration must be a win-win-win — for me, for my partner, and — most importantly — for my target market. This mindset also creates tremendous differentiation in the market place, helps me to build my tribe, and drives streams of referrals.

3. Delegation is not optional.

Running a business is hard, really hard. You may be very good at wearing lots of hats, but to truly thrive and grow, you simply cannot do it all.

As you begin your business journey, you must include the hiring of help in your budget. And by help, I mean professional, qualified help, not your neighbor’s child who is home from college. Rather than micromanage these hires, create communication check points and convey your desired outcome.

Hiring support or outsourcing tasks is not an expense, it’s an investment. And, like any investment, be prepared to measure your return. If you bring someone on board to take 10 hours of work off of your plate each week, how will you use those additional 10 hours to generate more revenue (think 5–10x return)? You’ll have lots of ideas of how to leverage these bonus hours, so to convert your brainstorms into reality, document them all and turn the most promising ones into plans that you and your team can execute, because success is all about execution.

Mary Fox, CEO & Co-Founder, Marlow

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Coming from a lower-middle-class family in Kansas, it wasn’t always clear to Mary how people became “”successful””. She moved to DC after college and waited tables in Dupont Circle while living in a completely empty apartment with a blow-up mattress on the floor. Three months after her move, Mary landed an unpaid internship where she interned 8-hours during the day and waitressed for 7 hours at night.

After Mary landed her first professional job as an administrative assistant, she was quickly promoted to Executive Assistant to the President of the Washington Hospital Center (a 5,000 bed hospital in the heart of Washington, DC). This experience helped her gain a bird’s eye view of people operations at all levels. She began to realize that, regardless of level (from senior business managers to junior custodians) very few people have ever been taught the fundamentals of career success. That is to say, how to find a great job they love, how to navigate (and eliminate) office politics, or how to stand out for a promotion or big assignment.

Since that first position, Mary has focused on improving processes and services for team members. She has served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, Special Assistant to the CEO of Massdrop and Head of People Operations and Product Marketing at FR8Star.

How has Mary broken limits? At the Washington Hospital Center, her peers had 40 more years of experience than she did. At the Brookings Institution, Mary’s peers were mostly from top tier universities, whereas she hailed from Kansas State University with a mediocre GPA. Mary went on to receive a Master’s of Science in Management, Organizations and Governance from the London School of Economics and Political Science, graduating with distinction.

Despite not being a developer, Mary designed and built the first version of Marlow in July 2017 and has continued to head of the company’s development efforts. Chelsea and Mary launched the first beta program in August and by November the co-founders had paying members.

The co-founders are headquartered on opposite coasts, with Mary in San Francisco and Chelsea in New York.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Make motivation seeking a habit and never give up: Some people leap out of bed in the morning ready to go. My alarm goes off five times between 6:15 and 7:15 in the morning. I have to seek out motivation every single day or I’m not productive. For me, a morning workout while listening to a podcast usually does the trick. I also listen to podcasts or audiobooks on the commute to meetings.

2. Set your goals higher than you ever thought possible: Growing up, I always assumed that successful people were simply lucky. In high school and college, it became was clear to me that successful people had the exact same amount of time in the day as I had. They had merely been strategic in how they used those hours. I’m committed to finding smart ways to achieve huge goals. I always ask how we could achieve 10x what initially thought possible. Usually this simply involves redesigning our initial strategy.

3. Surround yourself by people who are smarter than you: This one goes without explanation. In all parts of my life, I am surrounded by people who build me up, challenge me, and make me want to become a better version of who I am today.

Alex Hanifin, CEO, Alpine Start Foods

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Rejection can place us on the right path. After high school, I didn’t get into any of the schools I applied to. It pushed me to take the road less traveled and fueled my passion for food — a field that I might have neglected for another major, focus, etc. in college. I was able to dive right into the industry, taking internships at leading natural foods companies, learning hands-on skills from mentors, and honing a can-do attitude to make me even more qualified than many of my peers with degrees.

3. You can’t do it all. Things will fall off the to-do list… and it will be okay, I promise!

My key motivator is passion. If we feel like we are always striving to check off a list, we will ultimately become jaded by the entire process and lack the inspiration to come together as a creative team. Burn out will kill your business. I learned that I set the standard for keeping the inspiration high, the reactions calm and the team focused on the present — checkmarks don’t make deadlines or problem-solving any easier, rather a free-thinking, positive environment supports the creativity and risk-taking needed to stand out in a crowded market.”

Julie Ball, Founder and Chief Sparkler, Sparkle Hustle Grow

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Taking her knowledge of the entrepreneurial world and key products that had helped her grow her business, she combined them into one product, delivered monthly in a fun-to-open package and has been able to help fellow female entrepreneurs on their journeys toward success.

Although a Pittsburgh area native, Julie now lives in Black Mountain, an idyllic mountain town in Western North Carolina, with her daughter McKenna and husband Kenny. You’ll find them hiking the local trails, listening to live music and otherwise enjoying mountain life with friends & family.

Julie helps fellow boss babes break the limits of entrepreneurial self-sabotage, something she is very familiar with from her own experience.

The hustle is so often thought of as a hardship — long hours, grueling work, not fun…but it doesn’t have to be defined like that!

Through her Sparkle Hustle Grow subscription box and recently published book “The Happy Hustle: Transform the Way you Work,” Julie set out to show women how they can be happier in business and in life by following her three leading principles:

• The “Hustle” can be happy!

• Follow “The Golden Rule”.

• Personal growth and business development go hand in hand.

These principles are further broken down into actionable steps to help lady entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be learn how to not only find balance between life and running a business, but to thrive in both.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. You don’t have to do this alone, even if you are your only employee. Being an entrepreneur can oftentimes seem like a lonely endeavor, but working with other brilliant women can help eliminate feelings of isolation. There are so many Facebook groups and in-person events that now support the entrepreneur. Get involved. Be social. Share generously and learn a lot.

2. Choose collaboration over competition. Getting caught up in the comparison trap of social media with your competitors and even your colleagues is positively exhausting. Opt out of the negative connotations of competing with your peers and instead buy into working together. It’s more productive to build up our fellow humans than it is to tear them down. It can reduce a lot of stress in your everyday life, and it may provide exponential rewards in business. Trust that there is more than enough business to go around in this world.

3. Take your own advice. The core value that Julie runs her business is built around supporting other female entrepreneurs. Its one thing to be everyone’s cheerleader, but don’t forget about yourself! If you have to, mark it in your planner as a non-negotiable meeting with yourself. Practice self-care, work on your mindset, let go of self-limiting beliefs and most of all, love yourself! You are amazing!”

Lindsey Carnett, CEO & President, Marketing Maven

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Leadership also requires thinking outside of the box to accomplish a task. I had the opportunity to travel to China representing Washington Cultural Exchange to play international soccer and I looked for methods of fundraising for my teammates and me. While others believed it would be impossible to raise the funds, I reached out to local media securing several feature stories and the donations started rolling in.

After graduating from college, I took my passion for marketing and founded Marketing Maven in my house at age 26. I had reverse age discrimination being so young. I had to work especially hard to get taken seriously as a 26-year-old multi-racial female coming into multi-million dollar companies as an authority on marketing. Many of those who took a chance on me were rewarded with revenue growth, positive reputations and award-winning campaigns.

Lindsey Carnett, CEO and President of Marketing Maven is an expert at launching and growing consumer products. Named to the 2017 Inc. 5000 List of Privately Owned Fastest Growing Companies in America, the Forbes Agency Council and the 2016 Entrepreneur 360™ list of “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America,” Marketing Maven specializes in PR, influencer marketing, social media advertising and reputation management. Recently named a Top Woman in Public Relations by PR News and honored as Folio: Magazine’s 2015 Top Women in Media, her firm, Marketing Maven, was ranked nationally in eight consumer products verticals by third-party ranking company O’Dwyer’s PR. She has appeared in the Forbes Most Powerful Women Business Leader issue, on CCTV, Newsmax, Business Rockstars, NPR, The Doctors, Telemundo, FOX Business,, Huffington Post and USA Today.

Her firm, Marketing Maven, is certified as a Native American 8(a) company, WOSB, WBE, DBE and minority CPUC.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career to date is not to be a “yes man” and to speak up. Clients are paying you for your professional opinion as a marketing and PR professional so you don’t have to agree with everything. In fact, you are oftentimes respected more for bringing up a point in contrary and supporting it with strong rationale. This insight is highly valued by the CEO of a company. Being the most quiet, polite person in the room won’t get you far. In the field of communications, you will grow much faster if you can clearly articulate your professional opinion.

2. Remain professional

Always keep in professional in written and verbal communication but perhaps indulge in a public speaking class to practice the tone of your voice, identifying if you have an upward inflection that sounds like a question as opposed to a statement so you appear to be more confident in what you are saying.

3. Say Thank You

Be sure to follow up. A professional follow up email, a connection on LinkedIn or a handwritten thank you card goes a long way. If part of your job description will be following up with media, the PR leader you are approaching must see those same follow up qualities in you when looking to build a career in PR.

Lisa Hennessy, Founder, DreamJobbing

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Hennessy’s career began in Television in 1995. For 14 years, she served as one of the driving forces behind Mark Burnett Productions (MBP). As an original member of the company, Hennessy played an integral role in the development and production of MBP television programs. Over the course of her tenure, Hennessy helped propel MBP from a small production company to global powerhouse.

Hennessy served as the Co-EP on the adventure series Eco-Challenge from 1995 to 2002. In 2001, she was recognized for her work on Eco- Challenge: Borneo with a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

In 2003, Hennessy EPed the surfing series Boarding House: North Shore for the

WB. In 2005 and 2006, Hennessy EPed the staged series Rock Star: INXS and Rock Star: Supernova (CBS). She simultaneously served as the EP on the unscripted drama the Contender (NBC and ESPN). For her work on Contender, she was nominated for a Sports Emmy. In 2007, Hennessy EPed Pirate Master, a CBS summer adventure series shot in the island country of Dominica.

Also in 2007, Hennessy was a consulting producer for the documentary feature film “Running the Sahara” produced and narrated by Matt Damon.

In 2011, Hennessy EPed the adventure series Expedition Impossible (ABC).

In 2012 and 2013, Hennessy EPed the hit series Biggest Loser for NBC.

In late 2014, Hennessy launched DreamJobbing, an opportunity platform that helps students get on the path to their dream career.

A graduate of the University of Illinois, she also studied international relations at the Institute of European Studies in Vienna, Austria.

She has traveled to 60 countries and counting. She has climbed Kilimanjaro, trekked in Nepal, lead teams of 200 crew around the world in some of the most remote locations. Hennessy thrives on challenges and breaking limits.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Mentor. It’s important to be a role model for the next generation of female leaders.

3. Never give up. To be a founder of a company you need to have the belief that everything is possible and failures are just little bumps that make you stronger.”

Rudina Seseri, Founder and Managing Partner, Glasswing Ventures

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Rudina has been appointed by the Dean of the Harvard Business School (HBS) for a fourth consecutive year to serve as Entrepreneur-In-Residence for the Business School and as Executive-In-Residence for Harvard University’s innovation-Lab. She is a Member of the Business Leadership Council of Wellesley College. Rudina also serves on the Advisory Board of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer, L’Oreal USA Women in Digital, and on the Board of Overseers for Boston Children’s Hospital. She has been named a 2017 Boston Business Journal Power 50: Newsmaker, a 2014 Women to Watch honoree by Mass High Tech and a 2011 Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree for her professional accomplishments and community involvement. She graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Economics and International Relations and with an MBA from the Harvard Business School (HBS). She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Epsilon honor societies.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2) As you build a business, focus on building a strong culture right from the start — one that is performance-oriented and that unifies your team toward a common goal. Make sure to recognize and reward performance and don’t vacillate in course correction when change is needed. Entrepreneurs who focus on execution prevail.

3) If you already are a woman founder or hold a C-level executive role make it a priority to take an active role in pulling up other women alongside you. Behind every great woman, there is the opportunity for another one. Get involved and mentor aspiring young women. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to share your expertise with other women and what it means to open the door — you need to experience it for yourself.

Green Piñata

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

US families spend $5billion in toys a year for their kids under 5 years of age. The kids play with less than half of the toys bought for them wasting billions of dollars a year. I decided to disrupt the children’s toy market and launched Green Piñata in 2015,

Green Piñata has seen tremendous growth and traction since launch and currently in the process of raising seed fund, but success didn’t come easy for me and my team. For the first 2 years, we were turned down by more than a dozen angel funds and one of the common reasons was that most angel investors couldn’t connect personally with pains that moms (and dads) go through researching and shopping for toys. In the early stage, we began targeting women run funds and individual angels who saw the power in our subscription service and ended up investing.

90% of plastic toys are not recyclable and in the past year, Americans generated about 33 million tons of plastic. This is a serious problem most of us don’t talk about. In addition to taking the mystery away from shopping for toys, I have made sure Green Piñata helps parents to be as eco-friendly as possible. We sourced our toys from manufactures that only make natural, wooden toys that are sourced in a sustainable manner. Our packaging is zero-waste and we strive to reduce families’ addition landfill and wastage every way possible.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“1. Listen to your customers and use their feedback to build an excellent solution to their problems that none of their current alternatives in the market can solve. I launched the beta version (it was paid beta) of Green Piñata in a month and a half I came up with the idea. It worked out great for us, because we had a working solution to test on real customers and we were very diligent gathering their feedback and very soon we were able to solve a number of operational, offering and pricing hiccups that resulted in a service our customers loved. We would have never thought of all of the solutions ourselves not in a hundred years.

2. Never lose focus on the end game — There are so many things that distract us early stage founders. There are so many hats to wear. However at the end of the day what matters is — scalability, retention, profits. As a founder, it is important to always remember the end game — Return on Investment.

Make sure you have a niche before you decide to build a company. Nobody wants to buy a copycat service or fund a company that doesn’t do things uniquely and better than anyone else. This may seem obvious but sometime founders are lost trying to just catch-up with their competitors.”

Cat Berman, CEO, CNote

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

“CEO, CNote (Fintech) Managing Director, Charles Schwab (Financial Services), Senior Vice President Astia (Venture Capital)

As a woman working in the predominantly male industry of finance, it was not shocking when I discovered that most of our financial products were designed by and for individuals that value risk, complexity, and gamesmanship. Equally not surprising is that the same mentality has created a financial services industry that largely values its own profitability over the financial health of its customers.

After years battling the status quo, I broke away from traditional financial services to see if we could re-imagine what finance is all about. What if financial services What if it’s chief motive was the financial wellness of not just its clients but its community? And what if financial services was tasked with more than “”do no harm”” but actually became an instrument for positive social change?

I created the company CNote to redesign how finance looks, acts and feels to us all. At CNote, we began with a clean sheet asking ourselves: if we designed finance — TODAY — from the ground up, what would it look like? We started with 3 basic tenants: transparency, simplicity and equality. The idea that your hard-earned money can and should be a force for good and that everyone deserves a path to financial freedom — whether you’re investing $5 or $5M.

When my co-founder and I took our idea to the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) , I swear they thought we were crazy. Create new financial products that had no fees and no minimum investment so everyone could participate? That’s odd. Invest those dollars into local communities — particular women, minorities and low-income families — so that everyone can benefit from wealth creation? That’s different. But regardless of how odd or different they thought we were, we successfully proved to them that our product was sound. In September of last year, we received SEC qualification and became the first company to provide this type of high-yield, high-impact product — and open to absolutely everyone.

Don’t get me wrong. My friends in finance still think I’m weird. Can you really recreate financial products? Can you truly design something that does well for your pocketbook and for the greater good? My answer: absolutely. Most of us in finance are not known for being creative, empathic or visionary. It’s time we were.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“ “1) Persistence. Big ideas will always be considered impossible, ahead of their time or just plain crazy. If you have a burning desire to create the world you want to live in, don’t stop until you do. Persistence is a key part of the battle.

2) Humility. High-growth businesses demand supreme confidence — but I also think they require a keen sense of humility. None of us got to our success by ourselves and we still have a whole lot to learn. Be grateful, be humble, be kind.

3) Enjoy the journey. Most entrepreneurs know that it’s an incredible roller coaster of high-highs and looooow-lows. Surround yourself with people who you want to be on the ride with and remember — even the ride is a gift.”

Masami Sato, Founder & CEO, B1G1 (Buy1GIVE1)

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

From this shy little girl, I’ve grown into much more after a series of limit-stretching experiences in life.

This is my profile at the moment:

“Masami was born in Japan but her desire to expand her horizons took her on a global journey. She became deeply concerned about the inequalities and other challenges that existed in the world.

She has been a serial entrepreneur since 2001, starting and running several commercial enterprises all aiming to transform the way businesses are operated today. By taking a completely new look at the power of giving, she founded B1G1 (Buy1GIVE1: in 2007.

B1G1 enables small businesses around the world to embed effective giving in their regular business activities. For example, imagine a coffee shop giving access to life-saving water for every coffee they sell or an accounting firm educating a child in need for every client they serve. B1G1 now works with more than 2,300 businesses and those businesses have created over 130 million giving impacts.

Masami’s approach to life is very different. She brings a new, almost upside-down strategy to everything she does. She radiates it through her writing and speaking. She has authored four books including, ‘JOY’, ‘GIVING BUSINESS’, and ‘Better Business, Better Life, Better World’.

Masami’s career has followed her diverse talent and skills having been a teacher, translator, health consultant, natural food chef (and a farmer!), author and award-winning entrepreneur as well as a mother of 2 teenage children. She is a popular keynote speaker and continues to be invited to TV and radio interviews.”

I do not think I could have accomplished any of these things if I ever paused to think about what was reasonable for someone like me to achieve. I didn’t have business education or qualifications. I had no confidence to speak in front of others.

But I have always taken each and every challenge and opportunity as a gift and put my very best effort into everything. And as a result, I found myself enjoying my life, connecting with amazing people (coming from all sorts of background) and learning incredible lessons.

I’m also grateful for the community of small businesses that are part of our initiative. Because I could never have created so many amazing things around the world if they did not believe in the simple vision to create a world that’s full of giving.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Just like a game, life and business come with many ups and downs, successes and failures, beginnings and endings….. It also means that the real objective of our life and business is to ‘enjoy’.

If we are feeling angry, frustrated or sad in our pursuit of success, the whole meaning is lost in the game. A game is to enjoy with others. Winning is definitely fun. But it is not just about you winning against others all the time.

It’s about how we make it the most enjoyable game for everyone playing together. When we end our current game, we can either say, “I wish I never played this game,” or “I loved playing it. I look forward to the next one.”

Lesson 2: “We can choose to create abundance through a giving cycle or getting cycle.”

When we want something, we can try really hard to get it, get more, and then get much more than others. Some become successful, rich and famous by establishing a strong ‘getting’ focus.

On the other hand, we also can create greater abundance in life by having a giving focus. You give more than expected. You give without expectation. You add greater value to others. You find joy and meaning in giving more.

One approach is not necessarily better or more effective, but the giving cycle generally feels more rewarding. And sharing the journey with others who also live with the giving cycle feels great (compared to sharing the journey with others who try to get more than everyone else).

It’s up to us to consciously create either cycle in our life and in our business endeavours.

Lesson 3: “Accept, Trust and Love.”

We never know what happens in life. No one can be right or wrong all the time. We cannot change our past. We all die one day. Nothing is permanent….

In the end, it makes sense to accept what already happened and trust that our future brings all the great learning, gifts, enjoyment (and love) each and every moment.

If we can accept everything and everyone as they are, trust ourselves, others and our future AND do our every best to contribute every day, we can maximise the meaning of what we do.

Ayat Shukairy, Co-founder, Invesp

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Ayat is the co-author of “Conversion Optimization,” an best-selling book, In her book, she combines ground-breaking marketing research with powerful story-telling and case studies to demonstrate how to leverage these principles to create killer websites. Ayat provides one of the most comprehensive lists of strategies and actionable insights for helping websites capture more of their visitors into life time customers. She provides insights grounded in comprehensive research, the best contemporary psychology and behavioral science which any company can start implementing immediately.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Always be growing and expanding. In 2010, our business was flourishing and my co-founder and I were on top of the world. But rather than focus our efforts on growing and expanding our services and processes, we were just content with where we were. Two years later, this feeling of complacency and contentment hurt us badly. After much effort, we were able to bounce back but it made me realize first, how important it is to have a business coach/advisor, and second, because the technology world is rapidly changing, our business requires us to be expanding our services accordingly in order to keep up, which means we have to always be ahead of our game.

3. Don’t get dragged down by anyone. As a female founder you may not get the support you expect (and sometimes need), but that shouldn’t drag you down. First find a cheerleader to keep you going. It’s very lonely doing it without someone there to cheer you on. I am lucky to have an amazing co-founder to keep me going. Second, remember: you’re accomplished and have built something great. Don’t forget what you’ve been through to get to where you are today. At the beginning of my career, my family or friends would make unsupportive comments that took me on a downward spiral. But I learned to have thick skin, and realized that people speak from their own experiences and contexts, and don’t always mean to be difficult or unkind.”

Chellee Siewert, President, Capture Marketing

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

A few quick highlights of my career:

- Raised over $25 million for charities in my career

- Partnered with high-level athletes and teams including JJ Watt Foundation, Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation, Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, Bart & Cherry Starr Children’s Fund and the Milwaukee Bucks Foundation to help raise funds to impact people’s lives and communities.

- Secured media exposure nationally and locally including ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, CNN, USA Today, Fox Sports and People Magazine for numerous clients such as itsAaron featuring Aaron Rodgers, Olympian Alyson Dudek and athletes above.

- Hurricane Harvey Relief

- Partnered with the JJ Watt Foundation to launch its inaugural fundraising event in 2012; raised over $4.6 million through the JJ Watt Charity Classic to date

- Developed a first of its kind charitable jersey program for the Milwaukee Wave Professional Soccer Team, The Wave of Hope; raising over $250,000 and securing over $191,000 in earned media

- Awarded 40 Under 40 for the Milwaukee Business Journal in 2014

Featured on Sima Vasa’s The Forum to provide advice on breaking into the sports industry and taking risks to advance your business.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

- Taking the risk — Acknowledge the fear, develop the plan and go for it.

- Doing Good is Good Business — Regardless of the industry that you are in when you do good your business does better.

- Networking — Building your business takes development relationships

Tanya Bourque, Founder,

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

“”Tanya never started with a perfect answer, but always made it a point to solve whatever challenge thrown at her in the simplest way possible.” — Mom

To-date, Tanya has hired over 2000 people. She advises and trains leaders nation-wide on how to effectively hire awesome teams starting from the top down. She has a knack for understanding candidates and the culture of a company to deliver successful hires.

Tanya prides herself on always taking action, efficiency, details, details, details combined with empathy, strategy, imagination and getting stuff done. Tanya is an execution pro and ensures businesses are operationally effective. Her passion for startups developed from the thrill she gets from watching companies grow and develop. She is also a technology enthusiast and programs on the side. Tanya has founded several companies.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2.Failure and Rejection are a part of the growth process. Don’t stop pushing and following your dreams.

3.Entrepreneurship has ups and downs. Keep yourself healthy and active no matter how busy work is. Take time out for you.”

Megan Shroy, Founder & President, Approach Marketing

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

In 2010, Megan identified a demand in the agency world. Despite the economic downturn, clients still needed access to top PR and marketing talent, but could no longer afford the “big agency” overhead. Thus, the Approach Marketing concept was born — a virtual agency made up of independent consultants. Based in Columbus, Ohio, Approach brings together seasoned talent across the country from some of the world’s leading agencies to provide award-winning services to its clients.

In eight years, Megan has led Approach Marketing to nearly doubled in size every year since its founding. It was recently named named Best Public Relations Firm in the Columbus CEO Best of Business Awards and shortlisted for Boutique Agency of the Year by PR Week. Clients like Circle K, Make-A-Wish and Tim Hortons Café & Bake Shop all recognized that great work doesn’t have to be done under one roof and that using a virtual agency, like Approach Marketing, truly brings together the very best talent in the business in a new, cost effective way.

Approach’s business model has received national attention. When it comes to the virtual agency and managing a remote team, Megan has become recognized as a thought leader, featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc., PR Week, PR News, Columbus Business First and Columbus CEO, among others.

Megan has also received a number of awards and recognitions. She was featured by Columbus Business First in People to Know in Advertising, PR and Media and was awarded the publications prestigious 40 Under 40 Award. Smart Business Magazine also recognized Megan as a Progressive Entrepreneur honoree and she received a bronze Stevie Award for Woman of the Year — Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations.

Prior to founding Approach, Megan spent her early career in the agency at Chicago’s Golin, one of the world’s leading public relations firms, and Columbus-based Paul Werth Associates. She graduated from Wittenberg University where she earned a B.A. in Communication and a double minor in Journalism and Business Management.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. At Approach, our team is brilliant. When I have our consultants together in a room, I am blown away by the level of talent. Everyone is smarter than me, more talented than me, more experienced … and truly wants to help our clients. A traditional agency could not afford to keep this team on project, but with our business model, we can. It’s really impressive.

Don’t be too busy making a living that you forget to make a life. I’m proud I have been able to grow this business and still have a family — and to prove that having a big job and being a good mom at the same time is possible. I’m reminded over and over again that being a working mom is so much harder than I ever gave my mom credit for. It’s the most challenging and rewarding job. I’m also proud that I’m raising a daughter who can see what it’s like to stand out in her field and who is learning that anything is possible.

Good things come to those who hustle. I’ve always approached my career with the attitude that I might not be the smartest person in the room, but I can always be the hardest working. You may see me struggle, but you will never see me quit… not for our clients, not for our team, not for myself.

Julie Cole, Co-founder and Senior Director of Public Relations, Mabel’s Labels Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Surround yourself with amazing people.

When it comes to staff, make sure you get the right people on the bus. Hire slow and fire fast. Your people are your very best investment. Allow them to be entrepreneurial in their jobs, don’t micro-manage them and create a work environment and culture that will help you retain amazing team members.

When it comes to business partners, know who you are getting into bed with. Business partnerships can be tricky relationships. Make sure you put together a shareholders agreement while everyone is still friends. Understand each other’s different personalities and styles and continue to work on your communication with each other. It’s a constant work in progress.

When it comes to peers and mentors — be sure to surround yourself with people who challenge you and fill gaps. As they say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, time to find a new room!

2) Leave your ego at the door.

If your ego runs your life, your business will not succeed. You need to be able to admit when you need help, hire people who fill gaps and never stop being curious and asking questions.

3) Plan for your exit.

Create a plan and understand that it will change, but know when to call it a day. If I was still in the basement making labels myself fourteen years later, that would be a huge fail. You need to know when to call it a day. Fail fast and learn from it. Once you have business success, also understand your exit plan. Are you growing your business to sell it or to hand down to your children. Understanding this will guide you in how to manage your company.”

Marla Aaron, Founder, Marla Aaron Jewelry

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Our jewelry ranges in price from $80 -$30,000. Traditionally fine jewelry messaging is luxurious and “perfect” — highly photoshopped slices of perfect people and imagery.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“I loved jewelry. I knew lots about jewelry as a customer and life long lover of jewelry. I had very little knowledge of how to make it, how to sell it, how to think about it as a business. I just had my very specific idea about selling convertible locks and chains to be combined in very personal ways. It was both a blessing and a curse. I didn’t know how to engage with the industry so I made lots of mistakes. I didn’t know how to engage with the industry so I did things differently and this made us stand out. I didn’t (and still don’t) know all that I am suppose to know so I don’t have a preconceived idea about how my business should be run.

Hire great people. Take time to find the right people. I took a while to make our first hires and I’m really glad I did. I probably waited longer than I should have to hire them but I was cautious. I hired people who had no experience in the jewelry industry because at a certain point I realized I had developed my own ideas about how to run the business and I wanted to continue down our unorthodox path so I looked for specific business and soft skills versus experience in our industry.

In the initial days of leaving my job to start my jewelry company, people who love me were supportive with their words but their facial expressions would betray their shock and disbelief at what I was doing. As much as you possibly can, you need to gird your loins for this type of reaction. Ignore it. You need to force yourself to believe in yourself maniacally. If you can’t, no one else will.”

Amber Venz Box, Founder and CEO, rewardStyle

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Amber has been named Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Fast Co.’s Most Innovative, Glamour’s “Woman of the Year” for Technology, Fashion Group International’s Innovator of the Year, a Business of Fashion 500, Entrepreneur magazine’s “15 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch,” and she spoke at SXSW in 2017 as a featured session speaker for the second time.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Delegate — As a mother I’m more conscious than ever of the power and art of delegation. As the founder of rewardStyle, I’m responsible for an endless “”to-do”” list, and burning the midnight oil comes with the territory. With a family, it’s just not possible, nor is it productive long term, and I now realize that no single person can pursue and accomplish every task. You must trust the team you’ve built and motivate them to do their best.

3. Timing is everything! — When my now husband and I started working on the idea around rewardStyle, we were heads down and hyper focused to be first to the market with our idea. Once launched, we continued to revise and fine-tune, but having the platform up and running was the starting point and proof of concept our customers needed to take action and join, followed by the growth of our retail partners and influencer database.”

Alison Bernstein, Founder and President, Suburban Jungle

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Focus on a niche. It is so hard to be good at everything, and in fact it is not necessary. Have a very clear view of your key focus, and work at becoming simply the best at it. This means you may have to turn down potential opportunities along the way, but you will be better for it in the end.

Business and the world are changing every 15 minutes. Don’t get stuck in what was successful yesterday. So many companies fail on this premise alone. Stay on top of what is working today and keep your finger on the pulse of where things will be headed tomorrow. Learn from all aspects of your life and move that into your work day. Ask your staff every day if they have added value and how they think we can improve our systems and structure. Ask yourself this question… every day and every 15 mins.

Pamela Wasabi. Author, Plant-Based Chef. AMLAMIAMI

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

My background is in fashion design and back then in 2008, I produced, hosted and directed fashion parties, shows and one of the first underground-culture online magazines. But it all changed when I got pregnant. I was diagnosed with a borderline chronic illness that could put my baby’s life in danger. The doctors could only prescribe a synthetic drug to help me cope, as well as denied me a home birth and breastfeeding. I did not accept that reality and thus my search begun. This urge to grant my daughter the birthright of breastfeeding and a healthy home-belly free of prescription drugs was the instigator for change. I joined a nutrition school and started cooking, despite not having previous knowledge of it at all. I transformed my health, had a beautiful water home birth, and breastfed my daughter till she was four. After conceiving, I switched my career and became a leader and educator on integrative health, then wrote a book title “Nourished: The plant-based path to the health and happiness”. Today, I’m a proud pusher of holistic living, balance, nourishment, and my very own line of vegan/gluten free baked goods which are distributed among 65+ stores in Miami-Dade and Broward.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Kelby Hawn, Co-Founder & Designer/Front-End Developer, Dolly

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Kelby met her two co-founders, Chad Wittman and Jason Norris, in 2010 at a small web agency in Florida. Shortly after meeting, the three quit their agency jobs to start EdgeRank Checker, which provided Facebook analytics to brand pages back in the early days of the Newsfeed. After their team moved to Chicago, EdgeRank Checker sold to Socialbakers, and the team began planning their next startup: Dolly.

A harrowing moving incident involving a mattress strapped to the roof of a sedan going down the highway led the team to conceive Dolly, an on-demand moving and delivery service. With Mike Howell signed on to be co-founder and CEO, they relocated again, this time to Seattle.

Since this move, Dolly has expanded into seven cities across the country with plans to enter dozens more this coming year. Kelby has worked on expanding the brand across the team’s mobile and web apps in addition to marketing and partner materials. As the sole female co-founder, she’s brought awareness about the importance of hiring more women and people of color on the team and cares deeply about making Dolly a fun, safe, and diverse workplace that creates a better moving experience for everyone who uses Dolly.

Kelby lives with her black cat, Bianca, near Lake Union in Seattle and enjoys binge watching Golden Girls and exploring the PNW with her friends and coworkers.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2) Don’t plan too much — things will happen that are out of your control, so learn to adapt. For the first few years of my career I worked with two people. At the first company we founded, we had a manageable workflow and had settled into life in Chicago. Then we started our second company, Dolly, and we needed to move across the country (for the second time!) and start working with a much bigger team. I felt a bit depressed when we first moved to Seattle, but I worked through it. After re-focusing on my physical and mental health, I felt stable again and work became more enjoyable. Now I feel like I can handle the ups and downs of startup life, and I discovered that I LOVE working with a bigger team, so taking the chance was worth it.

3) You’re going to make mistakes, learn from it and don’t beat yourself up. There are things I definitely regret doing throughout my career, and I’ve had my fair share of ruminating and mentally dwelling on mistakes, but I’ve come to realize that’s just a part of life. You can choose to be swallowed up in regret, or do better next time.

Andrea Sommer, Founder & CEO, Hiver

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Andrea is passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, increasing the number of women represented in both, and also about building diverse teams — from entry-level to board-level. She has spoken at numerous conferences on technology, the mobile industry, entrepreneurship, raising start-up finance, being a female founder and women in technology.

Andrea was formerly Director of Strategic Initiatives Europe at Avanade, a joint venture between Accenture & Microsoft where she lead growth and optimisation activities for Europe. She also consulted for other technology brands including Microsoft in the US, South America and Europe.

Andrea has also been featured in press publications such as The Financial Times, Forbes as well as in the book The MBA Entrepreneur.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Reed College in Portland, US and an Executive MBA from London Business School.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

I’m naturally an introvert, so networking doesn’t come easily to me. Yet, when I started business school, I had to network all the time, much more than I had done in the past. I was so frustrated with the fact that I could not remember names — this had always been a struggle for me. I looked everywhere to find a solution and when I didn’t find one I decided to build Hiver! Hiver provides intelligent technology to help make events and networking sessions more useful by enabling users to remember the names of everyone they meet. On top of that, we provide data to event organizers so they can make their events better and more impactful.

Looking back, I could have just accepted the fact that there wasn’t any good technology out there to help me. Yet, even though I had no experience, no money and couldn’t code, I decided to try to solve this problem. The only thing stopping us is…us. So build more doors!

Feel the Fear and do it anyway.

Some years ago, a mentor and friend of mine recommended to me the book ‘Feel the Fear, and do it anyway.’ I have really internalized this feeling of facing the fear and embraced the knowledge that if you aren’t in that scary place, you aren’t stretching yourself, you aren’t learning and you are certainly not doing anything amazing. We are instinctively taught to walk away from fear, but in entrepreneurship you have to not only face it, but embrace it.

It takes a village

I get this question a lot,‘ Should I share my idea with people or do I run the risk of someone copying it?’ I myself asked this question in the early stages of my business and my answer is a resounding yes — share your idea! First, ideas are super important, but without execution they are nothing. And execution is hard. Very very hard. It takes time and a lot of work. More importantly, by not sharing the idea you miss out on getting feedback, insights and experiences from the community. Building a business can’t be done in isolation. Talking about your idea and networking effectively enables you to make connections which can lead you to co-founders, investors, employees and customers.

I have been very lucky to be a part of several really supportive communities. London Business School was one of them — not only was that where the idea originally came about but it is also where I found many mentors, employees and investors who are still with me today. But I have found support in many places — some obvious, others unexepected. So get out there, build doors, get scared and most importantly, build your village!

Eileen Gordon, Founder/CEO, Barnraiser

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Barnraiser is a social marketplace curated by and for people driving the new food and wellness economy. Passionate consumers and conscious eaters Discover, Shop, and Contribute while supporting local food, farming, and wellness businesses who are changing how we eat, farm and live. (

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

During any new venture, the road to success is rarely ever the exact one you anticipated or dreamt it to be. After successfully launching and raising millions for projects in good food & wellness at Barnraiser 1.0, our internal voices and our user patterns told us to dig deeper. As we tested and iterated to our best new path forward, in came lesson #2: Drop the expectations and judgement about how this is going to go down, and start listening. But don’t just listen to everyone. Listen to your core customers, your most likely users, and surround yourself with advisors who may also know about those people. This period of early testing for market validation can get thrown way off if you try to serve the wrong people. These periods are terrifying, and also, these are exactly when you need the spark and resolve of your original purpose to keep you centered and guide you through uncharted waters.

Finally, the 3rd lesson: Let ’em see you cry. I know, they say not to. But, admitting you don’t know anything is critical to opening doors for help, advise and team support. Giving yourself the time to seek that help in whatever form needed is also critical. Networking, dinners, regular calls with extended supporters can unlock tremendous personal and business value, so make it a priority it deserves.”

Lynn Perkins, CEO & co-founder of UrbanSitter

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

And for your background, here’s more info on UrbanSitter:

UrbanSitter leverages members’ social graphs (Facebook and LinkedIn) to surface babysitters to whom they have a real-world connection through people they trust, and then offers profile info with valuable marketplace data about each sitter’s performance (reviews from parents who’ve booked her/him, number of repeat families, how quickly they respond to booking requests, special skills, etc…). UrbanSitter also facilitates the booking in real-time (ala OpenTable) and the payment (ala Uber).

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room, it’s not going away on its own. Address the tough, unspoken issues head on and be as transparent as you can with your leadership team and company. Whether it’s poor performance, a product glitch, a new competitor or the loss of a key employee, don’t brush the issue aside or stay silent about it. Your colleagues and team will appreciate your candor and collaborative approach to resolving situations.

Give yourself an outlet to relax and blow off steam. This may sound obvious, but it’s often hard to step away from the business to make time for yourself. Sleep, exercise, time with friends — whatever it is that helps you relax, make time for it. Often, the best business ideas happen when you step away from the computer and get a different perspective.

Select great investors. Having experienced investors who are also smart, good people will add immeasurable value to your business. Not only will they help your company’s acceleration, they will help you grow as a leader through candid feedback and strategic thought partnership.

Alana Frome, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, HiMama Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

HiMama connects hundreds of thousands of families to their children while at preschool. Recently they celebrated more than 150 million moments shared on the platform, with photos shared at a rate of 3 per second, in more than 50 countries, which is the perfect fit for Frome, who is an engineer at heart and passionate about education.

But her path to this work wasn’t a straight one… After trying her hand at tech consulting, teaching English to youth in France, managing the U.S Consulate compound in South Sudan, and working on various tech startups in New York City, Frome finally joined forces with Ron Spreeuwenberg to start HiMama in 2013.

When not working on HiMama, she’s leading volunteer teams for girls in STEM organizations (such as Rails Girls) and lights up at any opportunity to volunteer teach software development classes. It’s worth noting Frome’s proven success record of inspiring more women to learn to code; her most recent course completed with 70% women-identified enrollment. She’s been pushing the limits of software development status quo long before it was trendy to do so.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

It’s too easy to follow the loudest or most upset person, but often they represent only a tiny subset of the user community. Instead, we need to consider which development projects are the most likely to effect the largest number of current and prospective users — and focus on energy there above all else.

Let your work speak for itself. The issue of being a woman in tech is one I’m often asked about, and one that continues to be an important and confusing topic. It’s true that I’ve been largely surrounded by men in my work for the past 15 years. I have grappled with the best ways to even this slant, but in the end I always come back to my greatest asset for myself and for other woman in tech is to let the work speak for itself. I work hard and I don’t make false promises. We can be our own best advocates by doing this.

And of course, it helps to surround yourself with others who are supportive of your work and plight. I’ve been very fortunate to have extremely positive and inspiring working relationships with men from the very beginning of my education and career, and that continues today.

Make impact a priority. Your company’s impact (both good and bad) cannot be overlooked. There are lots of examples of high-growth technology companies aggressively seeking “unicorn” status, the term used for a startup with a billion-dollar valuation. The race to become a unicorn has created is a heated one, where winning comes at the expense of human-centred leadership and societal good. The result can be that true disruption and social justice become secondary to the goal of growth.

The intent with HiMama is to help childcare professionals engage with parents of children aged zero to five, and ultimately our goal is to improve learning outcomes for children, who in turn will be better equipped to become contributing citizens. We are a social purpose business. Our impact is considered in tandem with our revenue goals.”

MaryEllen, Co-Founder, Yarlap by Relevium Labs, Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

• Product Awareness; including; On-Line Web Site & Social Media Strategies (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, YouTube), television commercial production, media buys/placement, media interviews (e.g., NBC, Reason Magazine, National and International Podcasts) & Establishing Peer Review Clinical Product Studies.

• Product Fulfillment & Inventory Management; including contract negotiations (foreign and domestic), order forecasting, procurement, inventory control, package design, shipping.

• Product Compliance; including FDA 510(k), Trademark, Patent and PDAC Submissions.

Ms Reider has two Bachelor of Arts degrees from Miami University of Ohio; East Asian Languages and Cultures (Japanese Concentration) and International Studies.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1.Research is important — especially with a medical product. The Yarlap was originally cleared by the FDA to treat female urinary incontinence by toning and re-educating the muscles of a woman’s pelvic floor. Research demonstrated the muscle control gained in the use of our device can improves sexual performance and sexual expression/experience. Follow regulatory guidance. It is both wise and invaluable because regulators are following research in your area too

2. Explain the value of the research: people want to know. Everyone needs a little bit of encouragement to feel good about the variety of ways they experience sexual fulfillment. A great way to help a woman find fulfillment in their sexual experience is to give them the muscle control that gives them the confidence and ability to express and enjoy themselves to the fullest. Women may intuitively understand the value of muscle control in their pelvic floor, but they appreciate an explanation of the science behind it — it’s pretty cool what the female body can do! According to peer review literature, it is most appropriate to define sexual wellness as performance and expression. Performance is goal oriented. Expression is experience/pleasure oriented.

3. Contribute to the research in your field. Yarlap is actively engaged in research — a research study on sexual performance is now underway. It is very exciting. In addition, the Yarlap team contributes to peer review literature on the importance of the muscles of the pelvic floor and response.”

Rachel S. Kaplan, CEO/Founder, byASSOCIATION

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

In late 2013, Rachel joined VC-backed Chloe + Isabel, a direct-sales brand empowering millennial women to launch their own businesses in a supported environment. When asked to do a full analysis of the acquisition and retention funnel, she completed it within her first two weeks on the job. Tasked with implementing her recommendations to scale Chloe + Isabel’s sales network, Rachel spent the next year managing three departments, nearly doubling the company’s acquisition rate while cutting acquisition costs almost in half.

Based on her experience, Rachel saw an opportunity to improve the hiring process for high-growth startups. Realizing that job boards and head hunters/recruiters result in huge expense and wasted effort, Rachel created a math-based approach to understand what roles candidates are qualified for, and to drive efficiency in hiring. She came up with the idea for byASSOCIATION in April 2015, and launched the company three months later.

Today, byASSOCIATION is disrupting the hiring industry, using its skills-based matching algorithm to connect startups in San Francisco and New York with pre-vetted marketers for full-time roles and consulting projects.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Always ask why, and then ask why again

A core value at Tough Mudder was “seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” That resonated with me. People bring significant knowledge and experience to their work, and if you can understand their perspective, you’ll have more productive working relationships.

The simplest way to do that is to ask “why?” And to get at the root, ask “why” again. You may have to ask “why” as many as five times to get there, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

I was largely able to comprehend Chloe + Isabel’s business in only two weeks because I asked several people across the organization how and why things worked the way they did. In doing this, I quickly identified what processes were working, what were no longer relevant, and understood the company’s limitations to inform a framework for change.

2. Don’t be afraid to hear ‘no’

Careers are self-driven, and that translates into a series of negotiations. I never expected my manager or employer to tell me what was next. I think it’s up to us to map out our career trajectory, raise our hand when there’s a skill we want to learn, and speak up when we feel we deserve a raise.

The worst thing that can happen, typically, by asking for something, is getting a “no” in return. And the more comfortable you are with hearing “no”, the more willing you’ll be to put yourself out there to ask for a “yes”.

3. You don’t have to stay in your lane

Technically, I’m a lawyer. I don’t practice law, and I get asked a lot if I regret going to law school. Truthfully, I don’t. Education is a base, it’s your starting point, and it doesn’t have to be confining. The same goes for work experience.

At byASSOCIATION, we’re solving an HR problem. While hiring has been part of my job description many times over, I didn’t earn a degree in the HR field, and that’s OK. By moving outside of your lane, you can learn from other business functions, fields, and industries. And by deepening your understanding of other lanes, you’ll find it easier to work cross-functionally to solve complex business problems.”

Lexi Montgomery, CEO of Darling Miami LLC

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Lexi’s career began as a food blogger, which led to an opportunity to work as an actress in Hollywood with brands like Chevy, Nutri Ninja, National Geographic, DiscoveryID, and McDonald’s. Her background in entertainment has offered unique insight into how brands are built which has motivated her to continue building the business in a very saturated market (

Darling offers web design, branding, and marketing services to senior professionals around the world. The agency is made up of mostly women, and they focus on “”brand seduction,”” or the process of building a fantasy associated with each brand — something uncommon in the bland, monotonous, digital marketing world. But Darling is known for bucking the trend of the traditional digital agency experience.

Early on, Lexi attended an event with a client where upon being introduced, she was told she should become an escort because “”they make good money.””

As a minority woman in tech — Lexi is very familiar with the feeling of being an “”elephant in the room.”” Rather than internalize this insult, she used it as fuel. She used the seductive lure of working with attractive women, and her loving, feminine touch to nurture clients rather than hard sell them on her services.

Without startup capital, a strong personal network, or mentors, Lexi built the company from the ground up. She immediately began blogging across multiple platforms, built a small following on Facebook, then Instagram, and eventually Linked In. She consistently breaks limits because she feels it is her responsibility.

Since embarking on her entrepreneurial journey, Lexi has overcome many setbacks including a Category 5 hurricane, the death of 3 close relatives, short-term homelessness, financial instability (being unable to pay her rent), and more recently, her father’s death.

In addition to her professional endeavors, Lexi actively engages in a variety of philanthropic initiatives. She currently moderates the Divine Feminine Alchemy community on Facebook and is passionate about consumer psychology, and the art of seduction.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1) Never undervalue your services

“”Before Darling was what it is today, I went through several phases of charging very cheap prices thinking the sale would become easier to close. I’ve found that even free things have to be sold. In the beginning, I sold web design packages for $59/mo. The clients were very similar to our current, higher-end clients. Similar needs, desires, hiccups, etc… just a lot more work. If anything, cheaper clients need more and are more likely to jump ship. It’s emotionally draining. It’s almost like cheaper clients don’t trust the value of your services because they’re underpriced.

2) Anticipate everything

It’s important to anticipate the needs of your clients, and then over-deliver on every promise you make. Clients will feel like they owe you instead of feeling entitled to your time and attention. They’ll leave amazing reviews and bring multiple referrals down the road.

To overcome this, I wake up every day knowing that the actions I take will have incredible effects on my future — for better or worse. Business doesn’t really get easier, responsibilities only seem to increase, you just grow tougher over time. I think “”grit”” is the only necessity to be successful in business.

3) Learn quickly from mistakes.

Legitimately good opportunities are few and far between. In life, you only have to make a few major mistakes, or a few good decisions to have a major impact on the trajectory of your life and the lives of those around you.

I remedied a lot of the confusion I experienced as a new business owner by “over-delivering.” I increased my prices, started saying “”no”” to things, and really began to feel like the person I desired to be. My father’s death was incredibly helpful with this because people expected me to be distracted, depressed, and fall behind financially.

The beautiful thing about being a woman is that we have a built-in emotional regulator. We can laugh, cry, or get pissed by just thinking too much. I began choosing my thoughts more consciously and transmuted the sad, negative energy that follows a close death. In this, I became more artistic, more passionate, and more driven. I’ve learned to look at life events & opportunities with equanimity. Who knows what is good or bad? Everything has a lesson than can be beneficial if you choose to see it that way.”

Rebecca Liebman, Co-founder and CEO, LearnLux

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. What you worry about isn’t what happens and what happens isn’t what you worried about: Think about what you worry about on a daily basis — those are things you can prepare for. In business and life, it’s often the things we weren’t thinking about that catch us off guard. People always ask, what one huge challenge we’ve had, but there isn’t one huge challenge in startups, it’s a million little deterrents that happen every day and set you back just a little bit — many times those little things you can’t prepare for.

3. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life: When I started this company, everyone told me I should have more time, more money, and more experience. I was in school so I didn’t have a lot of time, I was in student debt from going to a university, and I didn’t have decades working in the industry, but I had never been more compelled to do something in my life. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to everyone else because you can make those same excuses every year — you can always have more time, more money, and more experience, but there is power in starting before you’re ready.

Joanna Kulesa, CEO and Founder, Offleash

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

At Offleash, we offer PR, social & content services. We help clients lead the market, set the industry agenda and increase brand recognition through smart, aggressively executed communications programs. We’ve increased brand awareness for more than 150 B2B technology clients, playing a critical role in over 40 initial public offerings (IPOs) and acquisitions ranging from tens of millions to billions of dollars by the biggest names in tech — including IBM, Google, Salesforce, Dell, EMC, Cisco, HP, Splunk, CA, Red Hat and Oracle, to name a few.

Outside of client services, I’m a passionate dreamer who cares deeply about the environment, our community and employee welfare. I believe that happy, fulfilled employees produce better work and create an inviting, thriving environment. I pride myself on building ownership in at every level of the agency and promoting a high-quality work environment. As a result, Offleash has one of the highest retention rates in the PR industry — a rare feat in a field known for regular turnover. We’ve been honored with several “Best Place to Work” awards from Fortune, the San Francisco Business Times and the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and I have a 100 percent CEO approval on Glassdoor.

I strive to embody Offleash’s three core values (Integrity First, Be Bold and All In) every day and am also passionate about giving back. But my passion for improving human welfare and human rights around the world extends beyond philanthropy. I’ve spoken against sexism in Silicon Valley and publicly announced Offleash’s stance of support behind the 127 companies who filed a legal brief opposing President Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I don’t plan to stop in 2018!”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. As a business owner, remember your values and the drive that inspired you to start your own business. The confidence it takes to make that leap to starting your own business is the root of your value system. Business opportunities will come and go, but you’ll always have your values and self respect if you stay true to yourself. If the situation calls for it, you have to be willing to walk away from business opportunities to protect yourself and your business.

3. When something difficult happens, get through it, move on, and let it go. Don’t relive every mistake. Even if you have a really strong drive and passion for your business, you’re still going to be faced with some really scary, dark times. When you start out, you don’t know that you can navigate through those times — because you’ve never done it before. But when you go through it, and make it out alive, you realize that you’re stronger than you think. It sets you up for success, because you’ll know you can navigate through anything — even difficult times that may require you to make some tough decisions. You’re going to hit unbelievable, unpredictable obstacles, so to get through it, just trust your drive and your passion, and be true to yourself. Onward!

Candice Simons, Owner and President, Brooklyn Outdoor

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Despite being a female-owned business taking on a male-dominated industry, Brooklyn Outdoor has subsequently emerged as a regional and national force. Brooklyn Outdoor is the only national, certified women-owned business with full national coverage.

With offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit, Brooklyn Outdoor’s core business is outdoor signage and displays, including billboards, hand-painted murals, wallscapes, digital billboards, branded buses and taxis, bus shelters, street furniture, in-window displays, and more. Brooklyn’s four divisions include Outdoor, Hand-Painted, Experiential Marketing, and our newest division — Events. Brooklyn Events facilitates unique Detroit experiences and brings together diverse Detroit populations at her beautiful, industrial-chic event space in Eastern Market: The Brooklyn Outdoor Loft.

Simons’ passion for the unique culture, communities and opportunities in and around Detroit inspired her to create J’adore Detroit, a lifestyle blog centered around arts, entertainment, fashion, culture, etc. so you can keep a pulse on the city happenings. J’adore Detroit celebrates, publicizes, and forges connections between Detroit area residents and some of the city’s most innovative and inspiring creators: from non-profits and musicians, to artists and artisans, to chefs and creative new companies. Stemming from this passion for creating in the city, Simons is a partner at the newly opened Alley Taco, a California-style fast-casual Mexican Restaurant, in Midtown Detroit.

Simons has been recognized for her work time and time again by Crain’s Detroit Business “40 under 40”, DBusiness “30 in their thirties”, Detroit Young Professionals Vanguard Award, Summit International Marketing and Creative Awards, Michigan Economic Bright Spot Award, 2017 Corp Magazine’s Diversity Business Leader, 2017 Enterprising Women of the year, and Entrepreneur 360 top entrepreneurial companies in the US in 2017.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Stepping outside is what I do best NOW. Being a female in a male-dominated industry, the odds were stacked against me from the beginning. Being a small fish in a sea of giants is no different now, but the way I handle it is completely different. I embrace the “weird” and see the challenges as hurdles that I just need to jump over. At a young age, I learned to embrace my outspoken personality and stand out style. Being unique sets you apart from the status quo and leaves a lasting impression on those that cross your path.

2. Trust your instincts

Listen to your instincts, they are super tuned to sense a potential threat. If something doesn’t feel, right steer clear. If your gut is telling you to take a leap of faith, do it! Being an entrepreneur puts you in the driver’s seat of your business, trusting your instincts to helps to navigate the inevitable twists and turns. I did not take the road commonly traveled by starting an outdoor advertising company, but here I am and hear me roar is the new normal for me. Take a risk and step outside your comfort zone.

3. Integrity is king

Integrity is the foundation to success. Make mistakes and own up to them, communicate powerfully, and act with positive intentions and a sense of what is right . Acting with integrity keeps your karma clear and relationships moving forward with positive trajectory and upward mobility. Remaining strong to your morals and ethical boundaries is key to building a foundation for your brand and maintaining that sense of integrity with every decision made. Integrity is undeniably king in my life and my various companies core values.”

Sheila Elias, Artist, Elias Art Studio

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

The painting that was chosen was “Two French Girls” (60-by-99-inch canvas). The painting was included in an exhibit of art and memorabilia depicting Lady Liberty at The Louvre. My work had been shown in galleries across the country, Japan, Korea, Kenya and Spain, but that was the first French exhibit of my art.

Returning from Paris, I created an homage to the street people where my studio used to be on skid row in LA. “Homage to the street people” was an 84 foot line across San Pedro street from the top of one building to another with 6’x5’ foot shopping bags on the line. Painted on the front of these bags were X’s. They were my symbol for the Pompidou Museum in Paris. I left one black X with no glitter. I did not include color into the artwork, because there’s no color in the streets. It’s (color) too threatening. . I received recognition for blending social consciousness with the aesthetic of art.

Although I am primarily known for my multimedia paintings, installations and sculptures, I recently decided to venture into the realm of technology, by creating a new vision on my iPad. Becoming a name in the Apple community has only strengthened my conviction to continue exploring in this new medium. I was invited to go to the Apple store in Lincoln Center to have an event showing how I paint on my iPad. Roni Feinstein of the Mayson Gallery in New York saw this and asked me to have a one-person exhibition. Both of these shows garnered the attention of Rhona Hoffman Gallery Chicago, and invited me to exhibit with her at Hong Kong Art Basel. While I was in Hong Kong, I also showed my iPad pieces at the IFC Apple Store in Hong Kong. I have also shown in several Apple Stores across the country.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

As an artist I learned that you have go with your creative thoughts and not have any limits. Especially being a woman- some people attempt to put limitations on female artists but I never accepted those constraints. I have not allowed them, and I also have not had hesitations. My mother always said to me “just go for it” and I have always done exactly that; if you stop to question something too many times you may not end up doing it at all. I do not fear trying new things.

I like to portray a perception of urban tension, raw emotions and harsh realities tempered with gentle optimism and beauty, countering an American dream that has gone a bit astray and bringing an awareness of new directions and individual inventiveness.

My work is about the layers of life and art history, seeking in it a connection between art aesthetics and social consciousness.

I have been painting on my iPad since 2010. The iPad differs from traditional media with its immediate, experimental effects. I believe it also stretches one’s mental capacity because the apps have limitations, and one has to work within those perimeters. It is a new medium, which is refreshing for a seasoned artist. I enlarged abstract shapes to take on mysterious, unnatural forms. I painted them without physical tools, by using my finger. During multiple processes, the files were enlarged and printed on canvas. The canvas prints embody modernity, and contrast their archetypal and primal replications.

Technology is an element that is slowly infiltrating all aspects of our lives. The evolution of technology has always paralleled my work throughout its development. From the original copy machine to today’s iPad, the influence of electronics permeates my artistic process. I have taken advantage of the convenience that technology provides.

Alina Morse, Founder/CEO, Zollicandy: The All-Natural Candy that cleans your teeth

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

So far I have had quite a bit of success. Our product is on the shelves in retailers nationwide, such as Kroger, Whole Foods, and is the #1 sugar-free, tooth-friendly lollipop on Amazon. We also are available at many independent Pharmacy and Retailers. And in February 2018 we will be in Fortune #1, Walmart, nationally alongside kids tooth brushes, and I am the youngest vendor to Walmart and Kroger.

I’ve been blessed that media has shared Zolli’s 250,000 Initiative, whose mission to defeat children’s tooth decay. I’ve appeared on Good Morning America Shark Tank Kids, the Steve Harvey show, PBS Biz Kid$ and news coverage on ABC, NBC, NPR, WGN and CBS. Germany and France Television have both done documentaries on me and my business. I’ve given more than 100 interviews for radio, magazine and digital publications. Most notably for International Women’s Day, Forbes, Yahoo Finance. I was invited to the White House for Michele Obama’s “Give me Five” initiative and the National Easter Egg Roll twice and have also received some very prestigious accolades — Claire’s Girls of the Month; the List TV listed me #3 of top Kidpreneurs, West Bloomfield School District ‘Star Student of the Year’ Award; Village of Wolverine Lake ‘Very Important Person’ Citizenship Award; and was counted among “Kidpreneurs Making Serious Money” and a “Gen Z Influencer”.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1. Just because you have a good idea, it doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy it. Keep asking questions and put yourself and your product out there for feedback. Research. Research. Research. Creating anything great is a lot of hard work, and something that you have to work on everyday — morning, noon, and night. It also requires being flexible, tweaking things as you go along to make it just right, adjusting things to make the produce better or the process more efficient. Never stop asking questions.

2. Business is a team sport! There is no letter “I” in the word team, and everyday along this journey I have continue to learn how important it is to not only have a team, but to have the right people on your team. I have learned how important it is to be able to depend on members of the team to be experts in their area and also for each member of the team to be able to have input on company decisions so that they feel invested/empowered.

3. There are going to be good days, and there are going to be bad days. The good days have outweighed the bad ones so far, like when a buyer or chain decides to bring in our Zollipops, but there are times when it feels like we take two steps forward and one step back. But hey, progress is progress! Lastly, I have recently learned that not everyone wants you to succeed…that is a tough one to swallow, but it goes a little softer once I take a lick of a sweet Zollipops or chew a Zaffi Taffy. Like the song from Mary Poppins says “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine down”, or in our case, a Zollipops can make life sweet again.”

Jennifer Clary, Co-Founder, The Baby Box Co.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Take Time to Align. As your company grows, a number of different revenue generating possibilities will likely present. It takes discipline from yourself and your team to choose one or two core goals at a time rather than going after multiple opportunities simultaneously. I learned to exercise this discipline the hard way and would urge upcoming founders to make this a priority early on. Get your team aligned on the corporate mission and then clearly set one or two goals per quarter so everyone is primed for success.

Take Care of Yourself and Don’t Give Up. Start-ups can be messy and, as your business grows, you will have many days where it feels as though the operation takes two steps back for every step forward. As a founder, self-care and confidence can quickly fall by the wayside; don’t lose sight of either. You can’t inspire your team to achieve if you’re burnt out and nothing kills tenacity faster than exhaustion and chronic isolation. This past year I took up Insanity and running to offset my more sedentary working hours and I made a greater effort to spend time with friends outside of the work environment. I feel re-energized and have never been more confident in The Baby Box Co. mission, team and execution strategy.”

Tara Akhavan, Co-founder & CTO, IRYStec Software Inc.

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

1- My biggest lesson learned is what my first mentor called “the rule of manipulation”. In his world, manipulation is defined as it is in the Webster dictionary — “to manage or utilize skillfully”. It took me few years to understand what it truly means; understanding and managing expectations, drivers, motivations, and dynamics. Any stakeholder whether it be employees, executives, board members, investors or customers all have different motivating forces and to be able to handle these resources effectively one must recognize each parties points of view. It is a crucial task for anyone who wants to keep growing to be able to understand the dynamics of his or her environment.

2- My second most important lesson learned is regarding early stage customer engagements. The last three years of working with billion-dollar companies has taught me that there is no linear relationship between the time and energy spent on a customer and closing a deal with them. Sometimes finding the right person, requirements, and product fit plays a much more important role than hastily working on delivering a product to the wrong customer. The same applies to investor engagements.

3- And eventually the third important lesson I learned at IRYStec is to invest in relationships early on. In any company there will always be unexpected dramas, challenges and pivots. People will always be the most important assets of a company and this is especially true for start-ups. I learned to invest in my relationship with my superiors, peers and employees when everything is great and working well so that we can all be united in hard times.

Tanya Bakalov, CEO, HelloTeam

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Tanya co¬-founded SevOne in 2005, and through a variety of leadership roles including SVP of Operations and Chief of Staff, she fostered company growth to over 500 employees world¬wide, over $80M in revenue, global office expansion, and consistent double¬ digit revenue growth. Tanya provided guidance to SevOne through three rounds of financing, expansion to global research bases in locations such as Bulgaria, and two key target acquisitions.

In 2016, Tanya returned to her entrepreneurial roots, becoming the Founder and CEO of HelloTeam Inc. — a company offering a modern engagement and talent management platform designed to increase employee engagement, impact retention and create data-driven people strategies backed by real-time instant insights and analytics. HelloTeam’s platform enables employees to be seen, heard and valued, leading to a more engaged, connected and inspired workforce.

Tanya was named a prestigious E&Y 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner, Silver Stevie Award winner for 2016 Female Entrepreneur of the Year, Silver Stevie Award winner for 2014 Female Executive of the Year, and UDE 2016 Alumni Excellence Award winner.

Previously, Tanya worked as a consultant at Deloitte and Touche in the IT risk management and assurance division, consulting with many fortune 500 and blue chip companies in the technology, insurance and manufacturing sectors. She is a certified public accountant and holds and Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Management Information Systems from the University of Delaware, where she graduated Magna Cum Lade.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Learn quickly and often: There is no shame in admitting you are not an expert in everything you need to make your company successful. Smart, determined leaders figure things out, learn what needs to be done and move forward. If I need to secure 10 customers to demonstrate validity of my new product to investors, I am going to learn everything I can about sales and find myself 10 qualified customers.

3. Trust your team: Every successful leader is backed by a team. The most successful leaders know how to trust in those they surround themselves with and let those people do what they’re good at. You must trust the people who share your vision and allow them the freedom to make and execute decisions that support that vision. Whether at SevOne or now HelloTeam, I empower my team to take ownership in their areas of expertise and that has always served me well.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO,

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

In 2008, I was managing the MyCorporation division at Intuit as their GM where I had been since 2004. The country was in the midst of a serious financial crisis and it was affecting our company. It was during this economic slowdown that I began discussing with my husband the possibility of offering to buy out MyCorporation from Intuit. We met with our bankers, I proposed the idea semi-informally to my boss, and I put together a presentation on how MyCorporation could thrive outside of Intuit. I met formally with Intuit leadership afterwards where I made my offer to purchase the business out if they were interested in selling or divesting to me.

Six months later, the leadership came to me to suggest that I present the options for divestiture — close the division, sell to another company, or sell to me. While I knew it was important to be as objective as possible, I knew that I wanted to buy this business more than anything else. I believed in the business, the customers, and employees and wanted nothing more than to receive the opportunity to grow and manage this private entity.

About a month after I presented the leadership with more documentation on how I could make all of this happen in 2009, I received the greatest phone call of my life. Intuit offered to sell MyCorporation to me and make me the sole owner.

Eight years have passed since that phone call and so much has changed, both at MyCorporation and in my own life. We continue to grow as a privately held company and I believe it is due, in large part, to my focus on respect for others, kindness and freedom to let employees “do their thing.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Through it all, I have been sincere when working alongside everyone I encounter, from customers to team members. I listen, engage, and communicate in an honest and trustworthy fashion. I learned at Intuit that if you focus on the customers, shareholders, and employees, things will be right. It’s a bit of corporate wisdom that has never failed me or my business.

Raegan Moya-Jones, co-founder, aden + anais

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Under Raegan’s vision, aden + anais has put forth an assortment of Aussie-influenced baby and children’s products that provide safe, practical luxury for sleeping, teething, bathing, feeding, changing, soothing and beyond. In 2010, she wrote and self-published the book, swaddle love, which explores the history, science and techniques of swaddling. In 2011, the brand further expanded with the launch of a skin care collection. Formulated with a world renowned NYC dermatologist, the aden + anais skin care range is infused with fresh pawpaw fruit–an ingredient widely coveted in Australian skin care for it’s healing and soothing properties. And the innovations continue–Raegan has also pioneered inventive products like the serenity star®, an electronic feeding and sleep system that unites five nursery essentials in one streamlined design. Most recently, aden + anais partnered with The Woolmark Company, creating a collection that is the first of its kind — pure Merino wool muslin. This luxuriously soft collection brings the legacy of muslin and the many benefits of Merino wool to the forefront of modern baby care.

Raegan was recently named as one of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurs of the Year, considered one of the most prestigious business awards in the world. aden + anais was named to SmartCEO’s 2015 Future 50 list, recognizing the nation’s fastest growing companies as well as by Crain’s New York Business in this year’s Fast 50 list at number 30. The Fast 50 feature highlights New York’s most successful and innovative companies for their growth, strategies and success. aden + anais was recognized for a 338% growth rate and a reported revenue of $41.7 million for 2013. The company has garnered numerous awards under the company’s belt, including “Most Innovative Product,” “Creative Child Seal of Excellence,” ”Best Gift Brand” and much more.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“The three biggest lessons I’ve learned on my 12-year journey building aden + anais from my dining room table to a 100M global brand are:

People are EVERYTHING. You can have the greatest products, strategy, processes and distribution, but if you don’t have the right people in every chair, people who care as much as you do about the business and the mission, it will all be for naught. I have seen this business flourish with the right people and be brought to its knees by the wrong people. Above and beyond all else, people are what matter most.

You can’t fake it. The key to a successful business and brand is authenticity. If you don’t stay true to the core of what you started it all for, you will come off the rails. You need to be motivated by purpose, not money, to be successful. When you start making decisions for the sole purpose of making money, you lose the essence of who you are, and your business starts to waver. It requires a lot of strength and, dare I say, balls to stay true to this as you begin to scale, but I believe that it is because authenticity is at the heart of everything we do that our brand is still meaningful and growing 12 years in.

You need to be decisive. If you talk to the team of people that I have worked most closely with over the years, they will tell you that one of the things they like most about working with me is that I will always make a clear and decisive decision. I am convinced that this ability is essential to being an effective leader. I may not always make the right decision, but I believe that making one and getting it wrong is still the right way to go about building and scaling a business. I have never been concerned about failure, as I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Once you let go of that fear, making a decision is easy.

Liz Wessel, CEO & Co-Founder, WayUp

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Liz has been featured as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and has been named one of the “18 Coolest Women in Silicon Valley” by Business Insider. Before founding WayUp, Liz worked at Google as a Product Marketing Manager in California and then moved to India where she led all branding initiatives for one year.

Liz has been a featured speaker at TedX, Advertising Week, TechCrunch Disrupt, SXSW, and several other notable events.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Three lessons that stick out to though are:

1. No one actually knows what they’re doing (except doctors…I hope!)

As a founder, you can’t worry about the fact that you’ve never raised capital or managed a large team before. All you can do is take your best guesses, try new things, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and don’t make the same mistake twice!

2. Do things that don’t scale (a la Paul Graham).

When we first started WayUp, I managed all of our user support for more than a year — in addition to doing everything from HR to finance to product and more. While this wasn’t “scalable,” it gave me the opportunity to engage with thousands of students directly and helped me understand the kinds of tools and features we needed to build into WayUp’s product.

3. Hiring is the most important thing you’ll do as a CEO.

I’m not kidding when I say that our competitive advantage as a business is our employees. I’m not only saying this because I’m the CEO of a career site — hiring the right people is so incredibly important. Make sure you hire ambitious, hardworking people who care deeply about your mission and who are ready to get their hands dirty. Having the right team is crucial for building a successful organization, and maintaining your company culture.

Tammy Whitworth, Chairman and CEO, Window World

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

After attending Meredith College and earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and Political Science, Tammy began her career in the renovation and remodeling industry at a wholesale building products company. She and her husband Todd purchased their first Window World store in Wilmington, NC from Leon Whitworth, Todd’s father, and opened their second store with friends in Winston-Salem, NC.

In 2007, Tammy and Todd purchased Window World, Inc., the corporate office of Window World, from Leon Whitworth. While they were committed to implementing the change necessary to see the company into its next era, they remained steadfast in their resolve to keep the core of Window World, its family approach, constant.

Tammy and Todd started Window World Cares®, the charitable arm of Window World, in 2008. Their eldest child, Anna Grace, was premature and spent the first days of her life in a hospital. Having experienced the strain of worrying about their child’s health, Tammy and Todd decided to partner with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. Named for the patron saint of lost causes, St. Jude takes on the toughest cases of childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, and does so without regard for a family’s ability to pay.

Overcoming personal tragedy, Tammy became CEO of Window World after the passing of her husband, Todd, in 2010. Since then, she has led the company in its pursuit to establish world-class training for franchisees, through profound changes in product, installation, and standards regulations, established a Board of Directors and most recently, an Advisory Council of Franchisees. Her vision for Window World remains to position store owners with the best possible tools to be successful, providing opportunity for hard-working families across the nation.

Still proud to call North Wilkesboro home, Tammy serves on the board of Wilkes Community College and supports local initiatives year-round. As a mother of three children, an avid horse enthusiast, and full-time executive, she uses her experience, in both life and business, to guide other aspiring working professionals as they pursue their own dreams.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Ever since my late husband Todd and I purchased Window World from his father in 2007, I’ve known I wanted this company to grow. But I’ve learned that while it’s great to think big, it’s equally as important to think about all the aspects that make up a company. Without our franchise owners, Window World certainly wouldn’t be able call itself the largest replacement window and home remodeling company in the country.

I took on the role of CEO of Window World in 2010 after my husband’s passing. I wanted to lead this large company successfully into the future while keeping it in touch with its roots, so I decided to adopt the franchise system. We have about 200 locally owned stores across America, and the owners know what works in their communities and what doesn’t. Each store is unique, and local ownership allows Window World to stand out and remain in touch with its customers.

Give back to the community:

To really appreciate Window World’s success, I’ve learned it’s important to share that success with others. I started Window World Cares®, the charitable arm of Window World, in 2008 after the premature birth of my first child, Anna Grace. Gaining firsthand experience of the strain of worrying about a child’s health inspired me and Todd to partner with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®. Over the past decade, Window World donated $8 million to St. Jude.

Family comes first:

My family is at the core of everything I do, and the idea of family is the most important aspect of Window World. It was with the support of my family and this company that I’ve been able to deal with personal hardships, including my battle with breast cancer and the passing of my husband.

This is a family-owned company, and many of our franchise owners are husband and wife teams. Others are parents working with their children, passing the store on from one generation to another. I’m also a mother first and a CEO second. I’ve learned that if you keep your priorities straight and know family comes first, you can incorporate that into your career and find plenty of success. Not only am I a leader of this company, I’m the leader of my family and hopefully seen as a positive role model for my three children.

Anna Brockway, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Chairish

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“Not Ready But Going in Anyway” Many women I meet have dreams of starting a business but are waiting for their life to calm down, to do more extensive research, to finalize the perfect logo or blah blah blah. The perfect set of circumstances are never going to arrive. If you wait for the stars to align in order to begin, you never will. Just get started.

“No one knows”. Most of what is happening in the technology space is new and changing monthly. There is no Yoda. Women in particular seem to be nervous when they don’t know the answer. Trust me: no one does. Do your homework, ask for advice and then trust your judgement.

“Manners Matter.” Thank yous and a good old-fashioned good personality matter. People want to help out nice folks and for good gals and guys to win.

Kaarina Kvaavik and Heather Morgan Shoemaker, Co-founders, Language I/O

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Heather is a software engineer with a master’s degree from the University of Colorado College of Engineering and an Alaska native. Before software engineering, Heather worked as an interpreter for the US Immigration and Naturalization Services, taught English in Mexico City and spent five years as a newspaper reporter.

Kaarina Kvaavik was born into a tri-lingual household. She spent her impressionable years learning English, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, German and Russian. After moving from Sweden to the US in the early 90s, Kaarina broke into localization and worked for some of the industry’s largest translation vendors.

Heather and Kaarina met at a Boulder, Colo. software startup in 2004. Heather’s quiet, analytical personality complimented Kaarina’s outgoing one. They worked together for a few years and then joined other ventures, but stayed in touch.

In 2010, Heather left a lucrative corporate job and started a software development firm. At the time, Kaarina co-owned a translation services company. One of its clients was going global at a breakneck speed and asked if Kaarina’s company could automate the translation process for self-help content that was “stuck” inside a CRM. Without help, the client would need to hire half of a full-time person per language to manage process (not including translation) and would still miss its time-to-market goal.

Kaarina called Heather and said, “Can you develop an automated solution for this client?”

Heather knew she could automate the process, but instead of solving a problem for one client, she suggested building a product that many companies could use. And so, Language I/O was born. When Language I/O launched, it had a product, a partnership with RightNow Technologies, which was acquired by Oracle and its first customer.

Heather and Kaarina relied on nest eggs developed from other business successes to fund Language I/O, a good decision since they eventually decided to forgo funding. Today, they have large clients such as LinkedIn, iRobot and Shutterstock; have more than tripled their employee base and more than doubled revenue year-over-year.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Although Kaarina lives in Boston and we could have incorporated there or in an area known for producing top tech talent, we chose to incorporate in a state very few people associate with technology — Wyoming. As such, we stand out. We’ve been recognized in ways we never would have if we had buried ourselves in Boston or Silicon Valley. We’ve been ranked the fastest growing company in the state, the first time this designation has ever been handed to a women-owned company and we are frequently featured by the media for our growth and development.

3. This ain’t our first rodeo and we mean that in the kindest of ways. The fact that we are experienced — we’ve run companies before — that we’ve been around the software development and localization industries for years and we are not fresh out of school works to our advantage. Our partners and clients want to know they’re working with experts in their field. They want to know that because of the many years we’ve spent in localization and technology, we know what innovations and improvements must be made to products to make our customers’ lives easier. We know that we can’t be everything to everyone and we know the value of a true partnership. We know the benefit of running a company as two partners who complement each other and understand the importance of working and playing hard.

Pam Ginocchio and Melisa Fluhr, co-founders, Project Nursery

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to say NO. Men navigate the business world without apologies, so why can’t we? Trust your instincts and go after what you want. It’s okay to be a people pleaser but not at the cost of your own business. When it comes negotiations, cut to the chase and say what you want and do it with confidence.

Lesson #3: Work/Life Balance? Yea, unicorns exist too. We get asked time and time again how we “do it all”. We’ve determined that as mothers and women in business, we simply can’t do it all and that’s okay. Find what works best for you, be nimble and keep your larger goals top of mind always. Realize that some weeks you’ll nail it and others you’ll want a do-over. It’s all about progress not perfection!”

Birgit Coles, Founder, Simbi

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Married to a Haitian, Birgit has lived in Haiti for the last 20 years, where she raises her family. She holds a degree in International Business from The George Washington University that she put to good use creating the first online art gallery based in Haiti, Art Media Haiti, with her partner Lori. An American with German heritage, this mother of three has embraced Haiti and its culture, passionately participating in local philanthropic events. She is a dedicated admirer of Haitian art and has helped promote it locally and internationally.

Now as President of SIMBI INC, she runs the company from both Haiti and their sales headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“ “Patience. Patience is needed not only when dealing with people, but in anticipation of outcomes, be it business or otherwise.

Trust your gut. Don’t question it. Usually, it’s steering you toward the right answer or to do the right thing.

It’s OK to say NO. It can be difficult at times, especially in my line of work, but it is necessary. Spreading yourself too thin does not do your cause or business any justice, since you won’t be able to focus on creating real success. My favorite line — “”You’re not pizza, you can’t make everyone happy.”” As soon as you realize this, you waste less time and make fewer mistakes.

Leila Janah, CEO, Samasource and LXMI

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. Resilience is key: Social media makes it so everyone has a highlight reel prepared, without making any of the outtakes visible to the public. Nothing in life that’s worth doing or having will ever come easily. Entrepreneurs are used to hearing “no” a thousand times before they ever hear a “yes.” My success is built on rejection and late nights, but also on my resilience. The ability to be resilient is a greater contributor to your success than brilliance, talent, or raising a lot of money. Struggles and dark times build your character, and show you (and the world) what you’re truly capable of.

3. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable: When you’re leading a team, it’s natural to want to appear impenetrable and stoic, especially during stressful periods. However, strong leaders can’t be afraid to show their softer side. If you share your more vulnerable moments with your team, not only does it take pressure off of you to appear detached and unaffected, it helps your team understand you and feel inspired by you in new ways. This goes for personal relationships, as well. Show the people in your life kindness and compassion, and never prioritize your work life over your relationships.”

Victoria Elena Nones

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

I grew up in a single parent family surviving on Mcdonald’s and Taco Bell. To date, I’ve been a speaker at Yale, Accenture, Caterpillar, 1871, & others. My work has been featured in various press (The Washington Post, ELLE Magazine, NY Magazine, The Samantha Bee Show, American Inno, The Chicago Tribune, Jezebel, NBC, Fox, and more) and I continue to bootstrap 3 companies to success.

At age 27, I started my first business with my meager savings of $1,000, a vision to be my own boss doing something I loved, and by sleeping on friend’s couches. I turned that $1,000 into a 6 figure pet care company within just 2 years — and it’s still thriving and growing 5 years later (

At age 30, I saw a need for gender parity in the comedy industry and started Women In Comedy ( Two years later, with 100% donations, volunteers, and passion- we’ve launched 4 Women In Comedy chapter cities in NY, LA, Chicago, and DC. We even had Maria Bamford donate a performance at our last L.A. event!

At age 32, I’m in the process of a tech startup for comedy that is disrupting traditional comedy education. (

I don’t understand the meaning of “limits”. “Limits” are just temporary roadblocks and there’s always a way around them.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

Relationships Are Everything: If you lack capital, relationships can make up for what you don’t have in the bank. I like to say that “relationships are my currency.” Barter. Every individual has a wealth of knowledge and a network of people who may just be able to help you, and you can repay the favor with your time or talents instead of with cash if necessary.

Ignore the Haters: There are a million people who will seek to sabotage your vision and often it’s because they are projecting their own limitations or anger at the world on you/your company. Get these toxic people who tell you that you will “never” or you “can’t” out of your life. Feel sorry for them that they’ve imposed such limits on their life, and don’t let them cloud yours.

Phoenix Gonzalez, co-founder and president of sales at dotstudioPRO

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

As a female co-founder in entertainment technology, Phoenix knows the importance of giving back to her peers. In 2017 she joined the LA Board of the National Nonprofit “”Step Up Women’s Network””, helping mentor underprivileged teen girls from under-resourced areas getting them career ready and off to college. She also sits on the Advisory Board of “”Take the Leads”” new initiative “”50 Women Can Change the World in Media & Entertainment,” which is a 4-month intensive and intimate women’s leadership training program specifically tailored for women in Media & Entertainment to open the door to deeper understanding and a quickened pace to equality for all. Phoenix is a powerhouse who continues to defy all odds in her career and has been recognized by her peers in multiple industries.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. NO is a doorway to YES! Wise words from my amazing mother! Understanding human behavior and conditioning is a great tool for being successful in business. If you think about it, one of our first words learned is NO. As we learned to crawl and explore our life around us, our parents used that word often to teach us lessons. The word NO is a natural first response in my opinion and knowing that, being okay with it and striving to change that brings forth successful results for us and those around us.

3. Never count yourself out! During my 6 year recovery from my car accident my insurance agency denied me cognitive therapy and would only provide me with physical therapy. Knowing I needed help with the brain trauma, which caused a slight form of dyslexia and short-term memory loss, a friend inspired me to take acting classes to get my memory back. A few years later, I ended up making a career for myself in acting and got the chance to audition for a Jackie Chan movie “”The Tuxedo.” I remember walking into the audition and feeling less than worthy. I was the ONLY black actress at the audition and I knew the scene called for a cocktail dress, which meant my right arm that was completely scared during the accident, might be an issue. It turns out this role changed my life and my perspective. I have never counted myself out after that experience and I am better off for it!

Rita Goldberg, CEO, British Swim School

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

It took many months and challenges, trips to council meetings, and refusals of permitting — but with the help of a great city councilor, she eventually got her permits. For funding, she traipsed from major bank to major bank, all of whom said it was a great concept, but wouldn’t fund the money. At that time, BBC had a show called Enterprise 80. People were asked to submit business plans and Rita applied on a whim, never expecting to hear from them again. Well, she did! And though not eligible for the ultimate prize money, hers had been among the final 50 business proposals in which the reward was a guaranteed business loan (from a bank that had previously turned her down!).

On a snowy March day, her dream came to fruition. The doors opened to 120 children and grew rapidly after that. 10 years later, she immigrated to the USA, and after many trials and tribulations, started British Swim School. The company has grown rapidly, following the launch of their first franchise in 2011. They now have over 100 franchised swim schools, giving more than 14,000 lessons per week across twenty U.S. States, Canada and Turkey.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“1. The number one lesson for me is that you should never think you know everything! Most of us who open businesses are very experienced in our field initially. The biggest mistake that I thankfully did not make, is knowing how much I did not know. Keeping that thirst for knowledge alive is a must!

2. As a woman in business since the 1980s I have always had to fight, somewhat. Many women in business feel, understandably, the need to compete with the men and rise to their level. I learnt that “fighting” need not be done the same way as a man does. I have always tried to retain my femininity and “fight” in my own way. It seems to have stood me in good stead.

3. I learned to follow my gut when making decisions. First feelings are almost always the right ones. They may need honing, but they are usually the best.”

Linda Yates, founder and CEO at Mach49

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Known for inspiring experienced executives to reimagine their organizations for the future, Linda is a well-known advisor to many of the G1000’s C-suites.

A native of the Silicon Valley, with an extensive network, she has served as a bridge between the Silicon Valley and the Global 1000 her entire career.

She launched Mach49 in May of 2014, as the first Silicon Valley incubator/accelerator focused exclusively on helping G1000 companies create, build and launch a pipeline of new ventures generated from within their organizations.

Linda spent a decade as a member of the Board of Directors Sybase Inc. (now SAP) and has been a board member and advisor to many private companies and entrepreneurs.

Before launching Mach49 Linda was CEO of Strategos — a leading international strategy consulting firm she co-founded with business guru Gary Hamel, helping G1000 clients innovate in fundamentally new ways by “Bringing the Silicon Valley Inside.”

Prior to Strategos, she spent six years with the Mac Group/ Gemini where she was Head of the San Francisco office, co-head of the High Tech practice on the West Coast and, later, Europe (based in Amsterdam). She spent two years at Smith Barney in corporate finance and M&A and has extensive global experience having lived/worked in / traveled to over 60 countries.

Linda is a Henry Crown Fellow with the Aspen Institute. She is an environmental and 21st century education activist and co-founded Creekside Learning Lab as a demo site for best practices in 21st century learning.

She holds a BA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a MA in International Relations and Comparative Politics from Stanford University.

She lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Paul Holland, General Partner of Foundation Capital and their three daughters. Together Linda and Paul built Tah.Mah.Lah, widely regarded as the greenest house in America.”

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

“1. Work From the Future Backwards.

• Don’t wait to see trends develop and then follow them; anticipate the next big changes in the business environment and position your company to take advantage of them. Challenge your team to create what’s next, don’t merely iterate on what’s now.

• You must stay current on the art of the possible (trends/technology). Understand emerging trends and new technology regardless of industry, opportunities are found in the white space.

• Learn by doing, not analyzing, embrace failure and apply the learning to future ventures.

• Surveys are statistically significant but strategically irrelevant, to invent the future you need to understand customer pain, to understand customer pain you must talk to customers yourselves — even as the founder or CEO. Otherwise, you are just outsourcing your empathy and visceral understanding of your customer to someone else who is just going to repackage it and sell it to your competitors.

2. Be Bold; Be Direct; Tell the Truth.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for the big order, if you can’t convince your customers to make a big commitment to you, you can’t help them grow exponentially and dramatically increase shareholder value.

• Don’t be a kiss ass, hold up the mirror and tell the truth to your customers (one of the CEOs of a large Global 1000 company told me, “Linda, you are the only one who tells me the truth anymore”).

• Make your board do real work, like interview customers and make strategic introductions from their network.

• Focus on real execution, rather than window dressing, check-the-box exercises, or “kumbaya” interventions. Teach and empower your teams to create, build and launch new, disruptive businesses outside the orthodoxies, antibodies and inertia of the “”Mothership.”” Need help with this? Find a partner that can lead internal entrepreneurs in the right direction with actionable tools, methods and infrastructure.

• Your goal is to mitigate the greatest risk on the least amount of capital. Run real experiments with real metrics that provide the objective truth that you and your new product/venture teams commit to live, or die by. Learning to kill projects is an important life and leadership skill!

3. Work Your Competitors into the Ground.

• Move fast, urgency and action win.

• Build teams where everyone has a superpower that every other team member recognizes and respects. Teams where everyone knows each person’s respective role and gifts are hyper functional, with the sum truly greater than its parts. They can move faster than competitors and take action because they trust each other’s decisions.

• Lead from the front. One of the reasons my teams will outwork competitors and respect each other is that they know that *I* will outwork my competitors and that I trust their superpowers.

• Pass your superpowers to your customers — genuinely care about building their capability to solve customer pain and leave their competitors way behind.

Chris Johnson, founder, Studio88 and Design Tec

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2) Be open to change. Change is inevitable, especially in the interior design business. Knowing how to react and deal with the change has gotten me far in my career. No project I’ve worked on has gone completely according to plan, so accepting change is a great way to approach a new design. My greatest asset is to be a solution driven thinker.

3) Trust your survival instincts. I started as a self-employed artist when I was sixteen years old. Selling artwork on the streets was a great character builder. Solely one that has given me the strength to build inner fortitude.

Janelle Benjamin, Co-Founder & COO, SuperData Research

Who She Is and How She Has Overcome Limitations:

An experienced trend researcher across a variety of consumer industries, Janelle has over a decade of analytical and methodological expertise, backed by her degree in statistics and financial mathematics from NYU’s Stern School of Business. Before founding SuperData she had a number of startups as a serial entrepreneur, she also built financial models for investment banks and worked as an analyst for Buzzmetrics, a social media monitoring research firm, until its acquisition by Nielsen Online in 2007.

As a black woman running a digital gaming research company, Janelle has broken limits by taking on a leadership role in a traditionally male-dominated industry. In just under seven years, she’s taken the reins and made SuperData profitable as the leading game data analytics company. SuperData itself has also broken limits, as its the only research company to provide insight into the current generation of interactive entertainment using transaction and immersive technology data.

With her entrepreneurial spirit and determination to never take “no” for an answer, Janelle is a dynamic leader in the games and data research industries.” “

Janelle’s career as an entrepreneur has seen failure, growth and success. Here’s her top three lessons she’s learned over time.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my experiences:

2. It’s my fault. The second lesson is to forget the clients, the market, even competitors: we own our own failures. The root of our failures is always caused by something going wrong internally. To learn from our failures we need to examine them, so now at SuperData we have post mortems for every sales process and deliverable. We’re constantly thinking about how we can improve our efficiency, customer experience and product. But it’s important to balance this with the understanding that mistakes are how we learn and if you’re working with humans, mistakes are inevitable.

3. Girls can be ambitious too. I’m a woman and a mom and extremely ambitious. They can and do coexist. My son describes it best, “”My mommy builds big things and creates jobs.”

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Thrive Global

More than living. Thriving.