New York – Day 5 Takeaways
Anjali Besley and Iryna Rubis
Iryna (right) is CEO of Ekonomika+, a business and sustainable services content provider in Eastern Europe. She worked with mentor Anjali Besley (left) on ways to keep business sustainable in a highly turbulent environment.“I am a huge supporter of diversity and inclusion. I knew that intersection of experience, culture and generations would result in advanced solutions and ideas. And I got more than simply a helicopter view. GAP filled me with soft and hard skills improvement and with energy to make the best use of them,” said Iryna. “We’ve had a pretty powerful, impactful week,” said Global Ambassador Anjali Besley of Bank of America. “I have an appreciation for Ukraine and how difficult it can be for women to do business there.”
Habiba Ali and Jo Russell
Habiba is CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies, a social enterprise providing solar lamps, home systems and water filters to the people of the rural and peri-urban communities of Northern Nigeria. “I thought I just wanted to work on the business plan,” said Habiba, on her approach to the week with mentor Jo Russell. Together they logged countless hours poring over the financials of Sosai, specifically cash flow and P&L. “The most important thing for me is that Habiba understands where the numbers come from, the story behind them, and using that to move her business forward,” said Jo. Prioritizing was a theme for the week. “Jo helped me realize I need to focus,” said Habiba. “I was able to find out how numbers are a large part of telling the story.”
Stevie Howell and Jessica Abrahams
Stevie is a California-based artist and designer of her eponymous luxury loungewear and home textile company. The collection specializes in sustainably made, handcrafted prints, sold in boutiques across the U.S. “I came in focused on strategy and where I was going to go,” said Stevie. Described as an accidental apparel manufacturer, she was looking for a way to elevate her art and design for the whole home, beyond scarves and loungewear. But it took working with mentor Jessica Abrahams to see the way forward. “We had a Eureka moment,” said Jessica, reacting to a picture of headboard fabric painted by Stevie. “This is her calling.” Stevie agrees. “I like the idea of having more of a balance between apparel and home textiles,” said Stevie. “This will clear time so I can be creative again.”
Maria “Laura” Garcia and Lorie Jackson
“This morning when I woke up, I was so grateful that I closed my eyes and said thank god for this week.” María “Laura” García is president and founder of GlobalNews® Group, a premier source of media monitoring and intelligence in Latin America. She came in to the GAP week at a crossroads, professionally. “Laura has had a great deal of business success and she made it clear she was ready to make a transition,” noted mentor Lorie Jackson. Building the company around a culture of calculated risk-taking and intuition is one thing, but transferring that culture to new leadership is quite another. Together, they set to work on a succession planning strategy targeting human resources and financial management as a first step. After a successful transition, Laura will be free to pursue a new passion: empowering marginalized communities in Argentina to generate income.
Amanda Hearst and Ruba AbdelHadi
Amanda is an activist and co-founder of the hybrid luxury ethical fashion retailer, MAISON-DE-MODE. The concept fuses pop-up brick and mortar experiences alongside a seamless online boutique, specializing in unique ready-to-wear, fine jewelry, accessories and home goods. Working with mentor Ruba AbdelHadi, they decided to make personnel changes, finalized the company’s organizational chart, and established a marketing plan for 2018. “I realized we have to have an organizational chart,” said Amanda. “I didn’t realize how important that was.” Strategic hires, finalizing the 2018 budget and working with her Bank of America Business Banking volunteer coach are short-term goals post-GAP.
Claudia Castellanos Roques and Mine Ozturk
Claudia Castellanos Roques is the founder and managing director of Black Mamba Foods, a fair trade brand based in Swaziland that manufactures and distributes gourmet chili products. Her mentor, Mine Ozturk, built her career in the health and medical corporate world. It was an unexpected – yet perfect – match. “Black Mamba is at a critical point right now,” said Claudia. “We have a great product and brand, but we struggle with cash flow.” An aggressive marketing and sales plan was prescribed, as well as a new management strategy. Delegation will help Claudia spend time on causes close to her heart while shoring up the business. The week also helped Mine see beyond corporate life. “I have more to give, and see the potential for helping more women from around the world.”
Nina Farran and Susan Danziger
“I thought there was a mistake when I first discovered I was matched with a founder working in the b to c retail space, given that my company, Ziggeo, is in the b to b tech space,” said Global Ambassador Susan Danziger, surprised by her match with an up-and-coming luminary of the ethical fashion industry. “But I quickly realized how much value I could add to her business.” With a rebranding effort underway, GAP was perfect timing for mentee Nina Farran, CEO and founder of Fashionkind, an initiative to change the world using luxury fashion as the vehicle. Working with leading ethical and sustainable brands, artisans and designers from around the world, Nina curates collections for its online global platform. Identifying the differentiator that sets Fashionkind apart was a priority. With some reluctance, Nina admitted, “Susan made me realize the ‘special sauce’ is me. I’m so invested in championing other people that I’m not invested enough in myself as the vehicle that will grow this company…but I’m getting there.”
Donna Childs and Judith Batty
Donna founded Prisere LLC to develop capacity for climate and disaster risk resilience, building on her experience as a senior executive in the reinsurance industry. It was named one of the 50 most innovative start-ups by Kauffman Foundation during Global Entrepreneurship Week in its first year, and the week with mentor Judith Batty was an opportunity to take stock of its value proposition, identify systems needed for growth and create a roadmap for business development. “Donna has a lot of ideas,” said Judith. “Say one thing and it sparks new ideas. Focus was our key this week.” Donna will implement plans for systematizing federal contracting and human resources, as a starting point. “I have to operationalize the business,” she said. On the finance side, she’ll set up a metrics-tracking dashboard – “So I can develop more precise forecasts.”
Pamela Cytron and Nancy Fahmy
Pam is founder and CEO of Pendo Systems, Inc., a financial technology company serving the global capital markets industry. In 2015, she pivoted Pendo Systems to create a machine learning platform that helps make financial institutions AI-ready by turning unstructured data into structured, AI-ready data sets at a machine scale. “We have all these different businesses and share different ways to raise and make money,” said Pam. “The collaboration this week helped me a great deal.” She and her mentor Nancy tackled a range of issues, from messaging in marketing collateral to personnel and financial management. “Pam’s personal story is incredible, one of perseverance,” said Nancy. “She solves problems for people. We already have plans to meet with her Bank of America Business Banking volunteer coach to implement the changes we discussed this week.”
Johanna Symmons and Heba Ramzy
“Our goal is to make scientific breakthroughs possible, but we are a small fish in a big pond,” said Johanna, CEO and co-founder of SCICONS, a family-owned biotech company in Hungary that produces specialty antibodies for researchers in more than 45 countries. “Heba not only encouraged me to be bold and to think big, but she helped me to translate our strategic goals into actionable steps.”Transforming the company from a family business to an autonomous business entity with a strong R&D department is a priority. “My goal was to do my utmost to be able to contribute even a little bit to helping her work,” said Heba, a lifelong youth and technology advocate. “I am truly proud to be part of this transformation journey and to witness Johanna’s success.”
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Photography: David Hume Kennerly