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A Thank You to Mentors for The George Washington University School of Business Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Class

April 27, 2009

During the 2009 Spring Semester, students in the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership class at the George Washington University School of Business were matched with mentors.  The students had to complete a mentor interview, as well as a project in which the mentor and student interacted. A minimum of three communications and a written report are due as part of the assignment.  The comments, below, detail information about each student’s  mentor and a summary of what they gleaned from their mentor experience.

Thank you to all of our 2009 Spring Mentors.

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22 comments

  1. Tenley Carp

    http://www.cohenmohr.com/attorneys/carp.asp

    Tenley incorporated entrepreneurship into her career as an attorney in order to distinguish herself from co-workers early on. Instead of buying into the competitive law firm atmosphere where billing the most hours is the way to stand out, Tenley began building her own client base by ‘putting herself out there’ which added a greater value to the firm and helped set her apart. I feel lucky to be working with someone like Tenley who is not only successful in the industry I am trying to break into, but she is also a strong role model; her self-confidence and high energy level are contagious. I have learned a lot from this mentoring experience, and one of my major takeaways came about when I asked Tenley “how do you measure your success in this industry?” She showed me an e-mail on her phone that she received from a client that morning. You know that you are doing a good job when your clients express how grateful they are for the work that you do. Realizing that my mentor and I have a lot of similarities has been so encouraging, and getting to know Tenley over the past few weeks has made me feel more confident about becoming an attorney than ever.


  2. Andrea Howe

    http://www.bossanovaconsulting.com/about/leadership.php

    Two things that I really took away from my interviews with Andrea are; the importance of cash flow management, and insight into virtual teams and how they’re managed. Andrea really explained how she had the profits and the money, but not necessarily the actual cash ‘on hand’. It was interesting to hear how Andrea dealt with this; not only did she hire somebody to provide cash flow statements, but she also opened up a new bank account with a set allowance to be sure they always had cash on hand in case it was needed. And in terms of Virtual Teams, I found it all fascinating; everything from how often she swaps emails to the fact that she’s only met one of them face-to-face! The whole idea of having completely Virtual Teams is something so new that I’d love to try to work on, and seeing that this has really worked well for Andrea has me already looking online to see what the market is like for Virtual Administrators!


  3. Laura Lee Williams-Murphy

    http://www.lauraleedesigns.com/about.asp

    During the course of the project, I learned to be more confident, in myself and in my venture. Starting a business begins with being self-aware and self-assured, and Laura Lee definitely taught that to me. I also became aware of the many holes that needed to be filled. Laura asked me questions, which enabled me to delve deeper into my venture: Do you have samples of the materials for me to see? Have you created a prototype or designed a sketch of your bags? What is the timeline? Is the website name available?
    I also learned about the importance of a website and company name. As a result of our conversations, I was able to solidify a name that reflected the true nature of my business and even went further and purchased the domain name.
    Laura Lee Williams-Murphy has been such an incredible mentor. At the onset of this assignment, I never imagined that I would receive the amount of knowledge, help, and guidance that I have now as a result of the Mentor Project. My learning objective was to learn more about how Laura Lee runs her business and creates her bags. However, I have learned much more than that. She has unselfishly dedicated her time. As an outgoing and approachable individual, Laura Lee has been a great asset to me.


  4. Catherine G. Silver

    http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=was

    The most inspirational lesson I’ve learned from Catherine G. Silver is that if you put yourself in the right position, you can create art in everything you do.

    Silver leveraged her experience and connections as the former CEO/President of Baseball America Magazine to secure a sponsorship position with the Washington Nationals. Soon after, Silver earned a promotion as the Senior Business Director of the Nats. Her current position involves logistical planning of events within Nationals Park on non-game days. Additionally, Silver has the ability to utilize her creativity to attract fans to the new ballpark. For example, Silver’s recent projects include designing an ice skating rink and restaurant within the stadium, as well as creating a youth educational component combining baseball with a local art exhibit.

    At first, I thought that professional athletes had the most fun at work. Although it may be true, I’ve learned that a larger sense of satisfaction can derive from being the table-setter: the person behind the scenes who finds a way to bring baseball into the hearts of fans.


  5. Although I’ve only known Elizabeth for a few weeks, I’m utterly impressed by her drive and motivation to change the world. Her dedication to her work and her attitude towards change truly make her one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure to meet. On top of all this, her bubbly, vivacious personality makes her a pleasure to work with and be around. In our interview I was surprised to hear that Elizabeth’s work “is helping to create real global business opportunities for women business owners.” She is extremely proud of the fact that she has helped facilitate this connection and bridge the gap between these colossal companies and small businesses owned by woman. She wants every woman in the world to know and understand that, “she can be an entrepreneur, or at the very least be entrepreneurial.” What I asked Elizabeth where she’d like her organization to be in 10 years she responded in the only way I knew she could: by thinking big. “I want women to know we’re here! I want to reach every corner of the world and fundamentally impact women’s understanding of who they are and what they can be. I also want policy makers to realize that women owned businesses are a powerful force for job and wealth creation and women should be recognized for the important role they play in community and economic development.” Elizabeth has opened my eyes to new opportunities and possibilities for after I graduate in a matter of months. After first getting to see Elizabeth in action at the WE Connect conference I assisted her with, and after interviewing her and learning about her amazingly inspiring life, I can say without doubt that Elizabeth truly embodies the life-force of social entrepreneurship.


  6. Elizabeth Vazquez

    http://www.quantumleapsinc.org/founders.html

    Although I’ve only known Elizabeth for a few weeks, I’m utterly impressed by her drive and motivation to change the world. Her dedication to her work and her attitude towards change truly make her one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure to meet. On top of all this, her bubbly, vivacious personality makes her a pleasure to work with and be around. In our interview I was surprised to hear that Elizabeth’s work “is helping to create real global business opportunities for women business owners.” She is extremely proud of the fact that she has helped facilitate this connection and bridge the gap between these colossal companies and small businesses owned by woman. She wants every woman in the world to know and understand that, “she can be an entrepreneur, or at the very least be entrepreneurial.” What I asked Elizabeth where she’d like her organization to be in 10 years she responded in the only way I knew she could: by thinking big. “I want women to know we’re here! I want to reach every corner of the world and fundamentally impact women’s understanding of who they are and what they can be. I also want policy makers to realize that women owned businesses are a powerful force for job and wealth creation and women should be recognized for the important role they play in community and economic development.” Elizabeth has opened my eyes to new opportunities and possibilities for after I graduate in a matter of months. After first getting to see Elizabeth in action at the WE Connect conference I assisted her with, and after interviewing her and learning about her amazingly inspiring life, I can say without doubt that Elizabeth truly embodies the life-force of social entrepreneurship.


  7. Nancy Yasharoff
    Assistant Athletic Director of Communications
    American University

    I have been working with Nancy in the athletic communications department at American University this entire school year. I was pleased to find out that we had a mentor assignment for our WEL class. I knew Nancy would be a great mentor. After officially asking her to be my mentor, Nancy allowed me to shadow her during my time at my internship. I sat in on numerous meetings and was able to see Nancy in action. My biggest take away from my mentor experience was the fact that Nancy has a passion for her job, her family, and her employees. In the office, she treats everyone with respect and allows them freedom to work in ways that complement their strengths. In one of the marketing meetings, Nancy decided to shake things up a bit. She decided that everyone in the meeting had to stand until they came up with a new or exciting marketing concept. The meeting was fun and lighthearted. The “game” allowed people to speak freely while being productive. Once people earning the right to sit, they still had to participate in the meeting and if they said something negative or unconstructive, they had to stand again. I have to say, it was a very fun meeting. I look up to Nancy both as a boss and a family oriented person, she is a great mother and finds ways to incorporate her family in her job. When appropriate, she brings her children to work. Nancy is an inspiration to me and I strive to have the same passion, commitment and leadership qualities both professionally and personally in the near future.


  8. Helena Goldstein
    No bio, but this is the link to her website: http://www.helenasweet.com/index.htm

    I learned that running a business from home is a major undertaking. Starting a business is no easy feat, but taking it a step further and running things out of a personal space complicates the process even more. Even though Helena seems to do a great job of managing things, she expressed that she does have a hard time achieving her desired work/life balance. The keys to success in finding an equilibrium are to stay organized, manage time efficiently, and set realistic goals. I also learned that (as we discussed in class), you need to be passionate about what you do. Baking started out as a hobby for Helena and she turned it into a career. Because she is so dedicated, she is able to run a successful business and enjoy her work.


  9. Post above was incomplete. Please refer to this summary instead:

    I learned that running a business from home is a major undertaking. Starting a business is no easy feat, but taking it a step further and running things out of a personal space complicates the process even more. Even though Helena seems to do a great job of managing things, she expressed that she does have a hard time achieving her desired work/life balance. Working from home may seem like it reconciles personal and professional activities, but I think it actually may be even more difficult since the two become harder to separate. The keys to success in finding an equilibrium are to stay organized, manage time efficiently, and set realistic goals. Helena is extremely realistic about her business and knows her limits. At this point, she is keeping Helena Sweet small and only taking on orders that she can handle; she has plans for the future to potentially expand her operations, but knows that significant growth right now is impractical since her son is still young. I find it amazing that she can balance her professional ambitions with her personal life.

    I also learned that (as we discussed in class), you need to be passionate about what you do. Baking started out as a hobby for Helena and she turned it into a career with the skills she developed from previous working in the corporate world and from helping her husband start his businesses. Because she is so dedicated, she is able to run a successful company that is focused around something she enjoys doing.


  10. Robbie Melton

    http://www.marylandtedco.org/abouttedco/bio_rmelton.cfm

    Robbie Melton is a co-founded of womeninbio.org, an organization that helps women in the biotechnology field start businesses Robbie also works at the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), which provides seed funds for entrepreneurs. One of the main things I learned from Robbie is that men and women tend to network with different goals in mind. Women tend to network for more personal reasons, whereas the primary goal for men is to seek for help with their businesses. I think I tend to network for personal reasons, wanting to get to know other people, and then I learn about their skills businesses as part of the conversation. During the project, I tried out networking with the specific goal of getting career advice. This helped me ask more directed questions and was a great learning experience.


  11. Natalie Noakes
    Director of Events, CEO

    Natalie Noakes is the Director of Events for CEO, a non-profit organization that represents two thousand business leaders around the globe. After first speaking with Natalie, I was surprised that someone with such a distinguished career was so willing to share her time, experiences, and advice with a college student. However, Natalie’s support and enthusiasm to help continued throughout the semester, and through her expert advice I have been able to learn a tremendous amount about leadership and the business world. My key takeaway from my conversations with Natalie was the emphasis placed on determination and networking. After college, Natalie pursued a number of jobs before she was able to focus on her passion for event planning. It was through her hard work and determination that Natalie was able to rise to the leadership ranks of each company she worked for and eventually come to find her place at CEO. It was very inspiring to hear that someone who is currently so successful and happy with her job had at one point struggled to identify her passion and find her ideal career path. Secondly, Natalie emphasized the importance of networking, even when you are currently employed. No one’s job is ever secure, especially in this economy, so it is necessary to network and see what other opportunities exist. The practical advice that Natalie shared with me will definitely help to guide me throughout my professional career.


  12. Anita Blair

    http://www.navy.mil/navydata/bios/navybio.asp?bioID=467

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Anita_K._Blair

    Ms. Blair is a well accomplished lawyer in Washington, DC, and she was appointed by the US President to be the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Personnel Programs in 2001. Ms. Blair’s jobs gave her extensive experience in the Human Resources Management area, which is my field of concentration at GWU. From her amazing biography and her accomplishments in life, I thought that it would be very intimidating to meet and work on the project with her, but she has been nothing but a delight to be around. She is very kind, understanding, and welcoming!
    We had an informal but productive interview at a Starbucks, and from there we have been working on our mentor project, which she suggested to be a SWOT analysis of my personal and professional life. During this process I have been learning a great deal about myself and feeling more confident because of Ms. Blair encouragement and support.
    I am thankful that I had the opportunity to meet her because I felt that she really cared to help and be a true mentor.


  13. Amy Millman

    https://www.springboardenterprises.org/about/bod

    My mentor experience was at the meeting for the upcoming Springboard DC Bootcamp which is a venture forum that will take place this summer. The meeting was intended to bring together ideas for the success of this event and discuss potential speakers. This venture forum would allow these women-led companies to get help in refining their presentations to speak to the investment and corporate buyer communities. My major takeaway from attending this event was the importance of networking. Amy had emphasized this during the interview and I truly learned this firsthand at the event. Right at the onset of the meeting, all ten women immediately began discussing each others’ work and past and present experiences regarding all aspects of their lives. The individuals were from different sectors including legal, business, medicine, science, and non-profit but all had interesting experiences to share with one another. In discussing the success of the venture forum, everyone was bringing up different contacts they could use and get back in touch with for the success of the event. Everyone also made sure to get each others contact information so that they could stay in touch after the meeting. Clearly these connections are extremely important to anyone’s future success and being able to build this network and know who you can utilize depending on the situation to aid you in whatever your venture may be. I also learned about the different aspects of companies that investors are interested in knowing, such as what significant barriers to entry may be, what sets the company apart, and what the time frame and exit strategy are. Overall, it was a very valuable and interesting experience and meeting these women was very inspiring towards my own future entrepreneurial ambitions.


  14. Julie Silard Kantor

    http://www.nfte.com/about/jkantor_bio.asp

    Julie Kantor is a confident, ambitious, easily relatable woman with a passion for teaching and working with youth. As vice president of government affairs for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), Julie has made an impact on thousands of lives and has been able to accomplish a broad range of goals quickly and effectively. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Julie; her effervesence, her stamina, and her innovative outlook opened my eyes to ways that I would be able to accomplish my own goals and be entrepreneurial without giving up my personal life or alter my personal style. With such raw talent and a strong background in entrepreneurship, we pursued a mentor project which focused on creating a personal brand. Through frequent communcation with Julie I was able to prepare the “Lindsey Rosenthal” brand, defining a personal brand statement, mission, vision, goals and objectives, and distinctive competencies. I am certain that future opportunities will arise based on this project and my interactions with Julie.


  15. Deborah Hamel
    Link to bio: http://www.takechargetech.com/About-Us/Management.html#CEO

    Debbie is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and she strikes the perfect balance of being warm-hearted and professional. She has an amazing level of intrinsic motivation, and an insatiable need to produce excellent work. These are just two of the qualities that have made her a successful entrepreneur, and she admits that once work starts to get stable or easy, she generally loses interest. She is a fascinating person, and if she were to write a book, I would recommend she dedicate at least one chapter to each of the following:

    1. Never complain about a problem if you don’t have an idea for the solution.
    After encountering an insurmountable problem in the workplace, Debbie brought up the issue to her manager. He had no ideas for a solution, and told her not to bring up the problem again unless she had a suggestion. She quickly learned a very valuable lesson: you can’t ask for change if there isn’t any to be had!

    2. Always work for a company that champions your personal integrity.
    Debbie had an experience early in her career that expected her to behave in a way that was not congruent with her ethical standards. After that, she knew she would always be best off working for herself!

    3. Be aware that you can’t predict the future.
    Debbie original thought she would work in psychology, then took a job at a management consulting firm and ended up specializing in technology. She is now a successful entrepreneur, but would have never predicted this path for herself. Situations and opportunities can change, so it is critically important to be flexible!


  16. I apologize for the formatting issue with the link to Debbie’s bio…nor sure what happened there!


  17. Allison Gilmore

    http://www.nwbc.gov/documents/c-members/Gilmore_Bio_06-06.pdf

    Allison Gilmore is the Director of Communications and Research Analysis at the National Women’s Business Council. Although not an entrepreneur (by definition), Allison has certainly proved her entrepreneurial leadership abilities as one of only four employees at an organization dedicated to providing women business owners with a platform for economic discussion. My mentor experience went beyond what I could ask for: I was able to receive candid advice about overcoming everyday challenges as a young woman, learn about the economic issues women entrepreneurs are facing today, and establish a mutually beneficial relationship with someone that I now look up to. My key takeaways from the whole experience were 1) the fact that it’s impossible to know now where your passions truly lie. Allison decided after a couple of years in the workforce that she wanted to go back to school, not for an MBA, but for a Master’s that was right for her. I learned that I shouldn’t get caught up in what other people expect of me or what is the norm, I should follow my heart and be patient with where it will take me and when I will get there. And 2) there is no better time like the present. Allison helped me realize that I am capable of starting my business now, if that is what I am passionate about doing. I am grateful for the experience; I certainly learned a great deal about life and will take many of these lessons on with me throughout my career.


  18. Robin Diamond

    http://www.dsef.org/AboutDSEF/Staff.cfm

    Robin Diamond is a program director for the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) in Washington DC. A former GWU alumna herself, she actively participates in the WEL program. Since joining DSEF, the organization partnered with the Association of Women’s Business Centers. Founding the Women’s Leadership Initiative program to empower leadership and entrepreneurial thinking, she continues to promote training and education for entrepreneurs. Through organizing events Robin brings people together to network and share experiences and knowledge. She was recently invited and participated in the National Women’s Business Council Summit. Only 100 women get invited to this event.
    Robin supports the idea of direct selling and the opportunities it provides. “Anyone can be and Avon lady. You don’t have to wait to be picked.” Direct sellers learn to teach themselves.

    Some hints for networking in businesses that are obvious but often overlooked are:
    - outreaching to marketing professors they are usually on top of current trends
    - know who the leaders are – they are usually making speeches
    - follow own intuition and passion
    - find others who is like you and connect

    I learned a bit about a non-profit 501 c3 and the challenge of balancing public service and education and not look like a trade association. Mentors are definitely a way to go. I didn’t think busy, successful people would want to take the time and share.


  19. Sarah Alexander – EMPEA President

    http://www.empea.net/Main-Menu-Category/about/Team.aspx

    “it helps to be the boss!…You have more control over your time.” Family has always been important to Sarah Alexander and she identifies her parents as her greatest role models and supporters. They supported Ms. Alexander in her first internship in Washington, DC and continue encourage her in pursuit of her passions.
    Her willingness to share allowed our conversation to stray from my set of questions into a more mentor-mentee conversation. I express that I feel lost and unsure as to where I should be focusing my energy. Ms. Alexander encourages me to focus on quality rather than quantity; “figure out where you want to be and then work it… who is on the board, who knows someone on the board… and write letters! I don’t get mail, but when I do I take the time to open it. If you email me it gets lost… and if you really want to get a hold of me call me!”
    Ms. Alexander encourages me to “Get up and do something everyday… Go on interviews, volunteer somewhere, just don’t sit around and wait, test the waters and you’ll know it when you see it.” She describes one “aha” moment that she had during history class in high school. She says, “a light went on and I just wanted to learn everything… that teacher brought the world alive.” She encourages me to hold on to those moments and, in tracking Ms. Alexander’s career, I can see that that was valuable to her as she battled uncertainty by listening to her aha moments, finding that heartbeat, and then finding the best way place to fulfill that dream.
    Ms. Alexander gives off a confident “all business” air but she makes this aspiring entrepreneur feel very welcome. She is the definition of power women; she has a power job, she is a family woman, and, like all true entrepreneurs, is always asking “what next?” No matter what it is that Ms. Alexander decides to devote herself to, we can be sure that she will excel and the company will benefit tremendously from the presence of this inspiring woman.


  20. Kimberly Wilson

    http://www.kimberlywilson.com/about.html

    Having Kimberly Wilson as a mentor has not only helped me to learn more about being a female entrepreneur but has also truly helped my four years as an undergraduate to come full circle. I have been lucky enough to work as a Studio Assistant at her Tranquil Space Yoga Studio since my freshmen year and I recently just spent my last night as a Studio Assistant on March 31st (and will be graduating in two weeks). Kimberly has created a distinctive, unique community at Tranquil Space and it has been beyond inspiring to watch her move from a smaller studio on P Street in Dupont to what I refer to as “yoga heaven” on 17th Street in Dupont. Her multiple accomplishments at a young age are something I admire and look up to and I truly hope that one day I can get up in the morning and go to work and have the exact same attitude as Kimberly. I learned that when starting out as an entrepreneur, the venture can be very successful if you let it grow organically and on its own time frame. I have also learned that it is not necessarily important to base a business venture on a timeline as it will grow in the direction that it is meant to. As a graduating senior I have had much anxiety recently about my future. I do not have a true passion for any particular career field yet and I was convinced I needed to. Kimberly has taught me that my first career is not necessarily my last (will most likely NOT be my last) and that it’s possible to stumble upon a great passion or interest when least expected.


  21. Sheila Walcoff, Esq.
    Partner, McDermott, Will & Emery
    Co-Founder and General Counsel, Scooby Enterprises, LLC + Animal Hospitals

    http://www.mwe.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bios.detail/object_id/25cd2e64-2e52-4d1b-8a56-448746e3ced7.cfm

    Sheila Walcoff has been a wonderful mentor, role model, and advisor. She has experience in various arenas including law, politics, health care, public relations, small business development, and animal health. Along with her husband, Sheila has established four animal hospitals from ground zero. For their first veterinary hospital, Sheila and her husband spent all their free time writing a business plan, analyzing target markets and growth opportunities, finding property or lease space, designing floor plans, working with contractors and bankers, and shopping for hospital equipment and supplies.

    I spent one Saturday morning with Sheila and her husband at their first animal hospital, which they recently sold, and learned that establishing a business takes a tremendous amount of commitment, the ability to envision the bigger picture while paying attention to the details, lots of research and clear communication, and the ability to laugh and have fun – even in the most stressful situations. Sheila shared with me some of her misfortunes, mistakes, lessons learned, and proudest moments.

    The biggest takeaways I learned will help me when I launch my business idea this summer. I now know how important it is to do thorough research on the market, prices of supplies, bank rates, and legal terms. I will also make time for family and friends – planning something similar to Sheila’s rule of ‘no office work while spending time with her family and friends from Friday evening through Saturday night’. Finally, I will stay committed to my vision and business goals. Sheila said that their business initially had very little customers. She and her husband spent many weekends going door-to-door to pass out marketing materials. They also made t-shirts and wore them around town, held open houses, and passed out referral coupons. She said that they did not give up or get discouraged. Eventually, business picked up and their animal hospital became the go-to place for animal care.


  22. Ms. Susan Hess

    http://www.visionforward.com/team.htm

    (Her brief bio is in the middle of the page)

    Ms. Susan is an amazing person! I have had many mentors before college and while in college, but Ms. Hess is different. We actually have something in common, travelling and love for community service. She is really down to earth, and ambitious, kind and extremely intelligent and really flexible with time, which I really appreciate. Even though all of our contact have been through phone and email, I feel as though I have known her forever! When I first met her, via email, she was on vacation in Mexico, which she actually drove to. Thinking she was really busy and did not have time to “be my mentor”, I was a little down, but with Ms. Hess, that was not the case. She was very welcoming to me and our conversation was awesome! From this experience, I have learned so much from Ms. Hess, more than I thought I would learn, however the most valuable takeaway from our short relationship, is that in order to be successful and have people believe in you dream and ideas, you must clear and believe in yourself. Presenting to Ms. Hess my ideas about new ventures, and her actually believing and providing me with valuable constructive criticism has put a new breath of confidence behind my idea. I just want to sit down with her, and learn more!



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