Poulomi Mukherji: Filmmaker, Director & Animator

Bio: Poulomi Mukherji is an independent filmmaker, director, and animator dabbling in every project she can get her hands on. She currently works for the Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence directing a series of educational animated shorts for their online learning platform entitled RULER. Her videos are meant to teach both students and teachers about Emotional Intelligence to develop a healthier and more efficient learning environment in schools. In addition to that, she works as a freelance commercial storyboard artist and stop-motion fabricator on various projects and shows such as the emmy award-winning sketch comedy Robot Chicken. Her independent animated short Silhouette City has garnered her recognition in various film festivals and has won the 2nd Place King Award at the First Run Film Festival. Her mind is a messy database of whimsical characters and worlds, and her passion is to bring them to life with her artwork and stories.

How did you get into the industry?

I attended NYU and originally majored in Economics. Mid-way through college I internally transferred to Tisch School of the Arts to major in Film and TV with a concentration in animation. After graduating, I continued to work on my personal film as well as freelance for various places such as Hornet, NBC, and Spotify.

Any Industry Trends?

There is a long overdue shift to more inclusive content in the entertainment industry, and marginalized people have a much easier time getting their work produced and noticed. With all the various streaming services, more niche content can be developed and storytellers have a lot more creative autonomy with their work. Although there is so much content being developed with different stories and methods of storytelling, it is a time of cancel-culture. Several shows are cut after just its first season and productions halt near completion. I think regardless, it’s a great time to be in the entertainment industry since the opportunities feel limitless.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

There’s no clear path or outline when you enter the entertainment business. It’s not a linear approach like in some industries where you go to college, get a degree, and subsequently get a job. A lot of times I moved laterally or didn’t have commercial work so I worked on my personal projects. It’s important to always keep learning whether it’s through work at a studio or by yourself. Another challenging aspect is that a lot of the jobs in Animations are obtained through connections. It’s important to stay connected to your piers and go beyond just building your artistic skills and improve your personal skills as well.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I want to be able to tell stories that instill a sense of wonder and excitement in the audience.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

I would like to eventually take on less freelance work and get a job as a storyboard artist, and I’m also working on a personal comic.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Before I went to school for animation, I had no idea how much work went into it. It’s a tedious and heavily time-consuming process, and can each phase of completion looks nowhere near the final product. The best experiences I have with clients I direct animated shorts for is to have them excited for each step of the process and to ensure that we both have an understanding of the direction we are heading. It’s almost like there’s story-telling in the process of storytelling. I have to make each step of the process presentable and enjoyable. It’s an amazing feeling to make someone’s idea into a finished product.

How do you motivate others?

I try my best to build up excitement in my projects, and I put in a lot of extra work and care in the hopes that others do the same. I think it’s also important to make others feel like their efforts aren’t wasted if they are not performing as well as they would like. I don’t think learning is a linear process and there are so many winding paths to become a better artist and story-teller.

Career advice to those in your industry?

You have to be persistent and wildly optimistic to be working in film and television. It’s important to consistently work on your craft and build up confidence in yourself so people know they can rely on you to get the job done. I think kindness and having a sense of empathy and understanding with your peers is also a key to having a successful career. Being a good person to work with is really important in this industry since so much of getting a job is through experience and recommendation rather than just talent.

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Samantha Kent: Founder, Kibble Pet

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Bio: Kibble Pet products were initially created for founder, Samantha Kent’s golden doodles, who loved to go swimming but always came back with that “wet dog” smell and hopelessly matted fur. Samantha used her years of experience working in the “human” haircare manufacturing industry to launch Kibble Pet in 2017, offering a complete line of pet care products using only top quality, natural and organic ingredients that perform safely for dogs and are kind to the environment. Working with expert chemists, Samantha developed gentle products that would work with her canine friends, offering salon-quality, canine fur and haircare that deliver real results, at a reasonable price point.

How did you get into the industry?

Getting into the pet care industry was something I had not set out to do. I grew up in a haircare and skincare manufacturing business so it was a natural fit for me to remain in that industry. One of the perks of having a family business was taking full advantage of the lab to create products that we were missing in our everyday lives. I worked with the lab formulate a the most amazing dematter and shampoo for my dogs, as there was nothing on the market that I felt comfortable using on my goldendoodles.

My senior year of college I was finally ready to start my first company. I was struggling to decide between a haircare or skincare line. Luckily, a good friend of mine knew about my private stash of pet care products, and suggested I start a company to share the best products in canine hair and fur care with the rest of the world. Twelve months later Kibble Pet launched at the Westminster Dog Show.”

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We have a lot of exciting things going on! I am most excited about our new Kibble Pet Grooming locations in Dallas, and our new innovative approach to pet health care Instead of being a standard insurance product or reimbursement program it is a hybrid between the two— covering accidents and reimbursing for every day wellness expenses such as teeth cleaning, flea and tick preventatives and yearly exams.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

The most difficult moment for the business was finding our first Kibble Pet Grooming location. When we initially reached out to landlords, they were excited about our new high end grooming concept and wanted to have us as a tenant. However, once they met me and saw the founder was a girl under 25 with very little track record, they were asking for obscene terms that would never be asked of a more experience professional.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our ideal client experience begins right when you pull up to the store. By the time you actually speak to somebody we hope you feel immersed in the Kibble Pet Lifestyle. We, as a team, have done a great job curating products from like-minded companies in the pet space to extend the experience beyond just the grooming. For example you can buy anything from beautiful rhinestone collar to match your pups freshly manicured paws to an innovative joint supplement.

Career advice to those in your industry?

My advice would be to think beyond the pet. It is just as much an experience for the owner as it is for the animals. The owners ultimately choose to be your customer and will be the ones to talk about your company.

What do I do best?

I listen and am not afraid to admit when I am wrong or pivot.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Staying true to my core values, not swaying to outside opinions or voices.

Goal of the Day: My goal of the day is to end each day checking off one small task that would weigh on my mind like dropping something off at FedEx or adding an invoice. Something very small but would drive me crazy if I did not do it.

What do you love most about Your City?

I love the fact that people work but also know when to spend time with friends and family.  It’s more of a balance lifestyle that equally values work and rest.”

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

My favorite breakfast meal is eggs, extra crispy bacon and either an everything bagel or a croissant.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – In bed sleeping!

10:00 AM – I will have finished an exercise class and be heading to the office.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

I love the Italy pizza at Park House.

7:00 PM - If it’s a good day, I will have a tequila, splash of water and lime in my hand finishing up some creative projects, or running around with my dog, Raggy.

11:00 PM – In bed either sleeping or watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy or Arrested Development.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I need at least three iced coffees with almond milk to get through the day.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I use my email app the most, for sure. I love my friends Instagram accounts, and Beautiful Destinations.

What should everyone try at least once?

Scuba diving, you go to a whole new world.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Nowhere, I such a planner. And I have such a good sense of direction, so if I get lost, I failed myself.

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Alechia Reese: International Speaker, Author & Chief Brand Strategist, 360 Gateway Brands

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My Native Admission Statement: I’m an award-winning author, media personality, and certified professional speaker that’s equal parts warm tea and Hennessy. I specialize in the creation of comprehensive go-to-market launch strategies for new products, services, events, and campaigns as the chief brand strategist of 360 Gateway Brands. I transformed my life from a domestic violence victim to thriver building a high 6-figure brand working with clients like Verizon, Zendaya & ABFE. - www.alechiareese.com

How did you get into the industry?

I was going through a pretty rough divorce and needed to make money to provide for my daughter and I. I studied marketing in college and had been a speaker and strategist since I was a child. I grew up very poor, although private-school educated, and leveraged the skills I had to build a lucrative business. I used relationships to start and establish the business. Then grit, smart work, and a commitment to learning to maintain and grow it.

Any emerging industry trends?

People no longer simply buy products and services. Now, consumers want to be able to connect to brands through storytelling. It’s imperative for consumers to now know the lineage of their products, rather it was tested on animals, and even where its leaders stand on political issues. For my industry, I work diligently with my clients to ensure we’re listening to what their current and prospective consumers are saying. We do this while telling stories and creating narratives that embodies each brand’s values.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

I had been in business for 3 years and was living in NYC (as an entrepreneur no less). I was down to about 2 clients and struggling to develop a client base. I was behind on every bill, my accounts were overdrawn, and it seemed like there was no way out. I created a plan to generate clients through referral, connected with my sponsor to secure other projects, and committed to making it work - every day.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our clients come to us because we are supreme at developing dynamic strategies that ensure the launch of their new products, services, events and campaigns achieve their desired goals. We provide each client with our proven 3-phase launch system that demystifies the go-to-market process.

How do you motivate others?

I use motivation sparingly because it’s like a shower, unless you do it every day it becomes stale. What I do instead is encourage others to find their anchor. Then use that anchor to stabilize themselves when life happens and winds blow.

I remind them to honor where they are and how they feel. But to also choose joy and gratitude. I don’t take excuses because no matter what you’ve been through there’s someone else who is wishing they had the opportunities you’re taking for granted.

What do I do best?

Build relationships and transform lives while on the stage – whether speaking, moderating, or hosting.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Grace. And the understanding that we’re all simply figuring out this life thing with very few blueprints. Plus, I’m a lifetime student - whether in the classroom, accelerator program, or YouTube University. I’m committed to constant growth.

What are my aspirations?

To die empty knowing I used every gift I was given.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Moving to NYC and becoming homeless. It took every ounce of persistence I could muster to turn things around. Instead of going back to what was easy, I pushed through. The rewards of staying in the game have forever changed my life.

My Motto?

“To win at life, build mutually beneficial relationships.” - Alechia Reese

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: Accomplish at least one.

Thought of the Day: You truly are living the life of your dreams – now keep going. And don’t forget to dream bigger.

Action of the Day: Take ONE!

Deed of the Day: Say one kind thing.

Tip of the Day: You miss 100% of the shots you never take. Keep hitting until you hit!

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

The diversity and opportunity. There’s no other place like it.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

It used to be wine LOL, but now it’s water. My body craves it now and misses it when I don’t drink it.

What should everyone try at least once?

Everyone should try therapy at least once. The success hits different when you’re at peace.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In countries with interesting stories, resorts and islands. Whether in a group or solo. I enjoy getting lost and rediscovering another part of me in diverse lands.

What Else to Know?

I’m honored to be on tour for my sophomore book, The Relationship Game. In Partnership with Escape Your Norm, it’s not your traditional tour. It’s not about empowerment, but actions that lead to change! The nationwide tour also  provides a 5-tool playbook to strategically build game-changing business relationships. We’re excited to have business owners from all over join us at www.relationshipgametour.com.

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Cecilia Albertini: Director

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My Native Admission Statement: I am an Italian born filmmaker based in Los Angeles who is passionate about telling character driven stories that say something the world that we live in, capturing the humor and the darkness present in our daily life. After working as an actress in various film and television projects in Italy, I embarked on my journey to America, where I discovered real creative freedom and I was lucky enough to study in some of the best schools in the country. My award-winning short film “Labor” has played in over 35 festivals around the world, including the Los Angeles Short Film Festival and The Wrap Shortlist, and it has been broadcast on KCET Link and Rai Cinema Channel. My episode for the Time Warner-funded TV Show “Sanity” was nominated for a Student Emmy Award in 2017. I make both documentaries and narrative films.

How did you get into the industry?

I first got involved in the film industry when I worked as an actress after I finished high school. My first acting job was my first time on a film set. After a couple of years working as an actress in film and TV, I decided that I was more interested in writing and directing, so I went back to school and studied film.

Any emerging industry trends?

As we all know, this is the golden age of television. Television shows are now taking more risks, compared to films, and they are really pushing the boundaries in many wonderful, surprising ways. I am also noticing that there is more money invested in short content (under 10 minutes), especially because so many people now watch content on their phone and have a very short attention span. I believe short content will become more and more prevalent over the next years.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

There are many challenges in my industry, especially as an independent filmmaker. One of the biggest ones is to find financing for our films. There are many ways to go about it but it always comes down to finding people that believe in you so much that they are willing to put a lot of money into making your idea come to life. Everything in filmmaking is always a gamble, and no one really knows what will work and what won’t work, so that makes things a lot harder.

How do you motivate others?

I think that, as an independent filmmaker, the biggest thing is to be truly and honestly passionate about your idea. Your collaborators will feed off your enthusiasm and your passion, it will be their fuel. If you can transmit that passion to others, then the real magic will happen.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Don’t wait for permission form others. You could be waiting for years before someone green lights your film. Go ahead and make it on your own; shoot a proof of concept, or a low budget short film version of your idea. Make a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for your production. If you can’t make a movie, make a play about it. Be creative, put always put yourself out there.

What do I do best?

I am a really good complainer. It’s an art I have refined over the years, and I think I am getting better with time. Aside from that, I think I am good at coming up with ideas on the spot. I have a hyperactive imagination, which is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, but it’s definitely a great asset to have because I never, ever get bored. My imagination is the best companion I’ve ever had, and one that will never abandon me.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Resilience. A bit of foolishness. A great deal of hope. Thirst for adventure, and, the most important one, curiosity.

What are my aspirations?

My aspiration is to continue telling stories for as long as I can.

My Most Challenging Moment?

When I decided to leave Italy and live far away for professional reasons. It’s a decision I continue to make every day, and it can be challenging sometimes.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My grandmother is one of my biggest role models. She’s extremely funny, always, even in the face of tragedy. I’ve never seen her sad or in a bad mood, no matter how sick she might be. Her optimism and her laughter are contagious. Unfortunately, her unfaltering optimism is not a genetic trait that was passed on to me. She’s also an incredible storyteller, and I feel like she’s still a kid in the body of a 94 year old woman. I don’t know her secret, I’ve asked her many times. People I look up to in my industry are: Ava DuVernay, Kathryn Bigelow, Pedro Almodovar, Roberto Benigni, Lynne Ramsay, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and so many others.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

My favourite places in the world are Lake Como, where my family is from, and Puntaldia, a small town in Sardinia, a magical island with white-sanded beaches where I’ve spent many summers as a kid.

What do you love most about Your City?

I love Los Angeles because of its weather, the beach, the proximity to nature. I also love that there’s so much Spanish speaking everywhere, it reminds me of Italian, and it makes me feel at home.

What should everyone try at least once?

Live and work in a foreign country for some time. It’s a great, humbling experience that will change your life and open your mind. I think everyone should do it, if they can.

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Alejandro & Minerva Castellanos: Co-Founders, The Wall Project

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My Native Admission Statement:

Alejandro: My names is Alejandro Castellanos and I am passionate about consumer behavior and the reaction of people when they walk into a space and see something they haven’t seen before. As the Co-Founder of The Wall Project I find accomplishment in providing my clients the opportunity to reflect their own personalities or brand identities with our designs. I believe that spaces truly emit emotions and my main goal is helping clients find what they truly want to communicate throughout their homes, offices or business.

Minerva: My name is Minerva Castellanos and I’m also the Co-founder of the Wall Project Mx. As a child I remember being a perfectionist, paying close attention to the simplest details: in the way I dressed, how I decorated my room or even at the times I had to do my homework, I wanted it to be perfect but in a creative kind of way. I decided to focus that perfectionism in the world of design in order to create harmonious environments that transmit feelings and emotions. A well decorated space is not the same as a simple one that doesn’t have a story behind.

How did you get into the industry?

Alejandro: Once Minerva and I decided to move to an apartment together, we decided to make a design for our living room and decided to print and install a HD picture of the NYC Skyline. Once we did it, a lot of people started asking us about the design so we started to sell them to friends and family, we created a web page and social medias pages and eventually started to grow.

Any emerging industry trends? Yes, creative décor is a must for every office space now a days. New generations find the need to work in spaces that transmit positive energy and creative vibes. Every day we have new companies asking for design proposals for their offices.

We also see that people seek our products for specific events, such as advertising campaigns, weddings or any event in general.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Alejandro: One great opportunity for creative décor within the office sector is the involvement of the own employees in the design process. We have seen high executives making interior design decisions aiming to please their employees and failing because of the lack of involvement.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Alejandro: During our childhood it was very common to move from city to city because of my dad´s job so what my mom did to make us feel more at home was that she made us do custom made projects for our new rooms so when we are done we actually felt that it was our own room. That’s when our passion for décor started.

Minerva: I agree. It was a great opportunity for us to deploy our ideas in our room, with our own personality. Later we could put into practice this childhood activity in our own business.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Alejandro: We are currently offering shipping throughout all of Mexico but we are looking to expand to the United States in the near future.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Alejandro: Talk to costumers, identify the problem they are truly trying to solve.

Minerva: Not be afraid to leave the comfort zone and give our customers bold and different proposals. People are always in search of trends and that’s when we come in.

Your most difficult moment at the Business?

Alejandro: We made a project for an important University in Mexico that almost felt thru because of some design details that weren’t apt for the designated space and we had 24 hours to solve the problem. I did not sleep till we found a solution and finally ended up delivering the project that till this date makes me the proudest.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Alejandro: The ideal experience for our clients is when the feel actually involved in the design process and contribute in the proposal. It is easy for our design team to suggest designs (we do it every day), but the main goal is to help our clients find the creative selves.

Minerva: I think that it is very important to understand the customer’s initial idea and to accompany during the whole process so at the end he or she receives exactly what they were looking for, or even better.

How do you motivate others?

Alejandro: I think that the best motivation is example. I try to involve our employees as much as I can in business decisions and I make it a priority to show them how I react to negative situations so that they can learn about accountability, everybody makes mistakes, it’s how you respond to them what matters.

Minerva: As a mother of a 5-month-old baby, I think the best way to motivate other people is to show them that when you are really passionate about something, you find a way to get your job done.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Alejandro: Would you buy the product you’re selling? If the answer is yes, go full in. It´s important as a entrepreneur to believe in the product that you are selling. It doesn’t matter if its in a “beta” version, don´t worry be crappy.

What do I do best?

Alejandro: I’m good at turning a “no” into a “yes”, not by pressuring clients but by identifying their real problem and finding the proper solution.

Minerva: I’m a trend seeker. I like to see the way the market evolves and how we can incorporate new trends and ideas into our products and design.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Alejandro: Self-discipline and constant mentorship.

Minerva: Balance in my life (be a good wife and mother) and persevering at work.

What are my aspirations?

Alejandro: I want to expand our creative projects around the world. I believe that design is a universal language so that’s why I would like to take our projects all around the world.

My Biggest Success?

Alejandro: We have had several milestone moments in the Wall Project but the first I can remember is when I had just graduated and was working a full time job with The Wall Project as a side business. One day we received a call from one of the most prestigious schools in Monterrey asking us to design some spaces for the school. We went and did a design proposal and quotation without expecting to be hired (It was a big project). To my surprise we ended up selling the project and that same day I quit my job. Never looked back.

Minerva: My biggest success comes in the simplest way: Every time I enter my baby’s room I see the beautiful wallpaper that I designed together with The Wall Project team, and love knowing that this special and unique design was made for the person I love the most.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Alejandro: Taking the leap from part time entrepreneur to full time entrepreneur. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it and actually doing it. I’m proud of myself for taking that decision in time.

Minerva: Keeping on track with continuous business growth while I take care of my first-time mother’s duties. But everything is possible!

My Motto?

Alejandro: Work Hard and be Humble. Create value and be nice to people.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Alejandro: My dad, Tim Ferris, Adam Grant and Malcom Gladwell.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Alejandro: Antigua Guatemala, Cinque Terre and Mexico City.

Minerva: New York, Barcelona, Atitlán Lake (Guatemala), and San Miguel de Allende.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Alejandro: I love books and recently I’m into my fitbit band and airpods for exercise.

My Current Passions?

Alejandro: Reading, exercising and working.

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day:

Alejandro: To finish all of the tasks that are due

Thought of the Day:

Alejandro: Be grateful, be mindful and be present.

Action of the Day:

Alejandro: Work out, go to work, read and repeat.

Deed of the Day:

Tip of the Day:

Prioritize, being busy all the time is not necessarily a good thing. Know what must get done and do that.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

Alejandro: Their people. Monterrey is a city known thru ought México to have one of the hardest working population. But it’s not all about work, they sure know how to make a good “Carne Asada” which translates to a grill cook out.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I usually drink a smoothie or a Greek yogurt with a Nature Valley bar. If it´s the weekend then I’ll probably have Chilaquiles for breakfast.What are you doing at:

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM –

Alejandro: Waking up to go for a run.

10:00 AM –

Alejandro: Probably a the office or at a meeting

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

Alejandro: I usually go eat at my house then go back to the office.

7:00 PM -

Alejandro: Working on side projects with friends.

11:00 PM –

Alejandro: Asleep.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Alejandro; One coffee in the morning, and the rest of the day water. (weekends are for beer and soda).

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

Most used App:

Alejandro: Whastapp

Favorite Instagram Account:

Alejandro: The Wall Project

What should everyone try at least once?

Alejandro: REAL Mexican tacos.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Alejandro: Usually when traveling to another city or country I like to go on walks and some of the times I get lost but it’s a usually good way to get to know the city.

Siri Chakka: Co-founder, Reset

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My Native Admission Statement:

Siri Chakka is the co-founder of Reset, an affordable network of drop-in workspaces in housed in Austin, TX’s unique restaurants and bars. Prior to founding Reset, Siri was the Chief Strategy Officer of a B2B SaaS startup, and worked in corporate strategy consulting and private equity operational turnarounds. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign and an MBA from University of Texas – Austin.

How did you get into the industry?

After I got my MBA I joined a B2B SAAS startup. It was my first fully remote role, which was fun for the first month and then I started talking to my cat. I was going to coffee shops when I could but I found them unreliable, loud, and I felt obligated to keep buying things as I stayed there all day. This was my first introduction to the wonderful (and now very crowded) world of co-working. I found it fascinating and saw workplace trends moving towards more remote work and distributed teams, but it was so expensive!! This got our wheels turning on how to bring the price down for this growing segment of the working population.

Career advice to those in your industry?

For any aspiring entrepreneur or startup leader – keep an open mind and stay nimble, always. Your first idea or your first draft of your concept is most probably not going to be what you launch with, or what it’ll be 1 year later. Always take customer feedback and iterate quickly.

What do I do best?

I’m a really curious person and have a strong desire to help people. I am very good at delving into data, both qualitative and quantitative, to discover new insights, develop strategies, and help people and organizations build for the future.

What are my aspirations?

From both a personal and professional standpoint, my biggest goal is to make an impact in people’s lives, whether it be my family, friends, or my larger community. My past consulting life was largely focused on helping companies stay in business and grow, whether it be Fortune 500s or family-owned businesses about to go under. Now I’m focused on doing this at a hyper-local level – Reset enables people to do their best work, by taking the worry and hassle out of finding an affordable and productive place to work.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

It’s a beautiful thing when you can find a role model that looks like you. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi-Co, has been someone I’ve looked up to since I was in college. She’s was one of the most prominent female CEOs in the Fortune 500 world, oversaw so many of the companies’ major transactions (spinning off Tricon, acquiring Quaker, etc.) and pushed the company to embrace healthier products. She grew up in south India, pursued product management and then consulting, until she ended up at Pepsi-Co. She talks openly about the sacrifices she’s had to make as a daughter, mother, and wife and I love that she’s unapologetic about her culture, wearing a sari to company events!

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

My favorite place that I’ve ever lived was on a 6-month project in Istanbul in 2014. It was a city truly struggling with wanting to be modern but was steeped in so much history (it was hard not to bump into some ancient wall or building in certain neighborhoods). I loved hearing the beautiful calls to prayer throughout the day and walking along the Bosphorous while I lived there.

My most unique place that I’ve visited is Novosibirsk, which is in the heart of Siberia, Russia. In the dead of winter. I know, crazy. The city was full of surprises, like a giant ice park inspired by Lord of the Rings, the Liger at their zoo (yes they’re real!), or the gorgeous Trans-Siberian railway station

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Legos have been in my life from the beginning. My parents are scientists and pushed me to create things and play with my imagination (I had quite the posse of imaginary friends until my little brother was born). They use to buy me the generic box sets so I could set my imagination loose and build whatever I wanted – some highlights include a fort for ants and a very tall tower that I protected with my life (that is, until I got distracted). This progressed into boxed themed sets and into the Lego Robotics line up in grade school, where we programmed robots built of Legos to accomplish tasks. Even now, I still buy smaller themed sets, like the Architecture series and Star Wars sets.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

Is it too cliché if I say “the energy”? The unique combination of the University of Texas, the Texas State Capitol, and the massive startup scene and what is quickly becoming a second hub for major tech companies creates a very cool vibe wherever you go.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

In Austin, tacos are their own category. My favorites are found at Pueblo Viejo. If I’m doing a sit-down breakfast, I really enjoy Bouldin Creek and Bird Biscuit.

What are you doing at:

6:30 AM – waking up, slowly. Over the last 2 years I’ve adopted a slow morning strategy and it’s done wonders with my outlook for the rest of the day. By 6:45 AM I get out of bed to go get a cup of coffee, I grab a book or a long-form article and read it in bed until 7:30 AM.

10:00 AM – I’m done reading the news and my first wave of emails. I’ve also found that this is my optimal time to go to the gym. I’m on the Orange Theory bandwagon right now and am loving it.

12:00 PM – Fricano’s is my favorite sandwich spot and a regular in my lunch routine. If I’m not anywhere near there, I can usually hit up a good taco spot or grab something from home.

7:00 PM – Closed my laptop and put my phone away. Eating dinner with friends or cooking dinner at my apartment.

11:00 PM – Dead asleep. I know I’m getting old since I can’t keep my eyes open past 10:30 PM.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I’m on bit of a comic kick right now on Instagram. My favorite account is theawkwardyeti, the artist does a brilliant job humanizing different body organs, especially the constant struggle between Brain and Heart.

What should everyone try at least once?

Solo travel. You learn so much about yourself when you go on an adventure alone. I find you also open yourself to a different set of experiences than you would if you were traveling with a buddy.

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Beth Kean: CEO, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

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My Native Admission Statement: As a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I learned about the atrocities of the Holocaust from a very young age. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who had a big influence on my life. So when I moved from New York to Los Angeles 15 years ago and visited Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, I knew right away that I needed to be involved. The survivors who volunteered there reminded me of my own grandparents – resilient, hard-working, driven. They created the museum in 1961, with free admission, to commemorate loved ones who were murdered, educate students about what had happened, and inspire them to take action – to ensure “Never Again.” I was working for a large investment firm, and I joined the board and served as Treasurer and then President before making the transition to the full-time position of CEO. The museum’s mission to commemorate, educate and inspire is critical in today’s environment of divisiveness and intolerance. Visitors leave our museum feeling empowered and armed with the necessary tools to stand up to hatred and bigotry in their own communities in order to create a more dignified world.

Bio: Beth Kean, the granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors, became Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust President in January 2016 and interim Executive Director in November 2016. She was named Chief Executive officer in 2017 and served as Treasurer and on its Executive Board for 10 years prior to that. She has over 25 years of experience working in the finance sector, focusing on fixed-income risk management and social-impact finance. She worked at Capital Group Companies in Los Angeles and Salomon Brothers in New York and serves on the University of Pennsylvania’s Southern California Regional Advisory Board and Trustees’ Council for Penn Women.

How did you get into industry?

After moving to Los Angeles from New York, while raising two children, and working in finance for over 20 years, I realized I wanted to find a way to merge my finance background with philanthropy. I served on the board of Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust as Treasurer and then President, and then segued into the CEO job when it became vacant. Being a former board member who worked in the private sector allows me to see the Museum through a different lens and bring fresh ideas.

Industry opportunities and challenges?

One challenge we face is how to stand out and get our message heard. The non-profit world is extremely competitive – there are so many wonderful causes out there. You have to constantly stay ahead of the curve in how you reach out to people and motivate them to give to you. At LA Museum of the Holocaust, we have the unique challenge of trying to make history come alive and make a past event relevant today. Sadly, with the rise in intolerance and hate crimes, there is an increasing urgency for us to get our message out. More than half of our visitors are millennials, who are very curious and passionate about social justice. We see many opportunities for engagement with that demographic and think constantly about how to tailor our exhibits, educational programs and messaging to different demographic groups.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

The Holocaust happened almost 75 years ago, and as we move further away from this history, memories begin to fade. A recent study conducted by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 11% of U.S. adults and 22% of millennials said they either hadn't heard of, or were not sure whether they had heard of, the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivors are an aging population and there is a growing need to take every chance to hear their experiences and carry on their voices and messages. While the Museum continues to focus on providing as many opportunities as possible to connect visitors with local survivors for intergenerational conversation and learning, we are also planning for the future and looking at using technology to preserve survivor testimony. Our partnership with USC Shoah Foundation allows us to bring new, engaging and innovative resources for Holocaust education to our students and visitors. One such resource is USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony program, which enables people to have conversations with pre-recorded three-dimensional video images of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses to genocide. We are excited to bring this immersive and interactive experience to the museum in the near future.

The museum’s goal is to use technology as an educational tool to increase cultural literacy and awareness, improve cross-cultural understanding and acceptance, and teach social justice and responsibility.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Our museum offers an array of pubic programs to educate the community and encourage dialogue about difficult issues. Whether it’s a film screening or panel discussion, we have found that community partnerships with churches, synagogues, consulates, other museums, and various cultural groups, as well as other non-profit organizations, are a very helpful way to bring new communities and groups of people to the museum. In some cases partnerships even help to reduce program costs.

Hate crimes against Muslim Americans, Jews, African Americans, and LGBTQ individuals are on the rise. FBI statistics for 2016 showed hate crimes spiked 5%, though this number is likely higher as the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that two-thirds of hate crimes go unreported.  

The Anti- Defamation League’s (ADL) Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents reported a staggering 58% increase in antisemitic incidents in 2017, with K-12 schools found as the most common site of antisemitic incidents. In California, the ADL audit noted 268 incidents of antisemitism in 2017, up 27% from 2016.

The museum has made a strategic decision to use our institution as a platform to send important messages to the community in response to events like hate crimes. We also have a strong partnership with eight Holocaust institutions in North America. Speaking collectively allows our message to be louder and have a broader impact.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is unique in that it highlights the Los Angeles narrative by displaying front pages of Los Angeles newspapers from 1933 to 1945 and telling individual stories through a rich collection of artifacts donated by our founding survivors who settled in Los Angeles after the war. Every student who visits the museum receives a customized docent-led tour tailored to their age and knowledge of the Holocaust and hears from and has dialogue with a Holocaust survivor. Survivors speak at the museum daily so most visitors will have the opportunity to meet a survivor. Visitors leave with a sense of responsibility. Many students are from under-resourced schools and face adversity in their own homes, so after hearing from a survivor they leave with hope, feeling like they have potential no matter how bad things are, and are inspired to take action.

If our visitors arrive as bystanders, they leave as upstanders.

How do you motivate others?

Since I moved to the non-profit sector, I’ve found the way to motivate staff is very different than in the private sector, where employees are motivated by bonuses and better pay and benefits. The people who work for me are here because they WANT to be here and because they care deeply about the mission. I always try to be mindful that we’re all working together as a team for a common cause and I try to make sure that everyone always feels appreciated and included. I encourage a collaborative work environment and want everyone to feel empowered and that they are making a difference. My door is always open and I make sure my department heads know that there is nothing they cannot come to me with, whether it’s feeling overwhelmed or to help them think more strategically in how to further our mission.

My biggest success?

Being a mom

The fact that I taught everyone who works for me how to create and manage a budget. They all hate me for it but I keep telling them they will thank me for it later. I’m still waiting…

My favorite people/role models?

My grandparents on my mom’s side were Holocaust survivors. I was very close to them and they had a big influence on my life which is why this job is so important to me. Coincidentally my father’s family worked in finance. I’ve been lucky enough to end up in a job that honors both sides of my family.

Day in my life:

6am – halfway through my morning trail run in the Santa Monica Mountains watching the sunrise. If I don’t run or work out no one should be around me for their own safety!!

10am – at work most likely in a staff meeting or finishing breakfast with donors or prospects and on my 3rd cup of coffee. I always look out my window to see the school buses with the kids – it reminds me why I’m here.

12pm – salad bar at Erewhon every day without fail. Good people watching and celebrity sighting. And I always carry a business card because you never know who you’ll run into.

7pm – hopefully not still sitting in LA traffic. But if I am, I’m listening to a podcast or book on tape.

11 pm – in bed asleep

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I start the day with a protein shake after my workout which gives me energy. And at the end of the day, a little rose never hurt a girl!

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Serena Dykman: President, Dyamant Pictures

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My Native Admission Statement: I am a New York-based filmmaker from France and Belgium. I’ve written and directed comedies, dramas, a TV show, commercials, and a feature documentary. I thrive on working on different kinds of projects, literally going from a romantic comedy to a Holocaust documentary. Even though my work can sometimes seem unrelated, I always tend to tell stories revolving around the theme of “home”, connecting people of different social, religious, and economic backgrounds, in unlikely circumstances.

I have a passion for elephants, and wear high heels in all circumstances.

How does your background influence your work?

When people ask me where I’m from, I often have to pause, and ask “do you want the short or the long story?”. My passport says I’m Belgian, my birth certificate reads “Paris, France”, my mother was born UN refugee, and only acquired her citizenship at 18, my grandparents are Polish Holocaust survivors, though my grandfather was Catholic. I grew up in Paris and Brussels; in Paris, I was Belgian, in Brussels, French, but neither of these places gave me a sense of belonging. New York, however, did. A city where I didn’t know anyone nor spoke the language, but nonetheless a place that spoke to me. I’ve studied and worked in the concrete jungle for the past few years, but spend a considerable amount of time in Asia, a continent where despite my obvious differences, I feel home. 

Growing up a third-culture kid fed me with an insatiable curiosity for the other; more than a desire to explore, it is a deep need of understanding what makes us unique, which, ultimately -should- bring us together. In all of my work, whether comedy, drama or documentary, I end up juxtaposing the lives and circumstances of people who would not otherwise meet. The doorman who performs sexual favors for elderly ladies, the bed bug inspector who sees the most intimate aspects of all sorts of terrified New Yorkers, the US-educated Czech doctor who is denied entry to the US because of Kafkaeque immigration laws; then, my own grandmother, Auschwitz survivor and Dr. Mengele’s translator; a Mensch who despite her unfathomable past, dedicated her life to publicly speaking to people of all religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, so that they could understand the dangers of prejudice and intolerance. Now comes TIPS, a TV show which gathers the rich and the poor, the illegals, tourists, and locals, the CEOs and cashiers, in a typical Midtown Manhattan nail salon; a place where appearances cover both the harsh and trivial realities of the workers and clients under a veil of shiny colors and nail clippers.

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My Biggest Success?

My first (and only) feature film NANA (www.nanafilm.com) was chosen by the European Commission and European Jewish Congress to be presented for Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018 in Brussels. The film screened in front of hundreds of EC and EJC officials, giving my grandmother, Auschwitz survivor and the subject of the film, a powerful voice 14 years after she passed. Following the screening, I was invited on stage to participate in a panel discussion on the future of Holocaust education with the First-Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, and the world-renowned author and historian Sir Simon Schama. I was 25 years old. A couple of months later, what had started out as a student film at NYU got a theatrical release at Cinema Village in New York City.

My Motto?

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” – Henri David Thoreau

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Shonda Rhimes and Amy Sherman Palladino are two of my role models. They are fearless, they are changing the world with their content and creativity, they are funny, and they are immensely successful business women.

What are my aspirations?

I have also been fascinated by television shows, which give creators the opportunity to develop characters and storylines throughout the years, unlike films. I recently shot a proof of concept for a half-hour dramedy entitled TIPS. As scary as it is to start a new project, especially in a world I am less familiar with, I am incredibly excited to take on this new challenge, telling the stories and realities of immigrant women whose lives are rarely represented and talked about in mainstream media.

What Else to Know?

NANA (feature documentary): http://www.nanafilm.com/

WELCOME (short drama): http://www.welcomethemovie.com/

My website: http://www.dyamantpictures.com/

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Ediva Zanker: Co-founder, GRIT Bxng

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My Native Admission Statement: I’m a boxer. I’m a business owner. I’m a young female entrepreneur. And I’m a co-founder of a boutique boxing gym that just opened in Union Square, NYC called GRIT BXNG. GRIT is a 50-minute high intensity full-body sweaty and fun workout that incorporates treadmills, aquabag water filled punching bags and weights in an immersive and dynamic state of the art luxury studio.

How did you get into the industry?

I started boxing at Syracuse University. To this day, I remember walking into the SU boxing club and looking around the room and being the only girl. I felt intimidated and unsure if I should keep going. However, that all changed when I hit the boxing bag for the first time. All of a sudden all of my insecurities of being the only girl fell to the wayside. I fell in love with how boxing made me feel strong, powerful, beautiful, and seen. So, I kept going to two hour practices a couple times a week and worked on refining my skill.

Fast forward to my senior year in college. My Coach sent me to nationals where I made history as one of three females to ever go to the National championship from Syracuse. Even though I got knocked down during my fight, I didn’t let that stop me from continuing to box when I moved to the city. Once I got to the city, I tried hundreds of boutique fitness studios, but nothing gave me that community vibe I was craving. So, my family and I set out to create it through our boutique boxing gym GRIT BXNG. We created a space for people to connect, mingle, and be themselves. We are the only studio to also have a full liquor bar. It’s not so much about the drinking as much as it’s about having a place to connect with others.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Four years ago, I moved to New York City. In an effort to meet people, and because I love fitness, I tried every single boutique fitness class in New York City. I found it so hard to meet people. Everyone would wait by the door of the fitness studio in complete silence waiting for the class to start. I honestly felt so alone even though I was surrounded by people. I told my Dad the problem. He’s been a successful serial entrepreneur, so we decided to approach this problem together. He has always approached his business in a way that was outside of the box. My goal at GRIT BXNG is for nobody to ever feel alone or like how I felt during my first four years living in the city. I knew that I also wanted to give back what boxing gave to me, to others. It made me fearless, confident and in control of my emotions.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We want everyone to leave GRIT sweaty, smiling, and stress-free. We have a lot of first-time boxers come in to the studio who were previously intimidated to try boxing or a group fitness class. But then once they try it, they can’t stop. People don’t realize how much they can actually do, until they do it.

My Biggest Success?

Success can be defined in many different ways. For me, I define success by how much I am able to give back to others. Seeing so many people come into our studio leave feeling happier than when they walked in is why we did this in the first place. I’ve heard new clients tell me they have a lot difficult things happening in their personal life but being at GRIT, even if it was for 50 minutes, helped them face their challenges head on.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Facing myself. Everyday I have to make a decision to be a better version of the woman I was the day before. And it’s not always easy, and it definitely take a lot of GRIT to not let other people’s opinions or feedback get you down. But at the end of the day if you have enough self-love and self-respect, nothing anyone says, or does, can affect your inner sense of self. It has taken me a long time to get to this point, and everyday is a challenge. However, if it were easy everyone would be doing it.

My Motto?

My personal mantra is OWN YOUR GRIT. It took me a very long time to get to a point where I feel like I own who I am. And every day it’s still a challenge. But boxing got me to the point where I finally feel like I own everything about myself. I wanted to give that feeling back to everybody. Often, we try to hide the parts of us that are truly unique and special because we think it’s embarrassing or weird. Owning your GRIT is a reminder to myself, and to others, to always be proud of the parts of us that are different.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My dad is my role model. We work together every single day so I learn a lot from him. He taught me and my brother to dare to be different. Being different used to make me nervous. But from a young age my Dad has pushed us to do things that nobody else does; whether that’s backpacking through Malaysia or taking a risk opening a family business, he loves to live on the edge.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

At GRIT we have our own signature kale martini. And it’s honestly what gets me through a long day.

What should everyone try at least once?

Boxing. I haven’t met a single person who has tried boxing and hasn’t fallen in love with it. The feeling of hitting the bag is seriously addicting. When you’re so focused on hitting certain combinations, there’s no room in your brain for stress or anger. I promise, just try it once, and prepare to get hooked.

Follow us @gritbxng @shes.got.grit

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Dr. Lina Abirafeh: Executive Director, The Arab Institute for Women (AiW) at the Lebanese American University

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My Native Admission Statement: I am a feminist activist. I’ve been fighting for women’s rights and equality since I was a kid. This has always been the most important issue for me – because it is the world’s first (and the world’s WORST) injustice.

I spent 20 years working on gender issues in development and humanitarian contexts in countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, and others. My TEDx talk tells the story!

Since 2015, I’ve been the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University. This dynamic institute is 46 years old – making it the first of its kind in the region! We cover the 22 Arab states, working at the intersection of academia and activism to build a foundation for women’s rights and full equality.

I received my PhD from the London School of Economics and published “Gender and International Aid in Afghanistan: The Politics and Effects of Intervention” based on my research. I speak and publish very often in a wide range of settings. And there’s always Twitter (@LinaAbirafeh) for the one-liners! In 2018, I was listed as one of the Gender Equality Top 100: The Most Influential People in Global Policy - one of two Arabs to make the list. And in 2019, I received that honor again – selected from a pool of over 9000 nominations.

How did you get into the industry?

In high school, I took a class called Comparative Women’s History, where we learned about women’s lives around the world. And I saw that these lives were strongly characterized by experiences of violence and tortures that women are subjected to in nearly every country – things like female genital cutting, foot binding, intimate partner violence, reconstructive surgeries to meet beauty expectations, sexual violence in war, and so on. I was absolutely devastated. And I’ve never done anything else since!

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The challenge in this line of work is ensuring that everyone understands the need to view the world through the lens of women, meaning we have to deliberately ask what each intervention means for women. For instance: How do women define peace or progress or prosperity in their setting? What is “security”? Where do they feel insecure – and what can we do to fix it? Who needs the most help – and how can we help them? In development and humanitarian work, if solutions don’t work for women, they won’t work for anyone.

My Motto?

My high school motto was “Function in disaster, Finish in style”. I think I’ve carried that with me forever – and it seems to always be true!

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: To keep focus on what’s important – and to end the day knowing I’ve done everything I can for the cause I believe in.

Thought of the Day: What’s for lunch? For snacks? For dinner? Does anyone have chocolate?!

Tip of the Day: “Do or do not – there is no try”. That’s not me, that’s Yoda. But it says everything about how I view the world and my work.

What do you love most about Your City?

I love the energy of New York – and the freedom and anonymity it offers. You can be any version of you that you want – and no one can stop you from experimenting and experiencing, learning and growing. Despite the crowds of the city, I feel that there is wide open space – it is the sense that anything is possible and that anything can happen. It’s an exciting, exhilarating, exhausting, extreme place to be. I’ve wanted to live here since I was a kid, and after decades of field work, I am finally here!

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I love breakfast. But I need to ease my way into it. Coffee first – before anything else. Breakfast an hour later. If I’m home, it’s several kinds of cereal or granola (I can’t commit to just one), a banana, tons of blueberries, almonds, yogurt or milk. How this all fits into one bowl, I never know!

A favorite weekend breakfast would be a decadent hotel brunch – a massive buffet that fills several rooms and leaves me paralyzed as to where to start!

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM: Walking my adorable dog – who is leading me farther and farther away from home in an effort to prolong his walk.

10:00 AM: emails, emails, emails. Or: meetings, meetings, meetings.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? Usually a salad bar at the nearest deli. Or sushi if I have more time. I try to arrange eating-meetings so I can actually have a normal meal rather than eating over my keyboard.

7:00 PM: A few nights a week, I’m at my favorite place in the city – Forward Space. I dance and jump around and sweat and feel so wonderfully alive. It’s an addiction I can’t do without.

11:00 PM: By this time I’m falling asleep watching an episode of a show (at present: Dark, season 2) and wondering why I can’t seem to recall a thing the next day!

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I drink coffee – and I love to start with a slow cup first thing in the morning. But my magic potion is this: grapefruit juice + lemon juice + ginger juice + apple cider vinegar. I drink this every day – it keeps me healthy and energetic and has such a wonderful sour taste – I’m addicted to it!

What should everyone try at least once?

Learning to get out of our own way. We put so many obstacles in front of ourselves and impose our own limitations. Imagine not having any of those limitations…

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Anywhere in the city… I deliberately take “wrong turns” because they always lead me somewhere new.

What Else to Know?

Additional info on me and on the Arab Institute for Women (where I work)…

Arab Institute for Women:

Website: aiw.lau.edu.lb Email: aiw@lau.edu.lb

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @Ai4Women

YouTube: Arab Institute for Women

Lina Abirafeh:

Email: Lina.Abirafeh@lau.edu

Twitter: @LinaAbirafeh

Blog: https://linasays.wordpress.com

TEDx Talk (2015): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krSG-RtiWUA

WomenDeliver PowerStage Talk (2019): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLBaS0PANgM

Our Feminist shirts – and why we launched the campaign: https://www.instagram.com/tv/BzgU0wUlFIO/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

[Feminist shirts available at: http://lebanesedesigners.com/collection/house-of-paisley]

Listed as one of the Gender Equality Top 100: The Most Influential People in Global Policy in both 2018 and 2019. 

Jessica Vollman: CEO, Fluent City & Founder, The Vollman Group

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My Native Admission Statement: Jessica has spent the majority of her career focused on cross-cultural relationship-building with over a decade of experience working with government agencies, startups and small businesses as they scale internationally. She is passionate about making education more accessible and globalization. She is on a personal mission to empower female entrepreneurs through her work with the Cherie Blair Foundation and Chief order.

Bio: Jessica is the CEO of Fluent City, a language learning startup empowering students to learn new skills, and by doing so, expand their horizons and foster understanding and communication across cultures and communities.

In 2016 she founded The Vollman Group, a consultancy that partners with startups, small businesses and government agencies to identify the right opportunities to drive demand for new products and markets. Prior to founding The Vollman Group Jessica was one of the first employees at education company General Assembly, serving as Director of New Market Expansion. She helped develop the company's go-to-market strategy, managed launch operations and built strategic partnerships, enabling the company to scale to 700 employees in 14 cities around the world.

Prior to joining General Assembly, Jessica held various marketing roles at Mediabistro, International Meeting Managers, Tribeza Magazine and Sony Music Entertainment. Jessica is a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women which supports women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies. She also serves as a Council Member for Gerson Lehrman Group, is on the Board Advisors for Re:Coded, a Judge and Mentor for MassChallenge, and a Founding Member of Chief.

How did you get into the industry?

In 2011 I joined General Assembly prior to it fully becoming an education organization, and I like to say that education found me. After eight years working with edtech startups of all sizes and having the opportunity to travel internationally, I joined Fluent City as I found the company’s mission aligned with many of my personal and professional interests. Learning a new language helps build commonalities with people from different parts of the world, which I find particularly important now. There are also so many admirable people working in edtech, I love this industry.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We’re focusing on offering more online courses and digital materials for both our students and the general public. We’re also working on some really exciting technology utilizing natural language processing to build hyper-relevant curriculum and learning materials. 2020 will be an exciting year for us with lots of changes, and I’m really excited to lead the company through this phase of growth.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Since last summer, we’ve focused on profitably and have refined our operations and marketing initiatives to reflect this shift. We’ve seen great outcomes from adjusting our digital marketing strategy and driving students from around the world to our new offerings. We’ve also made data-driven decisions around what courses we offer and when, which has allowed us to run more profitability.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

I joined the team during a period of transition and it was my first time navigating a situation like that. I needed to keep the team morale high while also trying to push for development of new products and better processes. It was a great crash course for me in how to be an effective leader.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our ideal experience for a customer would be that they come to us wanting to learn a new language and continue learning with us for years to come. Our classes are engaging and conversation-focused so we encourage students to speak as often as possible. We also focus on real-world language needs and aim to have students walk away with actual language skills they could use as they travel or communicate with others.

What do I do best?

While this isn’t particularly unique, I am big on hiring people who know more than I do and then getting out of their way so they can succeed. I don’t ever want to be the smartest person in the room and I try to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable bringing ideas and suggestions to the table.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Travel has been such an important aspect of my life that has gotten me to where I am today. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, traveling has allowed me to interact with people from other cultures and get outside of my comfort zone, which are two skills that help me as I continue to lead a team and build a business.

My Biggest Success?

One of my biggest successes was starting my own business, The Vollman Group. I took a huge leap of faith after leaving General Assembly but turned an idea into a business that took on clients from the US, UK and the Netherlands. Running my own company pushed me in ways I never expected, both personally and professionally, and I gained so much confidence from the experience.

Loren E. Chadima: Creator, Teacher, Coach of Intentional Acting; Filmmaker

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My Native Admission Statement: Intentional Acting is not a theory or philosophy, it is a practical, repeatable technique that empowers actors to unlock the script and unlock their soul. Actors like Madison Hu (Disney’s Bizaardvark) and Bex Taylor Klaus (Arrow, Hellfest, The Killing) booked their first roles after attending Intentional Acting classes. We teach actors how to act instead of telling them how to act – so they can get their best and most authentic performances on their own – without necessarily having to have a coach.

How did you get into the industry?

After a Master’s Degree in theatre and years of living on a small theatre director’s wages (almost nothing!) in cold and snowy New England, I came home to California to pursue directing television. I was an Observing Director on the sets of Boston Public, Providence, Strong Medicine, The Practice and General Hospital.

My first step into film was as one of eight women chosen to participate in The American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women. I directed and produced my first film, Surprise that was seen in over a dozen film festivals. Then, I produced and directed my second film, Cries from Ramah, which went on to win several awards at national film festivals and to qualify for the Academy Awards in the Best Short Film Category.  I also directed a feature film, a pilot for a children’s show, and several spec commercials. But being a woman director in Hollywood still didn’t pay all the bills, so, I started teaching acting as a means to make money. Quickly teaching acting became my second passion and a calling that I couldn’t ignore. The9Questions.com of Intentional Acting were created and the technique and studio have been growing ever since.

Any emerging industry trends?

Now almost every audition starts with a self tape. Actors need to master their self tape skills in order to be a contender in the film and television industry.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

With all the new streaming platforms that are being created there is so much television and film being made and lots of opportunities for lots of actors and creators of content. The actors that can also write, produce and pitch ideas are the ones that will keep their career going. You must be proactive.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Over many years of studying actors and acting as a director, actor, teacher and coach, I found that the foundation of acting is intention. As an acting teacher my job is to teach actors the skill of acting – which is doing something in the scene. Character, feelings and emotions are not skills – they are the by-products of doing. The “doing” is having an intention – to make the other person in the scene do or say something. When an actor is focused on their intention – character, emotions, and feelings will all naturally come. 

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Currently, I am working on a book about the 9 Questions and I am developing online classes.

Your most difficult moment at the Business?

The most difficult moments have been in marketing my classes. I did not go to business school. I’ve had to read a lot of books, work with business mentors, take webinars and lots of classes to learn how to market Intentional Acting. The most important thing I’ve learned is that rather than market or sell Intentional Acting I just focus on being of service and finding out how Intentional Acting and I can help actors. And it’s a lot more rewarding and fun.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

My clients most enjoy the structure of the 9 Questions of Intentional Acting. They say that it gives them a kind of check list and a way to unlock the script and their performance.

How do you motivate others?

I watched so many directors and teachers criticize actors as a means to get a performance. That never worked for me and I swore I would never be like that. Being torn apart in front of my peers just made all my defense mechanisms go up. I motivate actors by building them up. I start by creating a safe environment for actors to express themselves next I build a strong rapport with each individual actor. Then, when discussing a performance, I focus first on what is working and then we discuss what we think is missing and find ways to add in those changes.

Career advice to those in your industry?

If you’re not sure if you really want to be in the entertainment business – then don’t. This business is too hard and if you don’t love it - it will take your money and your youth.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I love to travel. My favorite places: hiking in the Garden of the Gods, Colorado, exploring the Souks in Marakesh; being on a boat on the River Nile in Egypt; dancing Flamenco in an open air night club Ceuta, North Africa; walking the streets of Florence eating gelato from Vivoli’s; drinking hot chocolate in a café across from the Louvre in Paris on a rainy day; scuba diving in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; being on a whale watch in Maui and seeing a pod of seven whales.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

TTapp workouts, MELT soft roller, Voluspa Saijo Persimmon candles, Books by Paramahansa Yogananda. Yellow tail belly sushi at Miya Sushi in Valley Village, CA.

My Current Passions?

My family, hiking, swimming, teach acting, working with my students, eating great food and drinking great teas and coffees with my husband and friends.

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: To be fully present to my family, my students, my creator and my creativity.

Action of the Day: Meditate at least 10 minutes and write 3 things to be grateful for.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

Los Angeles is a melting pot of cultures. I can experience the world’s people, cultures and food all in this one great city. I love the entertainment industry and all the events, screenings and lectures are right here with the people making movies and I get to meet them.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Cinnamon French Toast at Mama’s on Washington Square in San Francisco. (But I wish it was Gluten Free!)

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Open air markets in foreign countries: The Kahn in Cairo Egypt; the markets in Buscerias, Mexico, the San Lorenzo Market in Florence Italy.

@intentionalacting and my website www.IntentionalActing.com

Scott Cullather: Co-Founder & CEO, INVNT

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My Native Admission Statement:

I am a perpetually aspiring overachiever attracted to intelligent, original thinkers. I am committed to a fault, and easily bored. I expect and demand great things of myself and everyone around me. Leading and creating comes naturally to me, and I believe that high-performing employees are essential to the success of any business. A true believer in the power of storytelling, I co-founded an agency that specializes in, and celebrates, this artform in the live realm. I reside in New York City, am a devoted husband and father, cycling and fitness enthusiast, surfer, scrabble player and classical pianist (well sort of, ha!).

How did you get into the industry?

I grew up in the business, so was lucky enough to witness the power and incredible evolution of live events firsthand. My dad is one of the pioneers of the live events industry, and worked at Jack Morton as one of their first employees before he launched his own agency.

Two years after I graduated from the University of Richmond in Virginia, I went to work at his company, Williams/Gerard. During my 18+ years there I introduced various initiatives and rose through the ranks to vice president and general manager of their New York office.

Any emerging industry trends?

More and more marketers are choosing to take their events overseas, however the most successful global campaigns are those that are adjusted to suit the cultural requirements of each country or region. A local team on the ground are, and will continue to be, an important defining factor in agencies’ success in new markets.

It’s becoming even more important that we leverage the latest tech such as predictive analytics and voice technologies in order to create more customized attendee experiences.

Consistent brand messaging is key in the marketing world, and this has now extended to every platform. Integrated campaigns are a must to ensure maximum consumer engagement, so we’re seeing brands look to specialist agencies for their campaigns, who then work together to create seamless live and virtual experiences. It’s why we launched our dedicated content studio, HEVĒ at the beginning of the year, to ensure event experiences live on beyond the live moment.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The demand for live experiences has risen on an exponential scale over the last few years. Events are now firmly a part of the marketing mix, and it’s a trend that will continue to rise, with the Chief Experience Officer soon to fulfill a position in the C-Suite of every forward-thinking business.

The rise of the millennial and Gen Z demographics, who now make up 2.43 and 2.47 billion of the population present another opportunity, as they famously prefer to spend their money on experiences instead of physical things. They are gaining more spending power as they move their way up the ranks, and brands are noticing. Smart marketers know they need to adapt in order to stay ahead of the curve.

From a challenge perspective, we need more robust reporting metrics so that we’re able to produce demonstrable ROI to brands that are not yet fully embracing our craft. Additionally, while it’s a positive that events are being given a new life in overseas markets, therein lies a challenge if they are not tweaked to match the expectations of local audiences.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

INVNT’s COO, Kristina McCoobery and I launched INVNT in the summer of 2008 – at the height of the global financial crisis – with the aim of challenging and changing perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours. We are both passionate storytellers and recognized that there was an inherent need to offer our clients an alternative to the existing agency model.

INVNT’s vision is to be the best – not the biggest – live brand storytelling agency™ in the world, and our future strategy is determined by this.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

INVNT’s future growth and development will always be influenced by the needs and requirements of our clients combined with the changing industry and agency landscape, and we will continue to build out our global infrastructure and offering to support our clients in achieving their goals.

The decision to launch our dedicated content studio, HEVĒ is a prime example of this. With HEVĒ we’re now able to create more holistic campaigns that not only encompass both live events and branded content, we’re leveraging predictive analytics to analyse past and present data sets to forecast future trends in consumer behaviours, wants, needs and preferences. With predictive analytics we can determine what our audiences want, how they want it, and when not on gut instinct, but through robust, reliable and insightful fact-based data. A data-driven approach like this is so important today as consumers expect every one of their interactions with a brand to be personalised to them, so it’s an important focus for us.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

When we first launched we were a scrappy start-up, and our approach was to brainstorm and strategize show-stopping creative ideas. When we went in to pitch we used these as our point of differentiation from our larger, more established counterparts, and it’s from here that INVNT’s ‘challenge everything’ mantra emerged. This was a big contributor to our success in the early days, and continues to underlie our entire approach today.

We also recognize that high performing employees are the fuel that drive successful agencies, and right from day one we set about creating a business model that is dedicated to attracting and retaining this kind of talent. We have a dedicated people strategy team, who are constantly finessing this.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

INVNT was acquired by Time Inc. in 2015, and we faced our biggest challenge in reacquiring the business. Kristina and I juggled continuing to run the agency day-to-day and at night we devoted all of our time, energy and focus into re-acquiring the business. It paid off in the end. We had a life changing deal when we were acquired and an even better deal when re-gained our independence in 2017.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

There’s simply nothing more powerful or potent than a real, live interaction between a brand and a brain. Live experiences enable consumers to become completely immersed in a brand as they see, hear, feel, touch and even smell their products, services and even messaging. It’s something other marketing platforms are not able to do as effectively as a live experience.

How do you motivate others?

At INVNT our “tribe” is our most valuable asset. As a result we invest heavily in all of our INVNTrs. We created a people strategy. Coming out of that strategy we offer a range of benefits, incentives and recognition programs to our teams, all of which are designed to motivate employees and remind them just how much we value each and every one of them. These include enabling those who fulfill certain criteria to have ‘skin in the game’, ‘chill days’ following busy periods, and employees are able to use AMEX and airline points they accrue for personal use.

Career advice to those in your industry?

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, the biggest piece of advice I can offer is: Ask as many questions as you can of as many smart people who will listen to you. Launching a new business can be a daunting prospect, so don’t be afraid to leverage the talented minds around you – both in your professional and personal lives.

What do I do best?

Relate to people in an honest and personal way. I had the opportunity to work with President Bill Clinton several times. He had a gift unlike anyone I have ever met. Even as the most powerful person in the world, no matter who you were he could relate to you as though he had known you for years. I do my best with everyone I meet, whether President of the United States or the taxi driver, to treat them in the way that I remember Bill Clinton treated me and so many others I watched him interact with.

What makes me the best version of myself?

My morning routine, I call 2-4-U. I get up every morning and spend the next 2 hours completing a routine which I replicate almost every morning regardless of the season, day of the week, time zone or occasional hangover. It includes meditation, reading, stretching, exercise and piano.

What are my aspirations?

On the personal front I’d like to be remembered as a loving and devoted husband and father, trusted friend and contributor to our community and things greater than myself. On the business front I want to leave a scalable, sustainable business in place for thousands of future INVNTrs to do what I have done in my career and lifetime. Now that would be a cool legacy!

My Biggest Success?

Building up our business with my co-founder and wife, Kristina McCoobery and then selling it to Time Inc in just 7 years. It was the largest, most high profile deal in our sector and although it ultimately didn’t work out in the long run, it changed a lot of peoples lives for the better and is something I am very proud of.

My Motto?

You can dream big or dream small. Dream big, it’s more fun!

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Without doubt there are two people who have had the most impact on my career. The first was my father’s partner at Williams/Gerard, Doug DeRosa. He was my mentor, coach and friend. In so many ways he taught me what to do and what not to do. Doug passed away several years ago but there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t still hear him giving me advice. The second person, both a business and personal role model, is my father Dan Cullather. Dad, you taught me more than tough business lessons, you taught me the importance of being there for someone you care about. It’s now become our family motto – SHOW UP.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

“Three Peaks” which is our weekend home on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Anything Tom Ford!

My Current Passions?

Cycling – I have a cycling shirt with a slogan on it that sums it up for me – “Miles are My Meditation”.

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: Get out of bed and then make the bed…ha!

Thought of the Day: Don’t look back in regret. Look forward with excitement.

Action of the Day: Don’t get frustrated. You have to go through what you are going through to get to where you want to be.

Deed of the Day: Tell 3 people you love them.

Tip of the Day: Live as if it were your last day with a New York Times reporter covering it for their front page article the next morning.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

Acceptance, inclusion and diversity. When Kristina and I first started dating we would sit outside at one of our favorite Upper East Side Manhattan restaurants for dinner. Every time we were there a “65ish” year old man would jog down 2nd avenue in a woman’s nighty, panties, bra and his running sneakers. Nobody paid any attention. Now that’s acceptance, inclusion and diversity.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Favorite breakfast meal is a chocolate banana protein smoothie. I have 2 favorite restaurants: Red Farm in New York City and Brasserie Lipp in Paris.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM - Meditating.

10:00 AM - Contemplating tomorrow.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? Crosby Street Hotel. I have a table in the far corner, next to the court yard and behind the bar. Out of the way and private.

7:00 PM - Sitting at our dining room table having dinner with my family.

11:00 PM - Typically on a redeye to LA, London, Sydney, Singapore, or somewhere else in the world, to visit one of our eight offices and valued clients, or fulfill a speaking or judging engagement, but always sound asleep.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I start every day with 3 cups of strong, black coffee. I finish every day with a vodka on the rocks.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I have 3 Apps that I use equally. Garmin Connect – a fitness app that measures workouts. Calm – a guided mediation app. Blinkist – a book reading app that allows me to read 1-2 books a day.

What should everyone try at least once?

Surfing.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In my dreams!

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Rahel Grunder: Filmmaker

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My Native AdMission Statement: Rahel Grunder creates authentic, sensitive, and female-driven stories as a writer and director in both fictional and documentary films. Her docudrama EMILIE KEMPIN-SPYRI about Europe's first female lawyer who moved to NYC in 1888 received high critical and public acclaim. The TV comedy DADDYHUNT was broadcast primetime on the biggest Swiss network.

Rahel's short HAPPY TOBIKOMAKI screened at the World of Women Film Festival, the Moscow Short Film Festival, and the Tucson Slow Food Film Festival. Her documentary SWIMMERS OF HOPE won the audience award at the Science et Cité Cinéma festival in Switzerland, and her documentary FARM WOMEN received the audience award at the Regard Bleu festival.

Originally from Zurich, Rahel moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and graduated from the American Film Institute (AFI) in 2012. She speaks four languages, and has an academic background in anthropology, film history, and art history. She’s an avid dancer, and a hiking, running, and cycling enthusiast. She teaches documentary filmmaking at University of Zurich, and is a mentor for the Munich Screenplay Workshop. She’s a member of Women In Film, the Alliance of Women Directors, as well as Glass Elevator.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

I have the luxury of living bicontinental; in Zurich Switzerland, as well as in Los Angeles. It’s hard to leave and to say goodbye at least every six months. At the same time it is an opportunity to reflect and look back at what I have achieved, at the moments, the people, and the experiences I’m grateful for.

What I love about Zurich: swimming in the river and the lake, sitting outside in quiet cafes and bars, being able to go everywhere and anytime on a bicycle, gardening on my terrace, the seasons, my friends and family.

What I love about Los Angeles: the friendly people, chats with strangers, my neighborhood Los Feliz, the Edendale, the feeling that success can happen anytime, the courtyard in my building, my friends.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Eggs Benedict at the Alcove after a sunrise hike to Mount Hollywood.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM - Usually I’m fast asleep. Sometimes I’m jetlagged.

10:00 AM - Taking a break after two hours of writing.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

I usually don’t eat lunch, but go for a run instead. After a refreshing shower, I eat while I dig back into work.

7:00 PM - I go out with friends for dinner or drinks, or I get ready for my dance class.

11:00 PM - Winding down, reading, setting sleep cycle.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I always have my morning espresso, and I love to drink a campari orange or a glass of wine at the end.

What do I do best?

I draw on my background as an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker to create and depict carefully constructed fictional story worlds. At the same time, I have a very humanist point of view. My stories are always about conflicted and morally ambivalent people and their issues, emotions, and relationships. I view these characters with deep empathy and humor rather than judgment.

What are my aspirations?

I know I cannot change the world with my films—even though I wish to believe I can—but I at least want to make the audience think about their own actions, about prejudice, humanity, and privilege. The driving force behind most of my projects are true stories or real life heroes. I want to do them justice, but shape them the best way possible for film or television in order to reach a broad audience.

It is my dream to write and/or direct a period film or TV show in the U.S.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I live in two of my favorite places. I also love the mountains, both in Switzerland as well as California. But most important to me are the people. No matter where I live or travel to, it’s always about social interactions, about getting to know the culture and its people.

My Current Passions?

One of my biggest passion is dancing. I began to dance ballet when I was four years old. Physically not able to become a professional dancer, I never gave up to pursue this passion as a hobby. Today, I mostly do jazz dance two to three times a week. My favorite teacher in Zurich is Christine Giger-Fausch, in L.A. I always go to Ryan Heffington’s Sweat Spot in Silverlake.

My other passion is food. I love to cook and try and create new things. One of my favorite food blogs is thefirstmess.com.

How did you get into the industry? A short story:

I was six years old when I stood in front of a camera for the first time. I was chosen after the director approached my ballet teacher to find a girl. A strange way to be cast – I didn’t even have to dance in the film. The shooting was for a “movie of the week” about a girl who’s allergic to her beloved guinea pig. An auspicious storyline…

The first day of the shoot took place in my own room. My parents surely didn’t realize the headache of having a low budget film crew in their small cooperative apartment for three weeks. I came home from kindergarten to find our front door ajar, cables strewn everywhere, the voices of the film crew from the kitchen. I paused and asked myself if I should ring the bell before stepping in. I decided not to – after all, I lived here – and entered. The crew welcomed me cordially, and everyone started to work as though in a bee-house.

In the first scene I had to pretend to wake up, and then fall into a fit of coughing. To signal me to begin the scene, the director’s assistant would pinch my foot. Since I’m very ticklish, I always started up as if stung by an adder. Somehow, I was the only one who considered this reaction over the top.

The shooting continued and became an increasing disaster. The guinea pig preferred eating to acting and didn’t seem to like me at all. Furthermore, the director’s eyes swelled to an alarming size, and he began to sneeze profusely. He became the victim of his own storyline when he learned from the doctor that he’s allergic to guinea pigs. As a result, he distanced himself from the animal by watching our scenes from the kitchen on a monitor. From there he yelled his comments through the apartment. The guinea pig seemed to take offense and died abruptly midway through production. I was sad, but the crew continued unfazed and replaced the guinea pig with another. I had the impression that the only thing they had prepared in advance was a box full of identical guinea pigs.

One day, I heard voices from my parents’ room and peaked inside. A man and a woman of the crew were lying on the bed in a position I had never seen before. The girl seemed to be hurt, or at least moaning loudly about some condition. I ran out, stunned, to seek help just as my mother returned. She called the producer in a fury and sent the crew packing. I told her that I wanted to continue acting in the film, and she agreed on the condition that a chaperon protects me from further experiences of such nature. After seeing people “suffer” on the job, I thought that filmmaking was a dangerous profession, but I liked it anyway. Dozens of people moving in concert to turn a writer’s vision into a reality - that was fascinating!

The crew improvised the remainder of the film in another location, but the result was poor. The TV station decided not to broadcast it. I saw that it was a sobering blow for the crew, and I had an epiphany: that the story of the guinea pig perhaps was never meant to leave paper. That was the moment when I made a decision – to dedicate myself to writing touching and compelling stories and to never shoot with guinea pigs.

In secondary school I wrote short stories, and in college I authored plays for my theater class. At the age of nineteen I was hired as a junior staff writer for a sitcom. It seemed like a dream had become true, but Swiss TV canceled all sitcoms a year later.

During my studies in anthropology I shot a number of documentaries all by myself. I graduated with a documentary feature about farm women and went on to study directing at Zurich University of the Arts. In 2012, I graduated from AFI in screenwriting, and have since made a living as a writer and director in both fictional and documentary films.

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Bethany Rooney: Director

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My Native Admission Statement I have directed over 220 primetime episodic dramatic TV shows, ranging from St. Elsewhere in the 80’s to Bull, The Blacklist, and NCIS now. I love my job and feel incredibly grateful to not only have been a pioneering female director in television, but to also have thrived in a business not known for long-term loyalty. But it turns out that this consistency had a greater purpose: for me to teach the craft of directing. I co-wrote a directing textbook (with Mary Lou Belli) called Directors Tell the Story, which is the preeminent resource for new directors, and I teach at both the Directors Guild of America and at Warner Brothers through its Television Directors Workshop. It is my legacy, to hand down what I know of how to properly and creatively command a set and elicit authentic performances from wonderful actors. How blessed I am!

How did I get into the industry?

I started as a secretary at MTM Productions (Mary Tyler Moore’s company) to Bruce Paltrow and Mark Tinker on a show called The White Shadow. Four years later, they promoted me to Associate Producer of their next show, St. Elsewhere, which meant I oversaw post-production, which was a fabulous way to learn to tell a story visually. During this time, I also took a weekly acting class from a master teacher named Gordon Hunt. Feeling like I was prepared to handle the responsibilities of leading a cast and crew, Paltrow gave me an episode to direct at the tender age of 28. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn. Nevertheless, my freelance directing career took off rather quickly so I made my many mistakes on national television for all to see. But I learned, got better, and carried on.

Any emerging industry trends?

In the past few years there has been a huge push to hire women and ethnic minorities as episodic directors. This was a much- needed course correction and a lot of progress has been made. (For most of my career, the percentage of episodic women directors was under ten percent; on many shows it currently hovers at close to 50 percent.) However, now that the door has swung open, giving new directors the opportunity to learn by experience, I would like to see the hiring bar rest on a director’s capabilities, not his/her race or gender. It is a complicated job that requires multiple skill sets, as well as the mind of a psychologist and the heart of a storyteller, and nothing about one’s identifying superficial characteristics necessarily contribute to the ability to do the job well. It’s about the internal characteristics of intelligence, empathy and leadership. So it is commendable that the industry is striving to give the up-and-comers the primary tool for success: the knowledge that can only come from experience.

Career advice:

Malcolm Gladwell proposed in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of experience to achieve mastery of one’s chosen job or field. And yet, many people think that because they have been director-adjacent for a while, they know what directing is and what it takes to do it well. (For example, an actor, writer or editor may have been on set for years and thought they understood the craft, but having not done it themselves, they couldn’t possibly be tuned in to the subtleties and/or the thought processes required.) To be a director, you have to direct.

So. My first advice is to get experience as a director, put in the ten thousand hours. That may mean writing, directing and shooting your own web series on a baby budget, but you would be thinking and making decisions as a director, not judging from afar in an observer sort-of way. Only by actually doing the job can you learn the lessons, put them to use, assess them and either incorporate them or choose not to. But again, that’s the first thing: if you want to be a director, you have to direct.

And then you have to be patient. It takes a while, not only to log in the ten thousand hours, but to have the world take notice. Keep at it, keep getting better, keep preparing yourself for the day when your golden opportunity comes, because you sure don’t want to fail the first big time out. You want to be ready and confident. But first you have to make mistakes, learn, try again, feel the pain of failure, get up and try again, and again…and then maybe you’ll begin to be good at the craft. So be patient, and be kind to yourself. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.

My motto:

Whatever the question, love is the answer.

Period.

Jimmy Gould: Founder, SoapStandle, LLC

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My Native Admission Statement: Developing, patenting and manufacturing a small, easy to produce device that demonstrably improves the performance of one of the most ubiquitous consumer goods on the planet— bar soap. The groundswell towards bar soap is rapidly growing. With the recent banning of single-use plastics in Europe and California, SoapStandle is situated squarely in the intersection of this new environmentally focused industry.

How did you get into the industry?

I just invented something that worked. But since soap has been around so long and the SoapStandle solution is so simple, I assumed something similar was ‘out there somewhere’. When I discovered there wasn’t, I started work on the patent and the best manufacturing options. And now, the SoapStandle is being sold online and in boutiques around the US, and getting attention around the world.

Any emerging industry trends?

Single use plastics have been outlawed in both Europe and now California. Attention is being paid to the plastic packaging and carbon costs of transporting liquid soap — which is 70% water (aka really heavy!). As a result, many people are looking for alternatives and that leads to bar soap. 68% of US households buy bar soap anyway, so this focus only adds to the groundswell that is coming back to bars. But people hate the goo that develops on bars — and the SoapStandle eliminates it.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The biggest challenge is that the SoapStandle is entirely new - it doesn’t have a category. Once people are aware it exists they like (many love) it, so since there are literally hundreds of millions of consumer prospects, it’s really a matter of exposure. But you can go broke getting exposure to hundreds of millions of people — that’s the challenge.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Thought there should be a better way to handle soap. This is it.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

The SoapStandle is currently manufactured as a recyclable plastic, but we’re on the cusp of a compostable natural material, an anodized and/or ceramic-coated metal, different sizes, and rolling out some new colors… pink!

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Dr. Squatch Soap is a very cool brand that has a really successful subscription service. They’ve introduced the Squatch Gripper (which is a forest green SoapStandle) — the biggest initiative to date from an ‘outsider’ and a great sign that a significant player within the soap world recognizes the value of what the SoapStandle does. In the first quarter of 2020 we’ll be introducing SoapStandle with an England-based partner to their UK supermarket relationships — and others are in the works.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

It may seem like a little thing, but every single day avoiding the annoyance of a gooey bar of soap, cleaning the sink / shower ledge, having a better (and longer) experience with the cool organic awesome craft soap I bought because it feels so good and smells so great— and knowing that I’m not contributing to disposable plastics and I am contributing to better hygiene practices for kids around the world.

How do you motivate others?

Reminding them that there are win/win/win outcomes for so many situations if we look hard enough.

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What do I do best?

My wife says it’s my ability to relax!

What makes me the best version of myself?

Operating independently within a creative environment on new ideas, and teammates with which to work towards common goals. And dark chocolate covered almonds.

What are my aspirations?

I’d love to be able to dunk a basketball after a hip replacement — especially since I’ve never been able to dunk before.

SoapStandles in use throughout the world, and manufactured on each continent.

My Biggest Success?

I’d like to say our 5 kids, but they’re not our ‘accomplishments’ - they’re all doing great and their achievements are all their own. I hope SoapStandle will continue to grow - I’ll say it’s the biggest success when it is all over the world and we’re helping kids with few resources to be healthier through the One-for-One program.

My Motto?

We all tell our kids to “just try” - that there’s value in trying even if unsuccessful, and you never get a hit if you don’t swing. Then we forget to take that advice in our adult lives. Try. Do it. See what happens. And try again (see Richard Branson, Nikolai Tesla, Edison, Einstein, etc.).

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Mike Bloomberg - just being smart and attacking problems.

Richard Branson - fearless in trying new ways — and then other new ways.

Ernest Shackleton - badass.

Dolly Parton - badass.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Love a LOT of places… and visiting our kids (LA, NYC, New Orleans, Birmingham) but we want to go back to Anguilla.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

With me all day, every day — a Tree Brand pocketknife — high quality, carbon steel, keeps a really sharp edge… and has a corkscrew!

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

The Memphis ‘vibe’ - which is primarily about getting along with each other. It’s not fake friendly, but just genuine willingness to be helpful… and a lot of cool music.

Favorite breakfast meal?

La Baguette croissants used for homemade french toast with the kids… maple syrup, bacon, grapefruit juice mimosa.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM — Sleeping for 30 more minutes.

10:00 AM — Thinking about new avenues for SoapStandles to get in people’s hands.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? — Caritas Village, local non-profit that serves great food and you can ‘pay a lunch forward’ to someone else.

7:00 PM — Waiting for my wife to return from running a non-profit and teaching ballet.

11:00 PM — Should be asleep.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Typically, one coffee, maybe one Coke, water and/or Gatorade if I play tennis, and a martini at the end to discuss the day.

App Most Loved/Hated?

NYT 7 minute workout

What should everyone try at least once?

Hiking in the Colorado Rockies on a warm day and plunging your hot feet in a snow-runoff stream.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In a book

Pic of the day:

If only we could capture the enthusiasm of a dog for a ball. This is Cooper, our Greater Swiss with a touch of Doberman and 85 pounds of focus.

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Yai Vargas: Founder, The Latinista

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My Native Admission Statement: My name is Yai Vargas, also known as “The LinkedIn Ninja”. I’m a community builder. I carry out my mission day-in and day-out by helping individuals understand how to brand themselves and articulate their values when it comes to their career and leadership development. 

With The Latinista, I host monthly events where Latinas and women of color invest in learning new skill-based and habit changing strategies for career mobility. I have chapters in NYC, Miami, Chicago and LA where I travel almost weekly to meet with community leaders, executives, organizations, and individuals to bridge the gap between diverse talent and organizations. I am also a national public speaker on women’s empowerment, LinkedIn branding, and female entrepreneurship.

Any emerging industry trends?

When I graduated college, my career counselor said, “Yai, you now have the same degree (Integrated Marketing Communications) as everyone else in this class. What’s going to make you stand out to any employer looking to hire talent? What’s unique about you?” I thought long and hard and decided that my language (Spanish) was something that differentiated me from most of the people in my class. I decided to lean in with that, using it to land each job I’ve had. I focused all my energy on becoming the subject matter expert in the Latino consumer experience. I worked in multicultural markets which evolved into a more strategic Diversity & Inclusion career. 

The topics of diversity & inclusion are ever evolving. Current trends point to recognizing that companies may be preaching to the choir when it comes to internal affinity and employee resource groups. A successful diversity & inclusion strategy is one that is built on the foundation of allies. For example, engaging more people who don’t identify as LGBT but who want to support and help move the progress forward for others who are. If we’re only speaking to those in the LGBT community whose experiences are the same, then we aren't allowing for those allies that can help us and want to learn how to be allies. Therefore, the trends have us moving into a more inclusive culture where we don’t segregate a group, but more proactively engage allies and thought leadership groups. 

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

A huge opportunity for my organization is the simple use of streaming content and online learning, as both make education accessible across borders. I am looking to embrace this technology to be able to connect women who are lacking the access to content like mine in their own home towns. 

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I was inspired to build this network given the absolute need for women of color -- particularly Latinas -- who would otherwise lack the resources, contacts, and conversations to upwardly mobilize their careers. My vision is to bring my services to large companies that are lacking the understanding and framework to support women of color for professional success. 

What's next for the Business in the near future?

In 2020, I am going on a tour to help communities of women of color in cities and towns that aren’t usually thought of when developing diverse talent, such as Salt Lake City, Boise, Wichita, Omaha, and Little Rock where representation is important, but often lacking, and giving such talent access to tools is imperative.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I have developed strategic partnerships with other organizations and communities invested in women of color to help elevate our profile and add to the incredible programming and content we deliver for upskilling. Together we collaborate on topics such a marketing and finance to make a positive impact on the communities we serve.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?

The daily challenge of having to run two businesses is a constant struggle. From having to manage team members to staying on top of accounting while delivering on my promises to clients every single day is completely overwhelming. I have learned to outsource a lot of my most tedious tasks, realizing I can’t do it all myself. There was a point at which I couldn’t stay on top of clients who hadn’t paid me for work done months ago. Once I sat down and saw that I had over $20k in outstanding invoices, I knew I had to immediately invest and prioritize this part of my business. I now have someone managing all of my bookkeeping and she makes sure my clients pay on time! 

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

When I start working with a new client, the first thing I ask is: “why now?” It’s important for me to understand why they are deciding to invest in their career and leadership development at this moment. For the most part, the career women I work with don’t have the time or the money to go back to school, so they are looking for an alternative that not only focuses on what’s currently relevant in the workforce, but also for someone who can help them connect to a community of women going through the same challenges. Once we understand the reason why they are ready to invest in their career, we then get clear on their goals. These are the most popular goals: land a new opportunity, get a promotion or raise, and learn something new (upskilling). The ideal member approaches the network with an open mind and is ready to be honest and vulnerable about the areas of opportunities they are facing. We then develop a strategy around what they are looking to accomplish. We set a timeline and discuss the upcoming programming that would help them in this goal. We set up accountability partners that have a similar goal and proactively work towards changing habits and keeping track of milestones met.

How do you motivate others?

I honestly believe that motivation fills those who are positive, open minded, and have found purpose. The most important thing about motivating anyone is understanding what moves and inspires them. You can’t expect for someone to have the same passion that you have for your business. It’s important to know what motivates them to do better and be better. Once I understand what gets them out of bed and their WHY, I am able to tie that to my company’s mission. It’s also important to know what their specific strengths are. Tying each person's strengths to their role and how it supports the organization's bottom line is everything. When someone is able to directly connect their strengths to the work they do daily, there’s a sense of purpose and belonging and which makes for a more productive team member. Always ask: “Are you happy doing this?” If the answer is no, let’s recalibrate. 

Career advice to those in your industry?

The Diversity & Inclusion industry is always evolving. The most important piece of advice I received about the work I do is to develop relationships with other consultants so that we can collaborate and leverage our unique services to win larger contracts. Playing as an individual contractor and contributor won’t get me nearly as far, so there’s an absolute need for like-minded professionals to band together and work as a team while learning new parts of the business. 

What do I do best?

I am the BEST at connecting people to opportunities and organizations. I LOVE helping people find roles and have curated an incredible network of HR professionals and fellow networkers that can help me connect them to the right job.  

What makes me the best version of myself?

Authenticity and being completely unapologetic about who I am and what I’m about represents the best version of myself. I have always had self-confidence in myself and my work. It’s easy for me to connect with almost anyone and build a relationship. I especially enjoy meeting up with former colleagues I’ve built relationships with since my very first corporate job 15 years ago. I still regularly invest time on these relationships -- in addition to current business partners and clients -- on a consistent basis. 

What are my aspirations?

Personally, I would love to continue spreading important messages like closing the gender equality gap to women and inspiring them to speak up. Professionally, I would love to see my business grow and build a team across the U.S.

My Biggest Success?

Hands down, my biggest success was believing in myself when I left a very comfortable position in Corporate America to launch my own business.

My Most Challenging Moment? 

My most challenging professional moment was years ago when I had to have a very difficult conversation about my career with a disrespectful manager when I was not fully prepared and without a mentor. 

My Motto?

Favorite proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I am from the Dominican Republic, and it’s wonderful to go back home. I also love Thailand and Tanzania! 

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Productivity tool: Trello - it helps me keep all my business projects organized.

My Current Passions?

Working with the City of New York and helping other female small business owners with strategy and social media!

My Daily Thoughts: Today is going to be a great day!

Goal of the Day: Answer every client-facing email by 10am.

Thought of the Day: I need to start preparing social media content for September’s Hispanic Heritage Month.

Action of the Day: I will do at least 30 minutes of walking.

Deed of the Day: I will be speaking to incoming freshmen at Rutgers Business School.

Tip of the Day: Wake up early and prioritize your most difficult tasks and get them done before noon.

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Anna Becker: Executive Director, On Stage At Kingsborough

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My Native Admission Statement: Anna Becker is an arts management professional with over 25 years of experience in the not-for-profit performing arts. Since 2010, she is the Executive Director of On Stage At Kingsborough, a multi-disciplinary performing arts center with three venues in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to this position, Ms. Becker was the Founding Producer of The Deep End Productions, creator of the award-winning Insights & Revelations Performance Series and producer of the long-running Off-Broadway hit, Life In A Marital Institution. As an independent consultant, Ms. Becker has created and administered grant programs for Theatre Communications Group, The Doris Duke Charitable Trust, the AT&T Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and provided management consulting for numerous not-for-profit theatre companies and performing arts centers.

Ms. Becker is a recipient of the Best of Westchester Award, The Barrow Group’s Commitment to Excellence in the Theatre Award, and the Courier News Group’s Brooklyn Woman of Distinction Award.

How did you get into the industry?

I have been involved in theatre my entire life and took the journey that many take – from acting to directing to producing and presenting. So there really wasn’t a moment when I “got into” the business. There actually was never another path that I considered. That said, early on I felt it was important to gain a thorough understanding of the business and best industry practices. I served as a producer in film, television, and theatre. I learned a lot about how each of these industries operate and also how to manage projects with budgets that ranged from $75 million to $1.50! This was extremely useful as an overview of the business and also in defining the path I wanted to take within it – the live performing arts. While the industry is challenging on so many levels, if you have a deep passion for the arts and a love of artists, it is more than rewarding.

Any emerging industry trends?

There are many new challenges in this chaotic political climate, from gaining visas for international artists to capturing the attention of audience members whose focus is on the televised political drama. I hope this isn’t a trend, but it is certainly of the moment. What I find interesting in terms of trends is that serious drama seems to be becoming more popular on Broadway, and I am excited that people are interested in delving more deeply into the human condition in this way. Finally, I would say that all of the televised talent shows – while presenting some problems in terms of confusing the public’s perception of the years of training and hard work that it takes to hone skill and talent – have opened up an interest in a wide range of dance and music to the general public.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

When I arrived at On Stage At Kingsborough in 2010, I was charged with re-envisioning what the performing arts center could offer. Naturally, I spent a great deal of time talking with audience members, community leaders, and the greater community. There is no doubt that we have a very diverse community here and I wanted our programming to reflect that. Further, I saw that our community had a real interest in seeing performing artists from around the world, and not just from their own corner of it. I knew that bringing internationally-acclaimed artists from all corners of the globe had to be a centerpiece of our programming. I also felt that it was important to expand the offerings and began to program great Broadway and cabaret artists, as well as a wide range of dance forms, and music from jazz to rock to klezmer. Rounding out the programming, of course I wanted to include family programming, but I wanted to insist that the artistic bar be just as high for these offerings. Often times we are presenting a child’s first theatre experience and I want them to see the best, to know how much is possible in terms of imagination, creativity, and artistry. This is also true for our schooltime programs, where we offer the same high caliber programs for more than 8,000 elementary school students annually. Finally, I see the arts as vital to any and every community and I wanted to establish On Stage At Kingsborough as a community gathering place for arts, inspiration, and great conversation. In addition to providing world-class performances at very affordable prices, we began to offer post-show discussions, pre-show workshops, and opportunities for audience members to meet the artists. We’re lucky that our mainstage is configured in a very intimate manner, and I then established programs in Kingsborough’s modern Lighthouse, which provides an even more up close experience with the artists (while taking in a beautiful view of the ocean). Our outdoor bandshell, holding thousands for our free outdoor summer concert series, offers an accessible, joyful time for everyone.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

I don’t know if this was my most difficult moment, but it sure was nerve-wracking when, in my first season here, a piano key came loose just ten minutes before the doors were to open! Luckily for us, we have an amazing team here and they solved the problem with only a few minutes’ delay. Now there’s something nobody knew about until just now.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We try to tailor all of our materials with the first-time attendee in mind. We aim to communicate as clearly as possible what the experience of attending a performance at On Stage At Kingsborough will be like. Once audience members arrive, we want them to be greeted warmly and professionally. This is, after all, their performing arts center and we are here to make sure they are entertained and inspired.

Most important in terms of the customer experience, of course, is that we present artists of the highest caliber in a wide variety of disciplines and genres. We aim to offer something for everyone, from leading artists in their field.

How do you motivate others?

There is a lot of talk about teamwork and investment among the staff. But it’s important to truly involve your staff and be genuinely interested in listening to their ideas and feedback. Nobody knows more about what is confusing or exciting to our audience members than our box office staff since they are on the front lines, and nobody knows better about the decision-making habits of our school teachers that bring their classes to our school-time shows than our Company Manager. Getting various staff members in discussion around these and other issues provides a deeper and more well-rounded view into the issues and questions before us. Listening to the staff talk and inform each other provides an even richer overview for everyone. From there, ideas spring from everyone about aspects of the operation that they might not even be directly involved in. It’s exciting and motivating for everyone to hear the experiences and ideas of their colleagues, especially in areas that they may not regularly think about.

What are my aspirations?
I hope to continue introducing our audience to a wide range of outstanding world-class artists in new and expanding genres. I hope to continue to keep it interesting, inspiring, and fun for our community.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Granada, Spain during the Granada International Festival of Dance and Music…or Granada any time.

A Day in My Life:

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – I hope I’m going out the door for a run.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

My desk

7:00 PM - Heading out to see a performance

11:00 PM – I should be home in bed so I can get out the door for a run at 6:00 AM again!

Kylie Eaton: Director & Writer

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My Native Admission Statement: Kylie Eaton, a director and writer based in Los Angeles, has delivered music videos for major labels such as Republic Records and Capitol Music Group. Her first short film, 43 Quintillion, won Best Short at the 2018 Sioux Empire Film Festival. She is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors and an advocate of ethnically diverse casting.

Following up on her award-winning debut short, director Kylie Eaton‘s latest short film, DISPEL, stars Eris Baker (“This Is Us”) and features Gina Torres (“Suits,” “Firefly”). A fantasy short film, DISPEL tells the story of a mother’s addiction and transformation into a make-believe monster, through the imaginative eyes of her 12 year old daughter.

How did you get into the industry?

After attending Chapman film school, I started work in post-production with a focus on editing. I began as a director for music videos, which is a great way to learn visual storytelling, constructing a narrative without dialogue or professional actors. I was the main editor on 2017 short film, Girl Meets Roach, and learnt the craft of directing from behind the scenes. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, so I decided to create a few experimental shorts in this genre first, before moving onto wider narrative.

Any emerging industry trends?

Female directors are finally starting to be recognized and hired at higher levels, and it's exciting to watch their careers develop. Keep an eye on the Alliance of Women Directors – it’s a fantastic organisation, filled with talented people. The Alliance of Women Directors has almost been like a mentor program for me. I’ve just completed a four month intensive workshop on directing, led by the founder of AWD, Jennifer Warren. Learning from someone who has been in the industry for a while – who has worked on both sides as both an actor and director – gave me a lot of perspective. I also think that having a strong network of directors at a similar level to yourself is important – so you can bounce ideas off each other.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

World building has become more and more important in the science fiction and fantasy film industry, which can be both a challenge and an opportunity. Just look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which takes stories beyond the screen and into popular culture. In my latest short film, DISPEL, I used a lot of world building techniques. Most of the planets, organizations, and characters imagined in the DISPEL universe are never even mentioned on screen – but they still exist behind the scenes. I even designed trading cards around character history and hid several ‘Easter Eggs’ on set.

What is the inspiration behind your filmmaking career?

Looking at real life through a distorted or altered lens is a great way to present truths in a way that’s easier to digest. Film can be used as a way of projecting our worries or desires onto a physical form, especially in a genre package. I want to tell honest, emotional stories in this way. There’s also so much to unexplored in those worlds when it comes to women, such as mother-daughter relationships, sisterhood, and female friendships.

My latest project, DISPEL was inspired by a stage in my life that was emotionally significant – when my two older siblings moved out. I wanted to explore that fear of being left behind or alone. This bond between siblings became a catalyst for everything that happens in the film, including the sci-fi elements.

Lizzie is dealing with her older brother leading, and so dives into fiction as an escape from her difficult situation at home. That’s what I did as a kid – I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and completely immersed myself in those worlds. For me, fantasy is such an interesting way to explore mental health. I think it’s important to find new ways of talking about these issues.

What's next for you in the near future?

I’m working on a sci-fi feature right now, so keep an eye out for more details coming soon. I think I’ll still be making films, writing, and directing no matter how far into the future. I always take steps to work at a higher level of skill and production with each new project.

Your key initiatives for your success as a filmmaker?

I wear a lot of hats when filmmaking, because I write the script as well as direct my own projects. I’ll do research into the scientific concepts I’m trying to get across. If it’s a film like DISPEL, which pays homage to the classic sci-fi greats, I’ll research the original Star Trek and Doctor Who to get a feel for that niche of pop culture. From there, it’s a pretty quick process when I actually put pen to paper and start writing the screenplay.

The number one priority for me is to set yourself up as best you can in pre-production, then hand over activities when filming begins so you can focus on being the director – working with the actors, setting up a scene, planning a sequence to cut together, and more.

How do you motivate others?

A sense of camaraderie is vital on set. A lot of effort often goes into short films like DISPEL because you’re helping someone’s dream project come true. I think people became very passionate about DISPEL and wanted to get things done. It’s a very empowering experience

We had a fun time filming DISPEL. Eris Baker and Omete Anassi, who play the protagonist and her brother respectively, met at rehearsal well before filming even began. They immediately clicked as brother and sister. It was fantastic to see that relationship grow and how they fit into those roles as shooting went on.

Working with the monster was slightly terrifying, because she was in make-up the whole time. It was almost all prosthetics. She would arrive at 3am with the make-up artist to get ready! When we did ADR to re-record a bit of dialogue later in production, I was so glad to see her real face.

Career advice to those in your industry?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is from aspiring science fiction filmmakers: “I don’t have enough money to begin filming with all the visual effects. What would you suggest?”

I recommend that you do a proof of concept.Whether its one scene or a montage, then challenge yourself to tell a story that has a beginning, middle, and end in those 2-5 minutes. Also, try to focus on the characters and narrative of your film. When working in sci-fi and fantasy, it’s easy to get distracted by the fun, flashy elements of a story. You’ll take a lot of the financial burden off the project by instead prioritising human relationships and behaviour. Shoot what you can in-camera.

What do I do best?

I’m skilled with character development. I think of it as a friendship that evolves. When I’m writing the character. I get to know them on a certain level. Then as I’m breaking down the script as a director, I get to know them on an even deeper level. Then I can pull the final character together by working with the actors, costume designer, and production designer. I’m open to letting the characters develop as time goes on, allowing everyone to collaborate, rather than setting them in stone from stage one.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I’m very organised and dedicated to the craft, which are the makings of a good director. I’m enthusiastic about the entire filmmaking process – whether that’s being on-set, post-production, or helping to promote the film after it’s released.

What are my aspirations?

As a director, my biggest aspiration is to work in the studio system and continue directing genre films. On a personal level, I want a house big enough to own as many cats and dogs as possible.

My Biggest Success?

The biggest success for any filmmaker is making an impact and connecting with your audience.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Overcoming my fear of the word “no” can be a challenge, whether that’s asking actors to get involved or acquiring a set location. Fear of rejection is something a lot of filmmakers relate to, especially when the project is close to your heart.

My Motto?

Treat people how you want to be treated yourself.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

My favourite city is London, but the best place I’ve ever been is on a rainforest trek to meet silverback gorillas in Rwanda. They’re massive and you have to stand three metres back at all times… but you can’t tell the gorillas that! I bent over to take a picture of one in the distance, but when I turned around, a junior gorilla was right in my face. He kind of kicked me then kept on walking – the tour guides insisted it was a good, playful thing! My husband was also taking pictures of a tiny, baby gorilla playing in the trees. It curiously reached out and poked the lens. It was just adorable. The rainforest has been the best trip of my life so far.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I live and die by Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and InDesign. I need those tools with me at all times. On a more personal level, my office is covered in fanart and memorabilia from all the movies I love. My favourite item is this model of a deepcut Star Wars character called Salacious Crumb – the monkey-lizard alien that sits on abba The Hutt’s tail and cackles.

My Current Passions?

I really enjoy yoga and meditation, which can be very helpful with my work-life balance. I also really like graphic design... and sometimes even mock-up trading cards that accompany my films.

What Else to Know?

Kylie Eaton‘s latest project, DISPEL, is getting a digital premiere and will be free-to-watch online from Thursday 29th August 2019. DISPEL stars Eris Baker (“This Is Us”) and features Gina Torres (“Suits,” “Pearson”, “Firefly”). A science fantasy film, DISPEL tells the story of a mother’s addiction through the imaginative eyes of her 12 year old daughter. Armed with the lessons of her favorite TV show, 'Celeste Skygoode', Lizzie battles to save her mother from the dark forces that have transformed her.

DISPEL has already won ‘Best Fantasy Film’ at Comicpalooza, and is screening at the following festivals in the run up to its official premiere:

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Jenni & Mirna: Co-Founders, Naughty Nutrition

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My Native Admission Statement: We’re Jenni + Mirna, the founders of Naughty Nutrition. We're research-lovin’ nutrition mavens, and we've made it our mission to connect our community with the most accurate, up-to date, science-based health resources. We like to show healthy brands plenty of love too! You’ll also find us dishing up simple, delicious & healthy recipes and meal planning ideas - all without any of the BS attached!

Naughty Nutrition is...90% nutrition + 10% chocolate + 0% BS

How did you get into the industry?

We both went through personal health journeys that lead us to go back to school and study Natural Nutrition. We wanted to start by helping ourselves and getting out of the destructive dieting, body image and weight obsession patterns that we had been conditioned to for most of our lives.

At the same time, we saw the type of conflicting advice that’s out there when it comes to nutrition and health - good vs. bad foods, counting calories and fad diets, and we wanted to learn how to separate what’s backed by science from what may be affecting the health and wellbeing of our community.

Any emerging industry trends?

Hmmm where do we start?

North America has experienced tremendous shifts in weather with some of the hottest temperatures recorded in history over the past summer, extreme storms, rains and flooding have also displaced millions of people. We see the same trends across the globe.

Taking care of our environment is becoming crucial, and we see the focus on sustainability to continue whether it comes down to our food choices, the use of plastics or the changes that big corporations will start making to become more environmentally-friendly.

We don’t see the plant-based foods trend slowing down anytime soon, but consumers are becoming more aware that plant-based can also be ultra-processed, so companies will have to tweak their products to provide healthier plant-based alternatives.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

We wanted to break out of the traditional nutritionist persona, because our view of nutrition doesn’t stop at the food you are eating. We believe in enjoyment, balance and real-life solutions which means that you won’t always have time to prep all your meals for the week or stick to a strict regimen. We wanted to show our community that eating, and food can be pleasurable, delicious, healthy and that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing!

Career advice to those in your industry?

Blocking out all the noise in the industry might be hard, but it’s crucial. You don’t have to focus on sales funnels or tactics that don’t align with your values, chasing email lists, or all the social media platforms because everyone else is. Tune in to what resonates with you which will be much more authentic, natural and joyous to you! Also, find a niche and stick to it. The more broad your topic is, the harder it is to promote and compete.

What do I do best?

Jenni: I love cooking and creating in the kitchen and recipe development is something that I have easily picked up and thoroughly enjoy.

Mirna: I love connecting with others within the health and wellness industry, and giving informative and motivational group workshops. There’s something beautiful and energizing about a group of people gathered together to help elevate and inspire each other.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Jenni: Listening to problems and trying to solve them, as well as learning and growing with my skillsets. It’s important to me that if I fail at something or if I have a character flaw, to work on it to try and become better. This is how I grow as a person.

Mirna: Empathy, diplomacy as well as being incredibly organized and being able to find practical solutions to problems. I have also been working on dealing with change, and managing a business definitely has its fair share of that.

What are my aspirations?

Jenni: I’d love to build something that I can turn into a full-time job that has room for growth. Also, I would love to get my YTT (yoga teacher training) at some point.

Mirna: To be able to make a noticeable difference in the wellbeing and lives of others on a larger scale. I am looking to go back to school again at some point to complete my masters.

My Biggest Success?

In terms of our business, it’s being featured in publications such as Forbes, Buzzfeed and the Food Network Canada.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Jenni: When I was 7 months pregnant my fiancé and I uprooted our lives and moved back to my home town to be close to family for support. We sold his successful hair transplant business and are still trying to build something successful where we moved. The atmosphere is different and the industry is different so it’s a work in progress every day, but he has been my mentor and I have learned so much about what it takes to build a business and scale up.

Mirna: Leaving my previously successful career and going back to school at the age of 30 to get into a totally different profession. It hasn’t been easy, but combining both professions is where I envision my future.

My Motto?

Jenni: Learn from your mistakes, listen to people and their stories, don’t get stuck in one way of thinking.

Mirna: Savor the moment rather than obsess about every single ingredient on your plate.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Jenni: Costa Rica has a soft spot in my heart as it’s the place my fiancé and I kicked off our relationship, but I have also really enjoyed travelling the Philippines.

Mirna: I haven’t been able to travel as much in the past few years, but Italy holds a special place for me. The food, the warmth of the people and culture and the beauty of the land.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Jenni: Honestly, I take pride in living a minimalist kind of life. I don’t have a lot of ‘stuff’ so I guess I would say my computer and my camera because without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Oh, I also really like my bed!

Mirna: My iPod, because I love music and I wouldn’t be able to make it to the gym every morning without it. My laptop and an essential hand-cream as the weather here is pretty dry, even in summer!

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

Jenni: Sarnia doesn’t have a reputation for being the nicest city in Ontario. It hosts around 7+ chemical plants and is notorious for its pollution. That being said, it’s a beach city and I am a beach bum. I love being a 20-minute walk to the beach and being able to boat down the river.

Mirna: There’s a bit of everything and everyone in Toronto, and that makes it an awesome place to be. The Toronto Islands is my favourite spot for a day out, and only a quick 10-minute boat ride from downtown.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

Jenni: Eggs, always! No favourite restaurant for breakfast as long as I can get eggs and hot sauce.

Mirna: Sunny side up eggs with avocado and sauerkraut or peanut butter & chocolate overnight oats. I love eating out and there are so many great places in the city, but some of my favourites are Volos (Greek), Byblos (Lebanese, Mediterranean), and Lee (Contemporary Asian).

What are you doing at:

Jenni:

6:00 AM – Waking up

10:00 AM – Working at my computer, or on Wednesdays my 3-year-old is home with me so we are either running errands, cleaning the house or just chilling.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? I usually eat at home, but locally if I do go out there is a vegan café called Greens that I really enjoy.

7:00 PM - Putting my daughter to bed and either doing some more work, laundry, listening to Skillshare or taking it easy.

11:00 PM – Asleep.

Mirna:

6:00 AM – Still sleeping. I usually wake up around 7:30am and I’m at the gym from 8:15-9:00am.

10:00 AM – Breakfast is usually around 9:30-10:00am as I have been trying to give my body a 14-hour break from food.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

IQ Food, Garden Gangsters or Cafe Landwer.

7:00 PM – That’s dinnertime.

11:00 PM – Either still watching something on Netflix or in bed reading.

What Else to Know?

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