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Women Empowerment: Turn your passion into a business – NYC edition

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NEW YORK CITY – What happens when five women entrepreneurs gather to talk about taking risks and encourage other women to follow their passion for starting their own businesses? The result is a room full of aspiring business people who later on leave with motivation and the desire to succeed.

The remarkable event we talk about here was organized by Career 2.0 in collaboration with Economics Ventures and was held at the inspiring Impact Hub, New York City. MCL visited Women motivate Women: Turn your passion into a business and here is our review!

The Power Panel lined up five well-established women, who had remarkable stories to share along with their personal journey to success. Though they come from very different backgrounds of experience, education, and culture, they shared a common feature: they all started their journey to success with one idea that happened to be in line with their passion. By now, with determination and skillfulness, they are proud owners of their respective businesses.

Let’s see who we met during that stimulating evening:

First we had Barbara Werner, owner of Musical Pairing Inc., a unique concept of pairing your customized meal with music. Then Mary Molina, founder of the gluten-and GSA-free Lola Granola, which is not only ‘healthy but tastes good’. Then there was Deborah Hernan, founder and CEO of Ottilie and Lulu skin care products for tweens. Next we had Sumeera Rasul, the founder of Madesmith, an online portal that shares stories of artisans and their products with consumers. Last but certainly not the least, we had Marlo Scott, the founder and CEO of Sweet Revenge; a popular eatery at West Village, which – as the name suggests – was the result of her revenge to the corporate world. It pairs sweets with wine and beer, bringing something unique to the City.

The event began with a pleasant twist. Instead of anxiously finding our place and nervously awaiting the moment of start, we were welcomed with a charming atmosphere that included hummus, olives, tapas and some red wine. We got a comfortable half an hour to mingle – or network if you wish to say so – with other like-minded women and with the distinguished panelists as well.

Time flies, especially if you are having exciting conversations. As we started to feel comfortable our hosts and moderator, Susan Naci, from 32 Laight Street Partners, took the jurisdiction over with great routine and invited the panelists on the stage. With Susan’s refreshing chairing the hour of business storytelling has begun. And with that we quickly grabbed our notebooks and pens and were eager to jot down the first tips and suggestions about how to turn our passions into a successful business. (We were so eager that some of the ink landed on our nicely prepared business dresses. But once an enthusiast always an enthusiast.)

The structure was built that each panelist came with a take-home message. Once they told their bits of advice, each of them replied with their views. And now, here are the five take-home tips:

Women Motivate Women Panelist
From left to right: Moderator: Susan Naci, Panelists: Marlo Scott, Sumeera Rasul and Mary Molina

DO YOUR HOMEWORK – by Marlo Scott

We have all been taught to do a basic business plan in our undergraduate studies, right? So before you venture out to establish your own business, it’s crucial that you have some sort of a business plan too. Identify the gap in the market, do your research qualitative or quantitative, and have a plan ready, which will serve as a roadmap for you in the initial stages of your entrepreneurial adventure. As Summera added later in the discussion: write your business plan even if nobody will read it. You are doing it for you. And if after writing it, you still love your idea, then do it. The panelists agreed that to have a successful business plan, research is the most important step and for that think ‘outside the box’. For instance when Deborah began her qualitative research she went to different departmental stores and malls but couldn’t target her audience, the tweens. So she went outside the box and did her research at a toy store and got the data (and chance) she was looking for. Thus, start by looking at places where you normally would not otherwise.


This one is self-explanatory, but easier said than done. When you have setbacks on the path to your entrepreneurial venture, remember to believe in yourself and your capabilities. ‘People, who look really confident, might not be as confident’. There are days when you get up and feel everything is possible. But there are those days when you feel you are at the backseat. That is when you have to believe in yourself even more. Our other panelist, Mary, echoed Deborah’s message by saying: ‘I faced quite many setbacks and troubles in getting the required certification for my granola’. There were days when she would simply cry after talking to people on the phone who refused to give information to her. But she persisted. She believed in herself, her capabilities and, most importantly, in her product. These led her granola bars being picked up by Whole Foods and her business steadily taking of.

JUST JUMP IN – by Sumeera Rasul

We have all been there: sitting at our desk tired of the same 9 to 5 job routines and our challenging (bad) bosses. We keep telling ourselves the calming mantra: ‘one day I will start my own business with that great idea that has been lurking in my head for a long time.’ As reassuring as it sounds, our panelist warns us: that time will never come. So either you jump in, and literally jump in or you never ever jump. (‘It helps if you are laid off’ – added Marlo with great sense of irony). Do not wait for that ‘one-day’ to come, make today that day. And how do you motivate yourself to take that plunge? It’s reached by changing your mindset. To become an entrepreneur, you must start thinking like an entrepreneur. Once you have a business plan and the initial ground stone of your company or even just a business idea, start advertising it efficiently and assertively. Tell it to everyone and anyone you meet. You will be surprised how doing this might lead to the next step in your venture. If you get started, other people will lift you up!

Barbara Werner
Barbara Werner shows her Musical Pairing


As it is so blunt, we often overlook that we’ve got Google as our primary and free resource to use for research. It allows us to study about our business idea, to gain a sense of awareness from the market we are venturing into as well as get to know about competition – if any. Another great tool we have is reaching out to people who might be already in the market. You can ask them to link you with people who might be interested in your new business. The key here is to really, actively build a network of people who can support you and could be valuable sources of information and help. At the same time, you have to be determined and confident about your idea. As Sumeera intervened: ‘If you want to know who your friends are, start a business’.

If you find yourself without any support to begin with, you can always reach out to different platforms. Think of SCORE, which brings together a group of retired entrepreneurs who offer guidance and resources to to-be-entrepreneurs or already established business owners who are retiring or selling out. Then there are organizations like the Tory Burch Foundation: Finance for Female Entrepreneurs, which provides economic support. Or the Goldman Sachs that gives out resources for young and aspiring entrepreneurs. Their most well-known programs being the ‘10,000 Small Businesses’ and ‘10,000 Women‘, which, help young entrepreneurs and women, respectively by providing them with the required education, capital, and support.


The multifaceted Barbara is driven by curiosity and believes that everything we learn we will be able to use somewhere along our journey. But how do we know if something is really worth our time to dive in? ‘You know you more than anybody else do’. So know what you don’t know and commit to learning it! But also – and to establish your business – you need to know your strengths. You need to be able to line them up and build on them. The sentence: ‘well, I am just a mother for 15 years’ shows that you are patient, you’ve got great communication skills, and you have determination. Once you established your strengths and know your business plan to the smallest details, collaborate with people and organizations, which have the strengths and skills that you or your company might be lacking. That is how you can start building up your team. Only by preparedness you will be able to anticipate the changes in the market and be ready to react to these changes in your business plans.

MCL at Women Motivate Women
Virag & Shamim from MCL at Impact Hub

Women empowerment

These five tips come to you from young-souled, smart and fearlessly passionate women. These women are in their demeanor very much like the rest of us, but what sets them apart is that they dared to change. They dared to follow their passions. And adhering to these tips shared with us, we know what kept them on track and kept them moving forward regardless of the inevitable setbacks and challenges. Each woman had a unique journey to success. And yet, they all agreed on these five tips being essential when it comes to turning a passion into a business.

So what else is left for us to say? If you are thinking about starting your own business, make sure you learn from women, who’ve been in your shoes already. So do your homework, know your strengths, believe in your idea and yourself, reach out to people, who can support you. And above all: just jump in!


If you’re hungry for more inspiration, check out the co-host of this event, Career 2.0; an inspirational source of stories about women reinventing themselves by starting over in new careers or launching businesses


Virag was born in Hungary but currently lives in Belgium. A former ballet dancer, who after leaving the stage started to build up her life #2. While being a diplomat and a communication & marketing coordinator, Virag slowly started to give in and listen to her heart. That is when she started to write and gave birth, first, to her own blog, and then to several published articles. She believes in honesty, openness, and that women are the strongest creatures on earth. More about Virag


SHAMIM SHAHZEBAfter her career hit a bump in the road, adjusting to New York where, according to a song “women are beautiful and everyone has a job” life is certainly not easy for Shamim. She bid adieu to a career in education in Pakistan when she moved to New York City after getting married and still awaits a work permit. Taking journalism classes at NYU School of Continuing Education and working on a blog keeps her motivated. When she is not writing, she can be found spending time on a yoga mat and walking around the city of New York discovering new coffee shops. More about Shamim





Virág Gulyás is the founder of MissCareer/Less, a startup dedicated to women who embrace change, and works as a freelance creative project manager. As a former ballet dancer, she faced the challenges of what it means to change a career and start a new life in a culture where success is defined in linear terms. She believes that raw, honest storytelling is the new generation of women empowerment. Virág is an author, speaker and develops workshops to empower women and young (un)employed people.

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