Moderating a Columbia College Women's Panel of Women Entrepreneurs and was Fascinated


Very early on a Thursday, I stopped my workday at 5pm to begin to get ready to moderate a panel put on by Columbia College Women (Office of Alumni Affairs and Development) and the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, thanks to an invitation from Tin Shingle member Stacie Bach. It was held in a beautiful boardroom on Park Avenue surrounded by oak, the perfect setting for an intimate gathering to learn from six extremely different entrepreneurs.

During the panel, we realized that a thread of similarities ran through these women, as different as their businesses were. The most common themes were: delegating to others; having more than one business; and solving problems. Here is a little bit about what we learned at the panel:

Magaly Colimon-Christopher

Magaly Colimon ChristopherMagaly dashed into the meeting in full production garb. She was bundled in sweats because she suddenly had to fill in as producer on her new web series, and they were filming on location, where it's cold outside.
What we learned from her: Magaly is recently married and chose someone who is not only supportive of her many career outlets, but works with her. She has found it a nice balance to have someone else catching the balls as they are juggled. As we heard about how Magaly's mind works, and how it knows no bounds when exploring different areas, we couldn't help but notice her flawless and glowing skin. Not gonna lie. Her secret? Drinking fish oil, and using her own skin care line,, which she developed because she recognized how to solve her own skin care needs with shae butter.

Yscaira Jimenez

Founder of La Pregunta Arts Cafe
La Pregunta Arts CafeYscaira is a an unstoppable entrepreneur. Where others may falter from analysis by paralysis, she jumps in. She took a giant risk, and a major pay cut, to start La Pregunta Arts Cafe, a Cultural Social Club, founded to stimulate the neighborhood with gallery exhibits, open mics, improv comedy nights, live music, Capoeira and any other expression of Afro-Latino culture.
What we learned from her: Yscaira saw a problem in her neighborhood: there were no cultural outlets for reading, coffee drinking, and expressing. Originally, she wanted to open a bookstore, but there wasn't enought demand for a local bookstore becauase of online and larger bookstores. Sometimes an entrepreneur has to cede to the lack of demand. What she did answer, however, was to be a cultural outlet that serves cultural food. By chance, she named many of her sandwiches after Cuban leaders who happen to be socialists. A large socialist club is now one of her biggest customers. Who knew socialists had money to spend! Most recently, a new problem has arisen for Yscaira to solve: everyone wants her food, so she is branching out into catering. This is the blessing of the entrepreneur: recognizing a need, and delivering.

Erica Woda

CEO and Founder of Level the Field
Level the Field

Erica played soccer for the Columbia University Women's Soccer team, graduated, and then was accepted into the New York City Teaching Follows Program. She taught for two years in a high need district school in the South Bronx and then went on to teach in a charter school in the Bronx. She recognized a problem: kids were not being stimulated outside of school, and therefore, were not developing vital social skills to succeed. She created Level the Field, a program which merges Columbia athletic programs with these kids to keep them active, socialized and succeeding.
What we learned from her: Pitch yourself. All the time. I think it is her natural tendency, as an athlete, to see the end goal in mind and run strategically towards it. When she saw the end goal of Level the Field, she had the vision and the belief. She had no fear pitching her concept to her social circle from various spheres to raise capital. And now she have quite a team behind her.

Wendy Friedmann

Partner RW Delights - Heavenly Souffle

Heavenly SouffleO.M.G. Wendy was a former successful sales and marketing professional in the technology and advertising industries. She took a hiatus to have a family, but soon got the urge to get back into the business world. One might mistake this urge for a serious chocolate craving, because that is what Wendy and her partner and dear friend, Roxann Kam, created: frozen chocolate souffles that you can bake yourself in just 18 minutes called Heavenly Souffle. The first time I ever tried one of these was courtesy of a coupon for a free dessert. It was beyond my expectations.
What we learned from her: Diversify. Their product is sold from the website, via licensing, and via other revenue models. Yet they know their limits in terms of dealing with the drawbacks of each as they grow their business. Shipping for them is a huge issue. A glitch in shipping large truckloads of frozen chocolate souffles has different ramifications and stress then shipping an invidvidual order from the website. You may be surprised at her answer as to which stress she prefers.

Caitlin Friedman & Kimberly Yorio

Co-Owners of YC Media, & Co-Founders Girls Guide
Girls Guide SeriesCaitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio are public relations and marketing professionals, authors and entrepreneurs.  Caitlin and Kimberly are the co-owners of YC Media, a boutique agency specializing in cookbooks and the co-founders of Girls Guide, a company created to help women achieve professional success. As authors of the best-selling Girls Guide series (The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business, The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch), The Girl’s Guide to Kicking Your Career into Gear and the upcoming Happy at Home, Happy at Work), Caitlin and Kimberly have been featured on CNN and The Today Show as well as covered by magazines ranging from Time to Parade.
What we learned from them: Partner. Partner when it feels right. When these dynamos branched out on their own, they were getting each other's clients. Meaning, whatever wasn't a solid fit for one, ended up being a fit for the other. As competing PR women, they could have continued on competing. But something about them worked. Their first expense was an office space to get out of their bedroom offices. One of their major leaps of success was based on a declaration of failure - of all of the decisions they've made that have gone wrong in managing their business. But did they stop there? Like any good entrepreneur, the identified a problem, and created a solution: The Girls Guide series.

Hopefully we will hear more from these ladies. Until then, we've got a lot to work with in terms of how their experience can help shape our businesses.

Keep on problem-solving!