The stereotype of a startup company is like the cast of the HBO comedy Silicon Valley — young, male, and nerdy. But if you head over to Tigerlabs, the Nassau Street startup incubator, you will find a very different set of people running their own scrappy startup businesses. It’s hard to tell what the exact ratio is, but there are a number of women startup owners who represent a broad spectrum of age and backgrounds.
#b#Janet Dally, Maidstone Life Science#/b#
Dally, a microbiologist by training, founded Maidstone Life Science two and a half years ago after working for years in the biotech industry, where she was most recently in the strategic consulting field. She had previously worked as a healthcare analyst for Merrill Lynch Healthcare Fund, and for MD Becker, MontRidge LLC, and Burns McLellan. “I was building business on behalf of those companies. I thought, why not do it for myself?” she said. Her consultancy specializes in investor relations and business development, especially for small life science companies.
Dally also organizes a conference of industry leaders in the cancer immunotherapy field, held every March in New York.
“For any woman entrepreneur, you have to just try to put your best foot forward. I’ve worked in industries that have always been male dominated,” she said. “It’s just something that I’ve always just dealt with. I’m typically one of the few women in whatever meeting I’m in.”
#b#Maria Russo, Humanity Unified#/b#
Humanity Unified is a “socially conscious lifestyle brand” of travel clothing and accessories. The for-profit company, however, exists to serve a nonprofit cause. The company donates 100 percent of its net profits to Humanity Unified International, a nonprofit that supports a farming cooperative project for about 100 Rwandan women living in extreme poverty. The group provides education, tools, training, and support to the women.
Russo co-founded the company in 2014 together with her husband, Anthony. They also run the Culture-is, an online travel and culture magazine.
“I’ve found there are fewer women entrepreneurs than men and as a result my network of professional support is small,” Russo said. “As an entrepreneur, it’s critical to have people to lean on and exchange ideas with. Women struggle with different challenges than men and I believe that if I had a large network of women for professional support it would be much easier to navigate my way through the first five years.”
#b#Manitari A. Patterson, Meditative Lifestyle#/b#
Patterson was born in Mexico and lived in France until last year, when she moved to the area and set up her meditation coaching business at Tigerlabs. Patterson teaches meditation classes and also does one-to-one coaching.
“I like the idea of having autonomy and being my own boss and being able to use my time the way I want to,” she said.
Patterson says she doesn’t believe women are treated differently in her line of work than men. “I think it’s essentially the same. We both have to be very persistent and go out there and find our clients and talk to people about what we do,” she said.
#b#Marina Rubina, Architect#/b#
Moscow native Marina Rubina runs an architecture practice out of Tigerlabs. She is an innovator in the field of modular housing (U.S. 1, May 21, 2014) and is trained in engineering as well as architecture.
She started her own business after being laid off from the firm of Kieran and Timberlake in Philadelphia when she took maternity leave during the economic downturn of 2008. Her practice specializes in homes that are beautiful and well designed while not being excessive “McMansions.”
“I feel that if I were to design something that is truly beautiful, unique, and small, I think people will come and see the difference and say, Maybe I don’t need a monster of a house; I could be happy in a 2,300 or 2,500-square-foot house, have an outdoor space, and an electric and gas bill that are less,” Rubina told U.S. 1 in a previous interview. “That’s my hope — we’ve got to do something.”
#b#Nancy Weinstein, Mindprint#/b#
Weinstein started Mindprint, a children’s learning startup, with her husband, Eric, in 2015. The company has developed a computerized test to assess children’s learning strengths and weaknesses. (U.S. 1, May 13, 2015.)
Weinstein, who attended Harvard Business School, worked at Goldman Sachs, Disney, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and several Internet startups before founding Mindprint.
Weinstein said she was treated differently than her male colleagues, especially when she was younger and worked for Disney and on Wall Street.
“At this point in my career I’d say that “times have changed and so have I,” Weinstein said. “I can’t speak for professional women coming out of college, but my sense is that there has been progress. It was even visible in the few years from when I started working at Goldman Sachs and when I left two years later.
“As for me now, I have sufficient expertise that if there is any gender bias at all, it is quickly gone within minutes of a conversation. When Eric and I first launched Mindprint and our roles were not as clearly delineated, we did most of the introductory calls together with investors, scientists, potential partners, etc.
“On any given call, it became relatively clear who should take the lead based on who had the natural rapport. As a pair, there was no ego about who was taking the lead. We just wanted to develop the relationship for Mindprint; whoever seemed to have the better connection would be in charge of follow-up. Connection has more to do with personality and experience than gender, though of course gender contributes to making the person.”
#b#Melissa Klepacki, Princeton Scoop#/b#
Klepacki runs Princeton Scoop, a hyperlocal social media company, from her Princeton home. The company’s four other women, three account managers and an accountant, are also either mothers or stepmothers. The team meets once a month at Tigerlabs, and otherwise works remotely.
Launched in 2007, Princeton Scoop now uses Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote local businesses and events. Klepacki says it originally targeted young people, but has moved into older demographics as Facebook’s average user age has gone up. Princeton Scoop boasts about 12,000 Facebook followers.
Klepacki says that running one’s own business is a great option for women who want to work full time, but who need to alter their schedules at a moment’s notice to attend to children. “It allows us flexibility that you wouldn’t get with a corporate job,” Klepacki says.