Founder Profile

Ethel's Club

Najla Austin

She saw the need for an intimate club custom-made for people of color. It opens this year in Brooklyn.

Naj Austin had tried out many different co-working spaces and private clubs--and found them all the same. “At the end of the day, it’s people working--on couches that are different colors,” Austin says. She kept waiting for a space to open for people of color, like herself—and nothing did. She launched an Instagram page to gauge interest for what she dubbed Ethel’s Club in January of this year and within months, she had a 4,000-person waitlist for membership. She located a space in Brooklyn and decked it out with furniture suited to different body types and art that she thinks will speak to people of color. The soon-to-launch community will have a tiered-fee annual membership based on financial need. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Year Founded
2019
Location
Brooklyn, New York
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Naj Austin had tried out many different co-working spaces and private clubs--and found them all the same. “At the end of the day, it’s people working--on couches that are different colors,” Austin says. She kept waiting for a space to open for people of color, like herself—and nothing did. She launched an Instagram page to gauge interest for what she dubbed Ethel’s Club in January of this year and within months, she had a 4,000-person waitlist for membership. She located a space in Brooklyn and decked it out with furniture suited to different body types and art that she thinks will speak to people of color. The soon-to-launch community will have a tiered-fee annual membership based on financial need. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

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Chief

Carolyn Childers

Her global community for C-suite women means it’s no longer lonely at the top.

Carolyn Childers. Courtesy subject

As Carolyn Childers was climbing the ranks of her career, she realized how few mentorship and growth opportunities there were for those at the top. "I felt like women in the C-suite were spending all of our time mentoring other people and didn't really have a community for ourselves," she says. A former SVP at housecleaning-app maker Handy, she and co-founder Lindsay Kaplan launched Chief, a private network for women executives, in January. It costs up to $7,800 per year, and there are now more than 1,100 members representing more than 700 companies, including Apple, Nike, WeWork, Lyft, Amazon, Instagram, and Walmart. (There are another 7,000 would-be members on a waitlist.) Membership includes mentorship-pairing across industries, as well as access to a clubhouse, a networking app, and monthly events and workshops. --Brit Morse

Year Founded
2018
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Co-founder
Lindsay Kaplan
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

As Carolyn Childers was climbing the ranks of her career, she realized how few mentorship and growth opportunities there were for those at the top. "I felt like women in the C-suite were spending all of our time mentoring other people and didn't really have a community for ourselves," she says. A former SVP at housecleaning-app maker Handy, she and co-founder Lindsay Kaplan launched Chief, a private network for women executives, in January. It costs up to $7,800 per year, and there are now more than 1,100 members representing more than 700 companies, including Apple, Nike, WeWork, Lyft, Amazon, Instagram, and Walmart. (There are another 7,000 would-be members on a waitlist.) Membership includes mentorship-pairing across industries, as well as access to a clubhouse, a networking app, and monthly events and workshops. --Brit Morse

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The Wing

Audrey Gelman

She created the leading co-working and community space for women—and inspired others to follow suit.

Audrey Gelman. Courtesy subject

Women today don’t just need a room of their own--they need a whole wing. That was the thinking when Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan named their concept for a women-focused networking and co-working space back in 2016. Since then, they’ve grown the Wing to eight locations, with three more opening before the end of year. That’ll put its membership roll at 15,000. The Wing expects to nearly double its locations in 2020 and create a digital membership for women everywhere. The company has raised $117.5 million in venture capital, mostly from women investors, and spends that money hiring other businesses founded and run by women as contractors and suppliers. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Year Founded
2016
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Co-founder
Lauren Kassan
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Women today don’t just need a room of their own--they need a whole wing. That was the thinking when Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan named their concept for a women-focused networking and co-working space back in 2016. Since then, they’ve grown the Wing to eight locations, with three more opening before the end of year. That’ll put its membership roll at 15,000. The Wing expects to nearly double its locations in 2020 and create a digital membership for women everywhere. The company has raised $117.5 million in venture capital, mostly from women investors, and spends that money hiring other businesses founded and run by women as contractors and suppliers. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

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tEQuitable

Lisa Gelobter

After experiencing workplace bias, she created a software solution for reporting incidents and spotting patterns.

Lisa Gelobter Courtesy subject

“If we can send a Tesla Roadster into outer space,” says Lisa Gelobter, co-founder of TEQuitable, “maybe we can use those same skills right here, on our own planet, to help the underserved, underrepresented, and underestimated.” Gelobter has worked as an executive at BET and as chief digital officer for the Department of Education in the Obama administration. But as a black woman in computer science--who has been mistaken more than once for the receptionist--she wanted to be doing more. Her creation, TEQuitable, is a digital platform that offers resources to employees for dealing with workplace bias, while serving up reports to management and using data to identify systemic problems. The company has raised $2 million in venture capital, making Gelobter one of only 40 black women to raise more than $1 million to date--a number so paltry, she says, “it makes me cry.” --Zoë Henry

Year Founded
2017
Location
Oakland, California
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Co-founder
Heidi Williams
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

“If we can send a Tesla Roadster into outer space,” says Lisa Gelobter, co-founder of TEQuitable, “maybe we can use those same skills right here, on our own planet, to help the underserved, underrepresented, and underestimated.” Gelobter has worked as an executive at BET and as chief digital officer for the Department of Education in the Obama administration. But as a black woman in computer science--who has been mistaken more than once for the receptionist--she wanted to be doing more. Her creation, TEQuitable, is a digital platform that offers resources to employees for dealing with workplace bias, while serving up reports to management and using data to identify systemic problems. The company has raised $2 million in venture capital, making Gelobter one of only 40 black women to raise more than $1 million to date--a number so paltry, she says, “it makes me cry.” --Zoë Henry

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Cate Luzio

Luminary

For keeping women connected--and her company in business.

“In March of 2020 we were just 14 months old. Panic around the world set in,” said Cate Luzio, founder and chief executive of Luminary, a networking and professional-advancement hub for women and their business allies. A significant aspect of Luminary was its sweeping Manhattan work-and-meeting space. “I didn’t have the word digital in my business plan,” she said. She didn’t close the business--despite the fact that things looked bleak. Instead, the banking-industry veteran went into survival mode, as much for members as for herself. Within a week, she and her team created a digital platform for events for members. Doing so allowed Luminary to scale its events, coaching, membership, and instruction operations—the company has held 1,500 events virtually, and can now count members from 30 countries. Luzio says she’s been tested thoroughly as a leader and owner over the course of the pandemic--but she’s also seen the time alone and space to think as a gift that’s allowed her to forecast the future more clearly. “My brain is able to focus on what I have to get done today and tomorrow, but also to plan for 2022 and 2023,” she says. “Its helped me shift our plan for growth and for the future.”--Christine Lagorio

Year Founded
2018
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021, 2019

New York City-based Luminary founder and CEO Cate Luzio left her two-decade finance career at the end of 2018 to start Luminary, which differentiates itself from other female-first co-working spaces by emphasizing that membership is open to everyone (no applications; you can be an intern or a CEO), and that men are warmly welcomed in the space. “I had many male mentors,” Luzio says, “and if we're ever going to change all of the statistics we hear about [workplace inequality], we need men as part of the journey.” Since opening in a 15,000-square-foot space this January, Luminary has hosted 150 events and has grown to over 500 members, with 37 percent of members being women of color. --Anna Meyer

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