On Wednesday, August 6, we’re headed to the historic Fenway Park in Boston for a contest in which six WeWork startups will be presenting. They won’t be throwing baseballs, but they’ll be pitching their hearts out to win $15,000 for their business. Fenway Fast Pitch will be hosted by Beacon Capital Partners and WeWork in an effort to bring our New York and Boston entrepreneurial communities together.
Prior to this event, our member companies demoed in both WeWork Boston and WeWork New York locations for a chance to land a spot at Fenway Fast Pitch. Each company will have three minutes to show off their products in “innings” and the audience will decide which popular startup will win the ultimate prize.
Generation Citizen, a company with locations at WeWork South Station, SOMA, and Soho West, is working to empower young people in the U.S. to become engaged citizens. They’re teaching teenagers direct political action through innovative curriculum and programs where students work with local leaders.
Parking in Boston will never be an issue again with the help of this this WeWork South Station company. Spotlight Parking allows users to summon a valet closest to your desired destination. BostInno recently called them the “Uber of valet parking”.
These Boston University alums and WeWork South Station members created a cloud-based platform to transform quality patient care. Even nonverbal patients can easily communicate their needs with efficiency and accuracy by using the product.
When Colette Brandenburg was growing up in Michigan, she remembers spending winters with her grandmother. It was during this season that her mother and father—an elementary school teacher and contractor, respectively—would go hunting, so off to grandmother’s house and The Nutcracker rehearsals the young ballet dancer would go.
Brandenburg’s “very conservative” and “very English” grandmother “was uptight about everything but the movies,” she says. When they weren’t at the theater, they would stay in and watch classics like Gone with the Wind.
“My first love of movies came from that,” says Brandenburg, now 37. “I always loved musicals, but I couldn’t sing. So I didn’t think it was an option for me.”
Little did she know back then, watching movie musicals with her grandmother, that she’d eventually start a dance troupe of her own called LA Follies.
A dancer her whole life, Brandenburg moved to New York after college. She was disappointed by how little money she and other dancers were making for months of hard work in off-Broadway shows.
“New York’s market is really saturated for dancers,” she says. On the other hand, “I’ve always been more interested in composition and creation than being in other people’s work.”
A choreography job landed her in Los Angeles, where she got an artist residency at a city college. While working a shift at the Otheroom bar in Venice, she met a member of the National Theatre of Scotland who was performing in Black Watch.
“It was moving, provocative, frightening,” Brandenburg says of the performance. “And it was the first time that I had seen dance used in a theater setting, where it actually moved the story forward and wasn’t ornamental.”
To fully immerse herself in physical theater, the choreographer recommended Brandenburg go to London. There, she got an MFA in choreography and started her own company called The Federation.
“It was a loose company,” she says, “but it gave me a taste of what it was like to run a company.”
After graduation, Brandenburg returned to Los Angeles. Unable to find a thriving theater scene parallel to what she had encountered across the pond, she became a lecturer at Cal State University, Los Angeles and was part of the WaterWorld crew at Universal Studios doing pyrotechnics and working on roughly 30 Terminator shows a day. Even then, she was taking mental notes for a great, looming project.
“One thing that is interesting is that they train for mistakes,” says Brandenburg. “There are, I think, something like 17 variations of the show. Often, something is wrong—maybe a performer missed one trick, or something didn’t fire right, or there’s some sort of mechanical issue—so the performers know all these different variations of the show and have to implement them when things don’t work. It’s like failure is built into the show.”
But dance was her first love, and it frustrated her to see so many good dancers unable to find well-paid jobs in L.A. So in 2012, Brandenburg co-founded a dance company called LA Follies with producer Bonnie McMahan, who she met while working on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“I didn’t really think I was going to start a business,” says Brandenburg. “I thought I was just going to create something to support my choreography.”
Shortly after the company was founded, Shannon Zimmerman stepped in as co-founder. While Brandenburg takes control of ballet choreography, Zimmer leads all the tap dancing. For hip hop, contemporary jazz, fire, and synchronized swimming, they bring on additional experts.
A cymbal player in her high school marching band, it’s no surprise that Brandenburg loves seeing large groups of people move in formation.
“I feel like now musicals are focused on vocals, but the old ones, the dancers were just—it was crazy what they would do,” says the WeWork Santa Monica member. “MGM and these big, huge film companies had an in-house dance company.”
Inspired by everything from Annie to Funny Girl to Busby Berkeley’s hypnotizing choreography on the silver screen, LA Follies will make any event pop by reintroducing and reinventing an old Hollywood charm and wonder.
The Follies perform at holiday and birthday parties alike, their past clients including Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn, and Kris Jenner, to name a few. At an event for Bud Light, the Follies brought hip hop dancers, contortionists, and belly dancers to the mix.
“We have immersive elements,” says Brandenburg. “We try to make it so the guests have something really well-executed, but it’s not just: here’s a dance, eat your dinner, and clap.”
Speaking from her office just over a month before the launch of her new business, Sarah Hamid sounds incredibly calm.
“I am not stressed because we have our roadmap,” says the member of Berlin’s WeWork Sony Center. “We are aware that nothing will work exactly as expected, so we are mentally prepared. That said, it is still very scary and exciting at the same time.”
Her business is called Mansome, and it’s exactly what men who want to look and feel their best have wanted for a long time. It doesn’t involve choosing from among the store brands in a chain pharmacy or sniffing tubes of facial scrub in a fancy boutique. It’s a monthly delivery of high-quality men’s grooming products.
“Men don’t want to spend too much time searching for grooming products,” says Hamid. “But when you talk with them, they say that they’re totally willing to try something new.”
Hamid says the challenge is that men aren’t always comfortable shopping for themselves.
“Men aren’t educated about personal grooming in the same way that women are,” says Hamid. “I mean, my mother bought me my first makeup. Most men don’t have a similar experience.”
That’s why Mansome sends men exactly the kinds of products that they want. The packaging of each product is always eye-catching and sophisticated—Hamid is a great curator. She says the whole experience should feel “unique and innovative.”
“We don’t pick products just because they look manly,” says Hamid. “You can get men to try a product with a super-cool design, but if they don’t like the product itself, they won’t trust you the next time you recommend something.”
Born in France, Hamid started her business career in London. She spent most of her time in the high-stakes field of finance. But even in this fast-paced environment, Hamid felt like she needed a different kind of challenge.
“I always wanted my own company,” she says, “but I didn’t know quite what it would be.”
When she was offered a job at a startup in Berlin, she jumped at the chance. She says she learned a lot from the experience, but the job wasn’t the right fit. That’s when she started thinking more seriously about launching her own company.
Her first idea was a platform to book last-minute appointments at the barbershop, but that didn’t work out. Then she remembered the men in finance she had once worked with for 12 to 14 hours a day, and how she used to give them tips about their personal grooming routines. The result was Mansome.
Since last year, she’s been working on the idea at her office in WeWork.
“It is inspiring to see so many young people taking risks and starting their own companies,” says Hamid. “They make the decision to take a chance rather than pick a job in their comfort zone.”
Looking ahead, Hamid says she knows exactly where she wants to be within a couple of years. She wants a company that has grown organically, building on its success rather than pushing to expand too fast. She wants to go beyond grooming products to just about everything in a man’s life.
Put another way, she wants Mansome to be the first thing people think of for anything having to do with a “gentlemen’s lifestyle.”
In this series, WeWork’s director of digital community selects a WeWork member to get to know better, sharing her fun findings with the rest of the community.
Helping others find their sense of style is an innate calling for Modnitsa Styling’s Dina Scherer. Incredibly curious as to how she started her own personal shopping and styling business, I spoke with the WeWork FiDi member about her fashion must-haves, the importance of authenticity when dressing yourself, and how to feel more confident.
What inspired you to create Modnitsa Styling?
I’ve worked in a few different industries—including advertising and fashion in varying capacities—and all the jobs I’ve had were creative, but they didn’t offer me the ability to really make a significant impact in the lives of the people that I worked with. In the meantime, I was always very interested in fashion and knew that was something I wanted to explore more.
So in 2008, when I was laid off from a job in a corporate ad agency, I was essentially given the opportunity to take some time off to get clarity on what I wanted to do. I realized then that I really wanted to focus on helping women look and feel stylish in a way that’s authentic to them, that helps them to be more confident and to project that confidence into the world. So after I did a lot of training at FIT—and through smaller programs that were more concentrated on specific areas, like personal shopping and wardrobe editing—I started Modnitsa Styling. I really think that all the jobs I’ve had led to this because I was always passionate about style and fashion, but didn’t yet know the right path to put all these concepts into action.
How would you describe your own personal sense of style?
I’m a firm believer in authenticity, so I think my personal style reflects who I am. I’m a very colorful person—I definitely choose clothes that have vibrant colors in my color palette. (I’m a “spring.”) I also think my style is always changing in a way—there are different elements that stay the same, but other things change as I go through different experiences. So I would describe my style as eclectic and evolving because one day I could look very feminine, wearing a tulle skirt and stilettos, and another day I might be more urban, wearing distressed skinny jeans, flats, and a moto jacket.
Because my world is so focused on fashion and shopping, it allows me to experiment with different concepts and trends in my own style. I’m inspired by the people around me, by the changing seasons, by designers that create unique collections. I’m also inspired by other stylists, bloggers, and NYC women, and I love being able to interpret all that inspiration into my own style and also into tangible help and style advice for my clients.
What are some of your favorite stories of how your work has inspired clients?
I love hearing from my clients after we work together about how they’ve received compliments on their new look—which, as you can imagine, always increases their confidence! My favorite recent experience was working with a lovely young lady from Belgium who was visiting NYC for a medical internship. Her boyfriend bought her one of my style and shopping packages as a gift, and she was so inspired by learning about her style, redefining her style formula, and getting some exciting new outfits and pieces for her wardrobe. She was really impressed when she realized how wearing the right colors truly made her skin glow and her eye color stand out, and how the ideal fit of her clothes really showed off her figure in a balanced and flattering way.
Can you list your five fashion must-haves?
Definitely a great pair of jeans—one that fits you well and is not necessarily trend-based, but flattering for your body type and fits with your lifestyle. A great pair of flats as well because heels are not very practical, but you can put a lot of cute outfits together with flats and still look polished. A well-fitting blazer—something that pulls a look together even if it’s a casual look otherwise. A handbag that you love—preferably one with structure, in a color and material you love, that makes you happy because you’ll see it a lot every day, as most women, myself included, carry our whole lives around in our handbags. And one other thing would be a great foundation garment because without it, your clothes may not fit you properly. So getting a good quality bra that fits you well, that won’t be destroyed by the first wash, will help you feel more confident.
The last thing Lisa Skeete Tatum tells me is “Now is the time.”
This simple-sounding declaration is true to her inspiring nature: After more than a decade of being a venture capitalist, Skeete Tatum knew she was ready for her next big thing. The only problem was that she had no idea what that thing looked like exactly.
“I knew what I didn’t want to do, but I didn’t have anything figured out,” Skeete Tatum recalls.
She was just like many other women around the world—women who feel stuck, are in transition, or are just plain wondering, “What’s next?” That’s what Skeete Tatum, a wife and mother of two sons, was wondering back in 2014. If she felt inspired to make a career leap, other women must be too, she thought. And they were also probably in need of some guidance.
By the next year, her journey led her to Landit, a helpful playbook any woman can use to develop professionally and reach success. It’s not a tool to turn to for lack of skill or motivation, but rather, a question of “Where do I start?” Quite literally, it’s how you can land your “it.” And as of today, thousands of women are turning to Landit for career advice.
According to Skeete Tatum, women undersell themselves. So she’s made it her goal to help build personal brands, coach women on reaching the C-suite, and provide high-caliber access.
“We show you possibility, learn your interests, and provide recommendations,” she explains. It’s through these recommendations that women are able to make the connections and gain the confidence they need move forward in their careers.
The need for this resource is astounding—“every continent is represented,” says Skeete Tatum, based out of New York’s WeWork Times Square space.
Skeete Tatum is excited for what’s next: exploring enterprise interest. Companies, not just individuals, are investing in the professional and personal growth Landit has to offer.
“A career is a continuum,” she says. “We will all have more than one point of change.”
It’s this constant evolution that Skeete Tatum craves and is ready for, and she’s arming women around the world with the same tools: confidence and knowledge.
While Skeete Tatum can’t disclose client specifics, several stories have given her validation, showing the value of Landit. One client even told her, “Landit helped me tell my best story and recognize my strengths.”
From interviews to vying for that promotion to embarking on an entire career change, Landit’s professional advice and network is making the unknown easier to navigate for women around the world.