On Monday, August 14th at the Sitt home in Deal, New Jersey, Exceed hosted its annual Women Exceed event. The brunch celebrated female entrepreneurship with lessons and inspiration offered by an impressive cast of entrepreneurs and artists including SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan.
Writer Sophia Franco opened the event with a perfect summation of the day. “Today is about being inspired, gathering knowledge, connecting and networking.” After inviting everyone in attendance to become members of Women Exceed as well as hyping up the crowd, she introduced the day’s panel.
Nicole Cohen, founder of popular lifestyle blog Sketch42 moderated the panel of entrepreneurs which included Eve Ellenhorn, founder of Flavorful Fit, a health and wellness movement that has taken the country by storm, as well as Orly Wahba, founder and CEO of Life Vest Inside, a positivity and lifestyle empowerment nonprofit aimed at children. Other panelists included Elisheva Perlman, founder and chief creative officer of The Anelis Agency, a premiere marketing firm, as well as Elizabeth Sutton, self taught artist and designer, and Judi Gabbay, makeup artist and internet sensation GlossipGirl.
During the panel, Cohen asked many probing questions designed to teach, encourage and inspire the large audience. When asked how she got started in marketing, Elisheva Perlman started the panel off with gusto. “My career started in sixth grade when a trip didn’t work out. I marketed doughnuts from the bakery next to my school, which we weren’t allowed to go to, and soon the whole school was allowed to go. I always tried to find creative solutions to problems.” After giving examples of what makes her marketing different, such as offering a horse as a prize in a silent auction, Perlman gave some serious advice. “You may have to go back to school, to upend your life plan, and that’s okay. You are allowed to try things, you should try things. If you try it and you hate it, drop it. But if you love it, go for it.”
Orly Wahba, founder of Life Vest Inside was asked how her experience as a teacher helps her business “The core of the organization is empowerment,” said Wahba, “to make people understand they are unique and significant in their own way. Being a seventh and eighth grade teacher helped tremendously in this regard in that it helped me understand the struggles that young people face. If you teach someone to love who they are, to recognize their value even with all their flaws, you’ve opened them up to achieving anything.” Wahba then went on to explain the woes of running a nonprofit. “In many ways, running a nonprofit is harder than a for-profit business. Nonprofits are looked at as second class citizens yet they must run like a business. You are accountable for showing results, just like a regular business, but have much less cache in the market.” According to Wahba, one of the most important parts of fundraising, a major part of running any nonprofit, is “thinking outside the box”, a globally important entrepreneurial skill.
Eve Ellenhorn, founder of Flavorful Fit, shared with the audience her health and fitness journey which led to the founding of her business. “I have gone through my own struggles” said Ellenhorn. “Before we marry, when we are in school, we have a hard time keeping up with the best diets, the healthiest routines. Personally, I have tried so many diets that haven’t helped. Then I met my mentor and everything changed.” Ellenhorn realized that the problem wasn’t just food or working out. It was a lifestyle shift that was needed. “If you do good and feel good, you will create a habit.” Ellenhorn’s system is all about total lifestyle overhaul. Over 800 women have signed on in fewer than six months.
Elizabeth Sutton, artist, designer and mother of two, discussed the importance of being hungry no matter the business or passion. “Necessity motivated me. I felt a void in my own life after getting married young and not working full time. Soon, I started making art and people started purchasing it, slowly. But I wanted to go bigger so I called in every favor I could from restaurant owners, real estate friends, anyone who had a space that might need my art. You can’t be shy if you want to start a business.” Judy Gabbai then shared a story about how she was rejected from an agency that represents makeup artists. She thought she was a shoe-in but the agency abruptly said no after looking at her look-book. “I cried a lot after that happened but it was one of the best things to happen to me. I became more professional, worked harder and returned with a better look-book a few years later. It was very empowering to go back into the same place and impress them this time around.”
Ending the morning was keynote speaker Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle and daughter of a lifelong entrepreneur. “My father was an entrepreneur so I understood and liked his passion, his motivations. After school, I didn’t want to go into banking like all of my friends.” Whelan cycled through many successful careers, building an impressive resume and acquiring many skills before becoming CEO of SoulCycle. She worked for Starwood Hotels when they acquired two large hotel chains, started Virgin America Airlines with one other woman as well as helped Equinox grow before being promoted to CEO of SoulCycle, in which Equinox bought a majority stake. When asked how it is to be a mother and a high powered CEO, she laughed and shared with the audience her outlook on work and motherhood. “Work takes up eighty percent of my time but I love it. I know there will be other times in my life when I’ll need to give more attention to other areas, my family. But for now, it works and this is what I love. I love being at the helm of a company that empowers people, young women especially, our core clientele. As women, we often ask, can I have it all? Well, what’s your all? Of course you can have it. Just know it will never be perfect, but it’s out there.”
For more information about Women Exceed please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.