18 Women to Watch in 2018

March 16, 2018
Women & Wealth Magazine features 18 women to watch in 2018. These incredible women are challenging the status quo, reshaping industries and changing how we live our daily lives.

Last year, we featured 17 women entrepreneurs who were reaching untapped markets, finding their inspiration from personal struggles or carving a unique space for themselves in established industries. The article was so popular that we decided to feature another round of amazing women for whom 2018 is set to be a pivotal year in their professional journeys.

Many of these women are focused on making it possible for other women to achieve new heights both personally and professionally. From local businesses to global solutions, they are challenging the status quo, reshaping industries across the board and changing how we live our daily lives. Here is a glimpse at what they are working on and what they have to share.

Sascha Mayer, Co-Founder and CEO, Mamava

When she saw the challenges mothers face to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, Mayer created clean, comfortable, private lactation suites. Mamava suites, perfect for moms who need private space to pump or breastfeed, can be found at airports, shopping malls and stadiums across the U.S. In 2018, Mamava is aiming to get more nursing moms out of bathroom stalls by spreading the word!

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

Mamava was an opportunity to solve a problem through design. I was seeing my younger sister, friends and colleagues experiencing the same indignities and challenges with breastfeeding and pumping that I had years earlier. We set out to solve a meaningful problem, so it didn’t feel like a choice or risk – it felt like a calling. The greatest thing about Mamava is the constant affirmation we get from breastfeeding moms via social media who feel they have been heard, celebrated and supported in their quests to meet their nursing goals.

Camille Preston, Ph.D., Founder/CEO, AIM Leadership and People Strategy Partner, Blackhorn Ventures

In October 2017, Preston launched her second book, Create More Flow, which offers readers tangible insights and best practices aimed at generating flow – that feeling of being “in the zone” – more often. In 2018, Preston will continue working with leaders and their organizations to improve engagement, individual and team performance, productivity and implement systems to deliver greater impact. 

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

For me, the ability to take risks rests on relationships. If you surround yourself with “possibility people” – people who believe in you and your dreams – it’s easier to feel inspired and motivated to take professional risks. Early on, my father was a source of inspiration, but over the years, I have cultivated a great network of friends and colleagues – some of whom now serve on my board of directors. I know this network has my back and, as a result, they play a key role in ensuring that I continue to take carefully calculated risks.

Janice Shade, Co-Founder, Milk Money Vermont

Shade is changing the way Vermont does business with her equity crowdfunding company. Milk Money is propelling a movement toward democratic access to capital for Vermonters who want to grow or invest in a local company. It connects investors to local businesses, facilitating the circulation of wealth throughout communities and strengthening Vermont’s economy.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

From my first entrepreneurial experience, I learned how difficult it can be to raise capital for an early-stage business, especially one run by a woman. In 2008, I developed a vision for a new form of capital, but at the time it was not legally viable. I started pushing the legal envelope with creative funding vehicles designed to create more democratic access to capital. Six years and several attempts later, all that envelope-pushing led to changes in Vermont's regulatory policy and a new career path for me with the launch of Milk Money.

Melissa Bodford, Co-Founder, uBack

Inspired by a “giving” moment that occurred at a 5:30 a.m. cycle class when she was unable to take immediate action, Bodford turned a personal passion to make giving easy into her professional pursuit. Today, through the creation of uBack, an online platform that facilitates donations between nonprofits, companies and individual donors, she is transforming the way people give.

What are the unique challenges of being a female leader in your field?

There are few women founders in the startup space, and particularly in the fintech industry. It’s startling that less than 2% of women-founded companies are funded by venture capital firms, and that statistic is below 1% for minorities. As a minority woman co-founder with a tenured career in corporate America, it has been challenging to shift my mental model from corporate America to the startup world while simultaneously learning how to operate a business in a new environment. However, compound this individual challenge with the industry statistics mentioned, and it is clear that connecting and engaging with the right investors, partners and mentors is an even more significant obstacle for the broader industry to overcome.

Karen Cahn, Founder and CEO, iFundWomen

As an entrepreneur, Cahn learned first-hand the challenges women founders face when fundraising. This experience provided the inspiration to start iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women-led startups and businesses. At the end of 2017, iFundWomen partnered with the City of Boston to help close the funding gap faced by female entrepreneurs through an initiative that supports local companies – and 2018 will be the year where the results of the partnership will take off.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger entrepreneurial self to assess demand for your product before you invest in supply. Do not spend your own money or, even worse, take out a loan to fund your startup. Crowdfund for just enough cash to build out your proof of concept, put the product out there, test, learn and iterate. Perfect is the enemy of done.

Dr. Patti Fletcher, Author of Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold

Fletcher kicked off 2018 with the release of her new book, Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold, where she explores what it takes to succeed through a series of interviews with female executives and board members. She seeks to help women become disrupters by defining success for themselves.

What advice would you give your younger self?                                                                                                       

Early in my career, my female peers and I spent far too much time and energy focused on the wrong things. We would internalize when we were passed over for promotions or stretch projects, were the targets of inappropriate remarks or were told to “prove” ourselves when our male peers simply had to show up. Instead, I would enable my younger self to remove self-doubt and shame by neutralizing these situations so that I could focus in on what’s important and deserves my time and energy.

Fran Heller, Founder and CEO, Good2Go

Heller is changing the way people solve everyday urban challenges like finding and accessing a restroom in major cities. Last year, she launched Good2Go, a mobile app that helps locate high-tech, modern restrooms located at retailers who benefit from new customers and a revenue share. Based in San Francisco, the company, which has raised $7 million in seed funding, is looking to bring this new experience to other cities in 2018.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

When I was traveling in major cities, I noticed a recurring and time-consuming challenge: Short-term/visitor access systems in office buildings and at retailers were old and felt left behind in the world of smart city solutions. Consumers, travelers and businesses wanted more modern systems, but somebody needed to step up and create a platform of solutions that addressed these everyday needs. There is so much room for innovation. The internet of things, or IoT, is one of the largest areas of opportunity. Restroom access is a problem that resonates with a wide audience and provides a unique point of entry into the smart access market. I felt confident that with my deal-making and partnership experience I could help make it happen.

Anna Fridman, Co-Founder and General Counsel, Spring Labs

Fridman and her Spring Labs co-founders are working on creating an innovative solution within the blockchain to make the flow of information regarding consumer credit and identity more accurate, efficient and secure. In 2018, Spring Labs jumps out of the starting gate by raising capital, building a team of strong crypto-technologists and developing strategic relationships.

What advice would you give your younger self?

There is no need to figure out your entire career path in your 20s, as you simply can’t know where you’ll be in 20 years. If you keep yourself open to unexpected opportunities and challenges, you will fall into something incredible and won’t regret the path not taken.

Melissa Schipke, Co-Founder and CEO, Tassl

After graduating from Penn State University, Schipke became CEO and co-founder of Tassl, a business that creates technologies to connect and drive engagement between universities and their alumni. With tailored solutions for each group, Tassl leverages non-traditional engagement metrics – going beyond donations – to encourage networking among university alumni. Through her work, Schipke is redefining how alumni interact with one another.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

The opportunity to drive change and make a difference in someone’s life or work motivates me to take risks. It has also been great to surround myself with the amazing community of founders in Philadelphia, who also keep me inspired.

Alyssa Rower, Partner, Rower LLC

Rower founded Rower LLC on January 1, 2017, and is focused on counseling people in all legal aspects of matrimonial and family law. She has been practicing law in New York since 2005 and family law exclusively since 2008. Outside of her professional activities, Rower is a committed volunteer, serving on the New Leadership Board for the Legal Aid Society and as a mentor for the TEAK Fellowship. In 2018, she is committed to responsibly growing her firm and client base by building on the success of her inaugural year.

What advice would you give your younger self?

What you do every day is more important than what you do occasionally. I launched my firm - while working full-time and with a 1- and 3-year-old – by crossing one thing off my to-do list every day. This is also how I built a strong referral network – by connecting with one person every single day. Anything overwhelming or unmanageable – from writing a book to building a business – can be achieved when broken into small pieces. I wish I had learned the power of daily habits earlier in life.

Katy Lynch, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Codeverse

Codeverse, a coding school and educational technology platform for children ages 6 to 12, will open two new schools and pilot a software education program this year. Set for exponential growth, Codeverse is a social impact company, with the mission of teaching 1 billion kids to code.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

While I was CEO of Techweek, I faced the question, “Why are there so few women and minorities in STEM?” I felt inspired to do something and, after extensive research, launched Codeverse – a program that teaches kids to code in an engaging, interactive environment.


Meridith Maskara, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater New York

As the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Maskara is committed to helping young women reach their potential. Troop 6000, a Girl Scout troop created to serve girls in homeless shelters and transitional housing, is committed to providing the support and encouragement these girls need to pursue their dreams. In 2018, Maskara and the Girl Scouts will be busy reaching their long-term goal of expanding the program across New York City.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

I took a leap of faith when my husband and I discovered we were expecting our fifth daughter. Yes, I have five daughters. I had been volunteering as a Girl Scout troop leader and knew it was where I needed to be – not just for my daughters and my troop, but also for girls across the city. So I pursued a professional leadership role at Girl Scouts. This meant I was walking away from a comfortable, secure career in the for-profit sector and moving to an uncertain career path in the nonprofit sector. I had learned earlier in the life the importance of trusting my gut and then developing and sticking to a plan to achieve my goals.

Dr. Stacy Blain, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Concarlo Holdings

When faced with playing it safe or following her passion, Blain chose the latter. The cell cycle and cancer biology expert’s goal of developing diagnostic and therapeutic innovation that combats drug resistance, with an emphasis on breast cancer, is redefining cancer treatment in the 21st century. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Success will not be found in a straight line or an obvious path. Disappointment and failure in life are givens. What is not a given and is something that you must develop is how to learn from each of these disappointments, how to not let them define you and how to pick yourself up and be better, smarter, quicker and more savvy because there will always be a next time. Stay true to what you believe in and remember the joy of learning something new. Knowing this will carry you through.


Mia Saini Duchnowski, Co-Founder and CEO, Oars + Alps

Duchnowski launched Oars + Alps, a direct-to-consumer skincare brand for people who lead an active, on-the-go lifestyle, in 2015 after she and her co-founder saw a need for natural, nontoxic products tailored to men. After raising $1.3 million in a seed round of financing last year, Duchnowski is set to take Oars + Alps to the next level in 2018.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

My husband is at risk for skin cancer. His father has it, and his grandfather had it. He knew he had to take care of his skin, but he was too busy and time-strapped to find options that took care of his skin without adding toxic chemicals. At this time, I was a reporter for Bloomberg TV covering international financial markets. After five years in front of the camera, I wanted a different challenge, so I walked up to Mike Bloomberg and said, “Thank you for the wonderful opportunity, but the engineer in me is ready to start something on my own.” He tried to get me to stay, but I really wanted to see what I could build – and that’s how I went from TV to creating a skincare brand for the person who is on-the-go called Oars + Alps.

Cindy Paulauskas, President, Rivet Smart Audio and Founder, Sun Fun You Mediterranean Voyages

Running one company isn’t enough for Paulauskas – in 2018, both of her business ventures will reach an exciting inflection point. At Rivet Smart Audio, Paulauskas and her team will capitalize on the astounding growth curve in the smart home device and speaker market with a top global audio publishing platform for digital audio news and podcasts. Paulauskas’ travel company, Sun Fun You, will add private charters to its bespoke Mediterranean voyages, meeting the needs of today’s active traveler.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

As an avid traveler, it wasn't easy to find a truly satisfying travel experience that let you take care of yourself while also immerse yourself in a cultural experience – and have loads of fun. A good vacation is truly a balance, and you shouldn’t need another vacation to recover from the prior. I started Sun Fun You to provide custom Mediterranean travel experiences that meet that balance.

Abby Alderman, Founder and CEO, Boardspan

When Alderman saw the challenges that CEOs face when leading a business, she decided to found Boardspan, an integrated platform designed to transform the way boards approach recruiting, compensation and market research.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

I have always felt that complacency is the enemy of success, so I push myself to take on new challenges to constantly grow and make unique contributions. When asked to move to Asia to grow a stagnant business 10 years ago, I was excited about the steep learning curve and the opportunity to expand my firm’s international presence. Recently, when I started Boardspan, I saw a growing gap in boardroom governance solutions and knew an innovative SaaS (or software as a service) approach could be a game changer. My advice to others: Acknowledge the risk, but fixate on the reward.

Frida Polli, Co-Founder and CEO, pymetrics

In the age of Netflix, Spotify and Amazon, which offer personalized recommendations for movies, music and products, Polli wondered why there were no personalized recommendations for our most important decision – our careers? Based on this insight, she took the newest assessment science (neuroscience), merged it with data science and created a consumer-grade product experience to tackle this problem.

What are the unique challenges of being a female leader in your field?

I do not fit the typical tech startup CEO mold. I am female, and I am not an engineer. When I started pymetrics, I was also in my late-30s and a single parent. To quote Therese Tucker, CEO of Blackline, who was in the same position when she started her company, “You could hear VCs running out the door!” And look at her now!

I focused on what I did have – several advanced degrees, domain expertise in certain fields and passion for the area I was starting a company in. I can be persuasive, so I focused on that and finding investors and clients who would value what I had more than question what I did not.

In addition, I believe that being a parent helped me be a better CEO because children force you to stop worrying about work and instead focus on caring for other people. It also gives you a totally different sphere in which to exist. That mental break, research has shown, can help a person problem-solve much more effectively than continuing to obsess about the problem at hand. Not only is it good for your children and mental sanity, but it is also good for your bottom line. I also think having balance between work and life has been good for the team because it shows people you can create a fast-growing business without sacrificing other important aspects like family.


Jennifer Williams-Bulkeley, Founder, Vinolytics

Williams-Bulkeley has combined her love of wine with her experience in asset management to simplify wine management. Through Vinolytics, she is combing technology and advisory services to offer connoisseurs and collectors real-time valuations, insights and the ability to track market trends.

What inspired or motivated you to take a professional risk?

Taking risks in the comfort of a corporate environment means you can push the edge, but there are still limits to how far you can go. I wanted to leverage my experience and build something from scratch. I wanted to learn a new skill set and understand what “technology” really is. Being free from corporate confines allows me to push myself to see if I can make it on my own, without the constraints of hierarchy or comforts of convention. I have built new networks and products, and accomplishing that has made it all worth it.

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