Serial entrepreneur and Upward Hartford Founder & CEO Shana Schlossberg is the first to admit she has no fear. In a candid interview, Shana told a crowd of women entrepreneurs—which she defines as “forward thinkers”—about her entrepreneurial journey and what ultimately sparked her interest in helping revitalize Hartford.
It all took place at the kickoff She Means Business event, which took place Thursday, May 3 at Upward Hartford. The event was the brainchild of General Manager Samanatha Wanagel, who began working with Upward Hartford in November 2017.
“Very early on, we realized we needed a line of professional events for Hartford’s women in business. And we knew we wanted it to be different, with unconventional and gutsy content,” explained Samantha.
“We’re crafting something that weaves women together, from all avenues of business. The collaboration will strengthen the city’s professional female community and set the standard for the next generation of Hartford’s female leaders,” she added.
Attendees enjoyed networking before the interview began. Cynthia Dokas Whipple, Director of Graduate Support and Admissions at Covenant Prep School in Hartford was on hand to ask Shana about her experience, beginning with how she became an entrepreneur.
AN ENCOURAGED ENTREPRENEUR
Shana admitted she was always “scheming” as a child. She says she was always encouraged by her father, who told her she could be anything she wanted. She shared about her formative years, when her interests in everything from technology to opera singing and neuroscience had her travelling the world.
Shana recalled a moment thinking, “I wish I had an idea,” which she said really sparked her journey as an entrepreneur. And, she emphasized, entrepreneurship is “a state of mind.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP
Shana is careful with the word “mentor,” which she feels can be misconstrued. To her it means someone you trust, someone who has your back, and someone who shapes you as a person. And not just in business—someone who supports, helps, and directs.
And, she pointed out that a mentor is different than a subject matter expert.
“Mentors help you when you’re successful—and when you’re not,” she underscored. “Will your mentor still be there if you fail?”
Shana said, “Finding the right people to talk to is a shortcut to success.”
In terms of finding mentors, Shana said, “I look for people more successful than me.” She added, “I’ve been lucky to find those people in my life. They are the biggest reason for my success.”
Peer-to-peer mentors also have an important place, she noted. “Entrepreneurs need people in the same boat—someone who’s gone through what you’re going through.”
Shana joked, “I want to go back and mentor my younger self!”
FAILURE IS A MEASUREMENT
When asked about her growth as an entrepreneur, Shana said she has learned about her relationship with failure. She admitted when she was younger, “I could not fail.
She says it was an enlightening moment when she accepted failure as part of the journey.
“Failure is a measurement,” she said. “If you don’t embrace it, you can’t have success.”
Often, she notes, failure is based on fear. “I’m a fearless woman,” she proclaimed.
Shana says her inspiration comes from people like herself who are self-made. It also comes from people she has helped along the way. “Everyone has their own story. Seeing someone overcome the difficult is awe-inspiring.”
How did Shana end up in Hartford? “I wasn’t looking for Hartford,” she nonchalantly said. “An event brought me here. They wanted me to solve Hartford.” This was back in 2015.
Shana added, “I’m a social entrepreneur. I like to work on things that matter. I realized Hartford has what it needs. It’s fixable.”
So, she set a goal: We need to fix Hartford. “The only thing to fix a city is technology,” she said. “And it had to start with a space where people can collaborate.”
That’s how the idea for Upward Hartford (originally Innovate Hartford) came to be. “It looks like a co-working space, but it’s not. We had to call it something. It’s really a nucleus,” Shana explained.
Established and new startups work out of Upward Hartford. The space attracts not just startups but artists, insurance companies, and so forth, she notes. And Upward Hartford helps make mentor connections.
“We believe in change for Hartford,” Shana said. And that all starts with an idea. That’s where the Idea Wall started. It’s a place to share ideas, a place where conversations start.
“How do ideas start?” Shana asked. “Someone has one, and someone needs it. That’s how startups form.”
After the interview, Shana answered questions about how to find your direction, where to find funding, and how the entrepreneurial experience differs for women and men.
The event was well-received and Upward Hartford hopes it will be the first in a series.
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