Joanne Solomon Wilson
Blogger & Angel Investor, Gotham Gal
Posted on: February 8, 2012 | Go to profile
Hailed as a “woman around town” Joanne, an angel investor and start-up advisor, blogs about successful and empowering women at www.thegothamgal.com. By helping women entrepreneurs grow their business, Joanne is planting seeds for family, community and the economy. Offering herself as a sounding board, Joanne is a willing mentor who hopes that women can also glean from her experience trying to balance motherhood and her passion for business. She co-chairs the Women’s Entrepreneurial Festival at New York University and has played a role in the start-ups Dailyworth, Catchafire and Food52. Constantly challenged by investor—entrepreneur relationships, Joanne empowers women through the companies she works with.
Q: What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur in an early/bootstrapping phase? Or in a growth/need to ‘now scale’ phase?
A: My best advice for an entrepreneur in a boot strapping phase or any phase is to think like an entrepreneur. What I mean by that is every penny needs to be stretched as far as it can go. Be scrappy and figure out how to do things for next to nothing. Get something to market even though it might not be perfect to see if you get traction and how the customer reacts. Listen to your customers and grow the business with them in mind. Focus on eyeballs first, revenues second.
Q: How much time do you spend on networking versus focusing on the internal affairs of your business (such as management, strategy, ideation etc)?
A: Every meeting is about networking. I believe one of the assets that I bring to the party is that I have my fingers in a variety of different verticals. Those contacts and friendships that I have developed over the years have probably been the key to providing insight into how I think about each individual business that I am involved with. If I don’t know an answer, through networking, I can always find an answer.
ON Career Transitions
Q: I don’t feel like this topic is talked about enough in business news. Professionals get laid off, fired, resign or change careers all the time–which can obviously be a difficult transition at first. What was the hardest career transition in your life and how did you grow from it?
A: I have had a variety of changes over the course of my career. There is no doubt that having my role as a mom is probably one of the reasons for so many career changes. It can be difficult in terms of your own self-identity if you find yourself getting off the train to stay home for a few years. I have been fortunate that I have been able to pivot through a variety of careers between getting off the train and getting back on the train.
I am a big believer that if you have a certain skill set, that asset can be used for anything. If you are a great sales person, you can sell anything. If you are great at analyzing data, you can do that in any vertical. The key to happiness is taking your skill set and pairing it with an industry that you enjoy.
The growth that I have experienced from the variety of career moves that I have had is a wealth of knowledge about many different industries. Truth is, raising a family and managing a household is the hardest job of them all.
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: I have been asked this question many times. My advice is always the same. Follow your passions. If there is an area that you really want to work in then pursue that until you find a job in that area and preferably go work in a start-up. Be true to yourself. Work hard, play hard and stay focused on finding the opportunity that makes you happy, be it starting a business, working in a start-up or taking time off to figure it out. Being happy is key.
Q: What do you think is the key to happiness?
A: Happiness is about being true to who you are. I know who I am and what makes me tick. I like being busy but I also like balance. I am not big on looking back and saying if I could have only… I have made many career and personal decisions over my life and there is no way I can go back and know where I was in my head at that time so I believe that I made the right decision that I needed to make at that time. I always look at the glass as half full never half empty. I am at heart a total optimist. What makes me happy is not necessarily what will make someone else happy but I do believe in the carpe diem rule. As far as I know we only go around once and I want to make the best of it.
ON Time Management
Q: How do your prioritize your time?
A: I was born an organizer and I am also one of those people who can get done in an hour what might take someone else a full day. With that being said, I think one of the keys to more organization skills is I am a starter and a finisher. I create lists for the day, the week and month. I complete the list. I even block out time on my calendar for downtime or I wouldn’t take it. I don’t feel good when I have stuff hanging over my head.
ON Giving Back
Q: What cause(s) have you chosen to support and why does it resonate with you?
A: I am a big believer in giving back. I was taught that from a young age. I was the first chairperson of MOUSE (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools in Education) MOUSE started out as a bridge to the digital divide which paired our families work in technology with helping kids have access. Their core program has changed as technology has but they have grown to run in over 30 countries and in 15 states.
I am now involved with organizations that are run by social entrepreneurs. I like that they are not only making an impact in the world, they are making profits as a company proving the model that you don’t have to be a non-profit to make a difference. I believe in that.
Q: In the world, what are your three favorite destinations?
A: I love Paris and I love exploring new cities and although I live in NYC, it is my favorite city in the world. I try to explore NYC as often as possible as NYC is an ever changing place that I find a need to stay on constant top of from the shopping to the restaurants to the arts to the theater to the galleries to just everything. At the end of the day, I love concrete.
Q: What are the most significant relationships in your life?
A: The most significant relationship in my life is with my husband. I am incredibly lucky to have married my best friend. We are partners in every aspect of our life and for that I am incredibly fortunate. The other most significant relationships are probably with my children. I am constantly blown away by each of their individual talents and unique way of how they view everything from relationships to travel to the arts to business. I have a few really good friends that make me a much better person.
Q: What is the most valuable lesson your mother taught you?
A: How to roast a chicken and the love of cooking. The value of a good haircut, good clothes and the right accessories. Organization is key. A solid handshake while looking someone in the eye.