What is your name, age, and location?
Elizabeth Crowell, 40, Brooklyn, NY.
What is your profession?
Co-owner of Sterling Place, a boutique retail brand offering antiques, furniture and specialty gifts. Most recently, angel investor in training/agitator to get capital into the hands of the historically marginalized.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
Majored in Philosophy and minored Latin American Literature – B.A. from Smith College.
What was your first job?
My first job was in NYC, the only city I’d sworn I’d never work, working as an Administrative Assistant for a top-notch woman entrepreneur who ran a boutique executive search business that placed executives in Fortune 100 firms. She taught me so much across a range of topics including effective communication, client management and just business in general. Since I’d never done any office work before I started working for her, she also taught me some pretty basic stuff like proper phone etiquette.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
Being a successful business owner inspired me to help other entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life via angel investing. Having run my own successful business for 7 years and having worked in highly entrepreneurial environments throughout my career, I realized that I was at a stage where I wanted to be on the sidelines of business building versus on the field. In other words, I had built businesses, my own and others, and now I wanted to leverage that knowledge to entrepreneurs building their businesses. An attractive component of angel investing to me is the opportunity to coach and to assist by providing the three C’s: cash, contacts and connections.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
Being selected as one of the inaugural Pipeline Fund Fellows is a dream come true. Not only am I learning by doing, but I’m surrounded by 9 other super smart, supportive women all doing the same thing: getting more resources into the hands of women running socially impactful, environmentally responsible ventures.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
My very first job was the result of the entrepreneur committed to hiring a woman. Lucky for me, she had had excellent experience finding women hires at women’s colleges so that is where she recruited. I thank my Alma Mater, Smith College in Northampton, MA, for giving me the confidence to put myself out there into the workforce with little direct experience.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
I think my experience as a woman has been unusual because I have worked in very progressive, pro-women environments. Although I do remember a woman client who accused me of being too young and pretty to do the work. I think for me, I have felt more obvious discrimination due to age, i.e being too young to do the job. Now that I’m 40, am hoping that those days are behind me.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
Grandfather, who died 10 years, at the age of 92. He inherited a 100-year old family business on the brink of bankruptcy, turned it around, and later sold it for a healthy profit. Interestingly, he decided to sell the business rather than pass it on to his three sons, because he felt the demands of the business destroyed his marriage with my Grandmother. This real world experience truly guides my decisions regarding work-life balance.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know, start from what you do know. And do everything in your power to build strong female networks that will support you emotionally and intellectually.
Elizabeth’s blog: insideanangel.wordpress.com
– Interview by Elena Rossini