Not to be vulgar, but Mia Schipani is a badass. And it takes one to know one. So, when Schipani founded the organization Badass Women Fairfield County and launched it by celebrating six leaders in — to embrace the slang — badassery, people took note.
At a recent kickoff breakfast for the organization at J House in Greenwich, 100 inspired audience members turned out to honor the first-ever crop of multitasking, community enriching, entrepreneurial award winners.
“These are unsung heroes who don’t get the recognition they deserve because they are not tooting their own horn,” says Schipani, president of Schipani PR.
As the head of her own business, Schipani often crosses paths with badass women business owners.
“In order to be an entrepreneur, you have to reach out and create a network,” she says. “You can’t grow without partners. You can’t do it by yourself. That’s the whole thing. It’s a collective effort. It’s a community that supports each other.”
Impressed by the stratospheric accomplishments of so many local women, Schipani felt compelled to bring them all together; to create a web of successful leaders that could have an even greater impact on the community than the sum of its parts.
Schipani started by compiling her first board of advisers, six honorees she thought deserved recognition and who fulfilled the rigorous criteria that listed social responsibility and community involvement at the very top. “When we wrote their bios, they were so long,” Schipani says. “They’re such doers. There’s not a minute of their day that’s not productive.”
But that could be a double-edged sword.
“So many entrepreneurial women are amazing but don’t get their story out there because it’s so costly and time consuming,” she says. “These are highly motivated women and I wanted to tell their stories.”
Stories like that of Layla Lisiewski who founded The Local Moms Network (now in 20 states) after pioneering a financial advisory business at Merrill Lynch and launching local resource guide Greenwich Moms. She is a chair for the Greenwich United Way, fundraises for various organizations, including the Breast Cancer Alliance, and has been a Division 1 lacrosse player.
“She’s created jobs for over 200 women,” Schipani says. “She has three babies under 5. She’s insane.”
Maureen Clark Newlove, owner of Noble Salon in Stamford, has donated more than $200,000 to local initiatives for women’s health and wellness through the Noble Cause outreach program. She has been a motivational speaker, educator, editor for Color and Design Magazine and her salon has been awarded Best Salon of Fairfield County every year since it opened 2007. She’s a mom of two.
Dermatologist Kim Nichols changed career track after a degree in art history from Harvard University. She now employs and mentors an all-female staff, has been featured on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Megyn Kelly Today,” serves on the board of the Greater NYC American Red Cross, volunteers for the Skin Cancer Foundation and has been honored as one of 100 Influential Women of Color by the state of Connecticut. She has three children.
Attorney Alessandra Messineo Long launched a law firm, ran a nonprofit of “700 Women,” served as the first working Junior League president, first female board member of The Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association, is on the board of the American Red Cross Metro NYC Chapter and co-founded a networking group for professional women. She runs marathons, is a mentor and a mom of three.
Rabbi Deborah Salomon founded the Hebrew Wizards School. Her curriculum is used in 50 schools worldwide. She founded community service program, Better2B, where students work with senior centers, homeless shelters and pet rescue centers; received two Parent’s Choice awards for music albums by her Hebrew Wizards Family Band, was awarded a silver medal playing for the USA Tennis Team in the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv and formed the 200-member, nondenominational congregation, Kehilat Shalom. She’s a mom of three.
“The rabbi brings this whole other spiritual element to the table,” Schipani says. “And she used to work on Wall Street. She became a rabbi at 50.”
Laurie Stefanowicz is a managing partner of Catamount Wealth Management in Westport. She has been a Division 1 soccer player, the youngest player drafted to the first U.S. women’s professional soccer league, completed two marathons, helped raise almost $500,000 as vice chair on the school board for her two children and coaches their soccer teams.
Of the Badass Women, Schipani says, “I got it off the ground with an incredible group of women. Don’t you want to hear from these women? They are the real deal.”
Again, it takes one to know one.
Schipani herself initially co-founded a fashion company; then founded a wellness company; launched a support group for more than 100 HR women; went on to lead dozens of charitable causes, including as chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red campaign; she mentors young women; runs marathons; started her own marketing agency and is now growing this special community of women.
She says if she had a dollar for everyone who told her that she — or women like the honorees — must be made from different stuff in order to accomplish so much, she’d be rich. “You’re not born like that,” she says. “You’re putting in effort.”
The J House event was led by author and founder of Activate Worldwide, Lucinda Cross. “The emcee was phenomenal,” says Schipani. “She created the whole vibe in the room.” A room was adorned with paintings by abstract expressionist painter, Moshgan Rezania, who donated 10% of the proceeds in support.
The driving purpose for the event was getting people to connect to the group’s mission of inspiring other young women. Schipani has aligned with a nonprofit, Girls with Impact (GWI), a Greenwich based organization that teaches entrepreneurship skills to high school girls. Founder and CEO Jennifer Openshaw was in attendance.
Schipani’s goal is to raise $50,000 the first year in order to enable girls from GWI to participate in a six-week program designed by Harvard Business School. The cost is $495 per girl and includes an MBA influenced, virtual program. Girls leave with a mini business plan and an ongoing mentor.
“We want to put 100 girls through the program,” Schipani says. The J House event raised $8,000. “To date we are able to put 16 girls through the program.”
Schipani is already looking to next year and says she has “some incredible nominees,” all badasses.