Photography by Emily Patten and Meghan Marin // Written by Sarah Potter of The Pastiche
Walking into the Arbor Loft on Saturday morning felt like the start of something magical. 200+ women were gathered together in the same place for the same purpose. We were all there for a united cause, even though we may have come from different places, different stages, different backgrounds, and may be headed in different directions. That morning, everyone had a shared curiosity, a shared interest, a shared courage, a shared respect, regardless of what path we are on, or where in our journey we find ourselves. And there was truly such excitement in the air, and everyone was looking forward to what the day would entail.
Styling by the oh-so-fabulous Hannah Betts of Lives Styled
The stunning loft space was beautifully, whimsically decorated (which felt appropriate for the amount of day-dreaming I found myself doing for the remainder of the day and weekend). Filled with sunlight and dainty green succulents, and lined with a winding arch of sherbet colored balloons and several loose ones strewn all over the floor, the place itself even inspired creativity.
Rows of chairs lined the floor before seven stools, and after some initial meeting and mingling, everyone took their seats. Sarah Knight, founder of Roc Girl Gang, kicked off the event (you know you’re a girl boss when you’re the head of the whole gang of girl bosses), and Agathi (Athi) Georgiou followed her with an inspiring keynote address. Pretty appropriate that we found ourselves sitting at the Arbor Loft for this event because the space is owned and operated by Athi herself (and the company she started 6 years ago, Agathi & Co). Athi and the other women on the panel are all locals who have proved themselves to be total bosses in their respective fields. That part is well known and certainly well respected. But the lesser-known part, in many cases, is the Becoming part. Hélène Biandudi Hofer, journalist and producer at WXXI and owner of HBH Enterprises, Kathy Turiano of Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, Linh Phillips, author of the food & drink blog Sir Rocha Says, Athi Georgiou of Agathi & Co. and the Arbor Loft, and Laura Bascomb-Werth and Mary Presutti of the lifestyle and jewelry brand Emerson & Oliver captivated a room full of women who were hungry to hear their stories.
The women answered questions about their first jobs, how they got started in their current careers, their favorite forms of social media, their best advice, what gives them joy, and the biggest obstacles they’ve faced. Spoiler alert: none of them are still doing their first job, and their paths to their current careers have been winding and often times spontaneous ones. Their reflections felt raw, honest, and real. We learned that their obstacles have been significant, and unfortunately (but also fortunately, if you grow from it) failure is real. Hélène Biandudi Hofer explained that she, herself, has been her own greatest obstacle to overcome, even still at times. And she taught us to celebrate every milestone, even the small stuff. Kathy Turiano talked about the importance of your core--not only your own core of what you want to do and what’s important to you, but a core support team as well. She takes great pride in her “tribe,” and creating a true sense of community has always been a joy of hers.
Linh Phillips taught us that success isn’t a linear path; it comes in layers, and we should look to what makes us feel most alive and trust in the detours of life. She also led a small workshop with us, emphasizing five key points for improving our social media presence: 1. Have a game plan; 2. Develop your voice and own it; 3. Fresh and relevant imagery matters; 4. Get to know your peeps; and 5. Keep tweaking your secret sauce. Athi Georgiou emphasized the importance of hustle and heart and taking chances, as well as asking for help when you need it. Laura Bascomb-Werth and Mary Presutti talked about the power of putting yourself out there and getting to know the people around you. They reminded us that Rochester is a wonderful place to take the leap, and even spoke about other members of the panel and in the audience and how they’ve helped them over the years!
Each woman had a different sort of perspective to share and a different kind of wisdom to impart. But for as much variety and depth as there was, there was also similarity, as if the recipe for becoming a boss truly was standing right before us. All of these women have taken a leap that at the time wasn’t an overtly clear, easy, or quick one. They’ve all worked their tails off. They’ve all been humbled by both their failures and successes, and they all recognize that they haven’t and couldn’t possibly do it alone. I felt nothing but authentic gratitude from these women--they seemed as genuinely interested in learning about each other’s paths as they did in sharing their own stories (another compelling takeaway: there’s always more to learn, and there’s room for everyone’s success).
To say that the day was inspiring, motivating, empowering, and reinvigorating is an understatement. The time went by too fast, and I think I speak for the entire audience when I say that we could have stayed for hours more, picking these bosses’ brains. Lucky for us (and you), Roc Girl Gang has plenty more up its sleeve, starting with the third installment of Becoming Boss on June 24, showcasing another handful of ladies who’ve turned their passions into successful businesses.