Panelist and Dir. of Retail Ops, Dermalogica Erica Connor on How to Get Clients

ERICAPANELIST Erica Connor is Director of Retail Operations for Dermalogica, also the host of our evening October 16th. She was responsible for the opening of two retail stores for the brand, including the flagship location in Soho.

With each store open, comes new challenges of integrating to the neighborhood. As a best practice, one of the things Connor does is hand out samples to businesses in a few block radius.

But here’s what is key. It’s easy to hand out product willy nilly. But she ensures, the hand -out is to businesses that are complementary to a beauty and skincare brand such as Dermalogica. A local juice bar. A yoga studio. A place speciailzing in the sale of organic foods. Waxing boutiques.

Connor always keeps the Dermalogica ‘ideal client’ in mind when distributing these samples online as well. “Gilt City” caters to a higher end client and is likely to return versus ‘Groupon,’ where a client is often seeking the free treatment or item and moves on.

Next LadyDrinks is Thursday, October 16th. Its hosted at Dermalogica, so you know there will be amazing gift bags to take home, chock full of Dermalogica products. Buy tickets here to hear more from Jo-Na, Chloe, Asifa and Erica :

Remember! Registered LadyDrinks members pay 50% less.


Panelist and Real Estate Developer Asifa Tirmizi on How She Got Her First Client

asifaNEXT LADYDRINKS OCTOBER 16TH: PANEL DISCUSSION ON “HOW TO GET CLIENTS?”PANELIST and Architect Asifa Tirmizi remembers her first client all too well. It was 2005 and she had gleaned a connection to modeling maven Marilyn Gauthier through a friend she studied with at NYU. Her first project was to design the building that would house the New York arm of Gauthier’s modeling agency. Gauthier hailed from the fashion world, where the mantra is ‘risk’ and edginess.’ She willing to take a leap of faith on someone new.

“If I knew back then what I knew today, I would change some things. I probably gave away TOO much for free in my eagerness to get the job,” says Tirmizi. She gave the client the entire spectrum of sketches and drawings, as opposed to the one or two as she would generate today. But Tirmizi already has her sights set on loftier aspirations.

As she evolves from architect to real estate developer, Tirmizi is keen to be both landlord and designer.

“When you work for a landlord, you’re designing for someone else’s vision. Now I want to design for myself.”

Next LadyDrinks is Thursday, October 16th. Its hosted at Dermalogica, so you know there will be amazing gift bags to take home, chock full of Dermalogica products. Buy tickets here to hear more from Asifa :

Remember! Registered LadyDrinks members pay 50% less.

Panelist Dr. Chloe Carmichael on How She Got Her First Client


FOCUS ON PANELIST DR. CHLOE CARMICHAEL: We’ve designed a panel with four experts who have a track record of getting clients in different industries. Panelist Dr. Chloe Carmichael has built three successful psychology offices in New York City in under a handful of years of practice. But, as she earnestly tells you, it wasn’t easy.

“I liquidated my IRA in order to fund the launch of the first practice,” says Carmichael. “Those were tough days.”

As hard as those initial days were, Carmichael knew—–right from the start—-she was very committed to who her ideal client would be.

“I work with high functioning clients. A high functioning client may be a wife of a CEO who has to plan a corporate dinner for 20,” says Carmichael. “It’s someone who asks alot of questions and is interested in actively moving the needle forward with his or her goals. I learned I liked working with this demographic in my previous life as a private yoga teacher.”

Carmichael also takes a more ‘coach-like’ and results-oriented approach to her treatment style, which she attributes to her success.

Buy tickets here to the October 16th event to hear more from Chloe:

Registered LadyDrinks members pay 50% less.


Panelist and Lawyer Jo-Na Williams Talks About Securing Her First Clients


FOCUS ON PANELIST JO-NA WILLIAMS: We’ve designed a panel with four experts who have a track record of getting clients in different industries. I pre interviewed lawyer Jo-Na Williams about getting her first client. She believed in giving away legal information for free. She would do a “Legal Q&A” Wednesdays where the public could ask her any questions they wanted. She kept the information general.

“You can’t assume everyone knows what you know. So what you know is already MORE.” Over time as her practice evolved, she realized that she craved more work life balance and didn’t necessarly want every bit of work that came her way.

“For example, copyright work. I hated it.” So she dedicated her time to developing a practice that catered to high level entrepreneurs. She also focused on the entertainment industry. “The more I decided what I did want, the more I attracted the clients that I wanted.”

Buy tickets here:
Registered LadyDrinks members pay 50% less.

Interview with Vaughn Accord, Owner of Salon Mizu & Host to August LadyDrinks. By Joya Dass, LadyDrinks co-founder


Photo credit: Jen Painter Vaughn Accord, owner of Salon Mizu, tells his story to the attendees of August Edition of LadyDrinks

“I’m going to start ManDrinks.”

It’s the common refrain I hear from my male counterparts in the two years I’ve been running LadyDrinks women’s networking in New York City.    I glibly respond, “Men have been doing that since time immemoriam. It’s called Friday night.”  The statement usually garners a chuckle or headnod, in acknowledgement of its truth.

Once a year, however, we at LadyDrinks do invite our male counterparts to join us in our networking revelry. After all, men are an important part of the women’s advancement conversation. And so, the August Edition of LadyDrinks was called BYOG (Bring Your Own Gentleman).

Salon Mizu on Park Avenue in New York City was host to the event. Owner Vaughn Accord spoke to the crowd candidly about starting his own salon at the height of the recession and the strides it took to ride out the dips. In his storied career,  Vaughn has tended to the tresses of luminaries such as Bill Clinton, Bob Dylan, and Richard Gere.


Photo credit: Jen Painter Vaughn’s salon at 505 Park Avenue, NYC

And me.

Since 2002, he has been cutting my hair for TV since I was a cub reporter at CNN.  I would exchange stories about the politics of the day as he would cut my hair, and he would share his desire to start his own salon someday. In those hours seated in his chair, I’ve seen him through Estee Lauder’s buyout of Bumble and bumble franchise, Vaughn starting Mizu with his partner Damien,  overcoming personal hurdles such as his wife surviving breast cancer, and launching his own men’s care line called V76.  Today,  his sleek salon at 505 Park Avenue. And from time to time, he’s still called away to style an Al Pacino or Paul McCartney.

 Along that journey, I too branched off and became an entrepreneur.  Always the journalist at my core, I interviewed Vaughn at the August Edition of LadyDrinks and asked him about his journey. And he shares these tips from starting his small business.



Photo credit: Jen Painter With Mizu hair colorist Nico Scibelli and LadyDrinks attendee Cassandra Droogan

1. Know That You’re Building a Culture, as well as a Business

When Vaughn and his partner Damien opened Mizu, many of the former employees from Bumble and Bumble came with them. Of course, they faced accusations that they were ‘stealing’ workers. However, Vaughn expresses that he was very clear in his message, even as he was building a salon—and he was also building a Mizu culture. With every hire, the crew became a ‘bouillabaise’ of egos, talents, and personalities. “It was important to me that everyone I hired had their head on straight. “ He turned to me and asked, “Why did you stay with me all these years?” I responded that the culture was very apparent from the moment I walk in the door. Everyone knows my name and addresses me by it.  But I also know as Vaughn has gotten busier, I can go to another stylist and get the very same haircut, as she has trained under his watchful eye.

2. Not just a hair salon, a hair school

In Vaughn’s vision, Mizu would not just be a hair salon, catering to customers. The salon was also committing to catering to the the stylists. And so, on Mondays, Mizu is Mizu School, training aspiring haircutters such as Judy who sliced and diced my hair last Saturday.  When asked what is the biggest accomplishment Vaughn is proud of, he says, “It’s seeing a stylist go from assistant to hitting the floor, and soon getting busy enough that they have their own client base.”


Photo credit: Jen Painter Amish Doshi at August Edition of LadyDrinks

4. Be Ready

Despite tough timing, Vaughn and his partner had ensured they had their investment dollars lined up before the recession hit. They were able to ride out the dips. One other dream Vaughn had shared with me over the years as I sat in his chair was his desire to start a men’s grooming line. And in the last year, he has launched V76 by Vaughn. He’s currently in the throes of distribution to major departement stores and e tailers such as Birchbox. I asked him what was the tipping point. He just said. “I was ready.”


Next LadyDrinks Sept 4th is called “Get Styled to Lead.” We are joining forces with women’s networking initiative “Running with Heels” to co-host this boutique. We know getting that next leadership position is as much about talent as it is about your outward appearance. Five specialists will expertly style attendees of this event. Buy tickets here:

A big thank you to Marisa Strafaci for helping to set up August Edition of LadyDrinks, Dj Shilpa for the amazing music. Akin Akinsanya of Panla for the amazing food. Petra Lewis for making the connection. Saurabh Abrol for the delicious prosecco from Wine Chateau Online, LD intern Vashti Barran for your help. And Shannon Donofrio and Harry Rittner, Laxman Narasimhan, Vidhya Narasimhan, and Deepak Awasthi for your generous event sponsorship.




Interview with Katina Mountanos, one of the founders of Manicube. by Joya Dass

Manicube Founders Katina Mountanos and Liz Whitman

Manicube Founders Katina Mountanos and Liz Whitman

This April, two Harvard grads raised a Series A round of $5 million in funding from Bain Capital Ventures for their startup Manicube.  Bain has a track record of investing in companies that are focused on consumers, including Rent the Runway, SurveyMonkey, and LinkedIn. As founder Katina Mountanos tells us in this interview, Manicube aims to bring the convenience of a 15 minute manicure—-to your desk.

Joya: What is your background? How did you get started?

Mountanos: Before founding Manicube, I was the General Manager of, an e-commerce retailer.   My partner Liz was the Marketing Director there. We had both worked in corporate culture before that and saw that male focused services such as shoe shiners and hair barbers were in house for males in corporate America.  A working woman would have to duck out at lunch, rush home before the corner nail salon closed or spend an hour of her free time on a Saturday getting it done. So a light bulb went off in our heads.  Why not offer in-office services that help make women’s lives easier, such as a manicure?

Joya: How does securing manicures at Manicube work?

Mountanos: Licensed nail technicians visit our partner company office buildings on a set weekly schedule so employees (our customers!) can expect us on a regular basis. All scheduling, booking, cancellations are done online.  We use brands like Essie and OPI,  Deborah Lippmann and ensure all technicains have worked in a luxury spa environment in the past. They use quick dry nail drops so we can forget the fans and keep to the 15 minutes as promised.

Joya: What do you think has been the key to your success?

Mountanos: It’s our proprietary technology platform which allows the customer to book, cancel, and pay for her services all through  Automated backend operations and logistics systems ensure that the right nail tech shows up at the right place at the right time. Also our prices are competitive with neighborhood nail salons. Manicures and pedicures range from 12 to 25 dollars.

Joya: This year, you just raised a meaningful round of funding for the business?

Mountanos: Yes. This past April, Manicube raised a Series A round of financing led by Bain Capital Ventures along with participation from existing investors including F Cubed.

Joya: What was your biggest challenge when raising funding? Did you face any headwinds particularly because you were women pitching to men?

Mountanos:  We don’t feel like we faced headwinds just because we were pitching to men.

Joya: My colleagues did a survey, and found that the South Asian women surveyed felt they had no role models. Do you feel the same way?

Mountanos: I don’t want to speak for Liz, but no, I don’t feel the same way. I feel there are many successful female entrepreneurs and women in senior roles at large companies that serve as role models for me!

Joya: What are your plans with the funding?

Mountanos: We already service New York, Boston and Chicago area markets. We are using the money to expand into other cities. Manicube comes to San Francisco this September and additional cities every 2 months thereafter. We’re also working on how to make this service available directly to consumers on demand in their homes or hotels.

A special thank you to Som Chivukula of Eureka Communications for securing this interview. Learn more about Manicube and Katina and Liz at






“I need to do SEO!” The State of the South Asian Female Entrepreneur. by LadyDrinks co founder Joya Dass


I overheard one of the attendees of my July networking event, exclaiming this statement. I had to laugh. It was as if she was proclaiming her need to do something as banal as “do pushups” or “do laundry.”

LadyDrinks co founder Joya Dass with two members at a networking event

LadyDrinks co founder Joya Dass with two members at a networking event

This particular member had become famous for designing clever cakes in the shapes of Jimmy Choo heels and violins, and now catered to a celebrity clientele with even more esoteric baking requests.   As she overhauls her website for 2015 , someone had counselled her that she needed to “up her SEO.” The counsellor had clearly failed to explain what the term actually meant.  So here she was, among a bevy of South Asian women, proclaiming she needed to ‘do SEO.’ They all looked at her with equal parts amusement and bewilderment.  I pulled her aside and explained that SEO is a process by which one back-end loads their website or blog content with keywords they want to be associated with. This in effect makes her bakery come up higher in a search if someone was googling ‘custom cakes’ in the NY metro area. It’s not something you ‘do.’

I may have made a breakthrough in that conversation. However, it spoke to a larger issue:

While South Asians were one of the fastest growing populations between 2000 and 2010 (US  Census data), second only to the Chinese population, it doesn’t mean the systems for supporting this population grew with them.  Especially when it comes to family, many of whom are immigrants.

I’ve known that I wanted to become a journalist since I was 4 years old.  But when I announced that ambition to my own immigrant parents, their only answer was ‘figure it out on your own. We don’t have the money for it.’  Through a series of self financed moves through college, grad school, and beyond, I made my dream come true. But, as a recent survey by Asian Women Mean Business points out, 21 percent of Asian women surveyed, said their friends were sources of practical support versus 18% who said it was their family. I leaned heavily on my friends in those formative years before becoming an anchor.


LadyDrinks co founder Joya Dass with Dr. Bhasal and Dr. Manjula Bhansal

So, the onus is on us, the generation that was born to the first wave of Indian immigrants that came here in 1969, to diffuse the feeling of aloneness and create a support system. We are still finding our way, and in the words of boutique owner Shirin Arenja Vinayak, finding each other. She built her enterprise Shehnaai couture under a decade ago, and recalls a time when she couldn’t find one female counterpart to lean on for information: “Even something as simple as a referral from someone for something as simple as PR, or to be able to market through xyz channel.  Who do I connect with? There was nobody that you could talk to.”

Today some of that has changed, given the advent of LadyDrinks networking and the web connecting us all. But the support systems still largely exist in metro areas as large as New York City, which has also seen the largest influx of South Asians over any other part of the country according to US Census data from 2010. South Asian women in other parts of the world are still working to find each other.

Rupinder Kaur and Panna Chauhan, who run Asian women Mean Business in the UK, polled 211 Asian women in an online anonymous survey and conducted focus groups to understand what keeps Asian women who aspire to become entrepreneurs up at night.  The results indicated that 88% felt there were not enough role models for Asian women in business.  Singer Falu couldn’t agree more. When she first came to the country, she couldn’t find a South Asian woman that faced the same struggles as her.

falu“Loneliness is something that I didn’t even know existed until I came to America. Because when you come here, people sometimes they have family, some people don’t have family. I was one of those.…….Loneliness was one of the hardest things I faced in America.“  Today she has forged her own path, and hardly wanting for good company. She is has sung on stage with mainstream artists such as Blues Travellers and Yo Yo Ma. She  has even sang for the President of the Untied States. But she recalls how tough the first ten years of her life America was. Today as a mother and a wife, she has new struggles to contend with “You know honestly, if you know of a role model, I’m looking for one,” says Falu.

The second most interesting finding of AWMB’s Kaur and Chauhan is that “74 percent of Asian women feel that Asian culture is holding them back from starting a business.” While many women in the US are engaged in conversations about glass ceilings and wage equality, South Asian women admit there are some blaring cultural roadblocks that stand between them and business success.  Shobha Tummala, CEO of Shobha threading salons, like me, says, its something as fundamental as a parent being supportive when she started her business.

“I got the support of my mom, but not my dad. He actually didn’t talk to me for a year,” she laughs.   Shobha went ahead and did it anyway. Today this Harvard grad boasts of an empire is five salons strong and extends from New York to Washington, D.C.. But she gets it. With parents who emigrated from another country, security was topmost for their offspring. And that security could only be found in occupations like doctor, lawyer engineer.  Not as entrepreneurs.

“I always knew I wanted to go into business and that’s non-traditional in the South Asian culture.”

Ladydrinks Trailblazers Day 1-16

Shobha CEO Shobha Tummala

There is the very extreme case of cultural oppression documented in Sarbjit Kaur Athwal’s recent book “Shamed,” available in Amazon. In it, she talks about her sister in law who faced fatal repercussions for getting a job and wanting to socialize with her colleagues, ‘just like everyone else.’

Then there are the cultural mores that dictate women must work harder to prove themselves.  Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi famously brought this to light in an interview at the Aspen Ideas Conference. The day she was named CEO of the multibillion dollar company, she could barely utter the news as her mother was ushering her back out the door to get milk. Her mother chided her to leave her ‘crown in the garage’ because regardless of her social standing in the American world, when she entered her Indian home, she was daughter, wife, and mother first.

Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary General to the United Nations and deputy executive director of Un Women, got a similar talking to, but she heard it from her six year old daughter. Puri had spent many years, working on postings that meant she and her husband were working in different countries. It also meant late nights and long hours. While working at the Human Rights Commission, she had just logged her third consecutive late night and came home to find her six year old daughter still awake.

“Mommy, you sit down here,” her daughter said urgently. ” I  want to have a conversation with you.” Her tone of voice suggested she was quite serious. “I want to ask you Mommy.  Why do you have to work?”

Puri admitted, she was speechless for a while and found herself rationalizing this notion even to herself.  She didn’t need to be at the commission until the wee hours of the negotiations, taking the lead on finding a resolution. But her passion and commitment was driving her. Puri gave her daughter an answer that night.

“As a woman, you have to do extra to prove yourself. So you’re all the time proving yourself. You’re always trying to be perfect.  And in seeking perfection, you will have to do that too.”

Puri smiles as she explains that she eventually succumbed to an ultimatum from her daughter. She not only had to be posted in the same country as her husband, but both had to live under the same roof.

With LadyDrinks I have some initiatives underway to make headway on some of these fronts. I’ve shot a series of interviews with South Asian women, similar to the PBS/AOL initiative, so the next generation of girl can witness dj’s, musicians, makeup artists engaged successfully in their occupations—— AND who look just like them.  I’m hosting retreats and events,  designed to create a safe space to have important dialogue, and even ‘DO SEO’ successfully.  But in the back of my mind, I’m also hoping to create that support structure that I never had.