I met Jordan DeTar via Strategy Girl (cold DM’s for the win!) and she told me to check out the Aspire to Her Instagram. When I did, I quickly knew I needed to learn more about its founders and their vision and story!!! So thank you Jordan (you can read Jordan’s tips for business majors here), and thank you, Jo and Sasha, for introducing us to Aspire to Her as well as for all of the wonderful work you are doing to empower and connect women in business.
Enjoy their interview below, and get more information after about their events, including an upcoming in-person launch party in Brooklyn, by heading to the Aspire to Her website and IG.
Name: Jo Cheng
Location: New York City
Education: Vanderbilt University
Name: Sasha Pines
Education: Vanderbilt University
Aspire to Her aims to equip young women in business with the knowledge to launch their careers on the right trajectory. Thinking back to college, what inspired or led you to take your first steps toward business?
Similar to many incoming freshmen, we weren’t absolutely certain what we wanted to do or be when we started college. Freshman year at Vanderbilt, we both enrolled in Principles of Marketing taught by Professor Cherrie Wilkerson. She cared about her students and made a pointed effort to encourage the women in her classroom. From this relationship, we learned the importance of having female leaders as role models and the impact a mentorship relationship can have on a young woman.
In search of similar resources, we came to a quick realization in our sophomore year that Vanderbilt was the only top 15 school without a Women in Business organization. This convinced us, along with four other female students, to create and launch Vanderbilt Women in Business (WIB).
Our organization exploded on campus simply because of the clear need. WIB is now the largest business organization at Vanderbilt with 700+ members, an executive team of ~40 students, and 100+ dedicated mentors from across Nashville. The creation of this organization was ultimately the first step (of many) that inspired us toward the path of business.
If you go back to college and take part in something you did not that would have been beneficial to you in your career today, what would it be and why?
Jo: If I were back in college today, I would’ve taken part in more conferences geared toward entrepreneurs. I didn’t recognize its significant impact or accessibility until I left college and find myself looking for more resources.
Sasha: Taking advantage of office hours with professors that inspire you the most. Those one-on-one conversations are the best way to build meaningful relationships with truly incredible and intelligent mentors.
How did you initially come up with the idea(s) that eventually became Aspire to Her?
During our college career co-founding Vanderbilt Women in Business, we launched a Mentorship Program that connected students with businesswomen in Nashville. Through running and growing the program, we were incredibly fortunate to meet business leaders and hear their career journey and tangible advice. These learnings and relationships shaped our personal and professional growth.
As we approached graduation and considered the impact our mentors had on guiding our post-grad careers, we were inspired to make their advice accessible to all women. This desire happened in tandem with our own struggle to formulate a “career path”. We read countless interviews with businesswomen, but most barely scratched the surface of their early careers. What did CEOs do right out of college?
We wanted information and inspiration specifically for the first 10 years of a career launch. From that, Aspire to Her was born.
Did you face any hurdles getting it up and running? How did you navigate them, and what did you learn about both yourself and business in this process?
The ideation of Aspire to Her went through many iterations. There were so many ways we could take our idea of empowering young women in their early careers. Our mission came easy; the hard part was figuring out the best way to fulfill our ambition of empowering young women.
To figure this out, we spent countless hours brainstorming between ourselves. We quickly learned that we couldn’t do it alone. We discussed our ideas with our mentors, constantly reaching out when we have a question (incredibly thankful for them) and recruited an incredible team to help execute our vision.
You’ve interviewed so many amazing women in business. If you could choose one woman to interview in the future, who would it be and why?
We would love to interview Rebecca Minkoff. We are so enthralled and in awe of her incredible talent, vision, and passion for empowering female business owners through the Female Founder Collective. We would be honored to hear about her career journey and highlight her achievements along the way.
Why are women supporting and empowering other women (especially in business!), something that is important to you and, arguably, something that all women should aspire to make a part of their own career journey?
Identifying with a female role model transforms a woman’s understanding of her own potential, and in that way, redefines her ambitions. If we want to see more female leaders, whether in business, politics, or other male-dominated fields, we need to start within our own circles and networks. We need to empower each other, whether younger, same-level or above, to recognize our own potential so we can continue setting examples for future generations of female leaders.
What advice do you have for young women who want to launch an empowerment-oriented enterprise or passion project?
Our advice is to talk to as many people as you can to discuss your ideas, flush out your core mission, and ultimately, take the plunge and do it! You won’t know all the answers (we definitely still don’t), but starting and figuring out the answers along the journey is the best way to launch your passion project.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
We are incredibly fortunate to have a lovely bunch of mentors we constantly look to for advice and inspiration. Two that come to mind are Alex Daly, Founder of Daly (one of our Panelists at our Launch Party this summer!) and Julia Bonner, President of Pierce Public Relations. They have both mentored us when launching Aspire to Her and we are eternally grateful!
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their career goals?
Find your people – whether peers or mentors – and talk to them about your career goals and ambitions. Finding this core group of people will be instrumental as you begin to strategize next steps, career jumps, and passion projects, etc.
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you? And how can they get connected with and learn from Aspire to Her?
We love chatting with our audience so please feel to reach out! You can find us online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us via Instagram 🙂
Thank you, Jo and Sasha!
And, be sure to read about the upcoming launch party for Aspire to Her on July 28th in Brooklyn. You don’t want to miss this fun afternoon of candid conversation about your early career, networking, sips, and snacks! Mingle with both industry leaders and other career-obsessed young women. They have over 30 NYC businesswomen attending as mentors from a wide array of industries and companies, including leaders from BCG Digital Ventures, Refinery29, Birchbox, Accenture, Away, YouTube and more.
Another reason to attend: I will be there—I can’t wait!
Get your tickets here!
Thanks Sasha and Jo!