“If you fall down, get up and dust yourself off,” believes Cate Luzio, the Founder and CEO of Luminary. It takes immense courage, perseverance, and competence to set an example of noteworthy leadership. Cate has done it with her exemplary leadership skills. In an interview with Insights Success, Cate unveils some key insights on her undulating entrepreneurial journey. Below are the highlights of the interview:
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in Luminary.
After a 20-year career in financial services, I left my global leadership role in banking to become an entrepreneur. I’m the founder and CEO of Luminary, a collaboration hub and meeting space for professional women in New York City. Luminary is an inclusive community, not an exclusive club. We don’t have an application process because diversity and inclusion are paramount to our mission. From launch, we included men in our programming and in our space. Men are welcome to join too. Unlike any other community, we bring together our individual members and corporate and nonprofit members in one space so that they can connect and learn from one another. Our programs rooted in expert content. Since opening our doors this year, we have led over 150 programs and experiences for members and a thousand more and counting have come to Luminary to navigate their personal and professional futures.
How do you diversify your organization’s solutions that appeal to your target audience?
It’s all about our programming and community at Luminary. Over 60 percent of our programs are remembered and inspired, responding directly to the issues and opportunities that women encounter in the workplace and their personal lives. Members receive unmatched development experiences and access to connections, conversations, and opportunities that you can’t find anywhere. All of our programs are focused on four key areas and there’s something here for everyone.
1) Professional Development – We all benefit from skilling-up. Luminary’s Illumination Sessions provide members with critical skills like understanding leadership strengths, negotiation, and building your personal brand in intentionally small sessions. As part of our commitment to mobilizing the middle, the Sustainable Connections Series brings companies from across industries together to connect early and mid-career women together for an evening of networking and peer mentorship. Our Luminous Speaker Series brings top leaders to have inspiring and intimate conversations with our members about their career journeys and lessons learned. We have welcomed mega-watt headliners like Sallie Krawcheck, Carla Harris, Bobbi Brown, Ruth Zuckerman, Gary Vee, Sarah LaFleur, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, as part of our Luminous Speaker series.
2) Small Business and Entrepreneurship – We create and convene programs that address the growing number of women entrepreneurs and small business owners starting and running businesses. We presented gamechanging events like Female Founders Day with the Female Founder Collective for a full day of panels, workshops, and advice for women entrepreneurs who are launching their business. Our public-private partnership with WE.NYC kicked off with the WE Master Leadership Conference, bringing together members of Luminary with other women entrepreneurs in New York City for a full-day of relevant content.
3) Career Changers and Pivoters – Luminary curates opportunities to get to your next career goal. Whether you want to climb to the c-suite, successfully pivot your career, return to work after time off, or make your next career jump Luminary is your career advocate. With tactical workshops like design thinking for your career, crafting your professional story, leveraging LinkedIn, and understanding how recruiters and companies hire, Luminary members have numerous opportunities to prepare for their next professional step.
4) Personal + Wellness – We have comprehensive programming that focuses on the whole woman. Personal development programming addresses topics that represent how we manage our time, stress, resources, and energy. Luminary brings together experts who can give members information and resources on managing and investing your finances, loving your body, shifting your mindset to abundance, styling for your brand and skills to be braver. From Barre to yoga we are helping you prioritize your wellness with express classes and bringing in industry experts to share insights and help you achieve your goals.
What is your thought process behind leading the organization effectively?
In my opinion, it’s important to lead with values. Luminary prides itself on being an inclusive community, and we want to support all of our members and employees and ensure that they can invest in themselves. I’m extremely fortunate to have such an amazing team working with me, and we work hard to create a space that didn’t exist before. For our staff, it’s critical to have a north star to focus on, and for us, that’s our members. Each week, we have a team meeting to check in with the entire team and reflect on our favorite member moments from the previous week. The membership experience is the center of it all for our team, and it’s important that they also feel a part of the community.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every best performing CEO should possess.
I think hard work and determination are key attributes of inspiring leaders. My personal mantra is if you fall down, get up and dust yourself off. My father always said that to me growing up playing with my brothers and it sticks with me to this day.
What are the experiences and lessons that you’ve learned across your journey?
It was a radical change going from a 20-year career in banking to entrepreneurship. Every day is different and there are always new challenges. It is a rollercoaster of emotions of highs and lows in the business. Nothing can prepare you for it – take it one day at a time. I learn more about collaborating and partnerships each day, our members teach me something new all the time.
Explain how your strategies are helping employees to bridge the gap between idea and execution.
We opened Luminary with a commitment to lead extraordinary programming. With over 150 programs so far, we are taking that next level to see how those experiences resonate. We are committed to making them even better. Measuring the programming impact is key, and our Chief Impact Officer Surabhi Lal would agree. Vision and teamwork can help get you from strategy to execution, but it doesn’t stop there. By looking at the impact we’re having and listening to what members are saying we can continue to improve and learn from their feedback.
Where does Luminary see itself in the near future and how do you plan to sustain its competency?
Luminary just opened a few months ago and with over 500 members to date, we are laser-focused on building out our New York community. We are welcoming new members every day and building our brand through word of mouth. We want our members and visitors to feel at home and to walk away feeling a piece of our magic. We have had tremendous success during this first year in business, and we aim to maintain this momentum by staying committed to producing quality programming and onboarding corporate memberships. It’s important to create content that supports all women from entrepreneurs and small business owners to executive women. We are also looking at new collaboration opportunities that will bring members more unique experiences and exclusive access.
What advice would you like to give to the young minds?
My advice would be to remember that there isn’t always a blueprint for what you want to do. You might not be the typical job candidate but you might still be the best one for the job. For example, I didn’t have a background in finance and I was able to leave my mark in banking. I think it’s important to look for people with different experiences to complement the team. I never considered entrepreneurship and never even considered opening, let alone self-funding, a collaboration hub, but I did. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut, analyze all of the opportunities in front of you, raise your hand, and never be afraid to take a risk.
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