Business 02 November 2018
"It’s like a female golf course,” says Cate Luzio explaining the 15,000-square-foot NoMad space she created as Luminary; a co-working facility for women that acts as an inclusive community for professional development and personal networking.
Seven months ago, Luzio traded in 20 years of banking after a conversation with her lifelong mentor. He suggested that banking wasn’t how she’d spend the rest of her life and while Luzio dismissed his prophecy at first, she realized she did have a greater vision. So Luzio locked herself up in her apartment to fulfill it; producing a business plan for a space that would be the go-to collaboration hub for women in New York City.
“I was tired of having coffee after coffee with women who wanted to learn about banking,” says Luzio on the need to create a place where women could confide in one another. She wants members to feel comfortable in approaching other women who aren’t necessarily in their same career path. “I never would have met someone in media when I was in the banking world,” shrugs Luzio in reference to me, ironically, over coffee. “It’s a way for people to build their network, to break down barriers.
So the story goes, Luzio spent a week in her apartment, pajama-clad, creating a business plan for this kind of inclusive community, where women could work and have a sense of belonging—which for Luzio, also meant self-funding the project to control all variables.
“Self-funding is important to me because it ensures that we stick to, and realize, our vision, build out the space quickly, and make the decisions that are in the best interest of the company from the beginning,” says Luzio.
As a first-time founder, Luzio admits her banking background was critical in developing an efficient, long-term business plan. This included a detailed breakdown of both initial funding and long-term finance goals, as well as programming and development in cross-industry verticals.
Not only did self-funding allow for rapid action on the business plan, but Luzio also felt it was a commitment to her future members. "I want to put my money where my mouth is and invest to address the issues that women, including me, experience, while creating greater opportunities and enriching experiences for women,” she says.
Along with presenting opportunities for future Luminary members, Luzio was committed to investing in opportunity, which began with the women-founded, women-led, local businesses she collaborated with to stock Luminary's kitchen with wine on tap, nutritious food, and decorate the walls to match her sophisticated, minimalist design.
"Working with Ancolie, a woman-founded restaurant in the West Village to William Ris Gallery, a woman-owned gallery in the North Fork... I'm surrounded by such a supportive community that brings me new ideas and puts inspiring women on my radar everyday.”
As a way to encourage and foster these cross-career relationships, Luzio targets the modern, inquisitive woman, who she says is difficult to define. “It’s hard to categorize today's woman with labels and we don't want to; we want to be inclusive regardless of who you are or what you do, or don’t do."
In order to emphasize inclusivity, Luzio explains her idea to create a community board near check-in as a way for members to advertise their presence on a particular day. “If you’re busy on a given day, you don’t have to,” she reassured.
This concept was formulated from Luzio’s former experiences at coworking spaces, where she didn’t interact with other members; she never knew who she was sitting next to. She recognized the lack of opportunity to foster member relationships as a flaw in other coworking environments, and this is how Luminary was initially conceptualized.
Additionally, while she notes her open personality, she recognized some women aren’t as extraverted and therefore may never turn to their neighbor and introduce themselves so the board is a way for staff to say, "hey, this is who is here, if you’d like to meet them, we will personally introduce you”—eliminating social anxiety and emphasizing meaningful connections.
The rest of the space is thoughtfully designed, including a fitness room to host studio classes, such as pilates and yoga; a meditation room; a lactation room; five boardrooms with Smart TVs; “huddle” rooms for smaller meetings (men are allowed for any meetings or events so co-ed teams don’t need to worry); phone booths for personal calls; and a rooftop—all of which are available to book for private events.
"We are going to have a slate of weekly programs from enriching workshops, panels and office hours with top executives and experts, in-residence coaching and a monthly speaker series to express fitness/wellness classes and social events,” says Luzio, adding that the monthly speaker series will launch in December with one of Luminary’s Founding Members, Ruth Zukerman, co-founder of SoulCycle and Flywheel. "If our mission, community and space speaks to you—we encourage you to join us,” she says.
Luminary officially opens its doors on November 14, 2018. You can find more information on membership rates and programming here.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."