Lisa Rosado is the founder of We Are Women Owned, a community and events based platform that is dedicated to supporting emerging women-owned businesses. Lisa is passionate about face to face interactions and cultivating empowering communities. The Power Thread sat down with Lisa at The Wing in SoHo, New York. 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Bronx, New York, went to High School in Connecticut, and moved back to NYC to attend Pace University. 

I was incredibly shy and introverted as a child and, at the same time, had always dreamed of being on stage. I wanted to pursue the performing arts, but it wasn’t exactly what my parents had in mind for me, so I pushed my acting and singing dreams aside.

When entering college, I intended on majoring in international business management. Upon recognizing my newfound freedom as a college student and learning about Pace’s great performing arts program, I decided to register for a couple of acting classes to see if it might be something that I’d like to pursue. Two acting classes later, I decided I wanted to declare acting as my major and was accepted into Pace’s acting program.

My childhood felt very chaotic and acting was very therapeutic for me. It allowed me to express my empathy, connect with people on a deeper level and helped me find my voice and gain more confidence in myself in social settings. It was my release.

“I realized that as much as I loved creating, I loved helping women more. I wanted to aid women with the resources, mentorship, and tools to succeed in the business retail world.”

You worked in the fashion industry for a while. How did you get started with that?

While I was in college, I had my first retail job at Club Monaco and then Urban Outfitters, where I worked for a couple of years. I realized I didn’t really enjoy working for large retailers. After that, I began working for a few boutiques in New York. I loved being the manager of small brick and mortar shops where I could form long lasting bonds with our customers. I worked at a boutique in the East Village for five years as the store’s manager and buyer. I slowly began to realize that there wasn’t much room for growth there. I had invested so much time into this boutique, and I was terrified to walk away. But, ultimately, I knew deep down that I was working for someone else’s dream and not my own. 

About a year after resigning from this position, I decided to start my own online shop featuring women’s apparel. I started out with my very own six piece capsule collection in collaboration with a super talented designer whom I had met and formed a friendship with on Instagram. This small yet thoughtful collection took us an entire year to conceptualize, design, and create.

A few months after launching our collection, I dove into my love and passion for buying and began curating my shop with pieces from brands I love.

How did starting your online shop lead to other opportunities?

Although the process of starting a business was very exciting, it was also extremely lonely, isolating, uncertain, and sometimes terrifying. There would be days where I would be packing boxes of orders from morning to night. While orders are a phenomenal thing,  orders on top of doing all the marketing, receiving new merchandise, measuring items for our size chart, doing inventory, scheduling photoshoots, and taking and editing photos left me feeling like I had lost my connection to the outside world.

I also learned very quickly that the online marketplace was very saturated. I was eager to stand out from the crowd and reach more customers. This lead me to recognize the importance of in person events for ecommerce businesses. I also didn’t have many close ties with women who truly understood the rollercoaster of emotions and challenges of entrepreneurship. My need for more human, in person connection felt urgent, and it led me to creating the events and community I had been searching for.

I started by reaching out to the very few women entrepreneurs I had connected with to see if they’d be interested in hosting a pop-up together in Hoboken. And, that’s exactly what we did!

At the pop-up, I was promoting and selling my own brand. By the end of that day, I found myself wondering if the other participating brands had maximized their time there. Debriefing after the event, I concluded that if we were to create a pop-up shopping event again, I would want to add a portion of mentorship into it so I could share my knowledge, resources, and tools to help other vendors walk away feeling like they made the most out of the experience.

How was We Are Women Owned (WAWO) born out of this?

A few weeks after the pop-up, I was contacted by a company that is essentially a database of spaces that are available to rent for events. They discovered my first pop-up event on social media and wanted to see if there was a way for us to work together. After our conversation, I was notified that I would be receiving $1,000 to go toward a space in NYC to host our next pop-up shopping event. Just two months later, I hosted an event with 17 vendors. It was evident that my business was very women focused but, at that point, the events were being hosted under my boutique’s name. 

I realized that as much as I loved creating, I loved helping women more. I wanted to aid women with the resources, mentorship, and tools to succeed in the business retail world. I want to give women the capacity and help to walk into an event confident and walk out successful.

I hosted another event during the holiday season and, after that, I was certain this was the right path for me. At the beginning of 2018, I branded We are Women Owned and decided to focus fully on creating a platform that focuses on community, mentorship, and events in support of emerging female founded businesses.

We Are Women Owned is a movement, a statement, a declaration, and, ultimately, a sisterhood. Together, we are so much stronger and can create so many more opportunities for growth.

What is in store for WAWO?

We’re focused on bringing events to cities outside of NYC. Next on our list is Boston, which is our second most requested city. We have eyes on a few other cities out west in the future. I want to travel and serve the underserved. I am extremely excited to cultivate communities in other places – maybe even around the world!

What inspires you to do this work?

Cultivating community is so important to me. I grew up feeling retreated from the world. I didn’t let many people in – I was unhealthily fearful of what they would say about me and my family because of what was going on in my home life. Because I had a tendency to not fully allow others into my world for fear of being judged, not accepted, or misunderstood, I held myself back from experiencing true sisterhood and forming a close knit group of friends.

Although, at the time, I hid behind my layers of shame, I grew through what I went through. It  lead me to becoming more empathetic, passionate, driven, and understanding. I was able to find a home in the small business and content creation world.

“When I see the women in our community standing proud, confident, happy, fulfilled, and supported, I feel powerful. It is one of the best, most gratifying feelings!”

What has been the hardest part?

There have been many struggles throughout my life. But, the way I see it, there are so many nuggets of wisdom to be extracted during those challenging times, which can be viewed as an absolute blessing. Whether something goes my way or doesn’t quite pan out the way I would have liked, each opportunity has allowed me to evolve into a stronger, more clear-headed, and insightful version of myself. 

What makes you feel powerful?

When I see the women in our community standing proud, confident, happy, fulfilled, and supported, I feel powerful. It is one of the best, most gratifying feelings!

Follow @lisanicolerosado on instagram to check out what Lisa is up to and check out @wearewomenowned (www.wearewomenowned.com) for event and membership updates!