LadyDrinks Member Spotlight: Dr. K elects to write about a tough subject for women

Shanta (Nishi) Kanukollu, PhD (aka “Dr. K”) is a new member of LadyDrinks. As a licensed clinical psychologist with a background in Women’s Studies, she had an intellectual understanding of loss and grief when life got tough. But when she suffered her own moment, she decided to a no-holds barred, gritty and compelling article about it.

“The image of that fetus in my bathroom is something that is etched into my memory forever. I had told this child just the night before that if my bleeding was related to her being in some sort of pain, she needed to do what was best. I asked her not to stay in my body to provide me with some sort of temporary comfort if it meant more pain for her.”

Joya: Why was it important for you to write so transparently about your miscarriages?

Shanta: I certainly never thought I would write an article on miscarriage from my own perspective. But, given my background and my desire to end the silence around taboo topics in the South Asian community, I had to.

I want to start a dialogue in a community that feels it can’t talk about their bodies, families and mental health. Depression and anxiety are starting to get attention, which is awesome, but we need to move the needle on general psychological health.

Joya: What do you hope happens when people read this article?

Shanta: The more a community is informed and educated about pregnancy loss, the more comfort and compassion they can show for those experiencing grief. The more we stay silent about this topic or gloss over feelings by telling people in our community to “just pray” or “just be more positive,” the more women are not allowed to speak, share and mourn. Avoiding a topic out of discomfort or lack of information does not encourage healing or recovery either physically or mentally. Let us come together to be the best we can be for ourselves, for families silently enduring pain related to pregnancy loss and for the next generation, whether we have the privilege of meeting them or not.

Joya: While these experiences happen to women of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, being South Asian American adds another layer to the coping and the grief. I’m glad you had the courage to talk about it. What are you most proud of in your career?

Shanta: For pushing myself to work with different kinds of people: Men and women in the criminal justice system. Trauma afflicted veterans at the VA Hospital from different countries with different needs. Today, I am in private practice. My company is called SNK Therapy, LLC and these experiences have helped me feel confident in seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Joya: Who are the kinds of people you would like to meet today, within the LadyDrinks ranks and beyond?

Shanta: I’m hoping to meet people who are interested in mental health issues, social justice, the arts and generally people who have access to the community and would want to talk about DV and mental health.

To become a LadyDrinks member to experience an upcoming event, go to

Important Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Business

I had the pleasure of meeting up with a woman last night who worked in corporate for a long time. But she decided it was time.

It was time to start her own venture.

The next chapter can come with alot of overwhelm. “I have this idea, but what is the best next step?”

I wrote up some important questions to ask yourself to inform that next step:

What is your ‘Why’? Simon Sinek wrote a whole book about this. You could be a widget making company. There are 5 other widget making company. But WHY ARE YOU the one I should buy my widgets from? What are your values? This is important when it comes to hiring or partnering decisions. While the skillsets listed on a resume are important, for me, it’s important to work with someone who communicates, asks for help when they need it, follows up and follows through.

Who is your ideal client? I took an important branding course with Julie Cottineau, someone who once worked for Richard Branson and has an incredibly smart brain. We spent the better part of the several week course dedicated to this all important question. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Build an avatar for your ideal client. Where does he or she vacation? What does she read? Is she married or single? Does she have kids? What does she typically do on weekends? What profession is she in? Does she spend time on her own personal development? Then do as Michael Port, author of “Book Yourself Solid.” Fall in love with the clients you want to work with. That will attract others with a similar profile.

What problem are you solving? Rather than lead with the what (your product or service is the WHAT) ask yourself, what problem are you solving for your ideal client? Do your market research. Who else is maybe solving the same problem? What is your unique value proposition?

Make a list of your fears. I had the privilege of interviewing Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder of Lively, a lingerie company. She had never run a company before. So she went to work at a startup to understand the culture first. Then she made a list of all of her fears around running a business. Next to each fear, she listed a person in (or not in) her network who would become her ‘go-to guru’ on the issue. She went one step further and made each of these gurus her best friends. Having a customer service crisis at 3am? Be sure to call up that customer service contact for advice and next steps.

To become a LadyDrinks member and get more articles like this, go to

Building a Dream Network: Mastering the Art of Cold Emails

November 14th, LadyDrinks hosts author and networking expert Kelly Hoey for a lunch and learn. She authored the book “Build Your Dream Network.” She will present innovative strategies for forming strong relationships—the genuine, mutually beneficial, long-lasting kind—using all of the social tools at your disposal. She will also reveal creative and surprisingly simple ways to harness the power of your network to accomplish any ambition, from landing your dream job or a coveted account or client to successfully crowdfunding a new business venture. RSVP here

I repurposed this story from Brunchwork yesterday. When Arteen Arabshahi VC at WndrCo – Jeffrey Katzenberg’s $1B holding company, decided he really, really wanted to get into tech, he had no idea how. So, he cold emailed 150 people. It worked. He landed his first tech job from one of those conversations.

Want to master cold emails? Here’s Arteen’s advice:

Personalization is key. Arteen’s inbox is full of cold emails. And while he tries to answer them all, the people he has extended convos with are the ones who show they know a bit about him (like the fact that he does slam poetry!).

It can be as simple as “I saw you did XYZ” or “We have XYZ in common.” If you’re making a list of people who truly interest you, this shouldn’t be that hard.

Be brief and specific. Novels will go unread and unanswered.

In your subject line, be very clear about the purpose of your email. (i.e., “Reaching Out to Chat About Your Work with XYZ”).

Then, in the email: Write 2-lines max stating your intentions plus a nugget of personalization. That’s it.

Reach out to anyone who interests you. For Arteen, it was people in VC and big tech, plus entrepreneurs he’d read about. Put them in a spreadsheet, find their email addresses, and contact every single one. What do you have to lose? (Hint: Nothing.)

Source: Brunchwork

What will you takeaway from the November 14th Lunch and Learn with Kelly Hoey?

  • Determine the most effective ways to connect with others so you don’t clutter your calendar with dead-end coffee dates and informational interviews
  • Synchronize IRL networking efforts with your digital outreach
  • Turn “closed door” conversations into strong personal relationships and business opportunities
  • Eliminate FOMO by keeping your networking efforts focused

What are you waiting for? Sign up here

What will you takeaway:

  • Determine the most effective ways to connect with others so you don’t clutter your calendar with dead-end coffee dates and informational interviews
  • Synchronize IRL networking efforts with your digital outreach
  • Turn “closed door” conversations into strong personal relationships and business opportunities
  • Eliminate FOMO by keeping your networking efforts focused

What will you takeaway:

  • Determine the most effective ways to connect with others so you don’t clutter your calendar with dead-end coffee dates and informational interviews
  • Synchronize IRL networking efforts with your digital outreach
  • Turn “closed door” conversations into strong personal relationships and business opportunities
  • Eliminate FOMO by keeping your networking efforts focused

LadyDrinks Member Spotlight: Anita Ajmera, Owner, Madhuram Sweets

As the Diwali season gets underway, all my protestations of ‘NO SUGAR’ have gone by the way side. There are sweet sugary treats offered at every stop for the Indian high holidays. LadyDrinks member Anita Ajmera showed up with a box full of Bengali sweets last week at the LadyDrinks Small Business Diwali Bazaar. She is this week’s featured member spotlight.

What is the history behind giving sweets at Diwali?

Diwali is probably the most well known of Indian holidays. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate it in the fall. In the religious context, it celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. In the agricultural context, it’s a celebration of the seasonal harvest. To celebrate the season’s bounty, people buy and exchange sweets. Many people visit friends and family and take sweets with them as gifts. Some will send cards to loved ones who they cannot celebrate with in person and often attach a box of sweets.

You specialize in Bengali sweets. How are they different from sweets we see in any other store? What ingredients make them different?

Sweets from Bengal are legendary because its denizens are known for their sweet tooth! Sandesh is made of milk, paneer, almonds, pistachios, saffron, and cardamom. Rasgulla is made of homemade cottage cheese, rose water and saffron. Mishti doi is made of cream, yogurt, and sugar. The cream is boiled down, the sugar is caramelized, and the yogurt promotes the culture’s growth.

We make sweets only on-order. We work to ensure our products are fresh, low on sugar and preservative free by incorporating fresh fruit and natural flavors.

How did you found Madhuram Sweets? 

I used to make desserts for my house parties. At one party in particular, a guest, taken by the taste and the presentation, asked me why I didn’t start my own desserts business. I said, “You must be kidding.” The following week, I was toting my sweets to a friend’s party as a gift. This time, we were at a restaurant. The restaurant owner started ordering from me weekly. Word of mouth got out and soon I was taking regular orders for sweet boxes for gifting purposes.

With folks on keto diets and vegan diets, how are you rising to the changing consumer demands during this busy sweets season?

Most of our desserts are gluten free. For this season, we have introduced few desserts that are vegan and sugar free.

What advice would you offer other women entrepreneurs?

My big idea to start a sweets store started with “You must be kidding?” And people still challenge me today. I welcome that challenge. I believe in my customers and I believe in myself.

To become a LadyDrinks member, go to

Upcoming events


Nov 14th 6pm New York Workshop with Efficiency Expert Ari Meisel and TOUR OF UPS Headquarters

Nov 14th 12pm New York Lunch and Learn with networking expert J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network



5 Things You Could Be Doing Right Now to be a Better Networker on LinkedIn

My go-to guru on all things LinkedIn related is @JoeApfelbaum. I’ve been lucky to sit in on two of his webinars and host him as a speaker at my women’s initiative. Here are the five things you could be doing RIGHT NOW to rocket boost your networking abilities on this social media platform.

  1. CHANGE YOUR TAGLINE TO REFLECT WHAT YOU ARE SEEKING. In other words, Joya Dass, TV Anchor, Founder, LadyDrinks Women’s Networking. Notice that my third mention in the tagline reads ‘Seeking South Asian women executives interested in leadership development.’ This mention is important because it comes up in the queue, even before you have clicked on my profile.
  2. CHANGE YOUR ‘ABOUT’ SECTION TO READ IN THE THIRD PERSON. As leader of an executive women’s network, I connect people all day long. Each time, I write one of these connecting emails, I hotlink a person’s LinkedIn profile. But I go one step further. I share a line or two about what this person does and where I see synergies. State this clearly in your ‘about’ section, so all I have to do is ‘cut and paste.’ It makes you so easy to refer.
  3. HOW TO CONTACT YOU IN YOUR ‘ABOUT’ SECTION. Unless you ‘friend’ me on LinkedIn, you won’t get my email. I want folks to contact me. So I put my contact details on how to hire me to speak at your organization right in my ‘about’ section.
  4. PUBLISH THOUGHT LEADERSHIP ON LINKEDIN. The other day, I heard the founder of the branding firm Red Antler speak. Rather than leave my notes in my notework, I wrote an article about it. Connections ‘liked’ it on LinkedIn. Joe says think of LinkedIn as a 24-7 networking party. As a result of my publishing this thought leadership, I’m connecting with a high quality of professional women and inviting them to attend my events. I would like to meet them! I enjoy meeting power women. After all, I am ‘seeking women executives interested in their leadership development.’
  5. CONNECT. If someone has liked my article, If someone has viewed my profile, If someone has sent me a connection request, I always send a personal note. I’m not inviting them to an event right off the bat ( after all, they may not be a lady suited for LadyDrinks!), but I am sharing that I’m excited that he or she viewed my profile. I encourage them to read my ‘about’ section because I am constantly updating it. And I wish them a good day! Sometimes, we continue to network, connect on the phone or meet in person. Sometimes, it goes no where. Either way, it’s helping me to be more intentional with my networking.

If you find these tips helpful, DM me. I would love to hear from you. A big ‘thank you’ to Joe Apfelbaum for sharing these tips.

To attend a future LadyDrinks event, see below


Nov 14th 6pm New York Workshop with Efficiency Expert Ari Meisel and TOUR OF UPS Headquarters

Nov 14th 12pm New York Lunch and Learn with networking expert J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network



Member Spotlight: Featured LadyDrinks Members at the Small Business Diwali Bazaar this Thursday

Thursday, October 17th, @LadyDrinks Women’s Networking empowers 15 women vendors by hosting a small business bazaar at the women’s collaborative hub @Luminary. We put the spotlight on four members who are featured.

Name: Sanketa Jain

Company/Title: Eat Krave Love / Owner

“When I was young, I was told it is a woman’s place to be in the kitchen.

I always had a passion for cooking, but I was told that it wasn’t a real career for a woman. Cooking is ‘just a job we did.’ I spent 16 years in the medical field before pivoting into becoming a private chef. Today, I see how food changes lives. It’s my mission to help people understand and care about what they put in their bodies.

The best way to find the equality in the workplace is by lifting each other up as we will be on Thursday at the LadyDrinks Small Business Diwali Bazaar. As a collective, we can make greater strides. ”

Name: Devanshi Shah

Company/Title: Devannu Interiors, Interior Designer

I grew up in a male dominated society in India, but I was always encouraged to choose a career for myself. Today, I run my own interior design firm Devannu Interiors, with my friend and business partner Annu and I consider it my responsibility to continue to promote the same for all the woman in the world.

We relieve the stress of remodeling and design projects for busy moms. This Diwali Bazaar is a great opportunity to share the niche market that we service and build brand awareness.

‘Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for other woman.’ Maya Angelou

Name : Jaya Subramanian

Company/ Title: Mi Tesoro / Founder/Owner

“The core mission of my jewellery company Mi Tesoro is to empower underprivileged women in India to create self sustaining livelihoods for themselves.

By being in a room full of women entrepreneurs Thursday, we empower each other!”

Name: Niti Agarwal

Company/Title: Tinted Teal; Founder/Owner/Designer

“Growing up in a conservative family, I had to hustle to maintain a career. The women in my family worked tirelessly without any expectations for themselves. I wanted to break the mold. With my background in design, I launched my jewellery company with bold and intricate pieces that are a nod to my heritage. I am gradually hiring more women from the rural parts of India to empower them as well.

This festive season, I am coming to the Lady Drinks Women-owned Businesses Diwali Bazaar to showcase my line, support fellow women entrepreneurs and possibly, empower more women to follow their dreams.”

LadyDrinks Member Spotlight: Tina Ramchandani, Interior Designer

I am often in a position of referral since I helm a large women’s professional network. A friend was in the market for an interior designer, and she said “Do you know Tina Ramchandani?” I said I didn’t. “Oh my god,” my friend replied. “She is the ‘it’ designer. You have to know Tina Ramchandani.” So I made it my business to learn about Tina Ramchandani. I LinkedIn to her. I friended her on Facebook. We made our acquaintances on the phone. I was so taken with the systems and processes she put in place before she launched her own firm. And today, I’m proud to call her a friend, colleague and LadyDrinks member. This week’s LadyDrinks Member Spotlight is on Interior Designer Tina Ramchandani of Tina Ramchandani Creative.

Joya: What is your profession? 

Tina: Interior Designer

Joya: Describe your aesthetic?

Tina: I’ve developed a signature aesthetic, that defines all of the homes I create, which I call Soulful Minimalism TM. My client’s homes are always, warm, modern, relaxed and meant to be lived in. I pride myself on designing homes that allow my clients to experience live surrounded by the things that matter, so they can focus on the people that matter.

Joya: You just won a really great award for your work.

Tina: Yes, fall has been amazingly busy so far! Last month I was overjoyed to win the IDA award, by Cottages & Gardens, in the category of Interior Design. I was awarded this for design of my client’s West Village home, which also happens to be featured in a book about the next wave of interior designers. The book, On Style: Inspiration and Advice from the New Generation of Interior Designers, by Carl Dellatore, was released on September 24th. I’m so honored to be included.

Joya: I hosted a fireside chat with you because I love the way your brain works. How can other people hear you speak this year?

Tina: This month is officially “market” season in the interior design world. I’m speaking on two panels, both here in New York and in High Point, North Carolina, also known as the Furniture Capital of the World!

On September 16th, I’m a keynote speaker on a panel moderated by Luxe Interiors + Design Magazine, at the D&D’s Fall Market, here in New York. I’ll be in conversation with 2 other design firms, Kendall WIlkinson and WRJ Design, about breathtaking vacation homes. This is going to be a unique approach to the topic, as we’ll be chatting about how we approach designing vacation homes differently than permanent residences, the current state of designing around multiple technologies, and what we envision to be the future of design, specifically in second and third homes. link:

On September 20th, I’ll be at Left Bank Art in High Point, speaking on a panel moderated by Galerie Magazine, along with Glenna Stone and Tim Green. We’ll be engaged in a dynamic discussion on the impact of art in a home. Art is arguably the most important element in a home, yet it’s often an afterthought, and not planned and budgeted for. We’ll be discussing how and when we integrate art into our interiors, incorporating an existing art portfolio into a home versus starting from scratch, and our processes of navigating the art world while finding the perfect pieces for our clients.


If anyone is interested in these topics and cannot attend the talks, I’ll be sharing insights on Instagram along the way.

Joya: Wow. You are everywhere! Thank you for sharing that. You are very successful at what you doWhat is the best advice you could offer to another woman entrepreneur?

Tina: I’m constantly trying to improve myself and my business. I’m always open to learning a new style of management, a new process for procedure that can help me grow, and I’m continuously reflecting inwards, and trying to make improvements. I believe truly knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, is the only way to flourish.

Joya: Finally, why refer other women business owners? or is it a case of referring the best person for the job?

Tina: I try to refer the best person for the job. With that said, I do enjoy working with women. I think we need to build each other up and support each other.

Luminary Host to First Small Business Diwali Bazaar featuring 15 women owned businesses

Luminary founder Cate Luzio has been to India over a dozen times. She knows the culture and embraces the traditions. The women’s collaborative hub she founded is hosting it’s first Diwali event this year. Fifteen South Asian women-owned businesses will be featured in a bazaar on October 17th and the public is invited to come shop.

Cate and Luminary Chief Impact Officer Surabhi Lal engage in a Q&A with host Joya Dass, founder of the LadyDrinks Women’s Networking movement for South Asian women executives about the occasion.

Cate: Joya, what does Diwali mean to South Asians living and working in New York City?

Joya: I was born and raised in Pennsylvania to immigrant parents from Calcutta and Burma. Christmas parties began in earnest December 5th and continued through December 25th. Eight years ago, I founded and began curating a platform for South Asian executive women. Many of the women went on to become close personal friends. With that, Diwali parties began late September and continued until October 27th. It became a wonderful occasion to gather with these friends. As with any holiday, its reason to eat, drink and be merry.

Two of the biggest ways for us living and working in New York City to celebrate Diwali is Megha Desai’s Diwali on the Hudson and Mona Panjwani’s Sparkles Diwali in Jersey City. We get to don our traditional Indian gear and jewellery and bop to our favorite Bollywood songs. I am hoping to introduce occasion 3.

The idea of hosting a bazaar with female business owners has been percolating in my mind for years. When I became a Luminary member November 2018, you and I talked about the biggest occasion to draw South Asian women to the space. It quickly became apparent that I needed to host a LadyDrinks Small Business Diwali Bazaar, not a Christmas Bazaar

Cate: Surabhi, you are my Chief Impact Officer here at Luminary. You’re also of Indian origin. What does Diwali mean to you?

Surabhi: To me, Diwali means hope for a new year and prosperity in terms of health, work, friends, and yes money. It is the time that I most wish I was in India celebrating with my family there.

Cate: I’ve been to India over a dozen times and so embraced the culture, what will be seeing at the Bazaar on the 17th?   

Joya: We will feature a handsome leather suit carry-all for the man in your life that already has everything. He can tote that traditional Indian sherwani jacket to work and then do a Superman change for the Diwali party after. For the ladies, headed to after work Diwali parties, there are Indian inspired t-shirts from Desai Designs, that can be paired with jeans and a black blazer. I personally will be wearing a clever pant suit saree from Dhashi Lifestyle to the Mayor’s Diwali at Gracie Mansion. I can’t tie a regular saree to save my life.

From the food aisle, LadyDrinks Member Sanketa Jain will featuring a tasting of her delicious Masala Gambas, a fusion of Indian/Portuguese/Spanish inspired flavors. Renuka Udasi, founder of Trufills will be offering gourmet chocolate truffles in exotic Indian flavors. Each are handcrafted in small batches. Neha Khullar will be selling copies of her cookbook-come-short-story-collection Palate Passport at the Diwali Bazaar. The book features recipes to international dishes you can make at home.

Jewellery from upcycled sarees. Traditionally ornate and decadent Indian earrings and bangles. Essential oils that are an elixir of organic lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, and geranium. The list goes on and on.

Cate: Surabhi, why is it important for Luminary to celebrate and host the Diwali Bazaar?

Surabhi: Diwali is all about light as is Luminary. At Luminary we are lighting up pathways of connection that lead to friendships and new business collaborations. Luminary is a community that celebrates members of all backgrounds and this is but one example of how we do so.

Cate: We love partnering with the LadyDrinks community. What is LadyDrinks and why should women know about it in New York? Imagine a global community of 1800 power South Asian women, who are executives at major corporates or successful entrepreneurs. These are women who can sponsor important introductions. These are women who already understand the cultural hurdles you are up against and can get to the deeper conversations about your professional ambitions quicker. These are women who can support you with judgement of your story. I lead LadyDrinks with a strong set of values, and the women in the movement are a reflection of that.

October 17th is an opportunity to not only buy local, but to support 15 women owned businesses. That is the LadyDrinks Small Business Diwali Bazaar. If you are looking for a way to learn about the Indian occasion of Diwali and enjoy what will be an incredibly fun party, THIS is the place to come and shop!

Cate: What is the 5 year goal? Imagine a network of power South Asian women who have resources, who have powerful networks themselves, who can sponsor introductions that move the needle forward on whatever challenge you are facing. My journey to achieving my childhood dream of becoming a television anchor was a singular journey, with my family not in the picture. I had to install other strong men and women as my support system as I built a career that brought me to New York. Today, I strongly believe in building our own support systems for success, especially if they don’t occur naturally.

My five year goal is to host a LadyDrinks event in every major city of the world, so this network grows in depth and breadth, in resources and talents. I’m hosting LadyDrinks San Diego, Houston, Nashville, and Brussels in the next few months.

Cate: What is Luminary important to you/LadyDrinks? Or what is the benefit of being a part of the Luminary Community? I’m somebody who needs a separation between church and state. Between home and work. For 20 years, I was a business news anchor. I was up and at work at trading floor by 330 am. When I went full time with my women’s initiative, I wanted to get up, get dressed and still ‘go to work’. Luminary is that place for me. I’m usually the first one in at 8am. Since I’m usually in a place of service, it’s important that I am feeding my brain and spirit as well. Luminary is a place where I have gleaned resources such as speakers for my events, invitations to exclusive power women dinners like the Wonder Woman Dinner, and venues to host my events as a result of the relationships I have formed. A strong support network for success is something I firmly believe in. Luminary plugs me into that.

This Diwali, for your gifting needs, Buy female-owned. Buy local! We host our first LADYDRINKS SMALL BUSINESS DIWALI BAZAAR Fifteen female-owned vendors are featured. Come shop! RSVP to attend the Bazaar here.


At the last LadyDrinks 15-woman dinner, some expressed they are struggling with building company culture. To rise to that request, we interview Leena Patel, Founder of, on our next LadyDrinks virtual workshop.

Leena Patel is also the author of the book Raise Your Innovation IQ: 21 Ways to Think Differently During Times of Change. For two decades, she has helped executive teams around the world lead change, drive innovation, and develop a winning culture of creativity, collaboration, and inclusion.

Who is this webinar for:

  • Anyone leading a non profit and building a culture
  • Anyone in a corporate and building a team and its culture
  • Anyone with a startup and looking to build the company values and culture

We asked Leena a few questions ahead of the workshop to find out the current challenges in building company culture.

Joya: How important is distinct corporate culture to business success?

Leena: Most executives know, in theory, that it is important, but very few make it a high priority until a scandal or high turnover forces them to. That’s when they move into damage control mode. Prioritizing corporate culture quickly moves from ’nice to have’ to ‘urgent.’

Joya: How important is it to define what you want your company culture and values to look like?

Leena: Very. If you do it right, it is going to define every decision you (and your team of employees) make as long as you are in business.

Joya: What are the three core questions you need to ask yourself in order to execute on that?

Leena: Culture and values are different and people often get them confused. Values guide decision-making. They tell a potential employee or customer what is important to that company. They are typically non-negotiable and won’t change over time. If they do, the changes are rare. Culture is the working practices, processes, and interactions that make up the work environment. Your culture will evolve based on how your company adapts and scales.

I like to ask three questions that address three key areas business owners need to focus on to grow a successful business in a way that is aligned and authentic to them: revenue growth, personal passions, and differentiation.

  • What do you care deeply about? (passion)
  • What values or behaviors will most help your company grow in revenue? (revenue)
  • What habits when implemented would separate you from the competition? (differentiation)

These questions will start to guide you in how to define your values and culture.

Joya: Company culture starts with hire #1. If the culture is already forming, how do you shift it?

Leena: The first step is to assess how current stakeholders feel about the current culture. What do they like? What’s not working? Where is there room for improvement? We do in-depth stakeholder interviews and run focus groups to gather this data for mid-large companies and then present it to the executive team with our recommendations. Based on the information gathered, we can then put together a strategy on how to shift it. Smaller companies may find it more efficient to gather the data themselves internally. Either way, you have to know what you are starting with before you decide what you are shifting to.

Joya: How important is it to cultivate Board culture?

Leena: A board serves three functions: 1) to counterbalance any short-term quarterly earnings pressure that the CEO faces by providing a long term perspective 2) to provide insights based on their diverse backgrounds and experiences, and 3) to support, guide and challenge leadership when necessary.

It is important that the Board fully understands the company culture. But the Board can’t be so bought into it that they are not afraid to address the elephant in the room. Volkswagen is an example that comes to mind. The culture in place led to the 2015 emissions scandal. It was one of fear. Clearly, there is no value in the Board being afraid to speak up and call the CEO out when they are off track. As a CEO, it is your responsibility to select board members and develop a board culture that lobbies to do the right thing versus the easy thing. As a board member, it is his/her responsibility to speak up. I believe the company values are more important in directing decisions here than a specific board culture.

Joya: Is hiring an HR person the same as hiring a real ‘people person?’

Leena: A HR person’s role encompasses everything from workforce planning and compensation to policy formation and training and development so it’s not all people skills – administrative skills are required too. I will say this: I believe that seeing people as Human Resources instead of human beings is what is getting a lot of organization into trouble today. We need to treat people as people, with ideas, and feelings, and needs. Organizations will be better for ensuring they hire HR talent that are committed to maintaining the “human” in Human Resources.

Joya: What is ‘talent brand?’

Leena: I like TalentBrand.Org’s definition. They define it as “the honest story of life as an employee inside your organization, as told by the employees in parallel with the company.” Employees can be your greatest ambassadors and marketers if you create an environment where they feel heard and valued, and they love being a part of. If you do a great job, they will continue to sing your praises long after they stop working with you. If you don’t, they will complain to everyone and tarnish your brand.

I am a VIP contributor for a women’s career site where women in the workplace openly or anonymously share information on salary, corporate culture, work flexibility, and benefits. Women excel at building community and relationships and in just the first year of business, the site collected over 19K reviews on over 7K employers…and it’s been growing ever since. Your company story will be amplified as more and more of these kinds of communities sprout and people are more and more vocal about how you are treating them.

Joya: How do you consistently reinforce your core values?

Leena: In my firm, we ask each team member to score themselves on a weekly basis on how they think they are showing up with each value and where they need to step it up or where they would like additional support. We don’t expect everyone to be a 10 in every area but each team members commits to doing their best to abide by them and grow into the ones that challenge them. When a new person joins the team, we have them sign an accountability agreement which outlines the commitments they have made by deciding to join us. The agreement is based on our core values. An example of this: one of our core values is Celebrate The Individual. It was important to us that we do this in our own firm if we are to inspire creativity and innovation both internally and for others. So a part of our written agreement that everyone commits to is ‘Communicate and work with other team members in accordance with their Kolbe M.O.’ Kolbe M.O. is a person’s default way of operating on a day to day basis. Running Kolbe on a candidate is a great way of finding out how that person is going to work under pressure and how they align with your own natural tendencies. It is part of our hiring process and ensures we are hiring ‘right fit’ candidates. We are conscious about communicating with each other based on their M.O. because we know how much people get depleted and struggle in their roles when they are out of alignment with their natural tendencies. Having this commitment in writing invites each person to prioritize celebrating the individual and the unique talents they have to bring to the table instead of imposing our own. This process has worked really well for us at Sandbox2Boardroom and we’ve trained many of our clients who want to learn the art of effective team building on this process too.

Joya: How do you measure if your culture is effectively attracting and engaging talent?

Leena: One way you know you are doing something right is when your employees are recommending people in their network as potential great fits within your organization of their own free will. Track those numbers and get feedback on why people are or aren’t willing to make these recommendations. It will help you to know what’s working and where there is room for improvement.

To track engagement levels, surveys and focus groups are incredibly effective in finding out what motivates employees. My recommendation is to use an outside firm rather than conduct this internally because no employee is going to be honest if they think their boss is going to be reading their feedback responses and their job might be on the line as a result. Our firm offers this service for mid-large organizations, and while to some it seems like an unnecessary expense, having a neutral party gather the data means that you will actually get accurate feedback on what is working and what is not. Without this data, the only metric you are able to measure is when people leave – and by then it is too late and the cost of finding new talent and getting them up to speed is double what you were paying the previous person in salary.

And P.S. let’s hope that former employee hasn’t jumped on those online message boards and complained about how you never gave them a voice to express their ideas or discontent. It can be a downward spiral that is tough to recover from. My advice: address it before it gets that serious whenever possible.

Learn more by joining this important webinar Thursday October 10th. RSVP here.

What you get out of the webinar

  • 20 minutes establishing trends in the market, and how companies are innovating.
  • 40 minutes where each attendee shares a situation specific to them and gets one on one coaching.


It all started with a desire to have pink gloves.

Angie Raja was in the market for pink weight lifting gloves to match her fab workout gear, but couldn’t find any. All the store offerings were the staid and predictable blue, black or grey. Colin asked Angie to design a pair. He leveraged his contacts in the manufacturing world. Soon Angie had two things: a wedding proposal from Colin—and her pink gloves. Over time, as Angie turned up to the gym with her fab new accessories, other members would ask her, “Where did you get those pink gloves?”

And so RIMSports was born. Today, the product line features products beyond gloves. There are knee sleeves, resistance bands, lifting grips, dip bars for personal gyms and professional athletes. Angie and Colin Raja were written up in Forbes last year, as their start-up had already catapulted to a $1 million in revenue. The Rajas were ultimately able to leave their corporate jobs in New York City and pursue their business full time.

Verne Harnish, founder of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization, once said, the cheapest money you can get is revenue gleaned from selling your own products (versus venture capital or a business loan). Angie Raja is our featured guest at the next LadyDrinks mentoring luncheon. Learn how she scaled quickly, and hit a million dollars October 22nd. Only three members are invited to this lunch.

  • Don’t miss our October 3rd PUBLIC SPEAKING CLASS for leaders this Thursday. RSVP here
  • Oct 10th LadyDrinks Webinar “Building Company Cultures with Author Leena Patel”
  • Oct 17th LadyDrinks Diwali Bazaar
  • Nov 14th Workshop with Efficiency Expert Ari Meisel
  • Nov 14th Lunch and Learn with networking expert J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network