With her wanderlust needing to be appeased, Yael Silverstein indulged in an incredible 123 days of travel across five continents before she began the Columbia Business School program. See for yourself what made this journey so special by reading through her blog! After graduating, she began her work at Inspiring Capital and is now serving as Chief Strategy and Operations Officer. In this remarkable role, she partners with a vast array of non-profits and social enterprises to optimize their resources while broadening their revenue streams. We took some pictures from the SoHo office before heading over to an adorable bakery for our interview.
The Berkshires, MA
Education (College / Major):
Graduate: MBA/Columbia Business School
Undergraduate: Dual B.A.s [English & Judaic Studies]/Columbia/Barnard/Jewish Theological Seminary
Chief Strategy and Operations Officer
Brief description of Inspiring Capital:
We are revolutionizing philanthropy by using proven business strategies to change the world. We incubate high-potential not-for-profits and social enterprises to diversify their revenue streams, so they’re not solely dependent on charitable contributions. Having earned income, rather than relying on donations and grants, allows organizations to improve and grow their work.
What services does Inspiring Capital provide?
My time is split between building the company internally (i.e. managing our team, website, culture, benefits, certifications, HR, and PR), working with current clients, and business and partnership development.
Tell us about a current project you’re passionate about:
It’s hard to choose! One of the projects I’m lucky to spend my time working on is Green Bronx Machine (GBM), which tackles two massive problems in the Bronx and other marginalized communities: joblessness and poor nutrition. GBM provides practical training for at-risk high school students in emerging sectors related to green technologies and culinary skills, like building gardens on roofs or concrete surfaces. The gardens they build through these training programs create year-round access to healthy fruits and vegetables for NYC schools and community centers. While building and harvesting the gardens, GBM participants learn about healthy food and improve their diets, and many experiences significant weight loss. We are working with GBM on a pilot program at a public school in the South Bronx, designing a scalable program that can be replicated across the country.
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A typical workday for me looks like this:
I love that no two days are the same–some days are spent immersed in strategic planning meetings or collaborating on client work with our amazing CEO and team. Others are spent in kindergarten classrooms in the South Bronx, meeting with potential partners and attending social enterprise events all over the city.
What I treasure most about my job is:
I get to work with some of the most visionary social entrepreneurs who are using innovative strategies to solve the world’s toughest problems. It is truly inspiring.
What has been the most daunting obstacle thus far?
Learning to accept (and dare I say embrace) the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with taking the leap of faith and joining a startup.
Apps (or other pieces of tech) you can’t live without:
I’m an Evernote evangelist! The following I could live without, but wouldn’t want to: I love Pocket for catching up on all the articles I’ve flagged to read, Contactually for personal contact management, Asana for project management with our team, 1 Second Everyday for capturing moments in time, and of course, the New York Times Crossword Puzzle app which is my pre-sleep ritual.
Your personal style in a few words:
Classic (with the slightest hint of trendy).
Go-to work outfit:
A pair of black skinnies with a structured blazer is a perfect combination for any type of meeting–and it transitions well to after-work events, which is an added bonus.
Favorite work bag:
My sister-in-law gave me a black, quilted-leather Tory Burch bag as a gift, but it’s because of more than just the gorgeous bag. I interned with the Tory Burch Foundation when I was in business school; I’m passionate about TBF’s mission of supporting women entrepreneurs, which has inspired my support of the brand.
Must-have item at all times:
I never leave the house without a lip balm (L’Occitane) and Diorshow mascara.
Spring item you plan to splurge on:
A lace DVF dress to get me through the wedding season!
Starting each morning with a latte from Cafe Grumpy helps make it less painful to be a total non-morning person! Add in Murray’s bagel with cream cheese and lox on Sundays and I’m a happy camper.
Need a quick timeout for ten minutes? What’s your go-to spot?
I grew up on a farm, so I love to be outside whenever possible! Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea has a quaint garden in the back–as does Dominique Ansel Bakery (their pastries are a dangerous habit!).
On a Saturday you can be found:
Enjoying the city with friends (many of whom have [thankfully!] stayed in NYC post-MBA).
Exploration–I travel every opportunity I can, and the more off-the-beaten-path, the better. My family is a bunch of ski fanatics; between December and March, you can find me slope-side most weekends. Trying to resist posting Instagram pictures of my kitten every day, too.
When you were 10 years old, what career aspirations did you have?
At age 10, I had no idea that careers like mine existed. Believe it or not, I have a post-it with a list of life goals that my younger self wrote! It includes getting a Ph.D. and becoming an English professor, writing a best-selling novel, and speaking fluent Italian!
The greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received was:
A family friend once advised me that she landed her dream job by (quite literally) knocking on the door of a certain embassy until they agreed to meet with her. My most valuable experiences have been the result of unabashed persistence and learning to reach out and pitch myself despite no formally advertised position.
I’ve been lucky to have had some incredible mentors and sponsors, women and men, who have encouraged the pursuit of purpose, advocated investing in myself through higher education, helped refine my definitions of success, and introduced me to great people and ideas.
In 10 years… :
I want to have paid it forward.
Career wisdom for young professional women:
Surround yourself with people who see and bring out the best in you.
Yael is also an organizer for the Meetup group called Impact Investing. Follow her on Twitter @YaelSNYC!
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