Want to be a luminary in your field? Who doesn’t? The key might be self-funding. Cate Luzio spent 23 years toiling in corporate America. She made a name for herself at major institutions including Bank of America, JP Morgan, and HSBC. And she knew how hard it would be to get a small business loan. So she decided to fund her unique business collaboration space for women by herself. “We like to say, ‘We’re not just a pretty space,” she says of the first Luminary, in the heart of NYC.
“I took a step out of this successful banking career to make a bigger impact,” she says. “As soon as you split that with investors, you begin to lose that. I want my investors to be my members.”
She quit her last bank job in February of this year to devote herself full-time to Luminary. So what is it? “We’re a little bit of everything,” Luzio says in the understatement of the year. Luminary is a communal workspace, but it also houses a beauty bar and a fitness studio. Its tightly packed selection of programming ranges from speaker series, to networking events, to a support group for founders.
Luzio wants to make it clear that all services are available to anyone who identifies as a woman. Luminary is not an exclusive club. There is no application process. Anyone who wants to join can take part as long as they can afford the monthly fee.
But Luzio is especially pumped to work with her corporate clients. She says that she foresees that the change necessary to empower women in the workplace will happen more quickly by working through large companies. And they’re already signing on. Current corporate members include Luzio’s former employer JP Morgan, as well as Goldman Sachs, Citizens Bank, and Inspiring Capital. That means those companies are supporting the women on their staff by offering them the services at Luminary, from career-building advice to free wine on tap.
Of self-funding the business, Luzio reflects, “It was a big risk, but taking investor dollars is a big risk, too. And she’s no longer alone. She has an advisory board of other powerful women, all ready to lend a hand to the next woman with big ideas.
But no one has bigger ideas that Luzio. She plans to expand Luminary to multiple locations, though for now, she’s sticking to New York. In five years, she foresees being able to report quantifiable change thanks to her bright idea. “Metric-wise, I want to move the numbers,” she says. Luminary is starting a workplace study with a partner that will track data to show that change is a reality.
“There’s room for everyone at the table, it’s just harder,” she says of women in business. But with the investment of her own hard-earned wages, hopefully it won’t be as hard sooner rather than later.