When Cate Luzio, Founder and CEO of Luminary, reflects on her career journey, she knows she’s always been good at seizing new opportunities. She was recruited into the banking industry after graduate school with no finance background. That fact didn’t stop her from signing on to do international market strategy and development work at the bank.
That move sparked a 20-year career that she’s really proud of. It empowered her to build businesses, support other women in the banking space and save money to invest in causes she cares deeply about.
She also saw a need for women to invest in themselves, their relationships, and careers. Specifically, professional women needed a physical meeting space that really addressed their needs, from skill-building and development to co-working and wellness. Not to mention a great social hub where women across industries and levels could meet.
From there, Luminary was born. Eight months after she wrote the business plan, she and her team opened their doors in November 2018. We got to sit down with Luzio and talk more about her journey and Luminary.
The space…. the hub.
Luminary is a 15,000 square foot collaboration hub and meeting space for women with conference rooms, a fitness studio and locker room, Glam+Go beauty bar, lactation space, meditation room and of course free wine (!!) on tap for our members.
“Built by women for women, the ecosystem was created to support members’ businesses, careers and lives,” Luzio explains. “While there are a lot of online communities – and they’re needed – but there’s so much power in having a place to go and feel welcomed.”
Is success as easy at it looks?
At a glance, Luzio’s been quite successful in her 20-year career in the finance industry.
“Rising the ranks in banking is a lonely experience for women in such a male-dominated industry. It definitely wasn’t easy and I experienced plenty of challenges and roadblocks along the way,” Luzio recalls. “I worked really hard, prioritized honesty with my clients, and delivered quality work.”
The secret to her success? She always raised her hand to take on the next thing, or made the most of an opportunity when tapped for a new job – even if it meant moving to different countries.
The goods and bads of mentorship.
“I was fortunate to have a supportive community of sponsors and mentors throughout my career, and, given my industry, most of them were men. Unfortunately, I didn’t have many female mentors in banking, and that had a major impact on me,” she says. She once had a coach tell her, “It’s lonely at the top, but it’s even lonelier when you’re a woman.”
This was a key point of inspiration for building Luminary. Luzio has lead many women’s groups in banking, but she wanted to continue to pay it forward.
Luminary supports women advancing their careers and looking for that comradery with other women. She feels there needs to be more women supporting women, and wanted to create a space that embraces true collaboration and getting to know each other.
Building an inclusive professional foundation.
Luzio thinks of Luminary as a career advocate, giving women a place to go for personal and professional development programming and skill building.
“Whether you’re looking for one-on-one advice during our office hours or leaning into an inspirational moment from one of our powerhouse speakers, we bring our members truly groundbreaking and honest content and conversations,” she says. “We have had so many incredible speakers – from Rebecca Minkoff and Sarah LaFleur to Sallie Krawcheck and Carla Harris and many more.”
Luminary takes inclusion seriously. It doesn’t exclude men – they’re welcome as guests, as colleagues and can participate in a number of programs and events. They also don’t have an application process for a reason – they want to welcome all women.
“I know what it’s like to not feel included professionally, and I made diversity and inclusion my focus when building out this space,” Luzio says. “I wanted an open floor plan so everyone can get to know each other. We forge strong bonds with our members, and our team is committed to helping them power through their to-do lists and meet their goals.”
The multiplier effect.
When Luzio wrote the business plan for Luminary, she was inspired by all of the women reaching out to grab a coffee, whether to catch-up about life or to support them with their career.
“I couldn’t keep up with all of the coffee chats and I thought, there has to be a better way to do this!” she remembers. “We need a place to gather where this kind of connection and relationship building is nurtured. Bringing more women together creates a ‘multiplier effect’, increasing our overall impact.”
That one-on-one coffee multiplies when you add more women to the equation.
One of Luzio’s favorite part of the day is spending time with her members. She built most of her professional network in banking, and found herself a bit siloed, something many people experience in their careers.
“Luminary is full of inspiring women with interesting careers, companies, and ideas,” Luzio says. “Since starting Luminary, I met tons of amazing people across so many industries and backgrounds, and I’ve learned so much from them. That’s the multiplier effect in action, and our space makes that happen.”
Hurdles for women and possible solutions.
From her experience, Luzio has identified collaboration is a serious challenge: “We need more women supporting women, and to lift each other up. In my professional career, I faced a lot of competition with other women and it’s time we stop competing and work together. That’s the only way we are going to see progress in the workplace.”
Collaboration also plays a role in another hurdle she’s seen women encounter: effective mentorship and sponsorship. In her opinion, women need to have relationships in place that accelerate their careers and businesses. They need people speaking up for them when they aren’t in the room.
On the entrepreneurship and access side of things, she’s experienced access to funding as a significant barrier for women: “It’s not easy to ask for money to support our ideas or to pitch a concept for buy-in. I was very fortunate to self-fund Luminary with the money I saved, but I realize that most women can’t fund their businesses to get them off the ground. We need to remove the funding barriers so that more women get funded.”
Directness, honesty and team-building.
Luzio has managed large teams of people in her career, and has clearly spent a lot of time advancing the women around her. From these experiences, she’s built her own management and leadership styles.
“I’m known for having a very direct and honest management style. If I say that I am going to do something, I do it, I call it like it is, and I always follow-up,” she states. “I think this level of accountability is critical to making career opportunities happen, but it also helps you lead your team.”
She finds there’s a difference between managing large teams in big banks and being an entrepreneur: “I’m learning something new every day and it’s important to surround yourself with an all-star team. I have a great team of women working with me at Luminary and we are all building this vision together.”
The importance of the next generation.
Luzio is a proud member of national board of directors for Girls Inc, an advocate for young women that empowers them to be the next generation of leaders. “This is such a special organization to me,” she says, “I see the real impact the programs have on their lives and these girls are our collective future. We have to invest in them now.”