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Fairygodboss of the Week: Cate Luzio
Photo courtesy of Cate Luzio.
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Cate Luzio always knew she wanted to have an impact. She studied political science in college, then spent years leading women's groups and initiatives as she worked in banking around the world. But after realizing a gap that existed in physical communities for women to invest in themselves and others, Luzio found an opportunity to do good that truly called to her. 

Now the founder and CEO of Luminary — a collaboration community for professional women to develop, network and connect — Luzio works everyday to develop talent and help women achieve their professional goals. She shared the details of her own professional journey, then spoke to the best career advice she's ever received. She also shared the challenges she faces as an entrepreneur, how she overcomes them and who inspires her to keep making that difference. 

Fairygodboss of the Week: Cate Luzio

Founder and CEO, Luminary

New York, NY

Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?

I was a political science major in college and had many politics-related internships — I wanted to change the world! When I graduated, I worked at a non-profit in DC and then spent a few years at a tech startup focused on China (this was the original dotcom boom in the late 90s). I worked full time at the startup, but was recruited into financial services when I finished my Master's in International Relations (which I was doing at night). I remember thinking "why me?," as I had no experience in finance or accounting. I did have several years of work experience and a solid international background, which was appealing to the firm hiring me. I spent the next 18 years in finance. I had various leadership roles in Latin America for Bank of America and spent seven years in London with JPMorgan in senior leadership roles, both regionally and globally, and in both transaction banking and corporate and investment banking. I was then recruited to HSBC, where I led multinational corporate banking globally for a few years. 

During the last decade or more of my career, I led women's groups and initiatives both internally and externally, spending a significant amount of my time on diversity and inclusion, and joined the national board of Girls Inc. As I accelerated my career, I felt it was my role to pay it forward. I was fortunate to have outstanding (mainly male) mentors and sponsors throughout my career in finance. I knew I wanted to continue to develop talent, but also to have a bigger and broader impact than at just one organization or in one industry.  

I left banking in early 2018. After about a month, I wrote a business plan for Luminary after seeing a gap that existed for a physical community where women could invest in themselves and in others, develop further, build their network and collaborate with one another across all levels, backgrounds and industries. Luminary launched at the end of November 2018 as a 15,000 square foot collaboration community in NYC for professional women to develop, network and connect.  

What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?

Self-funding (bootstrapping) Luminary and launching in less than 8 months — from business plan to opening. 

What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

The entrepreneurial roller coaster, especially self-funding. Building a business is hard enough, but adding the challenge of funding it on your own is a huge weight. I wanted to create a community where our members mattered the most — not an investor. I have to overcome this challenge every day and focus on why I built this company instead of how fast I can grow, expand, etc. Having over 20 years of experience building and leading businesses has helped me tremendously financially and mentally!

Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?

Susan Chapman Hughes. She is an amazing friend, board colleague and mentor. Although we call each other our "partners in crime," she is an unbelievable leader and true visionary in everything she does. Susan is always there to listen, be a sounding board and provide unbiased advice. She continues to be one of my strongest advocates! 

What do you do when you're not working?

I love to travel. I've now travelled to over 115 countries and counting. I'm also on two boards that I am very passionate about — Girls Inc. and WaterAid — and I spend as much time as I can with my family, especially my nieces and nephews and my partner. He helps me stay sane and deals with my roller coaster daily!

If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?

Geraldine Ferraro. She was a trailblazer for so many reasons — in law and law enforcement, as well as in her political career, focusing on pay equity for women. She is one of the many reasons I wanted to go into politics and studied political science. As a huge advocate for women, a leader, an activist and a professional, she is a true Luminary!   

Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?

Anything by Guns N Roses or Bon Jovi but my no. 1 choice is "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard.

Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?

"Pretty Woman" tied with "Working Girl."

Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?

Anything by Michael Lewis or Thomas Friedman 

Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?

I am a fashionista, so I love clothes, shoes, bags — all of it! But if I won the lottery, a trip around the world to countries I haven't visited yet would be the first purchase on my list! 

What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you? 

Never settle. Take every risk you can, but prepare and execute! 

Why do you love where you work?

The Luminary community of women and our male allies inspire me, motivate me and excite me every day! I feel honored and privileged to be able to do this work every day.  

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