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When Angie Schiavoni entered the working world, entrepreneurship wasn’t a considered career path. Now, she’s the founder of two companies.
“I always wanted to be a senator,” Schiavoni acknowledged, reminiscing on her earlier days in politics. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin was first running for Congress with the support of EMILY’s List, a Democratic advocacy group pushing to elect pro-choice women to office. Schiavoni was a member of the movement, working in Washington D.C. to campaign for Baldwin, who became the first openly gay member in the Senate.
When an “interesting opportunity” presented itself in Amman, Jordan, however, Schiavoni leapt at it. She continued spearheading campaign trainings for female political candidates, but with the National Democracy Institute. She also “got [her] feet wet in entrepreneurship,” building a Corporate Social Responsibility program for iJordan, a women-run events company, before homesickness kicked in.
A former colleague from EMILY’s List happened to reach out at an advantageous time. She was starting a political technology company in California and wanted Schiavoni at the helm of operations.
“It was a little early, what we were doing,” Schiavoni admitted, describing the New Progressive Coalition, LLC, a startup focused on fostering a “political return on investment” methodology and spawned “Political Mutual Funds,” an online e-commerce political giving product. “But, that was actually when I started working in true technology. … Everybody was starting a company. I got excited in entrepreneurship, which I never thought was a career path.”
The New Progressive Coalition was acquired by AngelPoints — a market leading software provider that has since been bought by MicroEdge — and Schiavoni served as the director of product. When marriage, albeit blissful, left her traveling between San Francisco and New York, however, she co-founded a consulting firm called Lifecycle Strategy Group, which specialized in technology and business strategy for companies with a social mission.
Entrepreneurship was no longer an unconsidered career path, but rather Schiavoni’s actual career path — one flexible enough for her to continue traveling down to New York when she had her now three-year-old son. With her husband working at the MIT Media Lab, the pioneering pair decided it was time to give back, first by teaching a group of 10-year-old girls how to code and make websites from scratch.
“They jumped up and cheered when we taught them how to change the color of fonts,” Schiavoni said, adding that, at the time, they didn’t know they were piloting what would soon become CodeEd.
The startup, which teaches computer science to girls from underserved communities, now spans multiple cities, including Dorchester and Cambridge locally. Schiavoni noted that although volunteers are currently keeping the program running, the team is hiring right now and has plans to grow.
But CodeEd isn’t the only startup Schiavoni is looking to scale.
When pregnant, Schiavoni felt she spent too much time researching what she needed to buy, from cribs to the mattress pads fitted snugly inside. Friends were constantly sending her spreadsheets, thereby cluttering her own master spreadsheet, and she was “too damn tired” to sort it all out.
“Different people need different things,” Schiavoni said. “And I wanted to help new and expecting parents buy only the stuff they need.”
So, she launched Mamajamas, a Web-based service that provides parents with a personalized list of baby gear they’re able to customize and later share with other parents-to-be.
“Now, you have more time enjoying pregnancy and new parenthood,” Schiavoni claimed. “I felt like it took way too much planning.”
Her own life, though, has been seemingly void of a plan, instead serving as a reflection of what can happen when you leave yourself open to chance.
“The biggest thing that I learned was to try and do things that keep your opportunities open,” Schiavoni said. “There are paths that you go down that can really restrict you, and there are others that can really open up the world — like learning computer science, learning how to code or traveling.”
Along the way, Schiavoni added, the key is to find good mentors and, when you do, cultivate those relationships. Schiavoni strove to learn from everyone around her whom she admired, and now the tables are starting to turn.
“Not only is finding and nurturing relationships with mentors crucial, but also being a mentor and helping younger people and your peers succeed is really important,” Schiavoni said. “It helped me grow as a person, and I end up learning so much from them, too.”
Featured Image via Susanne Miklas