After spending many years working relatively secure jobs in research, marketing and sales in the corporate world, Geri Stengel transitioned to the uncharted land of freelancing. Since 1994, she’s been working on her own – mostly providing other women entrepreneurs advice.
The nearly 62-year-old from Queens, NY says she spends most of her time heading her own firm Ventureneer, a digital market research company which helps corporations reach small businesses. She also recently authored the book, “Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One.”
“A lot of my work is doing reports…interviewing people for the reports, attending conferences, or events, and sometimes speaking,” says Stengel. “The last three to six months I’ve been doing a lot of speaking on women and entrepreneurship, and women investing in women.”
She says her favorite part about her job is analyzing and interpreting data.
“I’m also very social, so I like networking and talking to people,” says Stengel. “I pretty much fall in love with all of my projects. Right now, I’m working on a project on crowdfunding. Women are more likely to try and raise money privately than publicly. The report will be about women who are seeking funding, and women as investors.”
Stengel says she didn’t plan on becoming an expert on entrepreneurship but ended up teaching four years on the subject at The New School, and presently, she’s facilitating a class offered by NYC for women who want to grow their businesses.
“Everything was evolutionary,” says Stengel. “I thought I was going to be psychologist. I went to school to be a psychologist, but I took a year off after my BA, and when I started working in Manhattan for businesses, I really enjoyed it and changed my direction. I didn’t think it through.”
She says doing project management for large corporations and internet startups gave her a lot of experience writing strategic plans.
“A lot of my work was doing business plans for businesses that were raising money,” says Stengel about her corporate world experience. “I had differences with my partners and left. I stepped back and said, ’Where do my skills fit in?’”
The proud business woman says her first independent project was a dollar store in Syracuse, NY, and it won a Goldman Sachs competition.
“That was my first,” says the woman who went on to write a grand prize-winning business plan for the Yale School of Management and was honored as a 2012 and 2013 Small Business Influencer for her articles on Forbes about women entrepreneurs.
If she had one piece of advice she would tell her younger self, what would it be?
“I think find mentors and people to support you in whatever careers aspirations you have,” says Stengel. “I tried to do it all on my own, and I think having advisers, mentors and peer support groups help fortify you and provide direction. You need people to give you tough advice and advise you as you’re moving forward.”