Women supporting women is so important and today’s Woman who Inspires definitely puts her money where her mouth is. Kirstan Barnett has turned women supporting women into a career, and a smart one at that. Kirstan is an angel investor and she understands the value of backing women and minority led start-ups and businesses. She has put a lot of focus and energy into finding and backing women and minority founders, a group that is unfortunately often overlooked, but is often the most successful.
I met Kirstan a few years ago when we were first on the same tennis team. When I first met her I could tell she was smart and fun, and a good athlete, but the more I got to know her the more I realized that Kirstan was also a badass business woman.
Kirstan has a law degree from Geogetown, a business degree from MIT Sloan and lots of investment experience. She has an entrepreneurial spirit and is able to see potential in people early on. Kirstan is also a foodie and knows all the best restaurants and has invested in many women and minority-owned establishments. I feel like I am with a celebrity when I am out to dinner with her at the city’s latest hot spot.
Kirstan has also started SheGives, a non-profit bringing some of Boston’s most accomplished women together focused on giving to local nonprofits. Its motto is “Smart Women. Smart Giving” because it does significant state-of-the-art diligence to ensure that its donors’ contributions go to the most effective nonprofits. It has given over $700,000 since its launch and to nonprofits aimed at social justice and other significant issues. It is hard not to be inspired by Kirstan and the way she supports others.
Here Is my interview with Kirstan
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
“Look where others aren’t.” I invest in very early stage technology companies, and this advice has made a big difference in my investment portfolio. To me it means hustling to find startup Founders that others have historically overlooked, perhaps because of bias. And then having the conviction to back Founders whose great ideas, track record and grit I believe in, sometimes with their first check from an outside investor. Since the beginning my portfolio has skewed toward female, and other underrepresented, Founders.
What other women do you admire, and anything you want to share about them?
There are so many it is hard to know where to start. But since I mentioned female Founders, Diana Ganz and Jeanne Foley, Founders of The Groomsman Suit, the first I invested in. They were each other’s best friends since childhood. Diana had been CEO of a nonprofit, and Jeanne had been doing design for major brands like Under Armour and Abercrombie & Fitch. When Jeanne got married she was shocked at the price tag for the rentals for the groomsmen’s suits. She made an offhand comment to Diana about it and next thing you know they launched www.thegroomsmansuit.com. Handsome suiting to add to a guy’s wardrobe, and because it was launched online Direct-to-Consumer, at less than the cost of a rental. That was 2016, and now these two bff’s have a successful company that sells affordable, beautiful and sustainable suits to young men for all their major events (proms, graduations, weddings) as well as gorgeous and sexy suits for women. I wear the jacket of mine with jeans and pumps and get a million compliments. I am so inspired by those two. They saw a problem, launched a solution, have gutted out disappointments and pivots and they just get it done.
What apps can’t you live without?
At the time I am writing this we have been cooped up in Covid lockdown for two months, so that certainly influences my response. I am focused on supporting local businesses, and love food, so I have been ordering meals from local chef-owned restaurants through Toast and Caviar (and on their sites). I am invested in Douglas Williams’ MIDA in the South End and Karen Acunowicz’s Fox and the Knife in South Boston, and they are such good people and contributors to the community, as well as wonderful chefs.
Also, since the Governor of Massachusetts has recently permitted golf courses to open. So the U.S. Golf Association’s GHIN app. Golf is a way to be outside, be around people and still respect social distancing. I am trying to get out as often as I can. The app has been updated; it is cool. It lets me input the stats for all my shots and tracks my handicap.
What is your favorite podcast and or book?
Right now I am all over Be A Player by Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriott. It is a guide to optimizing your mental and emotional state when facing challenges on the golf course and – by extension – in life. To me, it is really about how to handle frustrations and outcomes you can’t control, and to feel joy in the challenge. With the recent racist incidents, the protests and the looting I have felt confused and powerless on ways to help. Certainly not in control. So the book feels strangely on point as a metaphor on many levels.
What advice do you have for other women?
Rather than give advice, I would prefer to say that what is foremost in my mind right now is that I hope that we all find the strength, humility, and vigilance to make meaningful progress against racism. For me, that has meant further opening myself up, and educating myself. I am rereading The Bluest Eye by Alice Walker and reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
What are you most grateful for?
My Mother. Loving, confident, strong, outspoken and a wonderful role model.