Celebrating Female Entrepreneurs: Five Stories of Representation and Resilience

St. John's Alumni Female Entrepreneurs
By Toni Critelli

In today’s world, gender equality is a top priority, and the representation of women in business is crucial and a powerful catalyst for change. Although progress has been made, the journey toward gender parity in entrepreneurship is far from over. That’s why it’s important to celebrate the stories of remarkable women in business—not only to recognize their achievements, but also to showcase the impact of diverse voices at the forefront of business.

Read the stories of five trailblazing female entrepreneurs and St. John’s University alums driving positive change in their communities and beyond.

 1.    Carrington Baker ’22C: Combating Period Poverty

St. John's University Alumna, Carrington Baker standing next to her products for her company "For Women, By Women. Period."

After learning about the continuing period poverty gap in New York City and beyond while serving her local community, Carrington Baker, a recent graduate of St. John’s University, founded For Women by Women, Period  (FWBW). 

The non-profit organization is an entirely female-run team, including St. John’s alumni Akosua Akuoko ’21CCPS; Isabelle Asuncion ’22CCPS, ’23GCCPS; Natalie Cali ’22C; Hailey Claude ’24C; Trinidad Duran ’22C, ’24G; and Alexa Imeri ’22CCPS. 

FWBW’s mission is to provide hygiene products to those in need, create a safe space for open conversations about periods, and improve education on menstruation. To date, they have distributed more than 200,000 products in New York City and New Jersey, and aim to distribute an additional 300,000 in 2024. FWBW also offers virtual period equity workshops that can be found on their Instagram and Facebook pages.

To support FWBW, consider donating via their website or sign up for volunteer or work opportunities. 


2.    Teresa Busto, Psy.D. ’95G: Helping Children Form a Positive Foundation for the Future

St. John's Alumna and Female Entrepreneur, Dr. Teresa Busto

St. John’s alumna Teresa Busto, Psy.D., is a licensed and certified school psychologist who has been helping special education students at Albany Avenue Elementary School in the Farmingdale, NY, School District for more than two decades.  

In 2015, she developed On Second Thought: from Iffy to Witty Thoughtsa computerized cognitive behavioral program in collaboration with Paula Busto. The program aims to teach children how to manage their thoughts and emotions in a healthy, interactive, and enjoyable way, using the core principles of cognitive behavior therapy

Dr. Busto’s work has a significant impact on how children perceive and manage their emotions, providing them with tools that help them succeed not only in school, but also in life. 

On Second Thought currently offers programs for your desktop/laptop, but plans to introduce Android and IOS apps soon. 


3.    Faria Kabir ’19C: Empowering Immigrant Families for Success 

St. John's Alumna and Entrepreneur Headshot

As a first-generation immigrant herself, St. John’s alumna Faria Kabir understands the challenges faced by immigrant families in achieving their goals. With more than two decades of experience accessing immigrant needs, Ms. Kabir founded The First Generation, a non-profit organization committed to equipping immigrant families with the skills and knowledge to make the best decisions for their growth and accomplishment.

Through free professional services and guidance, Ms. Kabir and her team empower immigrant families to overcome barriers and thrive in their new communities, embodying the spirit of resilience and inclusivity. These services include, but are not limited to, job acquisition, educational resources, and English and computer skills classes. 



4.    Diana Liao ’17GEd: Breaking Barriers in Mental Health Care

St. John's University Alumna and Entrepreneur Headshot

Fueled by a shared commitment to create a stigma-free resource for the Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) communities, St. John’s alumna Diana Liao, LMHC, alongside her dedicated cofounders Christie Kim, LMHC, LPC, and Samantha Waldman, LMHC, founded Bridges Mental Health

Bridges Mental Health is a groundbreaking platform connecting the APISAA community in New York City to discuss, navigate, and seek mental health care. The platform features a clinician directory for the local APISAA community. With a deep understanding of the complexities of identity and belonging, Ms. Liao’s mission is to provide inclusive mental health resources to underserved communities, bridging the gap between cultural nuances and mental wellness. 

Additionally, the founders explore the intersection of Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American identity and mental health in their podcast, Beyond the Couch. Tune into their podcast every Wednesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and iHeart.


5. Irena Loloci ’09G and Celia A. Perdios ’09MBA: Blending Beauty and Social Impact

St. John's Alumna Entrepreneur, Irena Loloci

For more than 16 years, Irena Loloci, a St. John’s alumna, has been working as a humanitarian leader and advocate for the United Nations across various countries. While living and working in different parts of the world, she has witnessed many emergencies and crises, along with humanity’s beauty. During a field mission to a rose oil distillery in Afghanistan, Ms. Loloci realized the potential of sustainable agriculture to change lives. 

This realization inspired her to positively impact the world and create skincare that is good for both people and the planet. Together with her friend and fellow St. John’s alumna, Celia A. Perdios ’09MBA, who has over 13 years of experience in the cosmetic and beauty industry, they created Rena Roots™  in 2020. 

St. John's Alumna Entrepreneur and Co-founder

Rena Roots™ is a skincare brand offering luxurious vegan serums while supporting job creation in regions affected by conflict, such as Afghanistan and Albania. The company’s mission is to celebrate beauty from unexpected places, while contributing to global efforts to end hunger through sustainable job opportunities. 

What makes Rena Roots™ stand out is its premium quality and commitment to transparency and social responsibility. By working directly with farmers, Ms. Loloci and Ms. Perdios ensure that every purchase helps to create a more equal and just world.





Five Lessons from the Founders: Insights for Success and Impact 

Through the stories of these remarkable founders, we can uncover several invaluable lessons that transcend business and resonate with aspiring entrepreneurs and changemakers alike: 

 Raised purple fist of a woman for international women's day and the feminist movement. March 8 for feminism, independence, freedom, empowerment, and activism for women rights
Photo credit: Canva Stock

Lesson 1: Let your passion and purpose guide your endeavors. 

Embark on an entrepreneurial journey with a clear vision and a deep sense of purpose. Don’t just seek financial gain; be driven to make a meaningful difference in your community and beyond.

Lesson 2: Embrace adversity and never underestimate the power of perseverance. 

Despite facing numerous obstacles and setbacks, aim to persevere and be resilient. View challenges not as roadblocks, but as opportunities for growth and learning. 

Lesson 3: Cultivate empathy, diversity, and inclusivity to spark innovation and create meaningful impact.

Identify unmet community needs and develop innovative solutions rooted in empathy and inclusivity. By prioritizing the voices and experiences of underrepresented groups, entrepreneurs can unlock new opportunities and drive positive change. 

Lesson 4: Foster a culture of collaboration, generosity, and mentorship. 

Building and nurturing a supportive network of collaborators, mentors, and allies can play a pivotal role in business success. Recognize the importance of seeking guidance, forging partnerships, and lifting others.

Lesson 5: Embrace a growth mindset and never stop learning.

Demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning and adaptability in a rapidly evolving business landscape. Remain agile, open-minded, and receptive to feedback, allowing you to navigate uncertainty and seize emerging opportunities. 

Woman Workplace Women in Business Suits Standing Together

The Importance of Representation for Women in Business

The presence of women in entrepreneurship and business leadership positions is not just a matter of diversity and inclusion; it’s also crucial for driving innovation, economic growth, and social progress. 


St. John’s University: Cultivating the Future of Female Entrepreneurship

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s acknowledge the remarkable achievements of visionary women entrepreneurs and the pivotal role of St. John’s University in shaping their journeys. St. John’s dedication to education and empowerment has provided a nurturing environment for these trailblazing women to hone their skills, cultivate their passions, and forge connections that have fueled their success. By embracing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and promoting entrepreneurship, St. John’s University inspires and guides the next generation of leaders toward a future marked by equity and opportunity for all. 

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Toni Critelli

Digital Content Creator

Toni Critelli is a full-time staff writer for Johnnie's Blog. Through engaging content, she captures the essence of the institution, its students, faculty, and alums.