Signup for our Newsletter!
Women's Business Development Council Logo

Conversations with influential women that will excite and inspire you to conquer your fears, take a stand for yourself and break down the barriers that stand in your way.

For more information on Courageous Conversations, listen to the trailer here.

In the United States, approximately 11 MILLION WOMEN are either living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it.
To learn more about this devastating disease that so disproportionately impacts women, Fran talks with Kristen Cusato, Director of Communications at the Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and Molly Devanney, Co-Owner and Vice President of Public Relations for Highland Park Market, who balances her professional responsibilities with serving as the primary caregiver for her aunt who has Alzheimer’s. During this honest and open conversation, you’ll gain an understanding of the disease and learn about resources available for caregivers. You’ll also learn how you can help, including how to participate in one of the Walks to End Alzheimer’s taking place in Connecticut through the end of October.

In this episode of Courageous Conversations Molly Hirsch, Molly Hirsch Interiors, Shivonne Mathison, Cura Home Care Services and Jane Moen, The Nest Coffee House join Fran as we celebrate Small Business Week. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or an established business owner, you’ll be inspired by the stories of these remarkable women. They’ve got some great advice and insight to share!

In this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran sits down with Stephanie Webster, Editor-in-Chief and Founder of CTBites, an online community focused on the food scene in Connecticut.


In this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran talks with United Way of CT President and CEO Lisa Tepper Bates and Nadia, a Housing Supervisor with 211CT who speaks directly with residents seeking support. Nadia asked that we refer to her by first name only in order to protect her privacy. This enlightening conversation covers the types of resources available through 211CT, the trends that have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic and the issues that Lisa and Nadia believe front and center as Connecticut moves forward.

In this episode of Courageous Conversations we continue the conversation about racism and your small business that began with our previous episode. Originally part of a WBDC Roundtable discussion recorded in June 2020, this important conversation offers small business owners steps they can take to make a difference in the journey toward social, economic, and racial equity and justice.
Joining Fran in this discussion are Britt-Marie Cole-Johnson, Esq., Partner, Robinson + Cole LLP, Robin Imbrogno, President, The Human Resource Consulting Group, and Joelle A. Murchison, Founder & Principal, ExecMommyGroup LLC.

In this episode of Courageous Conversations and the one that will be launched on July 1, we are revisiting a conversation between Fran and a panel of prominent women that was originally recorded as a 3-part WBDC Roundtable discussion in June 2020.
While much has changed since George Floyd’s murder and the civic unrest that followed, there is still a long way to go in our journey toward social, economic, and racial equity and justice. This discussion, intended to start a conversation and explore steps we can all take to make a difference, remains as relevant today as it was a year ago.
Joining Fran are Britt-Marie Cole-Johnson, Esq., Partner, Robinson + Cole LLP, Robin Imbrogno, President, The Human Resource Consulting Group, and Joelle A. Murchison, Founder & Principal, ExecMommyGroup LLC.

Authenticity, empathy, strength, vulnerability . . . . These are just some of the virtues Kitt Shapiro gained as she soaked in the lessons handed down by her mother, legendary performer Eartha Kitt.
You can read more about Kitt’s experiences with her famous mother in her recently published book, Eartha and Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black & White. Buy the book through all major booksellers. If you’re in Connecticut, stop by Kitt’s boutique, West, in Westport or shop online at West2Westport.com.

In this episode of Courageous Conversations, as we near the end of Mental Health Awareness month, Fran talks with Kevnesha Boyd, a trauma therapist and the owner of Quality Counseling, a mental health practice in Hamden, CT, that focuses on helping members of the Black community to heal from traumatic childhood experiences and break unhealthy generational patterns.

In this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran talks about the importance of small businesses with Alisa Bowens-Mercado, founder of Rhythm Brewing Company and David Salinas, the founder of Digital Surgeons, a digital design consultancy, and District, a co-working space and comprehensive ecosystem for entrepreneurs in New Haven, CT. David is also a mentor to countless entrepreneurs and a steadfast advocate for small businesses. Listen to hear about the impact networks and mentors can have on the path of an entrepreneur and find out why Alisa insists, “It’s about more than just me and a can of beer.”
To find out where you can buy Rhythm beer, visit rhythmbrewingco.com
To learn more about District in New Haven, go to districtnhv.com

In this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran and New York Times best-selling author, Lindsey Pollak discuss the “recalculating” so many of us have had to do lately due to the changes brought about by the pandemic. Listen to hear about Lindsey’s recently released book, Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work, and how the ideas described in the book can be applied to entrepreneurship in our current landscape.
To learn more about Lindsey Pollak or to order your own copy of Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work, visit www.lindseypollak.com.

Typical teenagers and recent college graduates are usually focused on landing their first job or summer internship, but Tory and Roscoe Brown are far from typical. Soon after Tory graduated from college and before Roscoe had even begun his undergraduate experience, this sibling duo founded The 203. What began as a passion project selling t-shirts that celebrated their beloved home state has quickly grown into a renowned lifestyle brand. In this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran sits down with Tory and Roscoe to discuss their young entrepreneurship, lessons they’ve learned along the way, the importance of building relationships with other small business owners . . . and, of course, the great state of Connecticut.
To learn more about The 203 or to purchase 203 products visit www.thetwoohthree.com.

12 months after the beginning of an unimaginable year for small business owners, Fran looks back with entrepreneurs Corey Tolkin and Yvonne Oxley, who pivoted their businesses to survive the pandemic and are thriving as we look forward to better days ahead. Listen to hear why Corey, owner of Unbakeables Cookie Dough Treats, believes it’s sometimes important to take a fresh look as what’s right in front of you and why Yvonne, owner of luxury soap maker Komfort Zone, thinks it’s critical for entrepreneurs to step out of their own comfort zones.

As we begin Women’s History Month, Fran sits down with Andrea Barton Reeves, CEO of the CT Paid Leave Authority, to learn about her journey from a childhood in New Jersey to law school and a position at a White Shoe firm, to a career dedicated to serving others. Andrea discusses what motivates her, how being a woman of color has influenced her journey and why she thinks it is critically important for women to take a chance on themselves.

In honor of Black History month, Courageous Conversations revisits a Town Hall meeting WBDC last June, soon after the death of George Floyd. WBDC CEO Fran Pastore gathered a group of accomplished women in leadership positions to discuss the historic times we are living through. These women share their own experiences with racism and navigating stereotypes in their personal and professional lives. They also describe what they are doing personally and what we all can do to address systemic racism in our society.
Joining Fran for this inspiring conversation are:
Shante Hanks, Deputy Commissioner, CT Department of Housing
-Carrie Spell-Hansson, CEO, The Folke Institute
Glendowlyn Thames, Deputy Commissioner, CT Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD)
Diane Winston, Founder and CEO, Winston Strategic Partners
Vanessa Abrahams-John, Director, Global Diversity, Inclusion, Talent Acquisition at Linde, moderates the discussion.

Fran discusses the unsung heroes of our economic engine – the women, especially women of color, who own and operate the small businesses tht populate our Main Streets. These entrepreneurs have received a disproportionately small amount of the pandemic relief state and federal funding. Fran details how WBDC is helping to address the need of these businesses with grants and other support. She also shares feedback from two inspiring women who are benefiting from these opportunities. Listen to find out how some of our smallest businesses can not only survive the pandemic but thrive in its aftermath. 

Fran is joined by Patricia Russo, Executive Director of The Campaign School at Yale University, and Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean, accomplished author, public speaker, and tenured Associate Professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University to discuss the significance of the glass ceiling that is breaking in Washington, D.C. with the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the country’s first female vice president and the first women of color to the office. While the current tense climate threatens to command much of our political conversations in the coming days, Fran, Patti, and Khalilah take a few moments to recognize and celebrate this important moment in history for women, women of color, and our nation. 

Fran is joined by Katrina Adams, Immediate Past President of the US Tennis Association. Katrina was the first African-American, first former professional tennis player and youngest person ever to serve as USTA President. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Katrina is also an author. Her new book, Own the Arena, provides a behind-the-scenes look at the leadership skills involved in hosting the U.S. Open, the largest and most lucrative sports event in the world. Own the Arena will be published in February and is available for pre-order now from all major book retailers.

Fran is joined by Dr. Karen Alter-Reid, a global expert on EMDR and the treatment of trauma-related symptoms. They discuss what EMDR is and why it is an effective treatment for trauma. Dr. Alter-Reid gives several actionable tips for coping with the high stress that we’re living under these days, including a two-minute mindfulness exercise.

For the latest Courageous Conversations