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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 this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran and Kitt Shapiro daughter of legendary performer Eartha Kitt talk about her recently released book Eartha and Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black & White. Kitt shares what it was like to travel the world with Eartha and how those shared experiences shaped Kitt’s own journey as a mother and entrepreneur.


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.

Alisa Bowens-Mercado grew up with two grandmothers who would tell her to be sure to find her rhythm in life – to do what she loves – as they sipped from bottles of beer in the kitchen. Many years later, she has found her rhythm as the first black woman to own a brewery in Connecticut, aptly named Rhythm Brewing Company to honor the women who inspired her.
In this episode of Courageous Conversations, Fran talks about the importance of small businesses with Alisa 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.”

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.

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 begining 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 why Corey, owner of Unbakeables Cookie Dough Treats, believes it’s sometimes important to take a fresh look at 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 Momth, 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 take a chance on themselves. 

In honor of Black History month, Courageous Conversations revisits a Town Hall meeting WBDC hosted 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 sterotypes in their personal and professional lives.
Joining Fran for this inspiring conversation are:
Shante Hanks, Deputy Commissioner, CT Department of Housing
Carrie Spell-Hansson, CEO, The Folke Institute for Transformative Learning
Glendowlyn Thames, Deputy Commissioner, CT Department of Economic and Community Development
Diane Winston, Founder and CEO, Winston Strategic Partners
Vanessa Abrahams-John, Director, Global Diversity, Inclusion, Talet Acquisition at Linde

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