Washington resident Stephanie Vidikan, 33, is a born-and-raised Hoosier. She left Indiana to attend college in Central Kentucky, where she studied International Relations and Spanish.
Nowadays, she doesn’t do anything related to those fields, but says her Midwestern upbringing is helpful in her work at 1776, an incubator that helps startups get the funding they need to change industries. When she isn’t busy making sure everything is running smoothly at the office, you might find her flipping through a fashion magazine, volunteering at her synagogue or hosting dinner guests with her husband for Shabbat.
What do you do as director of operations at 1776?
1776 is a startup itself, so in true startup fashion, it’s a job that pretty much encompasses a little bit of everything — everything from making sure that everything on our physical space, which is what we call our “campus,” runs efficiently and effectively every day, to managing build-out projects. Last year we opened up a second floor in the space, so I managed the full build-out of that and that was my first construction project — which was exciting and terrifying at the same time, essentially making sure that this is a best-in-class facility for our members to work, to scale and grow their companies.
What are some of the joys and challenges associated with this job?
Hands down, the number one exciting thing about this job is our members and working with really passionate entrepreneurs every day, seeing the great things that their companies are doing. Our companies here are focused on health care, education, energy, transportation, solving some of the world’s sort of big challenges. Seeing what they’re working on and helping be a part of that is really exciting.
I think the challenge is working for a startup and working with startups…. There [are] not finalized processes and things like that, and my background is project management, so not having a clear path forward can be a little daunting. Sometimes you just kind of have to roll up your sleeves and make your own way ahead.
Where did you get that fighting spirit?
I really say that’s more my Midwestern background. I actually come from a line of farmers, so I think when you’re forging your way and moving out West…you have to be able to just kind of do whatever it takes to get the job done.
1776 helps fund startups in industries ranging from education to energy and sustainability, to health, transportation and cities. Do you focus on or feel passionate about any of these in particular?
I would say the industry that I feel most passionate about would be education. I think in many ways, that’s something that really levels the playing field for a lot of people and really enables people to forge their own way ahead in life.
You have a great sense of style. How did you develop it, and from where do you draw inspiration as a frum fashionista?
Thanks. I want to say it comes from my mom. My mom was always very put together and very much taught me from an early stage that you only have one chance to make a first impression, and a lot of that is wrapped up in how you present yourself to the world, and also the understanding that if you feel like you look good, you feel good, and that affects your self-confidence and how you approach the world. I’ve taken that a lot to heart.
I think it’s actually a really exciting time right now for those who are tznius [modest], for people that want to be a little bit more modest with their dress, but still on the edge of fashion. There’s some great fashion bloggers out there in New York and L.A., Fabologist, Nineteen Orange, Mimu Maxi…I think there’s a lot of really exciting inspiration out there and actually, Orthodox women who are designing clothes now for people who want to be modest, but fashionable.
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