From Entrepreneur to Angel Investor: A Chat With Joanne Wilson '83

March 31, 2017

Joanne Wilson

We caught up with Joanne about her journey to becoming an Angel Investor!

What program were you in at Simmons?  

I was a retail/finance major.  

What made you choose Simmons?  

I chose Simmons because I knew that the education I received there would ensure that I would have a job when I graduated. In many ways that degree was like getting a trade diploma. I had all the tools I needed to enter the retail world when I graduated.  

Do you have a favorite memory of Simmons? 

Not sure what the event was but I do recall winning a donut eating competition in the quad one year.

Tell us about your journey from Entrepreneur to Investor. 

I have had many careers. In the 90's, I was involved in media during the start of the technology revolution. After the mortgage crisis, the entire industry imploded as the valuations of those companies were out of whack and funding ceased for the majority of the start-ups. I chose to stay home with my children after that and was searching for the next thing. 

Around 2006 I was watching the next generation of the web begin to take hold. I did not want to be involved in a start-up or start my own business and certainly had zero interest in working for someone else so all the dots connected to be an investor in the start-up world. It allowed me the intellectual conversations while having pure flexibility for my home life.  

You've focused your Investment Thesis on female entrepreneurs. Can you talk about why you made that decision? 

It is funny that after all these years post graduating from a women's college I returned to supporting females first and foremost. I had begun writing a blog called Gotham Gal in 2004 and through my blog, I began to hear from many female founders. Once I began to invest in companies around 2007, I realized how many more women were building businesses and how difficult it was to get funding and mentorship. I decided that I could provide value to those women and so I made a conscious decision to support female entrepreneurs.  

What made you to start Gotham Gal? 

I was so involved in the first generation of the web in NYC that I did not want to lose that connection. When blogging started to be a new medium around 2004 I figured that this was a way to stay connected to the industry, have my own voice and create something that would be mine. I had no idea that this blog would be the first step forward into my next endeavors. 

What's the most daring move you've made in your career? 

Walking away from the entire retail/wholesale industry with two kids who were at that time 3 and 1. We had just purchased a home and I was making three times more than my husband.  It was daring but it was the best thing I ever did. It propelled me to stay at home for a few years and hang with my kids, have another one, and then reboot my career in a completely different direction.

What did you learn from that experience?  

Nothing is standard. You can create your own path.  

Which female leader do you most admire? Why?  

There is not one singular female I admire but I do admire all the female entrepreneurs who are building businesses. It isn't easy and they are carrying the torch for the next generation of women with the hope that we will see more females at the top. If you can't see it, you can't be it.

Any tips for work/life balance?

It is not easy but the key is making sure family comes first. That has always been my rule and that sets your priorities.  

What's the best career advice you've gotten along the way?  

Think about what you want do be in 5 years. It is the best way to follow your path.    

What advice would you give to current Simmons students?  

Follow your heart. This generation of graduates will live to be 100. Their career and personal life are a blend. Find something you are excited about doing every day.  

What's your Simmons moment?

I had a variety of experiences at Simmons. Best one is that I met my best friend there who eventually became my husband. Our partnership is one of the best parts of my life including the 3 children we have had together.