Catie Luzio, Founder & CEO of Luminary and The Glass Ceiling

Oct 14, 2021

Meet Cate Luzio, Founder and CEO of Luminary and The Glass Ceiling, both located at 1204 Broadway, between 29th and 30th Streets. Luminary is a global professional growth platform and company space for women and women-identified, and male allies. And on the building’s rooftop is The Glass Ceiling, a communal workspace and restaurant and bar.

1. You’ve defined Luminary as a “premier collaboration space for women who are passionate about professional development and expanding their networks.” Tell us more and describe your roles as founder and CEO.

We are a global, inclusive, membership-based professional and personal growth platform and community space: a first of its kind created for women and our male allies; we are bringing people together to convene, inspire, learn, and connect. Offering dozens of programs and events every single week, Luminary is the ultimate career advocate, uplifting and upskilling women through all phases of their professional journey—in the workforce, entrepreneurship, and in transition. Luminary is open to all, and there is no application process to become a member. I started Luminary as a way to bring women together to advance each other’s careers, and it has quickly grown into a movement perfectly timed to push us through the current workplace crisis.

Luminary’s members are a multigenerational and intersectional community of individuals, intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs, corporations, and organizations with access to a vast eco-system of expert-led thought leadership programs and services, as well as perks and amenities, including a digital library with over 500 hours of downloadable content, a virtual platform to connect and convene with other Members, a three-floor work and social space in the Flatiron/NoMad neighborhood, which we love!

Photo Credit: Luminary space by Melissa Wiley via Business Insider

In addition to business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers, we work with companies like UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Unilever, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Mastercard, Spotify, ViacomCBS, and ADP, to name a few! To date, we’ve led well over 1,000 in-person and virtual programs, workshops, and events. In late 2020, in response to the pandemic, Luminary created its Fellowship Program, supporting both women-owned businesses and women impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting ‘she-cession.’  These fellowships deliver access to ongoing education, mentorship/coaching, business resources and tools, critical content and training, as well as community and connection. Currently, Luminary has established partnerships with Unilever, Verizon, Indeed, and UBS—awarding nearly 800 fellowships.

Even though we were only 14 months old as a company, I am proud to still be here— thanks to our community and team, and we will celebrate three years as a business at the start of 2022. I am also proud to still have a physical space with Luminary for people to come to and The Glass Ceiling. We could have easily shut our doors completely due to the pandemic, but there was no way I was leaving!

2. What inspired you to open The Glass Ceiling, the restaurant and bar on Luminary’s rooftop? And can you elaborate on the partnership between these two businesses?

When I decided to open Luminary, I wanted our space to be in a central location, and one where I could bring new experiences, new faces, and new opportunities. NoMad was an easy choice. Working with my landlord, I realized that in addition to the 11,000 square feet Luminary occupies in our building (two full floors), there was also an empty rooftop. I wanted to create an extension of Luminary by investing in building a rooftop bar and restaurant in the neighborhood, open to all, providing a safe space for our members and the public to gather, convene and connect. Luminary members have access to use The Glass Ceiling as an additional work and social space throughout the day, and in the evening, it opens to all as a bar and restaurant. It’s a great opportunity to support the Luminary community but also the NoMad and NYC community at large. We are proud to have been able to open The Glass Ceiling this year despite the pandemic.

The space was created as an oasis for all walks of life. And the name ‘the glass ceiling has a higher purpose. It is a metaphor that has long been used to represent the invisible barriers that prevent women and underrepresented communities from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy. We’re empowering the community to breakthrough ‘The Glass Ceiling’ with us. We have plenty to celebrate and welcome ALL of those wanting to join us.

3. You’re also a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate and support women’s empowerment in the workplace. In your opinion, how can businesses best promote these important missions within their work environments?   

The ‘pipeline’ continues to leak, and not just for those in senior levels. If an organization is not investing in the pipeline early, providing opportunities for advancement, and developing that talent, it will dry up. Retention is a core issue for women in the workforce, and these past 18 months has created a ‘she-cession’ with more than 3 million women exiting the workforce. We work with dozens of companies providing their women (and male allies) with ‘real world’ advice, tools, and resources to advance, build, connect, and develop.

From supporting increased efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging with programming to enhanced learning and leadership development opportunities, employee benefits and support (for example, remote work options, community access), and a robust digital platform and experience for your employees to truly feel invested in, Luminary exists to help support and empower these efforts in the workplace. If companies are not walking the talk, their retention issue will further deepen. We are here to work with and support these critical efforts for women.

4. Luminary opened in 2019, followed by The Glass Ceiling earlier this year. What led you to choose property locations in Flatiron/NoMad? What do you love most about being in these vibrant communities?

As mentioned earlier, when looking at real estate in NYC, I wanted something central, near public transportation with easy access, in the heart of a diverse neighborhood, and somewhere we as a company could make a real impact—bring new faces/customers to the local businesses, provide opportunities for employment, and deliver a space for women and male allies to convene, work, and connect. Luminary has often been compared to a co-working space, but we are so much more. Our space is merely one of our benefits in addition to the other amenities we provide, for example, fitness studio, meditation space, lactation room, showers, etc. Our differentiator is our community and our programming and events, in space and virtual. Flatiron/Nomad seemed like the right environment to not only open our physical doors but expand with The Glass Ceiling. We also love working with local businesses to support the neighborhood and have partnerships with MADE HotelStumptown Coffee, and so many more. These are great perks for our members and ways to bring revenue to other businesses in the area. I am also a proud resident of the area!

Photo Credit: The Glass Ceiling 

5. What were your companies’ experiences with overcoming pandemic-related obstacles? What are any ongoing challenges you now face and how are they being managed by you and your team?

We lost 80% of our revenue in the first three months of the pandemic when our physical space had to temporarily close due to lockdown. We quickly went online to ensure our community had access to each other, our programming, and other incremental services we offer like The Luminary Collective, a marketplace for women-owned businesses. Immediately upon closing, our team started working on a plan to reopen safely with all precautions in place. Safety and the health of our community is our top priority, so when we reopened after lockdown and every day since then, we ensure that all members, visitors, and guests feel safe with procedures and policies to protect all who walk into our spaces.

It has been a challenge to keep going in this environment, but our community has grown, and we are working with many new companies looking for unique benefits for their employees, from programming to remote workspace. It’s great to see so many new faces in both Luminary and The Glass Ceiling and the vibrancy of the community. Being able to bring new people to the neighborhood through the power of our spaces is incredible to watch. However, we are still amid the pandemic and are being cautious. Every day presents its own challenges as a small business and for many business owners, doing business in this city isn’t always easy!

As a business also operating a restaurant and bar in the area, we want to ensure we’re being a responsible neighbor. We have a great team running The Glass Ceiling with vast experience, and we truly feel Luminary and The Glass Ceiling are critical to the business corridor. We hope the neighborhood feels the same way!

6. You’re the daughter of civil servants, earned degrees in political science and international relations, and worked in banking for two decades where you managed billions of revenue. What inspired you to make a career switch into entrepreneurship? For those aspiring to own their own business, what professional advice can you share?

I spent two decades in financial services leading global multibillion-dollar businesses. During this time, I also led many of the institutions’ women’s networks and saw the disproportionate number of men to women and women of color in the senior ranks. I recognized the problem was a lack of investment and development of talent in the female pipeline, rather than a lack of talent itself. This observation sparked a new direction for my own trajectory. In a sharp career pivot, I wrote a business plan and set out on a new mission to help women see a path toward advancement by arming them with the tools, resources, and community to propel them to the top—regardless of their professional journey. In early 2019, I launched and self-funded Luminary created to address the systemic challenges impacting women across all industries and sectors.

7. When you’re not at Luminary or The Glass Ceiling, how do you like to spend your time in the neighborhood?

I love just walking around the neighborhood. I always seem to run into Luminary members and now patrons of The Glass Ceiling. My partner and I make sure we eat local, supporting the businesses still here and many of the new restaurants opening. It was great to see the community come together to support each other these past 19 months, how we opened the streets, created more outdoor spaces, and have now been able to come back stronger than before. It is because of our businesses, the community itself thrives. Favorite spots include Stumptown for coffee, Black Seed for bagels, Nom for a quick salad, L’Adresse for great drinks, plus spectacular flatbread and calamari, Mark’s Off Madison for basically everything, and my new favorite Bar Benno! Honestly, there are so many to choose from; we never truly feel we must leave the area to meet great people and have a terrific experience. Shout out to City MD on 23rd Street, who has been a lifesaver as well, especially when I had COVID-19 last March and April.

8. Finally, choose three words to describe the Flatiron District.

Diverse. Evolving. Energetic.

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