Dames Collective is the ultimate networking group for this generation’s female leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators. We meet once a month for Morning MindFUELS where we discuss everything from building your brand, your elevator pitch, to taxes and everything in between. The Fairfield County chapter has only been around one year and has grown so much – we are so proud to be apart of and support such a wonderful group of ladies! The Main Dames that run the show are not only running Dames, but run their own businesses and are Moms of little ones! Without further ado here are this week’s Meet a Moms…Andrea Viscuso and Stephanie Purzycki!
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in the area?
S-I am originally from Miami, FL. I went to Cornell in Ithaca, NY and moved to New Haven right after graduating. My husband is from Fairfield, so we moved to the area to be closer to his family. We’ve been here in Fairfield for about 9 years.
A-I grew up in Branford, but went to high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden. #SHAgal I’ve been in Fairfield with my husband for 5 years.
Children / Age(s)
S-James is 2.5 years old and Isabelle is 8 months old.
A-I have one son, Vince and he just turned 2!
One thing people would be surprised to know about you?
S-I was a ballet dancer for 16 years. Also, people seemed to be really surprised that I am Hispanic and Spanish was my first language? I’m half Cuban and half Colombian.
A-I’m a very open person and any of my friends probably know more about me than I know about them. One thing might be that my husband and I met on a blind date. My cousin Adam asked him to come out and meet me, but we were actually going to dinner with many other cousins, aunts and uncles. So our first date was with a lot of my family at once.
One thing you wish someone would have told you about motherhood?
S-How hard it is and to seek help when you need it.
A-I feel like people tell you too much with many opinions. What works for you may not have worked for someone else. I would have appreciated more tips for labor. And also being told more tips about working full time and being a mom… not logistic like childcare, but the mental aspect of dealing with it all and some gilt being away.
Favorite local things to do in Fairfield?
S-I love the beach during the summer and going out to eat. We have so many great local restaurants.
A-Go out to eat at the many restaurants
What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in Fairfield?
S-Fairfield has a great school system. We also have a lot of activities for moms and families in the area. I spent many afternoons at the Fairfield library as a new mom on play dates.
A-the many town activities and events we have, especially for each holiday
Do you have a favorite family friendly restaurant? Date night?
S-We love going to Chips. It’s the one place my husband and I feel comfortable taking a toddler and a baby, it’s so family friendly. For date night, we love Brick + Wood and Mecha.
A-We love Pepe’s pizza which is kid friendly and the Sinclair for date nights.
What is your go-to activity for your family? For yourself?
S-For the family, I like taking advantage of the local events. The summer music series, the farmers market, POPSHOP markets. For myself, wine & girls night with my friends at a local restaurant.
A-entertaining… eating…cooking…watching movies… we like to take walks around my sister’s house in the beach neighborhood and go to the beach for an early dinner with the kids.
Best mom hack that makes your life easier?.
S-Honestly, finding my mom tribe made my life so much easier. I have 7 friends in my mom group and we get together all the time with the kids for playdates. We are constantly group texting about EVERYTHING. Food, potty issues, local activities, preschool/camp deadlines, etc. They are the best parenting resource and support system I could have ever asked for.
A-Not a hack, but my nanny makes my life a lot easier. My mom friends and cousins do too.
Name one thing you regret when learning the ropes of parenthood and what you learned from it?
S-I had PPA and PPD with my first, so I was anxious and stressed out all the time. I also had so much mom guilt for wanting to go back to work. I regret not seeking help sooner. With my second, I immediately talked to my doctor and family about my hormones and what I was going through.
A-I don’t think I have any regrets, but the working mom and setting boundaries with my job and personal life could have probably been better.
Tell us about your business, when & why you started, and the reason behind it?
S-Before I had my kids, I was working for a hospitality interior design firm in the city. I was passionate about my job, but the hours and commute were too much. I launched my own business, Drive Hospitality because I wanted the flexibility to be with my family and to be able to work on my own projects.
A-I actually took the real estate class in 2009, but ended up pursuing public relations and moved to NYC. I thought, “you can always be a CT realtor, but it will be harder to get your masters degree if you don’t get it now.” So I did a 1 year accelerated masters in public relations program 2010-2011 then moved to NYC right after.
A few years later, I was consulting for a PR agency out of CT and they wanted me to come on full time. I was feeling the itch to begin the next chapter so I took the job, moved, and was licensed within 3 months. I was finished in December 2014 so I was able to begin real estate on a fresh calendar year (2015), which I like.
How did you both decide that this was the right career move for you while having a family to raise?
S-I absolutely love design, so I knew I had to be able to figure out a way to keep my career growing while starting a family. Launching my own business felt right, and I was lucky enough to have clients take the leap of faith with me.
A-I knew it was right for me family or not. I knew I would make whatever my career was in life work with a family. I wasn’t worried. Being a full time realtor is not as amazing for #momlife as people think. I am out many evenings (during dinnertime), then on Saturdays and Sundays when my husband is off from work I am on showings or hosting open houses so it can be hard to all hang out. I get FOMO often.
What is Dames Collective and how did it start?
S-Dames is a networking group for female leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Our founder, Chanel Sonego, set out to create a networking community that would support female founders and cultivate a place where they could harness their power and meet like-minded women to rely on for support, advice and friendship. I met Andrea through Instagram and we clicked right away.
A-Dames Collective is a modern way to network and I was drawn to it right away. It’s about collaboration over competition and also growth. We host Morning MindFUELS each month that center around a certain topic and we hear from a panel experts in this topic.
The story on how this came about in Fairfield County is that my friend from NYC moved back to Phoenix and started that chapter there – chapter #2. I loved what she was up to and saw it from her social channels, so I messaged them about a Fairfield County Chapter. I had a feeling more women would feel how I did. Each chapter has two Main Dames, so I connected with Stephanie who was honestly the most perfect fit. I lover her so much, she’s so smart and creative. We were the leading chapter for Q4 in 2019 and have 57 members!
How can someone get involved in Dames?
What do we have to look forward in the future for your businesses and Dames?
S-We have a great year planned for Dames! Amazing speakers for our MindFUELs, important topics we should all be focusing on in our businesses and careers to stay relevant. I encourage anyone looking to invest in themselves and their career to check us out!
S- For my business, I have two large projects in the pipeline for 2020: a restaurant in NYC and a medical spa in Ridgefield, CT. I am also launching an app and platform called The Finish with a business partner I met through Dames. We want to modernize the interior design industry. The Finish will make booking an interior designer easier and more transparent. You can learn more about us on the website www.thefinish.co . The app will be ready to launch in February 2020!
A- We have important topics on the horizon and some impressive panelists on the lineup to learn from. They are the second Friday of every month and you can buy tickets on Eventbrite, which is linked on Instagram and found through the site.
For my business, I’m working on my branding more for Real Estate, and I’ve made these really helpful resources for my Sellers and Buyers I called “Toolkits”, which explains what I will do for my clients and tips on the process. I hope to help some amazing people find their next home or transition out of their current one. I’ve already had a lot of calls for the spring market 2020 in Fairfield!