Ampersand co-founders Allie Danziger and Kathrin Applebaum understand the key to the future is intentional diversity.

By McKenzie Henningsen, Photos courtesy of the Ampersand Team

Allie Danziger is a serial entrepreneur. After founding and selling her own marketing company, Integrate Agency, Danziger immediately began her next adventure: creating a professional development platform for young professionals called Ampersand Professionals. Kathrin Applebaum has enjoyed over a decade of her career focused on advising and training hundreds of young professionals during her time in international education and the expert network industry. Together, Danziger and Applebaum, the company’s COO, share their advice on how to start your own company whether you, just like Danziger, are a serial entrepreneur, or a business newbie.

Be thoughtful about the company you are creating.

Allie Danziger: When I founded Ampersand, I knew that I wanted to be deliberate about what we were doing as a business, the impact we were having, how it was being run and how I am actively spending my time at work and outside of it. I know that we are building an amazing company that will shift the way companies hire entry-level talent. But I also need to make time to take my daughter to gymnastics.

Kathrin Applebaum: Embodying this work-life balance, or at least showcasing its importance, gives employees the freedom and power to take control of their schedules and spend time where it is important to them.

Invest in the next generation.

Young professionals, more specifically Gen Z, are going to overtake the workforce in the next few years. In fact, by 2026, more than 25% of the workforce will be Gen Z employees. We have both spent most of our careers upskilling entry-level employees and investing time into young, driven individuals early on so they are able to confidently enter the job market and continue to build off of those skills in the future. While it can often be frustrating that young professionals lack the polish, etiquette or knowledge of how to be successful in the workplace, taking the time to give them the experience through paid internship opportunities can set these professionals up for a lifetime of success. (Note: It’s not just Gen Z; each generation has complained about “the newbies,” including when you were entering the workforce!)

Increase workplace diversity.

It’s key for companies to prioritize diversity, equity, inclusivity and belonging in the workplace. The easiest place to start is by removing barriers from the very beginning by providing access to equitable paid internships that can diversify the talent pool. While businesses should continue hiring diverse leadership, they should also invest in a long-term diversity strategy by allowing for a new, diverse generation of employees to confidently enter the workforce. At the same time, it is extremely important for employers to unlearn internalized biases they may have become accustomed to, or not even realized they were exhibiting, and get prepared for this new generation, as they have so much to contribute to the organizations they enter.

Allie Danziger (left) & Kathrin Applebaum

Recruit the employees you want.

Every company should understand its core values—there are plenty of valuable exercises to determine this—and hire accordingly. It shouldn’t be aspirational in nature. But ask yourself what is important to you, and who can help you to get there. Spending time recruiting the rock stars you want to be with on a daily basis sets the stage for a secure and resilient business foundation.

At Ampersand, we work with a very diverse population. 60% of our professionals are female, 40% are first-generation college students and 72% identify as non-white. It’s important for us to practice what we preach and recruit diverse talent that can properly connect with our key customers. 45% of Ampersand’s employees identify as non-white; 11% identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community; 22% are Jewish; 11% are first-generation U.S. citizens; 33% were first-generation college students and 33% are bilingual or multilingual. Our diverse team only makes us stronger. Which is how Ampersand is able to thoughtfully and strategically help other businesses to recruit the workforce of today and tomorrow.

Lead authentically.

Leaders aren’t just the ones with the fancy titles. Leadership is a skill that can be practiced and honed regardless of your job, age or experience. As a leader, it’s imperative to stay true and genuine in the way you present yourself and represent your company. Keep your personal goals and values in mind at all times. Always bring that into the forefront as you make business and personal decisions. Employees want to be proud of the places that they work. The only way they are going to do so is by having higher-ups that have this strong sense of authenticity that radiates down the employee pipeline.



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