Vanderbilt alumnae launch Aspire to Her, a digital community for budding businesswomen


Heream Yang

Joanna Cheng (‘18) and Sasha Pines (‘18) made their mark on the Vanderbilt community by co-founding Vanderbilt Women in Business in their sophomore year, launching an organization that has provided mentorship and career guidance to a community of over 600 aspiring businesswomen. However, as their senior year came to a close and they prepared to enter the workforce, Cheng and Pines pondered ways to empower future female leaders beyond college. After brainstorming different ideas, they decided to launch Aspire to Her, an organization that provides online resources specifically geared towards women in the early stages of their careers.

“We wanted to build a brand and a platform for women officially post-college, who are starting their jobs in the real world,” Cheng said. “We started talking about all the mentors we were very fortunate to have, and how we would like to share the stories of the women we admire to other women in order to further inspire them to create a career path that is successful and fulfilling.”

Aspire to Her operates a website and newsletter that offer interviews, career guides and events to a community of businesswomen in the first decade of their careers. Informational interviews with established businesswomen provide a glimpse into the early stages of their careers, while career guides share experiences and advice answering fundamental questions about developing a fulfilling business career. In the future, Aspire to Her hopes to host eventsintimate brunches fostering connections between young businesswomenin the near future.

Cheng and Pines recruited a team of like-minded aspiring businesswomen by attracting the interest of others who were just as excited about their mission, many of whom are current students in Vanderbilt Women in Business.

“One of our biggest goals from a team perspective is to let Aspire to Her be a platform where young professionals can build a portfolio for themselves,” Pines said. “For Rebecca (Arp, Art Director), it was building the website. For Sam (Merrick, Marketing Director), who runs the Instagram, it’s running our social media, so when she applies to jobs, she can point to the Instagram and can say, ‘I am totally in charge of this. Here’s a really tangible thing that I worked on.’ It’s a cool way for college students to have independence and autonomy over something that they’re excited about.”

Recently, Aspire to Her launched a referral program encouraging existing members of the community to spread awareness of the brand. ‘#Aspirers’ as they are called, receive a reward for bringing in five new members. As a young startup, Aspire to Her is flexible in terms of its future ventures, seeking to meet the needs of its community as it evolves.

“I think whatever we end up doing next will depend on the people that get involved with the website,” Pines said. “We’re the brand, essentially, so this could honestly become a book, it could become a conference series, or it could become a media brand. There’s so many ways that we could take it, so right now we’re trying to understand our audience and tailor whatever we do next to meet their needs, but no matter what we do next, it will be centered around our mission to empower future female leaders. That’s our guiding light as we figure out these next steps.”