LightFull Lady–Randy Allen

Randy Allen photoAs the founder and CEO of Girls Explore®, a company that aims to broaden the horizon of possibilities for girls through role models, Randy Allen isn’t just an entrepreneur; she’s also a teacher, a coach, a mentor – aka, a modern day role model.  Read on to learn more about Randy and why we’ve selected her to be our current LightFull Lady.

Q. What was your inspiration for Girls Explore?

A. I always assumed that I could do anything.  When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a lifeguard, but I was told that girls couldn’t be lifeguards.  So I convinced my prospective employer to allow me to do the job part-time, proved myself, and became the first fulltime female lifeguard at our local state park.  They were a little confounded about taking me on because there was no “official” female swimsuit for me!

Girls Explore was an outgrowth of my frustration in looking for gifts for my pre-teen nieces during the holidays.  There just weren’t offerings that were appropriate role models for girls.  Girls Explore is a toy company that’s created a line of dolls modeled after famous women.  Each doll comes with a hardcover biography about this role model and an accessory.  For example, a “pilot’s log” diary accompanies the doll of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American pilot.  My vision is to create a foundation with our profits to help not only girls with their education and careers, but women too – there’s just such a great need.

Q. Today, you not only run Girls Explore, but you also teach at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management.  Would you call yourself an entrepreneur or a teacher?

A. I don’t categorize myself.  I’m an entrepreneur, but I’m also a teacher, a coach and a consultant.  I was the first female partner in what is now Deloitte Consulting.  I am also very involved with issues specific to women in business.  For example, I started a group called Executive Women of New Jersey, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary.  Today it has about 250 members and is dedicated to not only programming for its members, but providing merit-based scholarships for women who are pursuing higher education.  Currently I’m involved with the organization’s scholarship committee, reading through the scholarship applications is a very emotional experience because of the stories that the applicants share in their essays.  Education has always been important to me.  It’s the path to greater things in all people, no matter what one’s background is.  And today, this manifestation of the value I put on education is through my work at Cornell.

Q. It sounds like you’ve had a rich and varied career. How do you balance this with family life?

A. Family is so important to me and spending time with my family is one of my favorite things to do.  I have a son, a step-son and step-daughter.  I come from a large family with 7 younger brothers and sisters, so my many nieces and nephews range from ages 6 -27.  All of my children are grown and out of college now, but when they were younger I made a concerted effort to get involved with and be supportive of those activities that were most important to my kids.  I also took my son along on many of my business travels, not only did he get to see the world – visiting countries like Australia, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and traveling throughout the US – but it also afforded us time to be together. 

Today we actually work together.  He runs the website for Girls Explore.  Because much of our conversations are about the business and I’m often in Ithaca, NY at Cornell, we make a standing “dinner date” for every Thursday evening when I’m back home in New Jersey which is nice because it’s just real talk.

Q. Any words of advice for other women on how to stay in balance?

A. It’s critical to decide what’s important and to focus on those things.  Then forget about the rest and let go of them.  I find that balance comes when I’m happy in my personal and family life; that my work is interesting and rewarding; and I feel like I’m making a contribution.  In many ways that’s what Girls Explore is about, because it pulls the things that I’m most passionate about together.