Emily Washkowitz Tarkan ’04, a Spence student from Kindergarten through Grade 12, attended Harvard University and majored in History of Art and Architecture, with a focus on Modern Art. She had never taken an art history class at Spence, but took a course her first semester at Harvard and instantly fell in love with her professor and the subject matter.
After graduation, Emily initially thought that she wanted to work at a museum or a gallery in New York City, but the spark was missing. Instead, she joined two entrepreneurial brothers who were starting a business, StyleCaster, to answer the question “What is the temperature and what should I wear?” Emily was involved from the very beginning in the company, wearing many hats at the leanly staffed startup.
During her four years at StyleCaster, she went from being an unpaid intern to the director of Business Development and director of Client Services and Operations. Emily enjoyed experiencing so many aspects of the business and having the opportunity to grow within her role. Her work at StyleCaster helped shape her professional outlook: “I know what to do and what not to do when building a business. I learned how to be an entrepreneur and build a team and a vision. I also learned a lot about working on a team while at the same time being independent. Finally, I learned that nothing is impossible.”
In 2012, Emily left StyleCaster to attend Columbia Business School. There she enhanced her business knowledge with the thought of pursuing her own venture after she received her M.B.A. She joined the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program, which helps students launch companies and prepare their businesses for investment, and, as a result, was a 2014 Lang Fund recipient.
After business school, Emily successfully launched Shareswell, which is a simple and secure platform for gifting stock for any occasion. It empowers users to reimagine their financial future and enables individuals to give the gift of financial security. There are two ways in which to use Shareswell: Shareswell Registries allows users to create a registry for any occasion and Shareswell Give allows users to make a gift of stock via email.
Emily came up with the idea for her company from her experience with friends who had items on their wedding registries that they did not really want or need but felt they had to have gifts at different price points. And, after Emily got engaged and received six different toaster ovens, her belief that registries needed a makeover was cemented. She and her husband wanted to save for the future but felt uncomfortable asking friends and family for cash. At that point Emily decided to build Shareswell and have her own wedding act as the guinea pig. Shareswell not only allows individuals to invest in someone else’s future, but it makes them think about saving for their own future as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. As Emily puts it, “We are ushering in a new way to save for the future and to gift smarter.”
Emily credits Spence for helping her achieve her goals at Shareswell by teaching her to be independent, ambitious and to think outside of the box. From an early age, Spence encouraged her to be vocal about her opinions, while also asking questions and making sure to understand a problem. Emily says, “From English class with Ms. Frosch to math with Mr. Zahler, the faculty taught me that there is not one correct way. A book can have many interpretations and a math problem can have many approaches to arriving at the solution. I’ve taken these lessons to heart when approaching a business hurdle. Someone once told me, ‘you cannot gift stock online.’ Instead of giving up, I asked why and found a solution.”
Emily says that Spence students should not be afraid of the unknown and if success is not immediate, don’t give up. Emily credits her Spence friends and former teachers for providing support, acting as role models and helping her become the woman and entrepreneur she is today.