Talk about making a mother proud.
Amy Castronova has certainly done just that, as an entrepreneur – and as a woman. In 2001, while an undergraduate student at Clarkson University, Castronova found herself reeling from the untimely death of her mother. Castronova and her father were left to decide the future of Novatek Communications, the training and documentation company that her mother began in 1989.
Castronova spent a year working to understand the intricacies of the business, in order to offer her thoughts on how the family should proceed.
“My recommendation – is that you sell the company to me,” Castronova recalled telling her father in 2003. He did just that, and Castronova became President and CEO of Novatek Communications that year, at the age of 20.
She hired an executive to handle daily operations while she completed her undergraduate degree, regularly commuted from Clarkson University in Potsdam to Rochester for meetings, and analyzed the company’s clients and financials during academic breaks.
Castronova has not only succeeded in carrying on her mother’s legacy, she has helped the company to grow, by streamlining its focus and embracing eLearning and advanced technology. At age 26, the U.S. Small Business Administration named her a Young Entrepreneur of the Year. She is the youngest member of the Board of Trustees at Clarkson University. And last November, she was honored at the White House by Empact 100 as one of the country’s top 100 young entrepreneurs.
Castronova is a natural leader and she is passionate about empowering young women to make an impact in business and the community. She runs a leadership development company for young adults, teaches a six-week leadership course for young entrepreneurs through Go Young Leaders, and hosts lectures and workshops at area universities.
Castronova believes that character is imperative in determining success and she strives to encourage personal development when working with young adults.
“I’m less tactical in my approach,” she said. “I place more focus on elements such as self-awareness, courage… and progress over comfort.”
Castronova views youth as an advantage and considers her age to have been a benefit as a young entrepreneur.
“At 20, I was never held back by fear,” she said. “And that’s a harder thing to do once you’re older… and you have student loan debt, or are planning a wedding or have kids.”
Now 29, Castronova has already accomplished what some may consider a lifetime of aspirations. But, she’s not all business. Last year, in addition to working as one of the country’s top young entrepreneurs, she taught herself Italian, learned to play tennis and recorded her grandmother’s personal memoirs. When asked about her goals for the next decade, Castronova is not leaving her 30’s up to chance.
She showed me her “Bucket List.” True to a successful businesswoman, it’s a detailed to-do list, an organized Excel document with categories ranging from business and charity to travel and adventure. In 2012, she hopes to skydive, take her extended family to Cape Cod, travel to New Zealand with her boyfriend and complete a MIT program for entrepreneurs. And the award from Empact 100, that got her to the White House, a lifelong dream – accomplished.
Castronova believes successful entrepreneurs have certain common qualities.
“They’re ambitious and they dream big,” she said. “They find a way to make it happen – they PLAN to make their dreams come true.”
I’ve seen her “Bucket List.” Great things will continue to happen for Castronova. She’s definitely a woman with a plan.