Name: Penina Rybak
Business: Socially Speaking LLC, an educational consulting firm that teaches social communication skills to children with special needs
Industry: Coaching & Consulting
Location: Fair Lawn, New Jersey, U.S.
Reason for starting: In 2009 I saw a need to bridge gaps between readiness to learn and actual performance in terms of autism intervention and started a side job giving educational seminars while working as a pediatric speech therapist in the school system. Then in 2010 I became an official consultant giving my Socially Speaking ™ Seminars that focus on the best practices for educators working in special ed. In 2011 I became an official iPad Evangelist, giving seminars to people in the educational arena about Autism, but also about iPad Apps and their uses in educational curricula. I spent two years on the road weeks at a time lecturing around North America. I got hired to speak to diverse audiences, many of them women, many who stayed in touch with me and asked me how I was able to start a business during the Great Recession and what advice I could share.
When my best friend and entrepreneurial mentor lost her battle with breast cancer in December 2012, as part of the grieving process, I started writing. I wrote about the conversations we had about entrepreneurship, women in today’s workplace, my business, her business aspirations, and all those questions I was getting from women of all walks of life interested in starting their own business too. I started indexing and typing my thoughts and slowly saw a 300 page book emerge, which hit stores in February. I am working on launching The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship to help other women achieve their goals too.
How do you define success? I don’t define success using the parameters most people use. Maybe it’s because I worked with children with Autism/Special Needs for two decades. To me success is about living a life that matters, that impacts others for the greater good. Success is about having a purpose. Successful people are those who understand their role on this earth and use that knowledge to craft a life and career for themselves where their minds and hearts are in sync with their daily routine and bank accounts. Success is knowing that your story positively intersects with the story of others, creating a ripple effect that you may never know but they do.
Biggest Success: I created a play based, universal, developmental, and digital social skills test. It’s a behavioral screener for young children at risk for social issues such as Autism. My Socially Speaking™ iPad App launched in iTunes in May 2012 before the App Store became the wild west of educational Apps. To date, it’s still the only green, digital, user-friendly, collaborative, and inexpensive screener that can be used by parents and professionals around the world to determine starting points for remediation as a team, and begin early intervention to counteract the growing global problem of bullying. It’s currently used by CLASP International in Zambia, Africa and my Socially Speaking™ Social Skills Curriculum & App will be officially used by the soon to be finished Autism Clinic there.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? My top challenge is pivoting my career on my own as a bootstrapping entrepreneur. I’ve been in the educational arena for two decades, where practices and mindsets differ from the one I’m now in- the entrepreneurship arena. I have to play catch up with corporate culture, politics and the glass ceiling, which is real, even in 2014. I have no formal training as an entrepreneur and only 4 years of experience. I’ve addressed this by accelerating my learning process via tech. I wrote a book, write 3 blogposts a week (The Huffington Post, Tumblr, & WordPress), and aggressively pursue mentorship. I am very active on social media and am a voracious reader. I’ve streamlined my workflow to include regular use of Evernote, Pocket, Zite, Twitter, and visits to my local library. I also seek out webinars and networking events to continue my learning and speaking.
Who is your most important role model? My most important role model was the best friend I lost in 2012, Dr. Nechah Hochstein. I knew her since late childhood. She was a gifted child psychologist, a smart business woman, great mentor, loyal friend, active community member, supportive neighbor, caring sister and daughter, and a wonderful human being. She taught me so much about how to live and be strong, how to help others live meaningfully, and how to become an authentic, well rounded human being.
Edited by The Story Exchange