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Monique Lappas: “Entrepreneurship needs to be marketed as a viable career path for women”

Entrepreneurship needs to be marketed as a viable career path for women. When you think about all the people that have successfully founded businesses, men typically come to mind. If you were to ask me to name five successful female company founders off the top of my head, I could name Sarah Blakely, Tracy Sun […]

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Entrepreneurship needs to be marketed as a viable career path for women. When you think about all the people that have successfully founded businesses, men typically come to mind. If you were to ask me to name five successful female company founders off the top of my head, I could name Sarah Blakely, Tracy Sun (but that’s just because she was in my class at business school) and maybe a fashion designer, and then I draw a blank. I can name a few female CEOs but not company founders. If you asked me the same for males, I can quickly name at least 20! In continuance of what was described above, I believe that more women in leadership roles in general would also help promote more women who own businesses.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monique Lappas.

In 2012, Monique had to make the decision that many of us face — asking herself, “how do I maintain a career, be the best parent I can be and balance it all while staying sane and enjoying each day and the challenges it brings?” It was during this decision process that she decided to move out of the finance industry and start exploring other career options. She made a move to Florida, and began working with Paquin Healthcare (now iRemedy) as a healthcare consultant, focusing on the retail and consumer healthcare industries.

In 2015, Paquin changed its healthcare focus, became iRemedy Supply and Monique was given the opportunity to help divest the consulting business, at which time she saw the opportunity to take ownership of the business. Since then, the company has grown from one that mostly focused on hospital retail to one that also provides outpatient and specialty pharmacy advisory services, consumer and digital healthcare consulting and most recently, provides support services for patients and hospitals within the oncology and radiology space.

Monique has had to tap into much of her knowledge base, both in healthcare, finance and business management, to make the business a success. Her background in healthcare has spanned over 20 years. It began as a Quantitative Analyst for an investment bank in Sydney, then as an analyst covering the Emerging Markets at Wellington Management in Boston, MA and continued through to Wasatch Advisors in Salt Lake City, UT. In these roles, she analyzed healthcare service providers, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals from an investment perspective. She also spent time working within the investment banking healthcare team at Goldman Sachs and within the M&A division of a large Australian industrial company.

Monique hails from Sydney, Australia. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communications from Bond University (Australia), an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and has also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up in Australia in a pretty untypical type of family for the area where I lived at the time. My dad immigrated from Greece and spent most of his childhood in an orphanage. When he met my mum (an Aussie) he embraced Australia — it gave him a life and a future that he would never have had if he had stayed in Greece. I ended up in the USA after I married an American, but I took the same approach as my dad to a new country. Opportunity just seemed to be in abundance here and I wanted to make sure I made the best of where I lived, chased opportunities when I saw them, gave back whenever I could, and made my new country my ‘home’ while still respecting my Aussie roots.

As far as what helped me achieve my career goals, there was an enormous focus on education in my house. My dad would go out and buy textbooks and encyclopedias at the beginning of each year, and I had to work through all of them after school in addition to any schoolwork. He was super strict and demanded a lot from an academic standpoint. We were also really involved in swimming, and in that same notion, I was required to achieve and exceed expectations. It really became ingrained in who I was and would become. It all gave me a pretty strong work ethic, taught me that hard work is key to success and also how to deal with pressure (which probably wasn’t the greatest of parenting strategies, but as a kid who grew up in an orphanage, I don’t think dad knew any other way). This was behind the ‘how’ of where I got where I am today from a career perspective; non-stop persistence, looking for every possible opportunity and embracing it with a lot of hard work.

I had no idea about career tracks when I started university because I wasn’t ever exposed to that many choices. Growing up, all I knew were teachers, plumbers, builders, accountants and for the super smart people, you became lawyers and doctors. I changed tracks while at university about three times. I tried law, IT, and business, and ended up graduating with a business degree with a focus in IT because that seemed to be where the jobs were at the time. The problem was, I didn’t like working in IT. In my third job after graduating, I worked in the IT Department for the equity research desk at UBS, and for the first time saw what was meant by ‘the stock market’ and I knew this is where I wanted to be. I wanted a job as an analyst that researched companies, and from that moment, I was set on making that my career path. I looked for every angle and did everything I could to take my career in this direction. It took me a long time. I moved into a quantitative analyst role then into a performance analyst role before getting my big break with an assistant equity analyst position for the Emerging Markets Fund at Wellington Management in Boston. I completed a graduate diploma in Finance while in Australia and then my CFA, then went to Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and completed my MBA. I began as a senior equity analyst at Wasatch Advisors and had the exact role that I put myself on track for about eight years earlier. I worked in finance for about 10 years, and for much of it was focused on the healthcare space, which allowed me to make a move into healthcare consulting.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I don’t know if I would put this in the category of ‘interesting’ but it was most certainly the one thing that pushed my career in the direction it is now. When I was 37, I was unexpectedly confronted with a divorce. I had an 11-month-old son and a 2-year-old daughter and my husband said he was moving back home, which happened to be on the other side of the world. I was working for a large company and had started there about a month prior. To say I was in shock was an understatement, but mainly I was in panic mode. How would I cope with two babies, no husband and a career that demanded long hours? I can’t say I was all that productive as an employee for the next six months as I tried to work all of this out, but in a testament to my manager at the time (thank you David Simpson), I was given options and a way to work it out. With David’s help, and the support of others at the company, I was able to transition to a role that allowed for better and more consistent hours, and even got a pay increase. I couldn’t believe how supportive they were. I was in a more suitable role that a single parent of two very young children could handle and thrive.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was probably about 27 years old and in a meeting with my manager Vera Trojan and other coworkers I was always trying to impress at the time. Vera was a great mentor; she was so smart, so accomplished, and I was in awe of her Princeton and Harvard Business School education and wanted to make sure I always came across in a positive way. So, in order to try to impress, I delved deep into my vocabulary and in a sentence was trying to explain how things got out of hand, and I used the word ‘awry’ which I pronounced ‘orrie’. I clearly hadn’t heard the word before, but must have read it somewhere. She looked at me with a curious face and asked me to say the word again, which I said, “Orrie”. The curious look remained and she said, “Do you mean ‘awry’?” (pronounced the correct way: uh-rai) At that point I said, “Oh yes, we must pronounce it differently in Australia.” However, we don’t, I just didn’t know how to say it properly. She smiled, nodded her head, and got on with the meeting.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for that helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are actually two people (Jeff Cardon and Vera Trojan) whom I am extremely grateful for, but seeing this is about females, I will share the story about Vera. As mentioned above, I worshipped Vera and her academic pedigree and I took all of the advice she gave me and used it. She was a perfectionist when it came to attention to detail, and she drilled this into me. She wasn’t always subtle about my many errors due to work that was hurried or not triple-checked, but she was always kind when delivering her critiques. When I was applying to business school, she helped review my essays; and one afternoon she came into my office, sat down and said, “Monique, I tried to review your essays, but by the end of the second paragraph, all I was doing was correcting for grammar, because the structure of your writing was so bad, that it was all I could correct for. Now, let me show you how to properly structure an essay, and then go and research how to do this better. I don’t think what you have here will get you into any school that you want to go to.” I did as she said and landed my first-ranked school, and at the same time, greatly improved my writing to the point where I would consider myself to be a fairly advanced writer at this point of my career.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Power of One by Australian novelist Bryce Courtenay. It is a fictional story and set in South Africa about a young boy that is constantly facing adversity and cruelty during a harsh time in that country’s history. However, at different and critical parts of his life, he has people that take him under their wing and contribute different things to his life: love, respect, guidance, financial assistance, emotional support, educational support, mentoring, and kindness. I was about 15 when I read it, and the message I received was that showing someone kindness, showing someone respect, providing guidance, and helping someone, even if they don’t ask for it, can do so much for people. It can turn someone’s life around, it can open paths that they wouldn’t have dreamed of, it can give them self-worth, and it can change the course of someone’s life.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“I want to be able to sleep at night.” This quote came from my manager at Wasatch Advisors, Jeff Cardon, who often parted ways with the herd and chose not to make investments if he knew they would cause him to lose sleep. Sometimes it was just a feeling he got from the company’s management team and sometimes it was because he didn’t understand the investment philosophy so he couldn’t put people’s money in something he couldn’t justify. This stuck with me in my own business. I have had to take many hard paths because something just didn’t feel right. I have also had opportunities to make some quick money, but felt that it wasn’t in the best interest of my clients, so I chose to stay away from a project. I want to be able to go to bed at night and know that I am always acting in my clients’ best interests and doing all I can to help them with what they have hired me to do.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’d like to think this is an ongoing mission, but I was able to hire two employees that had been negatively impacted from a career standpoint when the pandemic hit last year. They both needed to be at home with their toddler-aged children because the daycares were closed. One had lost her job because of the pandemic and the other had her pay cut by 50%. My business was starting to take off and I was able to bring these employees on in a way that allowed them to have the flexibility that is needed when trying to work and potty-train a 2-year-old or manage a tantrum. We built our daily schedule around what worked for them and their kids. We conduct meetings or calls during nap time. If someone has to run off the phone because their toddler is about to do something they shouldn’t be doing, then it is just accepted and often laughed about afterward. These employees always manage to get everything done and then some, but it might not all happen between traditional work hours. We are all in (or have been in) similar situations where we have tried to be everything to all people, and know that if we can offer support, backup and understanding, then not only the world will be better, but so will our company.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

I think it is a combination of many things and it is different for each female. For me, what did it was the need to overcome the fear of not being able to pay bills and provide for my children if I failed, because it was the only real choice I could make if I wanted to be more involved in my kids’ lives as they were growing up. If I ran my own company, then I could choose the hours I worked and could show up for school plays and field trips. I might not earn as much as I would if I worked for someone else, but if I worked hard enough, I could have a career, pay my bills, and be involved with my kids at the level I desired.

For some background, my mum worked at a school, which meant she was there for us in the mornings and again when we were home later that afternoon. My dad worked a lot of overtime and night shifts, so he wasn’t there all the time, but my mum was. I look back and feel so lucky that she was there. It gave us the ability to do so many things. She could drive us to swim and surf practice, take us to tutoring, have dinner prepared for us, etc. This was a critical element of how I am trying to structure flexibility around my company and for my employees. My mum could have been so much more successful, she is a super smart lady, but it was important to her and my dad that someone was there for us when needed. She had to sacrifice a career and work well beneath her capabilities in order to be the mum that she wanted to be. I remember, when I was in college, thinking ‘how can I be the mum I want, yet have the career I want?’ It looked like I had to choose and there was no compromise. It took me about 15 years to solve that problem for myself, and then about another seven years before I had enough of a company that I could hire people and try to roll out this philosophy to others.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

Supporting females in the development of their careers is my passion; regardless of what career path they end up deciding to take. I feel like there are so many of us out there who have so much to offer, but are having to choose work over family, which makes us resent our careers, or choose family over work, which fills us with regret about what we could have done because we forewent a career that we loved and were passionate about because we also wanted to be more involved in the day-to-day lives of our kids.

Q Consulting encourages and pays for skills and career development training programs for our employees and we also pay them to set aside at least three hours per week (or more if they have the time) to go through the programs. I am hoping that they will want to develop different skill sets in areas and topics that interest them and benefit their career. I would love to keep these employees for the long term, but want them to know that they are working at a place that is providing them with the tools and support they can use to go out and follow their own career path and start their own companies.

Right now, all of my employees happen to be women, mostly because I have targeted certain characteristics as part of how I am trying to pursue my passion of helping women have it all. I am looking to bring talented people on board who might not want to work full time or might not want to work traditional hours, and who are trying to find what suits them. We have a fluid model — if your circumstances change and you want to work more, or want to work less, then we will always work it out. I want my employees to be able to look at what we have been able to achieve at Q Consulting and know that they can take the same risks and pursue their own path and start their own business and know that I will support them 100% of the way.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

You can drive your own destiny. After my divorce, I had one enormous realization, ‘thank goodness I wasn’t reliant on my husband for my financial stability.’ While this was the most difficult time of my life from a personal and emotional perspective with two children to support, my financial status didn’t change. I never had to worry about where my next mortgage payment was coming from because I was always able to fund myself and my children.

The motivation and drive that comes from being someone that did this on their own (with all kinds of help from family, friends and mentors) creates an infectious energy. Others see and feel that this is something that they can also do and it brings me enormous joy when people tell me that seeing me forge my own path helped encourage them to do the same. Most importantly, having my daughter know that this is an avenue available to her is incredibly gratifying.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

There are programs out there (I am told) that help women set up businesses and provide for contracts, marketing or funding specifically for women-owned businesses. It would be SO helpful if these outlets were more accessible and didn’t involve extensive paperwork. I wish there was a service that could help us work through all of these applications, and then show us where and how to leverage our female-owned status to help our businesses grow.

It is so risky to start your own company, particularly for those of us that are single parents. If we fail, we can’t provide for our family. I know men who set out on their own feel these same pressures, but it would be great if there were things like childcare allowances or health insurance allowances that were available to us for at least the first year to provide additional support for the months/years that it might take for us to make enough to cover these expenses and remove some of the enormous burdens we feel in the USA due to the high cost of childcare and health insurance.

Entrepreneurship needs to be marketed as a viable career path for women. When you think about all the people that have successfully founded businesses, men typically come to mind. If you were to ask me to name five successful female company founders off the top of my head, I could name Sarah Blakely, Tracy Sun (but that’s just because she was in my class at business school) and maybe a fashion designer, and then I draw a blank. I can name a few female CEOs but not company founders. If you asked me the same for males, I can quickly name at least 20! In continuance of what was described above, I believe that more women in leadership roles in general would also help promote more women who own businesses.

There should be greater STEM education and STEM career encouragement for women. I know this is often mentioned in the press, but when so much of the future of products, infrastructure, consumerism, and healthcare are based on STEM subject matter, it is imperative that females are encouraged and incentivized to look to this as a career option. My background in IT was invaluable across so many factors when it came to starting my business. I am considered old for an IT professional and the internet had really just launched commercially while I was completing my IT undergraduate degree in 1992. However, having a comfort with technology and a background in technical factors made it so much easier to learn and decipher software that I needed to grow my business and quickly learn how things were changing with cloud-based software, ‘SAAS’, artificial intelligence, etc. With all that being said, I am still trying to wrap my mind around Blockchain.

We should help celebrate female-owned businesses across the size spectrum. We focus so much on the big unicorn-type winners, but lots of females who have founded their own companies are extremely happy with the level that they have reached and don’t feel the need to be bigger than what they are. They could be at a size that they find manageable from a work-life perspective or feel tremendous success with the level they have reached. Whether it be the dog-groomer and the local bakery owner or people like Sarah Blakely, they can all be held up as what a female-founded business can look like. These women can teach other women amazing lessons and mentor them on what worked, what didn’t work and what they would do differently. Let’s not just look at the blockbuster successes in celebrating women. Let’s also acknowledge those that set their own career path, took the risk and jumped in to start their own business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Honestly, it is super boring, but it involves two points around health insurance.

  1. It was impossible to get group health insurance for a company comprised of one person, and remains quite difficult for companies with less than five people. Having discounted healthcare options for small and startup companies that are pre-revenue or in their early stages of profit would help drive so much more startup activity outside of the traditional venture capital space.
  2. I would love for it to be easier to provide health insurance to my employees without them having to be full time and work 30 hours a week. I tried to do this, and it is allowed from a legal perspective, but every insurance carrier that had coverage in my state required that the employee be full time and work at least 30 hours. In my mission to try to empower more women to be able to maintain a career track without necessarily working full time, it is an unnecessary burden on them to have to make a decision over an arbitrary number of hours as to whether they would qualify for health insurance.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Gosh, there are so many! I would probably say Melinda Gates. I know it was her husband that started Mirosoft, but her focus on global healthcare and the solutions she has had to work toward in the mission of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is so fascinating to me; and I greatly admire the mission. In addition to her foundation, I would also love to hear her insight on what it’s like to be the partner of someone that is an entrepreneurial success, where she had to step in and fill gaps because of her husband’s success, and how she feels things could have been different or better for her and her family with different approaches to owning and managing a startup business.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Our website: www.qconsultingservices.org

Our company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/q-consulting-services

My LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/monique-lappas

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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