Kaye Popofsky Kramer founded Step Up Women’s Network and currently sits on the national board of directors of the nonprofit membership organization, which connects and advances professional women and teen girls.
Step Up Women’s Network, which began in Kaye’s living room in 1998, is now one of the most sought-after women’s groups in the nation and reaches 50,000 supporters through its networking, professional development and teen empowerment programs.
Kaye began her career as a talent agent at United Talent Agency, working with talent such as Renee Zellweger, Jim Carey and Joe Pantoliano. She segued into production as an executive with Interscope Pictures, serving as associate producer on the award-winning film “Kissing Jessica Stein.”
Kaye also enjoyed time as head of new business development for Kaufman Patricof Enterprises, and as vice president of marketing and new business development at Load Media Network, Inc. As the vice president of online research for Nielsen’s NRG, she launched and supervised the growth of NRG’s online research competency.
She added entrepreneur to her impressive resume in 2004, when she co-founded Nurseryworks, a Los Angeles-based furnishings firm that celebrates the younger generation and design-savvy parents with modern furniture, bedding and accessories. Kaye launched the company to provide clean, simple and modern furnishings for creating the ideal first environment, a vision that reinforced the nursery’s relationship to the rest of the home decor. After growing distribution to 300 domestic stores and 12 countries, she sold Nurseryworks in 2010 to Million Dollar Baby.
Kaye earned her bachelor’s degree from Tufts University. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Jeremy, and their three children.
What is Step Up Women’s Network working on right now?
Now entering our 13th year of service to women and girls, Step Up Women’s Network is focused on our after-school programming that helps underserved girls become confident, college-bound and career-ready.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Step Up is fortunate to have passionate women serving on its board of directors in each of our cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. These board members, along with our staff, bring about new ideas by consensus-building with enthusiasm. With our mission constantly on our mind, we’re always willing to try new ideas that will benefit our teen girls.
What has been the most rewarding part of creating and building Step Up Women’s Network?
I never would have guessed that what began as a meeting of my closest friends and colleagues would turn into a national movement! In the Class of 2010, all of our Step Up seniors nationally graduated high school and enrolled in college this fall.
What has been your greatest challenge and how have you overcome it?
As ambitious professional women, we always want to fundraise more, grow faster and serve more girls. I always challenge us to stay focused on our mission and do everything we can to make progress each day.
What inspires you?
The girls we serve! Step Up teens have experienced extreme hardships — from homelessness, to violence, to abuse. Yet once they enter our enrichment programs, they are drawn to the warmth and generosity of our professional women mentors. Our mentors believe in the teens, and that belief inspires confidence and ambitious college and career goals.
What are 3 trends that excite you?
Giving, giving and giving! Early numbers are showing that charitable donations are back on the rise, which is a much anticipated sign of economic recovery. There has also been an exciting rise in corporate cause marketing, as consumers are demanding that companies do good while doing business.
What made you decide to start Step Up Women’s Network?
In the summer of 1998, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being the first in my circle of friends, or so I thought, to be faced with losing a parent to this disease, a group of 30 women gathered in my living room to give their support and talk about what we could do to help in the fight against breast cancer. It became clear from the dialogue that whether or not the disease had directly affected us each, we all felt the need to take a more proactive role in our community, our wellness, our professional lives and our personal dedication to making a difference. It was time for us to take action and create an entity that could impact our future — and Step Up Women’s Network was born.
Who would you love to see interviewed on this site?
One of our Step Up teen girls! Every time I hear a Step Up teen speak, I am in awe of her wisdom, poise and humor.
How can members of our community help Step Up?
We like to ask for help in terms of “time, talent and treasure.” Take the time to connect with us either online (at www.suwn.org or on twitter @suwn) or in person at an event in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. Lend your talents to open new doors for the organization by leveraging your professional connections or mentoring a teen girl. Women can become Step Up members and experience programming either in person or remotely for just a $50 annual membership donation. But everyone is encouraged to consider a donation in any amount — $1,000 provides one girl with a year of Step Up programming.
What do you enjoy doing most during your “spare” time?
I love spending time with my family, which includes three young children — they keep me busy and on-the-go!
Step Up Women’s Network
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.