Faces of Entrepreneurship: Wendy Heilbut, Heilbut LLP

2024-06-06T12:39:05-07:00 June 6th, 2024|Developing a Product/Service, Growing Your Team|

Wendy Heilbut is a dynamic entrepreneur and the founder of Heilbut LLP in New York City. With nearly two decades of legal experience, Wendy and her team specialize in supporting founders, funders, and high-growth enterprises, focusing on intellectual property and corporate matters.

Wendy’s entrepreneurial journey includes co-founding a non-profit for new mothers and playing a key role in a group-buying startup. She is also an active angel investor, board member, and advisor, dedicated to empowering women and fostering innovation in the startup ecosystem.


What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Wendy Heilbut: It is where innovation and risk-taking meet on the path to achieving a novel solution to an identified problem.

Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
WH: I was about 9 years old, and I created a stationary business with my best friend. We designed and drew the decorations on paper and envelopes and then went door-to-door to sell the finished product to our neighbors. We lived in rural West Virginia where knocking on the doors of 20 neighbors meant walking about 4 miles. Business was tough!

What is your company’s origin story? What is the biggest reason you started your business? What did those early days look like and teach you?
WH: Heilbut LLP was born from the vision of creating a female-founded law firm rooted in truly caring for, and listening to, our clients. We’re certainly not the first, but there are not many in our ranks! We are still in our early days, but the earliest of days were about resolve and focus amidst a lot of grit!

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
WH: Having worked with entrepreneurs for well over a decade, I went in with my eyes wide-open. That said, it always feels a bit different when your name is on the door. The earliest days often brought anxiety with all the ups and downs, I would tell myself to ‘stay steady.’

What does “success” look like for you? We’d love to hear your biggest, boldest dream. What do you think will help you achieve it?
WH: Success is a diverse, empowered team driving change in a very static industry. My boldest dream is to shift the perception of how legal services are offered both for the client and for the legal providers. This can be achieved through leading by example, hiring and elevating a diverse team of professionals, and knowing when to step out of the way.

What is your superpower as an entrepreneur? What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
WH: My superpower is my leadership: I stay calm, I empower others to rise, and I can hold a problem while I allow the resolution to emerge.
My proudest moment so far is creating a workplace in which everyone can navigate a more integrated personal and professional life. My darkest moment was weathering the skepticism when starting out.

What are your personal driving principles, your top values?
WH: Kindness is always my number one value; after that: empowerment and inclusivity.

How have your personal principles and values shaped your company’s values and principles?.
WH: My personal dedication to empowerment translates into a firm-wide commitment to raising leaders and voices within and outside the organization. Inclusivity is not just a principle but a practice: shaping policies that champion diversity and equality within Heilbut LLP and our clients.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
WH: I get to do some of each. Much of my day-to-day is working alone which requires self-motivation and making decisions swiftly. I also get to work a lot with the other leaders on my team which allows for collaboration and making space for the diverse perspectives that enhance the overall effectiveness of our work.

Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business.
WH: I don’t have one specific mentor, per se, but there’s a myriad of women, lawyers, and entrepreneurs upon whose shoulders I sit. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel and can navigate from the work they have already done.

What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
WH: I actually think the job of a lawyer is similar to that of a mentor: I see my day-to-day work as being a mentor to help my clients navigate business decisions.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
WH: I wake up early for my tea (I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea all day long) and meditation – there’s nothing better than a quiet house before the sun rises! Once I get the kids up, fed, and off to school; the dog fed and walked; my husband set on his day, I take a quick check at emails that came in over the night (think: Asia, a late-working team member, clients making requests on their schedules) and respond to anything requiring my immediate focus. Most days then include physical exercise such as tennis, Pilates, Peloton, or weight training. I am a bit of a health nut and start weekday mornings with a protein-packed smoothie and have at least one big salad per day. I’m in my peri-menopausal years so I take a bevy of vitamins and herbs to support the physical and hormonal changes in my body. I try to wait until 9am to leave the house so I can have a quick check-in with my housekeeper about needs for the home, kids’ pick-ups, grocery shopping, etc.

What are you reading or have read?
WH: I’m currently reading Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took On Silicon Valley’s Male Culture And Made The Deals Of A Lifetime By Julian Guthrie; it’s a great walk through the early days of Silicon Valley and the stories of some incredible female leaders navigating the all boy’s club.

Where do you go for inspiration?
WH: My novel offering can only be successful when it responds to demands in the market. I look to client requests, aspects of the business that aren’t working effectively, and market trends as well as global news and trends, to inspire my big picture thinking about the business. Nature and travel also play a role in rejuvenating my creativity and therefore inspiring iterations on the business.

Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
WH: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Each day provides progress even those that don’t feel like it.

What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
WH: Growing a business is like a ladder: one must climb one rung with the left side before climbing higher with the right. The business needs new team members, and it also needs new business; I can’t jump too far ahead with one before allowing the other to catch up.

How do you think about helping others through your work?
WH: This might double as one that keeps me up at night! In these early years, I see that my biggest contribution is through the opportunities I am building for my current and future team. The next wave will be how we help our clients and how we can help others who need legal guidance. I think a lot about how to provide our high-touch and bespoke services to clients who cannot afford us. My focus is on empowering and uplifting individuals through serving up the legal tools and knowledge but I haven’t yet figured out how to offer that in a less bespoke way.

What advice do you have for fellow (and aspiring) entrepreneurs building and leading teams?
WH: My advice for fellow and aspiring entrepreneurs can be summed up in a few key principles.

First, support yourself through hiring the best and brightest people around you in your personal and professional life. If someone isn’t working out, it is a gift to you both to free them to find a better fit.

Second, prioritize effective communication within your team. Foster a culture of openness and collaboration allowing you to get out of your own head when challenges inevitably arise; innovation requires reflecting on an obstacle through varied experiences.

Third, invest in the professional development of your team. Empower your team to contribute its best work by establishing clear goals alongside the necessary resources to achieve them.

Finally, remain adaptable in the face of setbacks. Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and iteration as perceived roadblocks often result in the greatest progress. Build a resilient and cohesive team to navigating the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship by your side.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
WH: I aspire to be recognized as a catalyst for positive change and innovation. I aim to be known as an entrepreneur who not only provides expert legal guidance but also actively contributes to the growth and empowerment of individuals and businesses. Whether through mentorship, angel investing, or championing initiatives that drive social impact, I hope to leave a lasting impression as someone who made a meaningful and positive difference on the entrepreneurial landscape.

Do you have someone you’d like to nominate to be profiled in our Faces of Entrepreneurship series? Please let us know by emailing media@thecenter.nasdaq.org or submitting your nomination using this form.

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