The Marist Alumni Association hosted a joyous Alumni Women’s Luncheon on March 16 at Cherokee Town Club, the first in-person gathering for this annual event since 2019 (the 2020 luncheon was canceled due to the pandemic, and the 2021 luncheon was held virtually).
This year’s event was attended by nearly 70 alumnae who enjoyed a panel discussion with women entrepreneurs. Moderated by organizational psychologist Dr. Sarah Carr Evans ’93, the panel included fashion stylist and owner of L. Williams Closet Edit + Styling, Leigh Tippins Williams ’03; MacKenzie Stewart Williams ’03, owner of The Sercy Studio; Sarah Beth Perry ’15, founder of the fan engagement company With the Band; and real estate professional Carrie Brady Faletti ’97 of The Faletti Group. Marist Alumni Association President Megan Citarella Stewart ’95 opened the luncheon with welcoming remarks before a prayer was offered by Dr. Kelleen Fitzgerald ’85, who co-chairs the Marist Alumni Service & Spirituality Committee.
Kicking off the panel discussion, Evans spoke about the intersection between a person’s sense of calling or purpose and their spiritual connection to God. She emphasized that everyone has a specific purpose and that we should all be excited for those who have found their gifts. Evans then gave the floor to the panelists who shared the journeys they took to discover and launch their flourishing businesses.
Leigh Tippins Williams ’03 attributes the success of her business, L. Williams Closet Edit + Styling, to the discipline and work ethic she developed as a tennis player at Marist School and then Auburn University. A stay-at-home mother, Williams had lots of ideas that she parlayed into her closet edit and styling business by organizing her friends’ closets and posting the results on Instagram. Word soon traveled, as is often the case in today’s connected world, and now she actively promotes her business using social media and brand partnerships. She is thankful for the Marist educational experience she had and is especially grateful that she can manage her business and still pick up her children from school every day. Her advice to future entrepreneurs: “Be open and non-judgmental of each other’s goals and support the people around you.”
MacKenzie Stewart Williams ’03, related to Leigh by marriage (they married brothers who also are Marist graduates!), opened her handmade craft business, The Sercy Studio, 10 years ago. She was an art major in college and has many family members who are artists and entrepreneurs, so a venture into an art-based business was not a far reach. She was inspired to create prayer beads when her aunt was given some as a gift. Now, Sercy Studio’s Blessing Beads are a top-seller, and Williams has complemented that product with a variety of other meaningful gift options. She also has started a consulting business, Tutu & Ruth, to teach artists how to transform their crafts into a business. Williams describes the Marist School community as tight-knit, providing instant connections. Her advice to those seeking to start their own business: “Don’t overcomplicate things. Just do it. Find good mentors, pick people’s brains. Get a good accountant. Find a good photographer.”
The youngest alumna on the panel, Sarah Beth Perry graduated from Marist in 2015 and headed to Belmont University in Nashville, where she majored in music business and entrepreneurship. Always attracted to the music business, she completed internships with the Country Music Association and a music management company and discovered an opportunity that was not being filled. Her brainchild was to work with music enthusiasts in a way that benefits both the fans and the artists. As she developed her idea, she entered several business plan competitions, including Belmont University’s Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition where she won third prize and the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards hosted by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Nashville where she won first place. Her success in these competitions confirmed for Perry the need for her business and gave her the funds to get it off the ground. Her music fan engagement platform, With the Band, helps musicians monetize their fan base, and it has quickly gained the attention of bands such as the über-popular Jonas Brothers. Perry actively supports future entrepreneurs with a summer internship program at With the Band, which has become a highly sought-after placement for Belmont students. Perry attributes her positive work ethic to her Marist education and offers this advice: “You will never feel ready. Just ask people for help and you will receive.”
Carrie Brady Faletti ’97 heads up the award-winning Faletti Group, the top-producing, client-focused real estate professionals with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty. She knew from an early age that she wanted to run her own business and that it would be a business that serves others. She believes she gained that perspective from her Marist education. Through hard work, patience, and a commitment to building lifelong relationships, she has scaled the heights of the residential real estate industry in Atlanta. She believes Marist gave her leadership skills and taught her to be confident, and she encouraged luncheon attendees to never take their Marist connection for granted. In fact, one of her key colleagues in the Faletti Group is her sister, fellow Marist graduate Caelyn Brady Pyles ’07. Her advice to future business owners: “Get going and commit because it might take longer than you think to build a business.”
As the panel discussion concluded, Evans deftly summarized the keys to success in the panelists’ stories and shared that advice in a Facebook post
following the luncheon. She spoke of resilience and what she calls “learning agility,” which is the ability to learn from experience and apply that knowledge to excel in new situations. Evans offered, “Listen to where you are being led and give yourself permission to chase your joy. The Marist community is here to support you along the way.” In closing, she noted the value of prayer. She advised, “Choose faith over fear: believe in your unique talents…ask for guidance…and accept that your journey may not have a defined path…so you just have to get started!”