Class of 2024
Currently Studying: BBA in Entrepreneurship with a minor in Creative Writing
Although her passion lies in literature, Leslie Vargas landed at the Lubin School of Business for our Entrepreneurship program to learn the finance and business practices that she says creatives are often not taught. Now, Leslie is using her leadership and business skills to run the Ebony Tomatoes Collective, a digital publication that publishes the work of Black women and non-binary people.
Why did you choose Pace University and the Lubin School of Business?
Location was a big factor that contributed to selecting Pace University. I knew being around creative people would inspire me. I find that creatives are often not taught much about finance and being a starving artist is very real. We can bridge the gap by learning how to better position our work.
You co-founded Ebony Tomatoes Collective (ETC), a digital publication that publishes the work of Black women and Black non-binary people. What motivated you to start this publication?
I co-founded Ebony Tomatoes Collective and work as the editorial manager, which will turn into a more formal CFO position as we grow. My very talented business partner, Ava Emilione, who is an NYU student, started a Black women's writing group in 2021. I was in a public speaking class at Pace and had to give a speech about "a process," and I chose the process of self-publishing, since I had published my book Static in February 2022. After I gave my speech, a classmate approached me and asked if I was interested in joining Ava's group, which was independent of both Pace and NYU. We met once a week and improved our writing. I was proud to be part of a space that focused on the creative work of people that are often overlooked by the mainstream media. It is empowering. It is also humbling and genuinely has made me a better person. Ebony Tomatoes Collective was born out of that writing group. We have been operating for one year and have already been featured in two articles and have hosted three events. Our first event was a picnic in Central Park and our second was at a venue on 42nd Street. We also brought customers to a Black-owned business called Art to Ware, which is owned and operated by Lesley Ware. In January, we had a showcase at the Jersey Art Book Fair where we spoke about the importance of online publications. Our work is mostly remote and asynchronous which is great for the students and graduates on our team. I was motivated to be a part of this team because of my intense love of literature. It is a blessing to help your community just by being you.
I came to Pace with a lot of ideas and drive. What my classes did for me was refine the way I conducted business. I took a very good management class that fundamentally changed the way I directed my team. I had to first understand my own personal management philosophy to better encourage those around me.
How have your classes at Lubin helped you as the co-founder of a publication?
I think I came to Pace with a lot of ideas and drive. What my classes did for me was refine the way I conducted business. I took a very good management class that fundamentally changed the way I directed my team. I had to first understand my own personal management philosophy to better encourage those around me. Our classes at Lubin change our perspective. In my mind, everything is an opportunity, and I am not afraid to shake hands and put our name out there.
How do you implement your business and entrepreneurial skills into Ebony Tomatoes Collective?
ETC is all about social justice. We have a clear code of ethics and actively work to uphold the standards we have set. I tend to ask a lot of questions before we jump into anything that might upset that balance. Everyone on our team has entrepreneurial skills. I learn from them, I listen to them, and I follow as much as I lead. I keep organized and look for the opportunity in everything. I believe persistence is key. Right now, we run small events, but soon there will be bigger ones. The key is to take every opportunity to speak about what we do and give it our all. There is no doubt in my mind that Ebony Tomatoes Collective will continue to succeed and that is due to the incredibly hard work of our writing, photo, and video editors. It is all thanks to Ava Emilione, Yumna Elhdari, Cecilia Innis, Jasmine LeCount-McClanahan, Jalyssa Jimenez, and Rachel Goulston.
What has been your favorite opportunity at Pace?
All of our resources, including the real-life experience of our professors who usually are active in the field in which they teach.
Do you have any advice for other Lubin students?
My advice would be to always talk about the things you are passionate about. I believe everything we do is an extension of who we are. If I never talked about the process of self-publishing my book (which was just some shameless marketing), I never would have gotten the opportunity that changed the course of my career.
What does #LubinLife mean to you?
It means community. Being around people who dream big because it most certainly rubs off.
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