Ladies Who LaUNCH

Ladies Who LaUNCH is a luncheon series to empower our women entrepreneurs, innovators, and those who want to create lasting impact in our society. This series creates an open dialogue to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and successes experienced by women entrepreneurs. Ladies Who LaUNCH is dedicated to supporting the proven advantages of gender diversity in a field where only 2.3% of venture-backed companies are women-led. Join us for lunch and honest conversation to help us change this for good.

Past Ladies Who LaUNCH Guests

Robyn O’Brien

Robyn O’Brien (MBA 1998) spoke candidly about her inspiring journey to change the American food industry. She always knew she wanted to create an impact and was unfilled with her corporate career. However, she intentionally leveraged each career opportunity – for better or for worse – and now is thriving in her dream role.

Robyn O’Brien is the Vice President of rePlant Capital, an impact investment firm, deploying integrated capital from soil to shelf in order to reverse climate change. The rePlant team is investing in privately held, deep impact opportunities while supporting American farmers.

Robyn was a founding team member of AIM/Invesco’s first hedge fund of $100+ million and a team member on their $20 billion Constellation Fund. She was an advisor to Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown” (published in April 2017) and has advised startups, banks, and multinationals, while working with global CEOs and management teams in the food industry. Robyn is also the founder of Do Good, a strategic advisory firm, and AllergyKids Foundation, which serves the 1 in 3 children with allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism. Random House published Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth, in 2009, and her TEDx talk has been viewed by millions and translated into multiple languages. She received her BA from Washington and Lee University, her MBA from Rice University.

Abbey Donnell

Abbey (Rice MBA Alumna 2017) is the founder of Work & Mother, a boutique pumping and wellness center that opened its first location in downtown Houston in 2017. The 600-square-foot space opened on the first floor of 712 Main St and offers memberships to companies and individuals, regardless of whether they work in the building.

Abbey Donnell founded the company after speaking with friends who recently returned to work after giving birth. “There were constant stories about [women] being told the use the IT closet, or the conference room, or the bathroom or their cars,” Donnell says. “Some of them were pretty big oil and gas firms companies that should’ve had the resources and space to do better than that.”

Work & Mother offers its members several private pumping rooms, private pumping office spaces, a kitchen area, member lockers and a small retail section where members can buy pumping and wellness equipment. The company’s pitch to individual mothers is simple: come to us for privacy and community.
Abbey also founded Dreamers // Doers, a highly curated, female-focused, collaboration and co-mentorship community consisting of an ever-growing powerful network of entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors.

Steffie Tomson

Steffie Tomson is a native Houstonian, Rice graduate (Lovett!), scientist in the Texas Medical Center, and a busy mom of two girls. Steffie was inspired to design her inaugural shoe after her own struggle with heels, walking from building to building for meetings, and having blisters dominate her schedule. She knew there had to be a better way. 

She graduated with her BA from Rice University in Spanish Language and Literature. She also has a Ph.D in Neuroscience from Baylor College of Medicine.

Samantha Lewis

At Mercury Fund, Samantha focuses on investments across the firms’ themes, with a specific interest in democratization of wealth and knowledge through fintech and transparency, impact and sustainability. Prior to joining Mercury Fund, Samantha was the Investment Director at Goose Capital.

Samantha is a repeat entrepreneur with a background spanning agrifood, logistics, beauty and deep tech. Outside of Mercury Fund, Samantha actively mentors underrepresented founders, writes data-driven investing articles on Medium, and serves on the executive committee for Houston Women in VC.

Samantha received her MBA from Rice University and a B.A. from Texas A&M University.