There’s a new Chief in town

If you are as curious about Chief as I was, the mystery will be exposed somewhat here. And while there is still a whiff of secret society going on, it’s fun because it’s all for girls.

First, this is no vanity project. It’s a very real, VC-backed business founded by two serious start-up veterans (well, as veteran as you can be at 34) who saw a gap in the schmooze market and a chance to pursue a passion project. Tribeca local Carolyn Childers ran operations at Handy and at; Westsider Lindsay Kaplan was at TimeOut before she ran comms and branding for Casper. Their venture together here is a clubhouse for VP- and C-suite-level women to meet, share and learn from each other. There’s also a high-minded mission: to increase the number of women at the executive level by helping build a network.

“If you’re in the C-suite it’s kind of lonely. You’re expected to offer advice and get support, but it’s harder to find that support yourself,” said Kaplan. (The Chief fact sheet notes that less than 5 percent of CEOs in the US and Europe are women and that it will take 200 years before we hit any kind of parity.)

Turns out they hit a nerve: the plan was to launch with 100 members; they opened on Jan. 15 with 240 and 3,000 on the waitlist. VPs pay $5,400; Cs pay $7,800, and in many cases, the members’ firms foot the bill.

So why Tribeca? The gals picked us (instead of more start-uppy spots like the Flatiron or more central spots like Midtown) for the neighborhood chi; they wanted Chief to feel more like a second home than a second office. They then renovated the thing we do best: a 5,000-square-foot loft on Hudson. The place has a purposefully analog, clubby vibe: no WeWork walls of outlets, no whiteboards, no swivel chairs. The first thing you note (after the bar) is the grand piano, the tin ceilings and the green velvet club chairs. (Kaplan happened by Frenchette one day, peered in, and then googled designers The Springs Collective to do the décor. She has yet to eat there.)
The throw-back feel is part of the mission. The club is deliberately hard to find, with no real presence (gasp) on the web. They don’t market, and they don’t spill. “It has to be a confidential space to work well,” said Childers.

The long-term plan? Global domination. Childers and Kaplan are already noodling another NYC location, and will expand to clubhouses across the country – and across the pond. They’ll even consider including men. “We are on a mission to further equality,” said Kaplan. “If a man believes in our mission and fits the criteria, we will embrace that diversity.”

The photos were taken for the Citizen by Tribeca local Rory G. Kennedy.