Celebrating Castle’s Female Founders on International Women’s Day

By Brandi Griffin

Gone are the days of stuffy corporate norms and the boys club mentality that has historically excluded women from prospering in the business world. Women-owned businesses are on the rise and show no signs of slowing down. There has been a significant uptick in women starting their own companies or becoming primary shareholders in companies over the past few decades, qualifying these as woman-owned businesses.

According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express, four out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. were women-owned in 2018. When compared to the number of women-owned businesses in 1972, the first time the U.S. Census Bureau provided data on women-owned and minority-owned businesses, the number increased from 402,000 to 12.3 million. During that time, the number of employees in these businesses grew from 230,000 to 9.2 million.

How Our Women-Owned Business Came to Be

In 1997, a year after Wendy Spivak and Sandy Lish started The Castle Group, there were 5.4 million women-owned businesses in the United States according to the 1997 Economic Census. The Census also reveals that one-third of these businesses were concentrated in four states—California, New York, Texas and Florida. To say these women were ahead of their times, with starting their own company and doing so in Massachusetts, is an understatement. The difference, however, is that Wendy and Sandy were not looking for the qualification of being female founders—it just kind of happened.

Women-owned business: Castle's female founders Sandy Lish and Wendy Spivak
Castle Co-Founders and Principals, Sandy Lish (left) and Wendy Spivak (right)

“Our partnership is really important because you don’t see a ton of 50:50 female partnerships,” says Sandy Lish, principal and co-founder of The Castle Group. “Wendy really wanted to start Castle and I liked the idea of it. Neither of us had business experience, but we didn’t have time to waste or second guess starting the company. We had clients out of the gate, and we just had to start working.” 

That was the genesis of Castle. Since its inception, the company has been built on one simple belief: public relations and events are the most powerful and credible messaging and motivational tools. Authenticity is at the center of everything the company does and partnership from the top down is essential to the balance of the teams on both sides.

Company Culture at The Castle Group

For over two decades, the agency has held firm in those beliefs and created a workplace that, not only cultivates a culture that keeps employees around for many years but also supports the growth, both professionally and personally, of those employees. “It is very important for us to provide our team with a place to continue learning and honing their skills,” says Wendy Spivak, principal and co-founder. “In order for them to reach their goals and achieve the level of both individual and professional success they desire, we need to be open, to hear what they need to succeed and provide the tools to help them get there. That not only benefits our employees but is also great for our clients.”

Clients, community and colleagues are the core of Castle’s ‘why’ statement, which says: to nurture deep relationships to achieve professional and personal success for our clients, colleagues, company and community. “If one of those pieces was missing, we’d be doing something wrong,” says Sandy.

Deborah Spencer, VP of Events and Marketing, who just celebrated her 20th anniversary with the company, can attest to the character of Castle. “Here, there’s really no box that you have to fit into. The Castle Group has an environment that is and always has been one that recognizes the importance of flexibility,” she says. “I’ve always been able to build positions based on my interests and at Castle, it feels like there’s a way to evolve and create your own destiny.”

Like the sentiments of the other women in leadership, Hilary Allard, Executive Vice President, wasn’t necessarily looking for a woman-owned business when searching for a new agency, it just happened that way. She has also had a long tenure with Castle, being at the company for almost 16 years.

“There are two reasons why I’ve been at Castle for so many years,” Hilary explains. “The people and culture and the most important. I genuinely love the people I work with at all levels of the company and that makes coming to work so much easier. Not many people have that. The other reason is the life-long learning environment that our work provides.”

Certified Women-Owned Business

Whether this is a woman-owned business thing, a small business thing or a company culture thing, we may never know. The character and culture of Castle, however, shines through in all the work that is done here.

“When working for a small business, you aren’t just an employee,” Deborah points out. “It starts with the foundation, and for us, it’s Wendy and Sandy.”

Castle is proud to be a certified women-owned business both locally and nationally by the Center for Women & Enterprise, the regional certifier for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office. The certification is a testament to the solid business practices and standards the company has held over the years.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate our founders and all the wonderful women of Castle and beyond!

International Women's Day
Profile Picture for Author Brandi Griffin at The Castle Group
Written By: Brandi Griffin


Outdoors of the Castle Group office