Founder Spotlight: Arianna Armell

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Where did your idea for Dorothy originate?

The first real wake up call was Hurricane Sandy. While I’d returned to work in a couple of days, my friends’ family homes were devastated. I went to the Rockaways to help out. It was such an eye opening experience – something I’ve never seen in New York before. Ten foot piles of sand twelve blocks in from the shore. A parking garage just filled with clothes. All the families were just pulling out insulation and removing drywall from their basements themselves.

I didn’t have the inkling of entrepreneurship back then. But I was curious about why there wasn’t more help for actual New York City residents rather than what I saw in Manhattan – where everything was fine. And they had flood insurance. But they were still waiting for that policy to pay out – still waiting for the claims to come in. They needed to pay for things themselves and didn’t have that in savings. I knew it was off and wrong but didn’t really know what the solution was or why it was happening. I just knew I felt some type of way about it.

After working as an architect for five years, you went to the university of pennsylvania to do a masters in urban planning. What professor influenced you most?

Lucinda Sanders taught a class on self reflection and it was really all about figuring out what you care about in life, and pushing forward with that. At the end of that class, I knew I was going to start a company. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? 

Lucinda told me to just show up – and I actually live by that now. The first pitch I ever did for Dorothy, Lucinda sent me to a talk with other people that had been in the resiliency industry for 20, 30 years. I was petrified. She told me, “Just show up.” Three years later, that’s how I got the first check for Dorothy written.

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