2022 Mark & Debra Leslie Female Founders Fellows

Announcing the 2022 Mark & Debra Leslie Female Founders Fellows 

The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute is thrilled to announce the newest Mark & Debra Leslie Fellows grant awardees, the culmination of these founder’s participation in the NYU Female Founders Fellowship. The four new Fellows were selected after successfully completing the Startup Accelerator Series programs. Equally important, they were selected based on the progress made on their ventures, and demonstrated passion for supporting women and gender equity in entrepreneurship.

"I am so grateful to the Leslie Family and Entrepreneurial Institute for this recognition, and your belief and support in Visura, and my work. This grant is a clear message to female entrepreneurs dedicated to supporting women and gender equity in entrepreneurship that we are not alone. So, stay focused, and continue doing the work because it matters."

  • Adriana Letorney (GSAS ‘21), Mark & Debra Leslie Fellow


About the Fellowship:

The NYU Female Founders Fellowship is an opportunity for NYU student and staff entrepreneurs to build community, establish mentorship relationships with renowned founders and investors, hone their leadership skills, secure financial support for their ventures and help alleviate their student loan debt – all while contributing to closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship. The Fellowship provides tailored venture coaching, and extensive training via priority access to the NYU Startup Accelerator Series, a set of sequenced skills-development programs for NYU entrepreneurs to advance their startups from idea to market. 

At the end of the fellowship and upon graduation, Female Founders Fellows may apply for student loan alleviation grants of up to $50,000, thanks to the generous support of Mark & Debra Leslie.


Meet the Fellows:

Please join us in congratulating the 2022 Mark and Debra Leslie Fellows on their awards.

Photo of Adriana Teresa

Adriana Letorney (GSAS ‘21)

Co-Founder, Visura

Participated In: NYU Startup Bootcamp, NYU Startup Sprint, NYU Summer Launchpad, NYU NYU Female Founders Fellowship, NYU Founders-in-Residence

Adriana Teresa Letorney is a journalist, publisher, and media entrepreneur based between Vermont and New York. She is the Founder & CEO of Visura. She is also the Co-founder and Executive Producer of the Scout Film Festival.

Visura is a global platform for visual storytellers; a destination for publishers to discover and license images and videos directly from freelance visual storytellers worldwide, and a home for freelancers to access business tools to build websites, showcase and license work directly to buyers. The database includes 7,000 members from over 107 countries, including photo editors from The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, Patagonia, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, and National Geographic. 


Photo of Caylin Waller

Caylin Waller (Steinhardt ‘22)

Co-Founder, Theatre Advocacy Project (TAP)

Participated In: NYU Startup Bootcamp, NYU Startup Sprint, NYU Summer Launchpad, NYU Female Founders Circle, NYU Female Founders Fellowship

Caylin Waller is an educator, artist, and social entrepreneur with a focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and access through the lens of community engagement. She is a recent graduate of NYU Steinhardt with an MA in Performing Arts Administration and was selected as NYU Steinhardt 2022 Distinguished Graduate in Performing Arts Administration for her outstanding contribution to the field of the arts. Additionally, she was Oral Presentation Winner of the Steinhardt 9th Annual Research and Scholarship Showcase for her original work titled Creating Accountability in American Theatre. 

Theatre Advocacy Project (TAP) is a nonprofit organization that provides a suite of tools and certification to artists, administrators, and students to create safer and more equitable working conditions in the arts. 


Photo of Dessa Shepherd

Dessa Shepherd (Steinhardt ‘19)

Founder of VisionVoice, Inc.

Participated In: NYU Startup Bootcamp, NYU Startup Sprint, NYU Female Founders Circle, NYU Female Founders Fellowship

Dessa is the Founder & CEO of VisionVoice, Inc., a NYSED Certified School Counselor, NYU Steinhardt alumni and Part-Time Faculty at The New School. Dessa is committed to democratizing digital equity in education by empowering learners regardless of SES, Gender, Ethnicity, Race, etc. to create a future where technologies do not carry implicit biases that are harmful, but instead are beneficent; awakening them to interest, skills and abilities in computer science AND creating sustainable access for their employment in the tech ecosystem.

VisionVoice, Inc. is a virtual community democratizing digital equity in education and creating access to sustainable & successful careers as software engineers for AfroX/Black software engineers 18+ via Access2TECH Program Initiatives. These initiatives focus on interview preparation and connecting participants to paid internships, apprenticeships and entry level roles at organizations committed to diversify their engineering teams. 


Nikki Powers (Stern ‘21)

Founder, Nourish & Refine

Participated In: NYU Startup Bootcamp, NYU Female Founders Fellowship, NYU Stern Venture Studio

Nikki created a small line of all-natural products to help nourish her own skin back to good health. Soon after applying the body oil to the irritated area, the rash cleared and her skin became smooth and hydrated. From that time forward, she began sharing the benefits of her organic oils to calm stressed skin. Nikki continues to share her self-care practices and the benefits of using all-natural products. She makes each product with care, and by hand, in New York City.

Nourish & Refine is a self-care wellness brand. Their line of organic, all-natural luxury skincare and candles offer you a moment for yourself each and every day.


Apply for the Fellowship: 

Do you have a venture idea and have demonstrated passion for supporting women and gender equity in entrepreneurship? Our next Fellowship application opens at the beginning of November 2022. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified.