Celebrating International Women’s Day: Meet The B-School Female Founders

Hannele Anita Piipari, who studied at MIP Politecnico di Milano, founded Palazzo Florio

Hannele Anita Piipari, MIP Politecnico di Milano, Palazzo Florio

Hometown: Vasto, Abruzzo, Italy

Business Degree: FLEX Executive MBA (EMBA), 2015-2017

Why did you choose to study your course at MIP Politecnico di Milano?:

I had completed my previous Master’s degree in the early 1990s and after two decades of work experience, felt the need for a refresh. Also, I had recently transferred to Italy and believed a degree from a prestigious Italian university would be useful for the rest of my life.

I chose MIP for two reasons. First, I was impressed by their pragmatic approach. I already knew that one day I’d be an entrepreneur so a course with plenty of case studies and group work was preferable to individual academic paper-writing. Second, the FLEX EMBA format was something that could be combined with my life. As I was traveling plenty for work and living far away from Milan it would have been impossible to attend classes in person.

Tell us more about your company/organization and what you do:

Palazzo Florio is a Boutique Residence that was born out of our love story: my husband Umberto and I. The building’s Liberty Style facade, also protected as Cultural Heritage, was what first attracted me. I acquired the building in 2019 and we embarked on a massive renovation project, combining Umberto’s building industry skills with my design vision. The end result was a little “boutique hotel”, five unique rooms with a Liberty-inspired design. We opened to guests at the end of June 2020 – yes, in the middle of the pandemic! Even so, the first two seasons were very successful, especially measured by Customer Satisfaction: Five Stars on Google and TripAdvisor, 9.6 on Booking. Pampering our guests is at the heart of my philosophy, we want to give each guest a relaxing and happy stay, whether it’s for business or pleasure.

Was it always your goal to found a company?:

To be honest, I don’t remember precisely when and how I took the decision. I have found several mentions of it in my diaries from 2011 onwards. In 2013, I updated my Objectives & Action Plan for 2021 (which I still have), and the #1 item was running my own business.

The line of business was not specified at that stage but throughout the years, tourism became a natural choice. We live in a divinely beautiful spot on the Adriatic coast, and I LOVE traveling. One happy detail is also the fact that the objective was achieved one year in advance.

What advice would you have for other entrepreneurial women that want to found a company?:

– Prioritize Achievable Goals.

Many of us ambitious women have perfectionist tendencies. Make sure your Business Plan will not kill you, even if you get hit by something as unpredictable as a pandemic. Build the plan up prioritizing realistic goals, phasing your ambitions out so that you can achieve some initial success. The entrepreneurial road is a bumpy one. It’s important to feel you’re making

progress right from the start, without sacrificing everything.

– Love.

Again, many ambitious and independent women may think that they can (and have to) do it all by themselves. I indeed thought so earlier in my career, but I now know better: When the going gets tough, there’s nothing more powerful than living with a person who’s always on your side. And you on theirs. Someone who always believes in you, sometimes more than you do yourself. Someone who paints the sky blue when all you can see is grey. And, of course, someone to share the laughter, success, and memories with.

How did your experience at business school help you with your venture?:

It helped structure my thinking and communicate the vision with more clarity. It taught me to collaborate with people from different industries, backgrounds, and viewpoints, and produce something viable under time pressure. Also, being a foreigner, completing the course in Italian was hugely beneficial for me, getting habitual in talking about all business topics in the Italian language.

What are your hopes for the future of women in business?:

When it comes to entrepreneurship, women are still the minority in Italy and globally. The same, of course, applies to women in leadership positions. Scientists confirm what I’ve also learned by experience: organizations with more diversity and equality tend to be more productive and better places to work. So, having more entrepreneurs and leaders who are women will be beneficial to all. That’s the high-level visionary hope. But to get there, a lot needs to change in basic attitudes and everyday behaviors. For example, I keep receiving emails addressed to a “Mr” and phone calls where the caller would like to speak to the owner and is surprised when I say they already are. Not to mention similar face-to-face situations where people try to ask my husband questions about my business, in my presence. We’re still a long way from women entrepreneurs/business owners being a normal everyday occurrence.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.