Catharine E. Potvin Brown '97

Catharine E. Potvin Brown ’97

Catharine E. Potvin Brown '97 majored in English at Union College before earning an M.S. in administration from the University at Albany. Today, she is founder and CEO of Stragility – a NYS Certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise that works with forward-thinking leaders to take their business to its next level of achievement. Stragility’s three service areas are strategic planning and execution, market research and analysis and talent strategy. The company works with clients to competitively position their businesses and find new ways to engage their teams and customers. Catharine is chairwoman of the Joseph W. Potvin Scholarship, which gives an annual scholarship to a graduating senior at Glens Falls High School. She is a participant in the annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics (Team Max’s Buddies – Max is her nephew), and a board member for the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York. Catharine is also active in various fundraising events for multiple sclerosis, is a Strategic Alliance Partner for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a Capital Region Chamber member. She is a committee member for the Adopted non-profit fundraising campaign for the Capital Region Chamber. Also an active Union graduate, Catharine moderated an alumni leadership panel series in fall 2020. Her hobbies include golf, downhill skiing, running with her Wheaton Terrier, Champagne, and renovating her 1890 Victorian home with her husband, Matt Brown. She also enjoys spending time at her family’s summer home on Lake George.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?

A challenge has been learning how to gracefully deal with the rollercoaster ride that comes with owning your own business. Leaning into the frustration and getting discouraged is fine for a moment but you have to be able to pull yourself out of it quickly and implement new solutions. A very rewarding aspect of owning your own business is to see the immediate impact you can have on helping a client grow, and that doesn’t mean just financially. Grow by being a better leader, team member, strategic thinker and communicator. Another rewarding aspect is choosing who you get to work and surround yourself with – clients, colleagues, circles of influence and network. It’s all about the right fit in any relationship.

Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?

Other entrepreneurs, who have started a business from nothing with their own money, didn’t give up and are determining their own success. Their tenaciousness, perseverance and hustle are very inspiring. I am motivated and inspired by the women who work with me at Stragility. They are individuals who share the same values (and I would walk through fire for them!) but have different thoughts, perspectives and ideas, which help me be 1% better every day. Personally, I am also inspired by my mother and father, who dealt with many obstacles in their lives but lived by the mantras “for every problem there is a solution” and “this too shall pass.” They also incorporated a lot of humor/laughter to deal with difficult situations!

What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?

Do your best to quiet the noise to gain clarity. We live in a world where we are inundated with unnecessary chatter. There are many people who will say, “do this, you can’t do that,” and others who are just looking to tear you down and be negative. Surround yourself with people who you trust, challenge you and bring out the best in you. It will be a short list but quality is more important than quantity.

What was your most formative experience at Union?

Coming from a small town, Union provided me with experiences that were very much out of my comfort zone. I can’t point to just one, but when I reflect on my time at Union it was a culmination of many experiences. The professors who taught me how to broaden my thinking and my mind, the friends who came from diverse backgrounds that I had never encountered, and the overall experience of learning, growing and evolving to be a more well-rounded individual than when I started at Union.