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Roads Taken and Not Taken: Anna Lancman Kotler '91

I grew up in a home where the ability to speak multiple languages was the norm.  My parents were from Eastern Europe and spoke both Russian and Polish.  Our house was filled constantly with other Eastern European immigrants and family that visited frequently from France and Israel.  I studied French in High School and traveled abroad several time during my childhood and teenage years.

When I entered Haverford, I knew I wanted to study languages and Russian quickly became my language of choice. I spent a summer in the immersion program at Bryn Mawr and another summer studying Russian at Berkeley. I spent my junior year abroad in Moscow in 1990 and experienced “Perestroika” and “Glasnost” first-hand.  It was truly an exciting time!  I set my sites on returning.

After graduating from Haverford, I decided to take some time off before committing to a graduate program in Russian.  I went to work for a small public relations firm in Manhattan.  But, when I was offered a fellowship to study in Moscow for another six months, I jumped at the chance and returned for another amazing experience in the post-Soviet era.

Returning to the United States, I realized that I had liked the experiential aspect of studying Russian more than the academic.  So, I accepted a job offer at the same public relations firm and, over the course of three years, found that I enjoyed the business world. I decided to get an MBA, and after that took a marketing job at Campbell’s Soup. Ten years and three Fortune 500 Companies later, I formed a consulting partnership with some former colleagues and my husband.  And, in the past year, we finally started doing what I’ve dreamt of for years – developing our own brand.

The name of our company is Waste-Less, Inc.  Our mission is to develop and market products that will encourage people to “waste-less” paper, plastic and other items that clog our nation’s landfills.  Our product lines will be based on our belief that more consumers will engage in green behavior if they’re provided with environmentally conscious products that are affordable, convenient to use, and readily available.

We recently launched our first product: The Waste-Less Reusable Shopping Bag System.  It features a small carrying pouch that can hold up to five large reusable bags; each bag folds and rolls up small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.  Follow-up products will include reusable produce bags, insulated fresh meat bags, lunch kits for children’s lunchboxes and more.

I’m not using my language skills much these days, but I also know that I learned a lot more at Haverford.  My good liberal arts education still resonates.  It prepared me to see that there are many possible paths in life and my story is clearly an example.

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The path that leads to the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center and Whitehead Campus Center. The GIAC opened in 2006.

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