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Sabrina Smeltz

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Meet Some of the Women Leading the Way

From female Founders to female CEO’s, Fairfield is overflowing with successful women leading by example. From design to sports to community to fashion to nonprofit, these trailblazing shape shifters are the ones to watch. We sat down with six of the brightest and boldest innovators to learn more about them and their remarkable contribution to our community. 


Never underestimate the powerful effect of light. Just ask lighting designer extraordinaire, Rachel Calemmo, who orchestrates light, color, materials, and space to create visually appealing environments which ease the demands of modern life. As the Co-Founder of Christian Rae Studio, Calemmo engages all aspects of project design, construction, and management. It was her commitment to the total design experience that led her to specialize in lighting—which according to her, is no longer an afterthought, but rather a vibrant focal point.

“What I love most about being a lighting designer is not only seeing an idea come to fruition, but to realize the impact it has on a building or space we've designed,” says Calemmo. “Lighting has a profound effect on the people using these spaces and I get to improve life through quality of light. Light is life!” Whether it’s a private home, a coveted art collection, an executive office, or the famous SONO sign in South Norwalk, Calemmo literally and figuratively shines a light on an extraordinarily diverse group of projects. 

Lighting Certified (LC), Calemmo’s technical skills enable her to complete each design challenge from conception to final installation resulting in projects that represent a broad range of scale, scope, and budget consideration. Calemmo is also a LEED® Accredited Professional who designs each project to a high standard balancing aesthetic expectations and energy efficiency due to the important role energy consumption and cost plays in an overall building life cycle. Her vision is focused on collaboration with clients, architects, designers, and engineers from the onset of a project integrating the lighting seamlessly with the architecture. 

Calemmo started Christian Rae Studio to be a design firm with a holistic design ethos: seeing buildings in a new light. The same could be said for her symbolic advice to young women who are just starting out in their careers. “There is no right time or right way to have a career. As women, we must always be flexible to change and that can create new, exciting opportunities.” A brave new light indeed.


Dream. Desire. Develop. Discipline. These are the four key principles of athletic development exemplified and taught by Sara Holland at her namesake, Sara Holland Sports. A former Division 1 athlete, Holland recognized she had an athletic gift at a young age. Fortunately, due to the loving guidance of her father, she also knew that it was solely up to her to create the experience for that talent to shine. A big believer in what you put out comes back, Holland’s energy is infectious which is why she’s so successful with kids, and highly respected by their parents.

Sara Holland Sports was founded on the philosophy that we are all life-long learners. Holland believes developing a true athlete at any age requires a well-rounded approach that will serve and shape the whole person beyond just physical capabilities. A priority of her sports programs and individualized lessons is to help children and young athletes achieve self-confidence, personal growth, and improvement of sport specific skills. She is your youngest child’s first coach; their bike teacher; and the coach who shapes your older child into the top athlete they desire to become. 

Holland has developed sport programs for children 19 months & up for over 20 years. During that time she made a name for herself in Fairfield County as a premier sports instructor, yoga teacher, and softball coach. Her well-known softball organization, the CT Legends, is a high academic and athletic group of 18U girls that strive to play collegiate softball. Some of the athletes have gone on to play at Yale, and University of Virginia to name just a few. 

Empowering kids is a part of Holland’s daily mantra that she accomplishes by meeting them where they are—both emotionally and developmentally. “I've always wanted to make the lives of children better in some capacity. And since no two kids are the same, I need to understand several things: How motivated are they? What do they fear? Are they first born children or the third? Is this their first sports experience or have they skied, danced, or played hockey?” explains Holland. “And with that in mind, I use tools, knowledge, creativity, and education to help children thrive emotionally and physically.” The best part for Holland? “When a child realizes they can accomplish their goals,” she says with a big smile.


If you live in Fairfield and don’t know Debbi O’Keefe, consider yourself in the vast minority. Affectionally referred to as the “Mayor of Fairfield” and the “Ultimate Connector” this former fundraising/marketing expert has turned her stellar corporate background into the eponymous networking brand known as ConnectFairfield—which is precisely what O’Keefe does.

A 24-year native of Fairfield, O’Keefe created Fairfield’s first and only organization to connect the community. ConnectFairfield launched in 2021 with the Fairfield Town Scavenger Hunt designed to safely get people out of their home during quarantine, and into local businesses. Over the course of the 2-week hunt, more than 100 businesses and nonprofits participated. The event drew more than 500 families, couples, groups of friends, and individuals who scoured local businesses and landmarks looking for clues while getting reacquainted with all Fairfield has to offer. 

A career-long event planner, authentic networker, and connector by nature, O’Keefe is highly skilled at creating memorable experiences and collaborating with others, so it was only natural for her to evolve ConnectFairfield to now include Fairfield Newcomers Club, Empty Nesters Club, Couples Events, and Girls’ Nights Out.

“So many new friendships have started as a result of our groups,” said O’Keefe. “People feel isolated, lonely, and are going through the transitions of life. I’m thrilled that ConnectFairfield is filling a need to connect, collaborate, and in turn strengthen our community.”

ConnectFairfield teams up with organizations throughout the community to promote happenings around town such as happy hour mixers, wellness workshops, downtown shopping events, fundraisers, nonprofit activities, and local business promotions. There’s a charitable aspect to all this fun, too. ConnectFairfield partners with local nonprofits to help raise awareness for a variety of causes and donates a portion of event proceeds to organizations including Operation Hope, The Center for Family and Justice, St. Baldrick's, and Inspire Inc.

When asked what the term “trailblazer” means, O’Keefe responded with “It means aggressively pursuing your objective a new path or unprecedented direction”. It’s safe to say that O’Keefe is a shining example.



When Erin Hermann and Lauren Perez met eight years ago working at Mitchells in Westport, they had no idea they’d ultimately join forces years later to create The Laurine Group, a wardrobe consultancy. Both fashion industry veterans with nearly 35 years of collective experience, Hermann and Perez help women take the guesswork out their closet conundrums.

Whether it’s the busy mom who recently sent her youngest to Kindergarten and hasn’t been out of yoga pants in five years, or the high-powered celebrity who doesn’t have time to shop or create outfits for televised appearances (they won’t divulge any client names … I tried!), this dynamic duo offers a highly customized experience to help their clients discover the best version of themselves.

Known for mixing high fashion luxury pieces with fast fashion found at affordable retailers like Zara, Hermann and Perez work synergistically, yet provide unique perspectives. Seasonal shops are big among their clients, as is travel wardrobe planning, especially now. Clients can take a deep dive and hire the Laurine Group for a complete wardrobe overhaul, or dip a toe in for a singular event, such as finding the ideal Mother of the Bride dress. Either way, they offer a complimentary consultation to get started.

One service that sets the Laurine Group apart is Catalog Archiving, which is essentially a digital catalog of a client’s closet. “This tool helps optimize your closet on an ongoing basis by giving you a better understanding of what you already have, and easy access to create different looks in the future,” explains Hermann. “For example, if a client’s closet is catalogued and she has an event to prepare for, we can provide our recommendations directly from the picture portfolio,” adds Perez. 

In addition to advising on the 5-10 essentials everyone needs in their closet, one of their favorite ways to truly help a client is to streamline their wardrobe. Getting rid of excess is not only liberating, but also eco-conscious since Hermann and Perez then implement a recycling plan for donating garments, and an upcycling plan for resale. 

Born two days apart in the same year, Hermann & Perez have many similar and admirable attributes. When asked separately what they love most about their work, the answer was unanimous: connecting with clients to build long-lasting, trusting relationships. Me and my closet are ready … sign me up!



Sabrina Smeltz personifies what it means to break the glass ceiling of what she refers to as “the original boys club”. Yes, she is the very first female CEO of Wakeman Boys & Girls Club. Ironically, what started in 1913 for 50 boys in Southport has evolved into a thriving organization made possible by the granddaughters, Frances and Cornelia, of longtime Southport resident, Jesup Wakeman. It wasn’t until 1983 that girls were even allowed membership, and the name was officially changed to the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club.  

As the former COO of Wakeman with a strategic succession plan in place, Smeltz assumed the role of CEO in May 2020. With extensive experience in facility & program operations, board & staff leadership development, fundraising, and building community partnerships in both urban and suburban communities, Smeltz oversees a $4M operation that serves 3,200 children annually in Fairfield and Bridgeport. She also directed a $24M capital campaign to construct a third Clubhouse in the North End/Hollow section of Bridgeport that will bring significant resources and opportunities to one of the most socio-economically challenged areas in the state.  

Described as a born leader, problem solver, strategic thinker, and relationship builder, Smeltz wholeheartedly believes in listening. “Talking to people and actively listening, doesn’t always mean actively doing. I provide the table for people to sit and have the conversation,” she says. “A mentor showed me that when you slow down and actively listen you can make lasting and true connections to people that will still drive a results-based environment.” 

Although Smeltz is consumed with strategic planning, board oversight and community partnerships, she considers her favorite part what she does something even more valuable: she gets to work with kids during this time of growth and change and to positively impact their lives.

When asked what word “trailblazer” means, Smeltz replied “As a woman, I have a responsibility to open doors, provide opportunities, ask questions, challenge ideas, solve problems, and use my voice when others are not heard.” At the heart of her leadership style, she is a coach who wants her team to excel at what they do both individually, and collectively. She adds, “It’s my job to clear the path for that work to happen.” Given Smeltz's phenomenal track record, she will undoubtedly continue to break new ground.

  • Rachel Calemmo
  • Sara Holland
  • Debbi O'Keefe
  • Lauren Perez and Erin Hermann
  • Sabrina Smeltz