Let’s begin with your passion project Women Who Startup. Can you tell us about how this idea came to be and how others can get involved?
As most things happen in my life, I saw something that was desperately missing and wanted to create something that changed that. After I left the corporate tech world (for a bit) at the beginning of 2012 I started to attend a lot of events in Denver and Boulder while building my first company, EmSpot – a little marketing agency – and there was hardly any women in the room, ever. And the lack of further diversity was non-existent. But the bigger issue I knew we faced is that most people in the room didn’t even bother acknowledging that there weren’t any women in the room. I truly believe it was an “old school, oh women don’t run in the tech space like [white] guys do”. Truth is, no one hangs out in places that doesn’t make them feel welcome or that they belong let alone that they are eagerly wanted.
So, with that by the end of 2012 I knew something had to change/ start. And in talks with some community peers at the time we said “let’s start a women-in-business event”. And we did. Myself and a couple of others created a monthly event for women in business. We went from 3 to 12 to 30 people in attendance and so on it kept growing.
By mid 2013 I heard that the second ever Denver Startup Week (DSW) was happening in September 2013 and I coined an event called Women in Tech. It got accepted but about 2 or 3 weeks before that DSW I was informed that another organization, NCWIT – whom I love and respect very much – has the exact same name for their event. And, well, they had way more clout being a larger and well-known organization doing amazing work for women in technology so I spent about 2 hours thinking (pretty sure I went and walked Wash Park) and came up with Women Who Startup. That was the start of it all really. Nearly 300 people showed up for the event and it wasn’t my best event ever but it was a powerful start.
Today Women Who Startup and now the Women Who Startup Foundation, a learning community and platform for entrepreneurs serves thousands of community members. Our learning platform, Connect is available to any women interested in entrepreneurship, business, tech, leadership and our other programs are our infamous monthly event series called Basecamp which is now in 4 cities and we’re planning to grow that into many startup communities to spotlight a women entrepreneur or leader that an entire community can learn from every single month.
We encourage women anywhere to become a member and get on Connect to gain access to a very focused professional network that focuses on sharing and educating and mentoring and engaging daily about starting up, launching, raising money, and everything else that comes with life as an entrepreneur.
And people can learn more about our monthly Basecamp events in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Phoenix, Arizona (for starters) from our website as well. All information about our platform, our events; Basecamp, Rally and Summit and the Foundation can be found on womenwhostartup.com.
Which startups should we keep our eye out for in Denver?
There are so many incredible people starting awesome startups in Denver and Colorado that it’s tough to say, however you can check out so many great new startups and companies on Built in Colorado.
I’ll say this much some of my favorite women entrepreneurs and startups are Jaclyn Fu, co-founder of Pepper. Pepper is just a great brand trying to break out and into the big brand world and I think they can pull it off.
Melanie Colon, founder of Apt App is as determined as I’ve seen in a long time.
Sarah Tuneberg is impressive as she’s creating massive impact by building Geospiza.
Katica Roy, Founder and CEO of Pipeline is taking on data on a whole new level in the Enterprise to try and improve equity within the workforce.
Orion Brown is the founder and CEO of The Black Travel Box, another great brand with huge potential coming out of Denver.
Bold Betties, P2BInvestor, Slopethreads, Silvernest, Coalition Snow, Mighteor’s new breakout startup Soona by Elizabeth Giorgi. So many amazing people and I’m barely scratching the surface here on talent and potential.
What do you think of the current climate for women-run businesses in Denver and Nationally?
I’ll make this simple, women deserve more. More seed capital to try big, “crazy” ideas. More loan access so we can grow smart businesses. More support from men, end of story. Women-run businesses outperform non women run businesses, this data has been around for a long time. And it’s not about women vs. men in running in a business, it’s about investing in more women who are asking for support while learning to launch a company and allowing us to fail without so much judgment. We have no idea what the world looks like if women are investing more, innovating more, creating more. Isn’t it about damn time that we do? Pretty sure women won’t run us into the ground. Pretty sure when women succeed, everyone succeeds because that’s how we roll. Give us access to more or get out of the way.
Colorado is brimming with non-profit organizations working to make a difference. What other causes are you passionate about?
I’m personally very passionate about LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ efforts in general. I’m looking for a Board to sit on and haven’t quite found it yet. Maybe I’ll start something. I believe that empowering youth with entrepreneurship is a strength that can support kids to find their confidence in ways of creating, innovating, creating businesses and giving them an opportunity to create their own rules and success. We have an epidemic when it comes to LGBTQ youth who are homeless and that’s devastating.
You are originally from South Africa, how did you find yourself in Wash Park?
I was born and raised in South Africa and moved to the States in 1997. I have had the good fortune to live in Wash Park for nearly 13 years – hard to believe. My partner (now wife) found a cute little place in 2006 which we rented when we moved from Congress Park. And, well, we’ve never left and we’ve tried [laughter], multiple times. This place is really special to us. Wash Park is a very good friend of mine. I’ve resolved a lot by walking that great park nearly every day, from life changes to starting company after company, from running it nearly 5 times a day when Duncan (who passed away several years ago) and Sugs our now 15-year-old pup was younger to now pushing her in a burley stroller with me when I walk it, to bringing friends and family there to enjoy it as well.
What are your favorite activities in the hood?
Walking Wash Park, daily. It’s my daily meditation really. I sort my brain out by making sure I hit it as often as possible. Meetings at Wash Perk – that usually leads to a Walk and Talk with colleagues or Women Who Startup members. Saying hello to Curtis at Whole Foods, Wash Park. He’s a special guy and he works at Whole Foods and finally after a few years now remembers my name which I just love. Riding my bicycle around the hood or longboarding at the Park.
Where are your favorite spots to visit around town?
I visit a lot of co-working spaces due to the nature of the Women Who Startup Foundation and our amount of events around Denver and Boulder, so I love popping into new spaces like that. I love the Arts so I get super excited when I attend a new play or event at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. I also love all of our incredible Art galleries including the Denver Art Museum. Generally speaking I like to be outdoors because I work so much, every opportunity I get I want to be outside. I also love to create pretty much anything with my hands, at home in the backyard on a sunny day.