Setting out to create a business from scratch can be daunting for anyone. Although women have made great strides over the years in business, it can still be challenging to prove themselves in a male dominated world.
Women in Colorado have proven they are ready to meet that challenge. According to Forbes, Denver rates the number three spot for women entrepreneurship with the fifth highest percentage of women owned businesses. Some of these successful women were gathered on May 17 at Elements, a $66 million workplace furnishings and interior solutions company in Denver for their first Women on the Rise event.
“This is our inaugural kickoff event,” said organizer Olivia Omega.
Omega has her own branding, consulting and web development firm. She is also on the committee for Women on the Rise, a new program aimed at the success of women entrepreneurs. Every third Wednesday until October female entrepreneurs are invited to attend the meetings that will feature a new speaker and the opportunity to network.
The seed for Women on the Rise was planted by Traci Lounsbury, president and founder of Elements, and Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, an organization that works at enhancing downtown Denver.
“We met a couple times a month to pull together what we wanted to do,” Omega said. “This was very specifically made to support women. There’s different needs that women have, different perspectives, a different sense of sisterhood and camaraderie.”
The women had breakfast and shared ideas and concerns. TaRhonda Thomas of 9News interviewed Lounsbury, who explained how she created Elements and talked about challenges that she overcame.
In 2014 Elements was recognized by Colorado Biz Magazine as one of the top women-owned businesses in Colorado and in 2015 Lounsbury was awarded the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year award in the Retail Consumer Products category.
After the interview the women had the chance to ask Lounsbury questions on how she got through some of the roadblocks and conflicts on her way up.
“I came here to listen to the insights Traci and other women entrepreneurs,” said Rocio Perez, “and to see what it takes to become even more successful in this ever changing world.”
Perez is the president and founder of Inventiva Consulting, a company that does leadership development, focusing corporate culture and marketing strategy.
Perez said she was selling copper to a junkyard down the street from her home at age five. By the time she was eight, she was running errands and cleaning houses to make money. Over the years she continued to find opportunities and hone her skills. Perez works with a lot of successful women and was happy with the turnout for the event.
“A lot of women second guess their ability to be successful,” Perez said. “I love the fact that there’s that support, a community who understands women’s need in specific. We’re mothers, we’re wives, we’re caretakers in addition to entrepreneurs, and really our needs are very very different.”
Some women came out to volunteer as mentors to women who are still trying make their ideas successful. Erin Hayes owns Enquire Solutions, a software company that she founded with her husband. The idea for her business came to her when her mother had a bad experience while trying to put her grandparents into senior housing.
“My mother was calling and no one was calling her back,” Hayes said. “It was very frustrating. So we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone was always answering the phone?’”
“I still consider myself young but now I run a profitable, large business. I think that I’d love to be a mentor,” Hayes said.
Hayes said everyone who’s an entrepreneur has to be a salesperson.
“You have to put yourself out there,” she said. “You can’t be afraid to go up to people.” She said it’s important to go to events like Women on the Rise. “I really think the networking piece was great.”
Omega said the turnout that morning was good.
“It can be tricky to have an event at 7:30 in the morning in downtown Denver,” she said. “And I think about a lot of women entrepreneurs, including myself, with kids, and dropping kids off at school and commuting.”
Omega is excited for the next event scheduled for June 21 which will feature Lindsey Lourain, founder of Ezpz and inventor of the Happy Mat.
“I think the event itself lays the foundation for what Women on the Rise is,” said Omega. “It’s really an opportunity for women to connect with each other, to inspire each other and hear each other’s concerns, fears and also dreams.”