Denver Startup Week, a thinktank for local entrepreneurs, is right around the corner. Founded with the help of one of CU Denver’s own alumni, this year’s event runs Sept. 14 – 18 as a virtual experience.
The Denver metro area knows all too well the value startups bring to a city. Think RiNo, which in recent years has transformed from old warehouses to a colorfully painted hub of one-of-a-kind breweries and innovative tech brands.
Just as important as the concepts of these startups are the people behind the scenes, and according to a recent study, many are women. Last year, research from Business.org found Denver is No. 1 among 50 cities where women should start a business, and 29% of metro businesses are female-owned.
“The number of women-owned businesses in Colorado continues to increase each year,” said Sarah Engel, associate director of operations at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship in the CU Denver Business School. “I believe one of the reasons we see this growth has a lot to do with the number of women-focused business communities and networks available.”
8th Annual Women Who Startup Rally
This year, Denver Startup Week will celebrate the 8th Annual Women Who Startup Rally, spotlighting women in entrepreneurship, business, and leadership, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 4 – 5:30 p.m. The virtual rally is an opportunity to share stories of hope, perseverance, and success in the era of COVID-19.
CU Denver’s women alumni are contributing to that network. Kelly Brough MBA ’89 serves as CEO and president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, representing 3,000 members from across the state in every major industry. In 2003, Karen Hertz MBA ’05, founded Colorado’s first—and one of the country’s largest— gluten-free brewery, Holidaily Brewing Company.
Together with her husband, Lauryn Kellett BA ’14 founded Denver-based Liquid Luck Productions, a video company that produces a range of work, from still photography and TV shows to documentaries and marketing clips. Heather Lafferty MBA ’05 serves as the CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. Gloria Tanner MA ’76 was the first African American women to serve as a Colorado state senator. The list goes on.
CU Denver’s Business School even has its own club devoted to women in business. What started in 2018 has grown to 35 members, whose mission is to foster a strong network and further gender equality. The club’s president, Abigal Goodgoin, a senior double majoring in management and international business, thinks it’s crucial to the community’s social wellbeing to preserve and promote women-owned businesses in Denver.
She started the club with the mission of bringing her female peers opportunities to explore what it means to be a woman in business before graduating and to connect with professionals in the community.
“Not only should we applaud the great hurdles women have had to overcome to achieve the equality and respect necessary to run their own businesses, but we should support their ventures fiercely,” Goodgoin said. “Female representation in business is growing, and is perhaps the most important component of future female business leader success. The more women we see successfully running their own businesses, the more we feel it’s possible—and probable—for us to do it, too.”
Women-Focused Sessions to Attend
- Monday, Sept. 14, noon – 1 p.m.: “Her Workplace: Coming Out of Economic Downturns Stronger” will explore why economic crisis disproportionately affects women and women-owned businesses. All companies and industries are encouraged to attend, especially those that identify as male-owned or male-focused to better understand how to recruit and retain female leaders of the future during economic downturns, Startup Week’s website says.
- Monday, Sept. 14, 5: 30 – 6:30 p.m.: “100 Womxn Talking Money” will explore funding for women-owned businesses. According to Denver Startup Week’s website, only 25% of women-owned businesses seek business financing, and women receive just 7% of venture funds. In the interactive session, participants will have five one-on-one money conversations with each other and explore questions around finances.