How is Hallmark Emerging as an Innovation Company?


Jennifer Garbos is on the show today. She is the Design Engineering Manager at Hallmark. We dig into the intersection of work and entrepreneurship and how that inspires change and growth. We also get into Hallmark as an innovation company: the process, what technology they’re looking at next, and what human-centered design means to their organization.

Jennifer charms us with her insatiable curiosity, her contagious laugh and her brilliance on how to move a company, like Hallmark, forward in the innovation arena.

Connect with Ask an Innovator.


The Power of Play
Loonshots by Safi Bahcall
How to Guide Innovation


City Bitty Farm
Four Season Tools


Jennifer’s background at Hallmark & entrepreneurial ventures: City Bitty Farms & Four Season Tools – 01:00
What are the strengths you can capitalize on? – 05:11
Using human-centered design to develop products – 07:08
The innovation exercises Jennifer uses at Hallmark – 11:40
How is Hallmark reaching new consumers? – 15:19
How Hallmark figures out what products will work – 22:09
Innovation Hotseat with Jennifer – 24:31

Jennifer’s take on “What is Innovation?” – 39:18
How Hallmark defines innovation – 40:55


Erin Srebinski [00:00]: Today we have Jennifer Garbos, a leader of future strategy at Hallmark cards. She’s taking 100 plus years of awesome at Hallmark and aligning it with the technology and behavioral trends of the future to ensure consistent growth. Hallmark is not Jennifer’s only role. She’s an entrepreneur with her husband, a mom to two imaginative kids, a mascot and an inventor with nine patents to her name. She joins us today to talk a little bit about her journey and the future of Hallmark.

Josh Barker [00:24]: Good so you’re going to unveil all of Hallmark’s secrets is what I’m hearing you say.

Jennifer Garbos [00:42]: I do have something and it’s public that I can talk about that I’m pretty excited about. I’d be happy to share that.

JB [00:50]: Cool. Cool. Well, Jennifer, I’d love to, kicking it off. I’d love to learn a little bit more about your background. And a little bit more about you if you wouldn’t mind just sharing with that with us.

JG [01:00]:
I’d be happy to. My background, my job at Hallmark is I am the Design Engineering Manager for greeting cards as well as gift wrap, as well as an innovation leader for our company. My background is really interesting. I’ve always been in consumer products. Consumer products are my passion. I have worked as a product engineer at Ford before moving to Hallmark. And then my husband and I own three companies in the agriculture space that we’ve started from the ground up. Two of those are over 10 years old now. And so we live both the innovator and entrepreneur lifestyle.

JB [01:39]: That’s awesome. That really probably helps you both ways, right? I mean, seeing both sides of it, where you’re working at a large company like Hallmark and then being an entrepreneur as well?

JG [01:49]: It definitely does and the experiences I have on either side of that fence both influenced the other in a very positive way, the successes and the failures.

JB [01:58]: You’ve got to give a plug for your entrepreneurial businesses, what are they called?

JG [02:03]: Yes, the oldest company is called Four Season Tools. And with that we build custom greenhouse solutions for smaller-scale sustainable farms, especially specializing in movable greenhouses. So a greenhouse you can move from plot of land a plot of land, extend your season, or rotate your crops growing in different soil. And then, in order to do that well, we had to launch a farm because we are both engineers by degree and working in the agriculture space needed more experience in farming as well as it needed an R&D lab to test out the solutions we were developing for farmers across the country. So we launched City Bitty Farm, and it’s in Kansas City. It’s one of the largest urban farms in Kansas City and we grow microgreens year-round on a couple of acres in the urban area.

JB [02:53]: Looking at the website right now, City Bitty Farm, that’s awesome.

JG [02:55]: We’ve learned a lot through the years in launching those companies. One with a company that actually builds structures and, you know, physical objects and another that has a living, breathing thing that we have to nurture and take care of throughout all the holidays.

JB [03:12]: Very cool. Awesome. It looks like a lot of fun. And how does that help you with things at Hallmark?

JG [03:22]: Yeah. So when you start your own business as I’m sure some of your listeners have done themselves or have done multiple times. Serial entrepreneurs as we are. You have to do things with what you have. You have to work from your integral foundation, what do you have? Or what do you know that you can do better than anyone else? Or how can you spin it in a way or apply it in a way that gives you an advantage over other companies that may already be in that space?

As an entrepreneur, if you can’t do that you can’t thrive. Three years making it three years is the success of a homegrown business or any sort of entrepreneurial endeavor. And you can’t really get there if you can’t do something better or have your claim to fame. How do you offer value and uniqueness beyond what your competitors have, and being really, really great at assessing, honestly, what those strengths are that you have? That’s what we had to do as entrepreneurs to start Four Season Tools and City Biddy Farms way to apply the knowledge and the resources we had differently than anyone else who might be in that industry.

Bringing that forward to Hallmark, that’s definitely what we do as a part of the innovation process there. What’s great about is it makes us super lean, fast and strong. It lowers the risk of the ideas that we come forward with because we’ve already assessed the strengths that we have, and we’re applying those in a way that no one else can match in that even initial launch phase.

JB [04:50]: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, it makes you almost think as an entrepreneur. You know, if you’ve seen the matrix where he says there is no spoon, right? It’s just kind of, there is no box outside your comfort zone, like expand the boundaries. So that’s I imagine that’s probably a lot of overlap there with helping you on Hallmark with innovation.

JG [05:11]: Definitely, definitely, I love doing puzzles. I love solving problems and connecting dots. When you can assess, here’s what all of my strengths are. And you lay them all out and even, you know, get as tactical as drawing them on post-its or writing it down on a piece of paper or typing it on your screen, you can start to see the connections between those and that’s where so much of the value lies. Look at what you can do really, really well. And then from that, what could you build from there? Like if you think about every single one of those strengths as a carbon atom, what are the bonds that you can create between those strengths? And do you end up with graphite? Do you end up with a diamond? What do you want in the end anyway? Would you rather have graphite?

JB [05:54]: Yes, exactly. Now you’ve got, it looks like the whole gamut. I mean, you’ve from an innovation director standpoint, so almost like working directly with from a consumer end standpoint to now, on the design side with probably some Human Centered Design focus. Sounds like it really affords you a really wide breadth of knowledge across, hey, starting with the customer, what do they see? What do they need? Or what Don’t they know they need yet? To all the way to engineering. Is that is that what I’m seeing too?

JG [06:31]: Yes, that’s exactly right. So you can see there that I started out as an engineer, a product engineer, and realized very quickly that a lot of times my client’s internal or external clients would be asking for a solution that wasn’t exactly what the customer or their consumer was looking for. And it led to a passion and a breadth of experience in the human center design or design for experience. So instead of developing the technology that was requested. It’s really about developing the experience with the correct Applied Technology.

JB [07:03]: Sure. Can you give some examples of some of the things you guys have worked or you’ve worked on at Hallmark?

JG [07:08]: Sure. One of my favorite examples and this is a few years ago, what I really love about it, it was launched before Siri was on your iPhone, probably even before iPhones were out. We were working on stuffed animals. I actually started at Hallmark making singing and dancing snowman, I was hired in to do the animatronics of the technical electromechanical modules inside those. And we were working on stuffed animals and stuffed toys for kids and realized that the maturity of voice recognition technology was really improving. It was becoming a lot more accessible and accessible in lower-cost devices.

And so we invented a toy that would respond to your voice. A stuffed animal. Specifically would respond to your voice as you read a book aloud. So Hallmark is very much interested in helping people make connections and build relationships with those people important to them in their lives. And making plush products or stuffed animals was a part of that it was helping provide either a representation for you when you’re not there or just giving a little, you know, a bit of love in a kid’s life. And we realized that stuffed animals are so important in a developing child’s life. They’re more than just a toy, they can be a companion, they can offer comfort. They, the role-play their part of the imaginative play world.

So what we did was we applied voice recognition technology to that, so that as parents were sitting down and reading to their kids, not only could they read to their kids, but the stuffed animals would listen along also, and the stuffed animals would interject in the way a four-year-old might do when you’re reading a storybook aloud at night with add-ons to the story or cute little moments. The first one we launched was called Jingle. He was a husky pup at Christmas time. You would say something in Jingle would just burst out into a howling song version of a Christmas tune. And so kids just they loved that. Not only did it make reading time more fun for kids who maybe didn’t want to sit still so much, but they had a friend who was listening along with them.

So we ran through those for a few years. And that really sparked my passion and development around the human-centered design process because we didn’t start with voice recognition technology and say, what can we do with this? What we started with, when that actually developed was the understanding that stuffed animals played a key role in the lives of kids and their families. And that reading time was a time that was important for that bonding between kids and either parents or caregivers or grandparents. That’s the moment we really wanted to help build-out. How can that be an even more emotional or fun moment?

JB [09:58]: That’s awesome. Yeah, that I think that’s so key with starting with the end consumer versus a technology and trying to shoehorn it into certain situations of how can we use this? I think that’s key. That’s key. I think you’re right on there. And how did you guys go about doing your research? I’m assuming there was a research phase before you just went ahead and built this plush animal of trying to figure out the need and trying to address and need that wasn’t being addressed.

JG [10:32]: Yeah, that’s a great question. We have a great fortune at Hallmark of working with some amazing creative talent. Hallmark’s one of the largest employers of creative professionals in the world. And that group, that incredibly creative group is constantly on the cusp of emerging technologies. So we really lean on everyone in the company to bring forward things that they’re noticing in the marketplace.

Technologies that are becoming more accessible news articles, things, they’re starting to make it into consumer’s homes, things that we find people are just feeling more comfortable with than they were in the past. And that timing is super, super important, especially when you do have a large creative group thinking of off the wall brilliant ideas, figuring out when they really start to intersect most people’s homes is a critical point. Yeah.

JB [11:22]: And I see that everyone’s kind of responsible for that. It looks like as an innovation director, you were leading innovation exercises and team activities to help fill your pipeline. How did you go about doing that? And what does that look like when we say innovation exercises?

JG [11:40]: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’m sure that everyone has a different answer to it. There are so many different tools available. Personally, I have a strong belief in being insatiably curious, and therefore I might not ever lean on the same tool. I think that the job that we’re doing is going to dictate the tool that we need or that’s required. One of my more recent favorite examples of determining what kind of technology or what innovation to proceed with, really starts with an interview process or a gathering of carbon atoms.

So understanding not only what are the needs, that your consumers or that your customers have, but also in the strength that you have as a company, but also, who else is working on something even in the same company that has a passion project they want to move forward? That is just as important a factor in launching innovation at Hallmark as either of the other two.

The consumer needs to demand that the technology has to be right, but we also need people in the building who are willing to work on it or champion it or intersects the work that they’re already trying to do or the initiatives that they have in place. So my favorite exercise is to gather all of those pieces and parts together, and then look at who the person is we’re trying to solve for. So we knew a number of different needs.

Now let’s apply it to a human-centered persona. And maybe that’s not an actual person, but a person who embodies characteristics of the market that we’re trying to solve for at any given moment. And now understand this person, what are these things that would interest them? What would help them? What would work for them? and using that to map out a longer-term strategy? Because we want every single person to be satisfied with the results that we’re offering or the products or solutions?

JB [13:35]: So how do you guys take, you know, something that was a person in a persona so this, you know, this fake profile of a, it simulates a person right? It simulates a target market. How do you validate that with the true target market? How do you guys do that at Hallmark?

JG [13:50]: What we love about our industry is that everyone loves to get a card. Our founder has said, “No one ever sends a card in anger.” And so it’s really, really fun to work on a product that we know people are going to love to give. And so many different types of people are going to love to give those. So when we do than come up with a solution and we want to validate our target market. Depending on the type of product we’re talking about, we’ll use any number of different consumer testing techniques that our insights and analytics partners will recommend. Everything from focus groups, to quantitative consumer research surveys to ethnographic surveys, depending on what we really need to learn from that.

As I mentioned, I’m insatiably curious. What we really need to learn is going to drive the methodology that we choose. It’s not always about learning is the solution, the exact thing that this consumer is looking for? A lot of times it’s learning about the insight behind it or the implementation of it, or, as you mentioned, even earlier, the technology that’s used in it. Because it’s not about the technology, it’s about the need that it’s solving.

JB [15:03]: Right, Very cool. Now, let’s switch gears for just a second. I want to know a little bit about some of the cool things that are going on at Hallmark. What are some of the cool things going on that you can talk about? The stuff you can’t, we won’t we won’t talk about that stuff, but this stuff you can.

JG [15:19]: Sure, I love it that you ask what are the cool things going on at Hallmark as we talk on an innovation podcast because you can define cool or innovation in so many different ways. I think there are approaches that Hallmark is taking to reaching out to new consumers, as approaches to new products, to being in new places where you can access our product. One of the things that’s cool just from a ‘when do you think about Hallmark’ lens is we have a line of cards, today, called Just Because and those cards are really focused on realizing that people want to connect with other people and build their relationships in a positive way outside of it’s my birthday or it’s Valentine’s Day I have to get a card for my spouse or partner.

People have needs beyond that to be a good friend or be a good partner or be a good daughter or son. And so this line of Just Because cards really recognizes that. One of my favorite ones is just the ‘You’re a Great Parent’ card and it says, “Parenting is tough but you’re tougher.” On the inside, it says, “Even if dishes go undone or laundry piles up, you will all survive because the essential ingredient is there, love. Don’t worry, you’re doing great.” I know quite a few moms and dads in my circle I could give that to on any day and I think they’d start crying.

JB [16:43]: Right. I definitely see that as more of a trend because I see these cards, and I definitely resonate with being more specific and being outside of these, these events like Valentine’s Day, for example of giving cards. And seeing those cards that are pertinent to a lot more situations that are occurring more daily. So that makes perfect sense.

JG [17:04]: Right, and it’s really interesting. My husband and I because we talk about innovation at the dinner table, he calls Hallmark and emotional transfer company. I’m like, oh, gosh, that’s so so mechanical. Then other people you talk to will view Hallmark is a communication company that we’re about a communication method if you think analogous to letters. And then the question that naturally comes up is well with digital communication, you know, what’s the role? Why are there greeting cards?

What we found is that greeting cards carry a completely different value than digital communication does. They play a different role in your life. And as I said, no one sends a greeting card in anger. That’s not to be said for a lot of other digital communication. So we, we really are focused on helping people build up those relationships. And that makes for a completely different area of innovation that needs to bridge from digital to tangible. So you asked, what are some other things you know, that we have going on right now that are really interesting? And I think how we’re addressing that digital space is really, really cool.

We just launched a week ago, an app that’s available in the iPhone app store right now called Hallmark Digital Postage. And what’s so cool about that is that in that app, you are able to activate postage pre-printed postage on a Hallmark envelope if you decide you want to mail that card. So you never have to get stamps anymore. You don’t need to go to the post office, you can just activate through your app, the postage, it’s already printed on your envelope, and then toss it in the mail.

JB [18:47]: That makes it a lot more streamlined. That’s, that’s great. I’m looking at it right now. I might have to download this.

JG [18:53]: Yeah. And it’s, it’s super, super fun. And if you have a stamp, and you, you would rather just use you know, the special stamp that you walked to the post office and got, you can just stick that right over that code and you’re not losing any money, because you haven’t paid for it yet. So it’s a really great thing that we’re using to help people get those awesome tangible, beautiful cards in the mail to people they care about, but not require that they go through so many extra steps.

JB [19:20]: Yeah, that’s great. Decreasing the amount, the barrier to entry because I feel like cards add so much more weight when you receive one, right? Like when I physically take the time and write something out to someone that’s unusual, right? Because in our society today, it’s very digital. Sending an email, that’s a lot easier. Well, it takes effort for me to actually go select a card, get a card, handwrite it, get the postage, put it on there, put it in the mail. And so I think it carries a lot more weight when you receive a card.

JG [19:53]: Yeah, and we want to focus on those steps that are the important pieces of that process, the signing it or writing your message or, you know, whatever it is you do if you put stickers on your envelope or on your card. Putting stamps on the card is not the thing people always look forward to the most about sending their loved one a greeting card.

JB [20:40]: Right. Right, removing the barriers to entry. I love it. That’s good. I’ve seen a piece of software that was online that allowed me to type in digital cards. Like I’ve used it before to actually hand write like I type the message, and then they’ll have a system where its hand writes it and then put it in the mail for me and send it to the recipient. Do you guys have anything like that at Hallmark?

JG [20:37]: We have tested in some product offerings on Amazon.com that you can have your card signed and handwritten for you. So you never actually have to physically touch the card, but it will have a handwritten message that’s custom to the sentiment you want to deliver or what you want to say to the recipient. We’ve also done that on Hallmark.com, and either I think it’s for a low cost, someone will handwrite a message for you, and then we’ll send it along with the postage and you know, we’ll pay the postage to send it to the recipient directly. It’s something we’re definitely exploring. Hallmark also has a patent issued on handwriting digitization. And so it’s definitely a technology that is important to our business because of the importance it has to our consumers, that personal touch.

JB [21:29]: That’s cool that I mean, I like you that you use the word experiments. So you guys are probably always rapidly running these experiments and trying to figure out what your end market, your end consumers really need.

JG [22:09]: Yes, yes, we’re always running experiments, figuring out what works, what doesn’t work. I think that when you’re talking about an innovation program that’s built on your corporate strengths, yet you know where you want to go, let’s say you’ve done that persona development work, you understand the perfect solution that would engage that consumer down the road, but you’re not there yet.

You’re still over here at corporate strengths. You have to figure out how can I get to point B, and it’s usually not instantaneous. Usually what your consumers are looking for is so far beyond where you are today, just because of the exponential rate of change of technology that you have to figure out how can you build your way there? How can you connect those atoms? How can you build the bonds between the solutions that you can offer today? And we have to run experiments to build up those additional capabilities.

So in the digital postage example that I shared with you, there is so much to get to a place where people are never going to have to put stamps on envelopes to send a greeting card anymore. And this experiment that we’re launching is really helping us figure out, what is our consumer looking for? Doing experiments in a tangible realm is completely different, though, then doing them in digital space. Building a beta test app, and launching it and that app having to work with a physical tangible thing is just, it’s a really exciting space to play.

That physical-digital interaction and the interface between those things. We have to learn and experiment as we go because that side of innovation is not mature at all. Digital Innovation is really starting, you know, there are agile methodologies, and there are processes in place for how to do that. But when we’re talking about how digital influences the tangible product, or in reverse, how does tangible product interaction influence your digital development or experience? There’s that’s a pretty nascent field right now.

JB [23:39]: Yeah it’s what a lot of people call almost a sleepy field. It’s cool to hear all the innovation that is occurring at Hallmark. In a market that’s seeming, I don’t want to say dormant, but it’s definitely more sleepy. Yet, there’s still an incredible amount of merit in a physical greeting card and when what can be done to reduce barriers to entry and how to how to make it easier and simpler to send cards and, and to have more options of cards it sounds like.

JG [24:07]: Yeah, that’s definitely true. I think that as the technology and trend of smart homes grows, that that need for that digital tangible interaction, and how do you enable a positive consumer experience with physical things that are in your home is going to grow. It’s not quite there yet, but we definitely are on the forefront of exploring that space with experiments like the ones I’ve mentioned.

JB [24:31]: Awesome. Well, Jennifer, there’s a segment that we normally would do. I’m going to switch gears here unless you had something else you wanted to, to say about anything we’ve said so far before I switch gears.

JG [24:40]: Now let’s go. Let’s go, love it.

JB [24:42]: So this is something called the Innovator Hot Seat. So I’m going to ask you a series of questions that are unrelated to what we’ve been talking about. They’re very random. I’ll give you a sample of them. So like, they’re going to be things like, what podcasts do you subscribe to, one person you’d invite to dinner. I’m going to go through these and then we’ll unveil your answers. So this is the Innovators Hot Seat here. So first question, what podcasts do you subscribe to?

JG [25:12]: Oh boy, the Ask an Innovator podcast. I subscribe to that one. Number one right there. I listen to a lot of TED Talks as well. I have to admit that I prefer going to a lot of things in person over listening to podcasts. So when we have TEDx KC events here locally, I really enjoy that face to face interaction. It might be the human component to my job and understanding human interaction. I just love to get in front of people.

JB [25:42]: Good. Okay, one person you would invite to dinner? huh

JG [25:45]: Hm, my husband. Serial innovators don’t get a whole lot of time together.

JB [25:52]: Is his number one podcast Ask an Innovator, too? That was for him.

JG [25:58]: Yeah, no. Oh, gosh, I think if I had to invite someone to dinner outside of my own family, it would probably be Jeff Bezos. I’m just curious because what I’m really fascinated by is the way that he built up Amazon from a company that sold books online. And I know that There’s plenty of research out there that does that tell that story and describe that story.

But I would just love to get in his head and have a conversation about that vision and how much of that was predetermined and how much of that was accidental. And what he did with those happy accidents and the failures that when it came along the way. I think 15 years ago, 20 years ago, no one would have predicted it. And it’s just a fascinating journey. So I’d love to get behind into the process behind that.

JB [26:45]: Sure. Well, the good news is Jeff Bezos’s favorite podcast is Ask an Innovator so he’s listening. I’m sure he’ll, he’ll reach out so cool. Number three, one thing you’d bring with you on a desert island and it can’t be a person, so no husband.

JG [27:01]: All right. All right. One thing I’d bring with me on a desert island? Oh, I’m pretty resourceful, I’d use a lot of things off the desert island I already have. That’s a great question. I think I’d bring a pen. I think that would come in handy or just keep me sane. It would be a hard thing to recreate. And very frustrating. I’d like to think I could already make fire that’s, boy that’s kind of an ambitious goal.

JB [27:34]: Now would you want paper to go with it? Or would you? Where would you write?

JG [28:28]: That’s a funny thing. I think you can write on a lot of things. But the writing, maybe a Sharpie, a nice Sharpie marker. That might be more practical.

Yeah, I think you can solve so many problems, but I’m a really visual person in case you haven’t guessed that already. And it might be really frustrating and difficult to do without being able to make thoughts visual.

JB [28:04]: Good point. Very good point. What about the last book you read?

JG [28:08]: The last book I completed was Life of Pi. I’m in the middle of reading Loonshots now and that is a really fascinating innovation business book. The subtitle is how to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries. For people with a science background like mine, it’s especially fascinating because it connects physics principles to innovation process. I’ve had a few innovation colleagues actually recommend it to me because they feel like it’s been, it illuminates some of the practices behind their successful innovation programs as well.

JB [28:45]: Loonshots, I’m going to look that up. I have not read that book.

JG [28:49]: Yeah, it’s by Safi Bacall.

JB [28:51]: Okay, I wrote it down. In fact I’ve got it up on my Amazon right now. So I’m gonna check it out.

JG [28:58]: Yeah, it’s a well-written book too, fun to read. I like those.

JB [29:06]: It looks like it. What do James Bond and Lipitor have in common? Huh? So That’s the subtitle. Interesting. I’m going to take a look at that. Interesting. Okay, your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

JG [29:15]: My favorite place I’ve traveled. I lived in Istanbul for seven months. And there is a city in Turkey called Cappadocia. And it has I off the top of my head. That is my favorite place I’ve traveled. And the reason is that it is just an ancient city that’s built into the stones and carved into the stone mountains.

And not only are you able to visit and look at that, but they actually will tour you down through the stones into the depths of the ground it go, we went down at least seven stories into the ground into these apartments and cities that were all built into this softer rock and I think that the opportunity just to dig into [literally] another culture, an ancient culture like that and see a different way of living and imagine what it was like to be in that environment and to walk the paths that those people walked was just just a fabulous, fascinating experience.

JB [30:18]: I think that fits probably in line with your, your innovation background where you’re almost like acting like an anthropologist, right? How do they live and how do they interact? And so that’s good.

JG [30:30]: Yeah, my new favorite topic to study for technology trends for our team is all around neuroscience. There’s so much happening and understanding how the brain works. I just love to understand what we’re learning about how healthy relationships are developed, or how people feel good, and how that connects to the activities and the chemicals and the structure of the brain.

There’s so much there that I think is going to drive future developments for products down the road when you think about the future and as the design engineering manager at Hallmark and an innovation leader, we have to think years ahead, three, four or five years ahead. And as those technologies begin to converge and neuroscience develops understandings of the science, at the same time, nanotechnology is developing new ways to release or create products and or even have different interfaces to products, along with robotics converging in with that, so that you can have different responses to the interaction with products.

I think that there’s so much that’s happening in that technology space and as it all comes to light together, what that makes possible is just really fascinating. It’s giving us a playbook that the pages aren’t even available yet. Much less are you able to write in it? And just seeing, how can you foretell? How can you see what that future looks like? What are the clues that are going to make it evident to what will we need to develop down the road? And as I mentioned earlier, where do we start building strength? What is the strength I’m going to need three years from now if we understand that the brain functions differently and a different type of interaction between people is needed?

JB [32:19]: Yeah, when is Hallmark going to develop a neurotransmitter that automatically knows when I need to send a card and write it all for me and send it in? Just by thought, right?

JG [32:29]: Yeah, we have no interest in being on the creepy side of things.

JB [32:36]: Yeah that would be a little bit creepy, I would admit that.

JG [32:38]: Yeah, yeah, we do have a patent on helping you determine though your own appearance through augmented reality. It’s kind of a cool one to look into as Halloween approaches. If you were able to pre-program, what you looked like to anyone viewing you through a smart device, what would that be? And how could that change our interactions with other human beings?

JB [33:03]: To elaborate on that? That’s interesting. Give me a little bit more details behind that.

JG [33:06]: Well, gosh, I’m not really sure.

JB [33:11]: Is it like software? That’s what I’m trying to envision in my mind. With AR VR like, what does this look like?

JG [34:21]: Yeah. So last year, we launched some VR cards. Speaking to developing capabilities, we have some people in our building who watch the virtual reality and augmented reality landscape very, very carefully. And we saw that the interest in virtual reality was peaking and it was becoming more accessible to consumers. And we launched a greeting card with really wonderful full pop-up paper mechanism built in the card that you could just tear out of the inside. Binding there, the card, pop up, slide your phone and then give someone a virtual reality experience.

We didn’t take anyone to Cappadocia, I’m kind of sad about that. But we did take people surfing or scuba diving or skiing or there was another one we did with a hot air balloon ride. And you could just pop your phone in your this virtual reality viewer that came in your card in an envelope in the mail and experience one of those really great destinations.

So thinking about that, we thought, well, what are what is the future of augmented reality or virtual reality? And what would it look like to play in that space in a strong way? And understanding that the interactions between people is so important, that’s where our team did apply for this patent and get granted this augmented reality patent around modifying your personal appearance to others. So the long answer to what you asked is we don’t really know yet. We’re building our way there.

JB [34:50]: Sure. Alright, next question. First thing you do in the morning?

JG [34:56]: First thing I do in the morning, gosh, I wake up and open my eyes and I check my phone. I’m a total dork, a very lame dork.

JB [35:02]: Hey, if you didn’t say that you checked your phone. I think at this point I’ve asked that question of four or five different people and they’ve said the same thing. Check my phone. So it almost becomes unusual if, “Oh, you don’t check your phone. Oh my goodness. Wow.” It’s impressive.

[JG 36:28]: Yeah. And it differs. You know, depending on my mood, what I’m checking. Sometimes I’m honestly just checking into a little Candy Crush. Maybe I’ll try and open my eyes if I can be incentivized with a little dopamine release through some game win.

JB [35:35]: Oh, nice. And what about what do you do to unwind?

JG [35:37]: Gosh, you know what I do to unwind? I get out of my building. I actually go hang out with my kids. My kids are five and seven, Tess and Orion and I would love to go to their school. I love to see what they’re doing. I love to hang out with them and their classmates. And we love to do a lot of science fair projects, I guess just exploring technology at a really, really early age and sharing that with other kids. I love to play. If you asked me like, what is my personal life passion, it’s around play. I’ll play games when I wake up in the morning. And if I’m unwinding, I can play games with my kids. I think that just any form of play brings me such joy and I use it so broadly,

JB [36:19]: That’s good. Too many people overwork and don’t have that balance. It sounds like that’s a that’s not a problem with you. That’s a very good skill to have.

JG [36:27]: Well, you might have heard that it’s also all research at the same time? human interactions are really, your insight into human interaction is pretty poor if you don’t spend time with humans.

JB [36:40]: That’s right. Very accurate. Alright, what about what area of innovation interests you the most? And outside of work?

JG [38:05]: Outside of work what area of innovation interests me the most? I would say the intersection of emerging behaviors and emerging technologies. And where those two paths cross. When technology is accessible, how it impacts someone’s life? How it’s used by people? The unintentional behaviors and uses. I think that everything in my life could be answered with an action verb. And so understanding the actions of people based on their surroundings and their environment.

So the area of technology is really about emerging behaviors, emerging technologies, how they influence each other when technologies are ready, when people are ready. And then those unanticipated things. I just love it when we don’t know how someone’s going to respond to something or what they’ll do or demand that we had no idea was going to be important. Had an example yesterday, I’m trying to think of it. I was just talking with someone about I think we’re talking about shopping. And how yes, it makes sense that when you’re shopping in an aisle now you price check. Or maybe you order it online because it’s cheaper there and you don’t need it for a few days. But you saw in the store, what I’m really excited about with that space is what’s that going to look like in the future?

Well, what we understand now about omnichannel and mobile shopping. Is that is so it’s so base-level functional. Price, save money, get it in time. And of course, showcasing you know, showcasing an object there in the brick and mortar stores is so understood, so well understood. I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of what that’s going to look like in the future. And I think there’s a lot of theories out there and a lot of hypotheses I’ve read and listen to. But I don’t think anyone really fully knows how technology is going to change that yet.

JB [38:48]: Very good point. Yeah, that is a fascinating area. Talking about Jeff Bezos is definitely, they’re definitely disrupting a lot of different industries. So it’s very interesting to see some of those changes that you’re talking about and how the disruptors in the industry are shaking things up and what the future might hold.

JG [39:03]: Yeah, definitely. And being in consumer goods in the consumer goods industry, of course, that’s very, very important.

JB [39:10]: Well, that was it that was the Ask an Innovator Hot Seat. So any other topics that you that we didn’t hit on, Jennifer? That were on your list? That you thought might be interesting?

JG [39:18]: Oh, there is one thing. We touched on it a bit about when you asked you know, what kind of cool things do we have coming down the pipeline or what’s new and different? And I think that’s something I’ve heard mentioned briefly on some of the other Ask an Innovator podcasts and that I would reiterate is, it is really important to understand what you mean by innovation. Especially if you’re the person in your organization that’s charged with delivering innovation, or even if you’re the Chief Innovation Officer.

Understanding from your leadership, what they actually mean by that, and you all ask it very, very well, when you get innovators on this podcast. But defining that internally to your company. I think a lot of times we just operate under the with the understanding that we need to deliver innovation. And we don’t even check back in to make sure that the innovation definition is correct. And that’s just something that I’ve seen in our experience at Hallmark. It changes and as it changes over time, we can be more or less successful with it.

JB [41:50]: Well, how do you define innovation then?

JG [40:27]: Of course you’d asked that right on the heels of that monologue! I would define innovation as either reaching new people, new consumers, or as a new product or having something in a new place or at a new time. I think it’s really easy if you do think kind of scientifically, it’s about space, time, people, or product. Iwould say that is space, time, people or things. One of those at least needs to be new.

JB [40:51]: That makes perfect sense. And do you feel like that Hallmark has a different definition?

JG [40:55]: I think that Hallmark defines innovation differently by the person who’s asking for it. And then you know, by the team responsible for delivering it. As I mentioned, with such a large creative workforce, so many people are delivering innovation at Hallmark, and that definition is definitely different for each team. Completely different.

We have innovation, just side by side on the card rack today you’ll see a greeting card that folds out into an elaborate paper structure that could be, it could be a cactus garden or Noah’s Ark. Next to, you know, four feet away will have a greeting card that when you open it pops up into the shape of a toilet with flushing and fart sounds. And those, those two things are so very, very different with such different enabling technologies and different skills that were needed to create them that they’re both innovation. And they’re both necessary. There isn’t a right answer. The only answer that wouldn’t be right is something that your company or your consumers not looking for it all

JB [42:04]: Right. You don’t want to build something that no one uses or wants.

JG [42:07]: Yeah, if you build it, they don’t necessarily come, do they?

JB [42:10]: Exactly. That is not innovation. Yep. Awesome. Jennifer, I really appreciate you coming on and chatting about innovation. It’s been a great chat and conversation.

JG [42:22]: Thank you. It’s been wonderful talking with you and I appreciate the opportunity.

Supporting Women in Technology | EP. 032

How can we do a better job of supporting women in technology? Women-owned businesses tend to hit a lot more roadblocks than their male-driven counterparts. Nicole Yeary is the Founder and CEO at Ms. Tech, a company focused on advising women on how to start and scale companies. She talks with Josh about the challenges of fundraising and why she created an inclusive group for women to talk about those pain points.

The beginnings of Ms. Tech – 00:28
Only 3% of VC funding goes to women-owned companies – 01:26
Creating a bridge between women in business and women in technology – 04:26
On partnering with 1871 – 06:09
Why community and mentorship are important – 09:50
Women approach business differently – 11:41
How to get involved in Ms. Tech – 16:05
Resources and organizations to keep in mind: YWCA & Women’s Business Development Center – 17:26
Learning strengths, perseverance and community building – 18:50



Josh Barker:  Today, I’ve got with me, Nicole Yeary. And she is the founder of Ms. Tech. Welcome.

Nicole Yeary: Thank you so much for having me.

JB [00:22]: Well, I’m so glad you’re here. I’d love to hear a little bit more about Ms. Tech. How did you come up with this concept? And this startup?

NY [00:28]:  Well, it really evolved out of a pain point. I tried to build my own startup over 10 years ago and started a Facebook group out of just kind of wanting to create something that was different. I’ll kind of give you an overview of what we do, and then we can dig into that. Ms. Tech helps businesswomen with tech and tech women with business. It really is a
community that evolved out of this Facebook group. We were really servicing needs that we had and found that there is a commonality of a lot of people that were laid off back in 2009. A lot of smart people who are trying to build something new, and learn how to code and various different things. There wereno coding schools 10 years ago. I actually learned through iTunes University and Stanford’s program. I know it was really cool. But it’s neat to see, now, you can actually go online and get real-time feedback. And rather than just building sandboxes out of nothing and watching a caterpillar go across the sky,

JB  [01:23]:  What are some of the things that Ms. Tech does?

NY  [01:26]:  Throughout time what we had learned is that there was a real need for information and access. So, community is big for us, really bringing out the benefits of activating that community as well as I personally discovered and this as my pain point that only 2.7% of venture-backed startups are female-founded.

JB  [01:46]:  Wow, that’s a really low number. I didn’t even know that.

NY  [01:48]:  Yeah, the Diana Project out of Babson College, came up with this report and from that, after I had tried to raise money myself, unsuccessfully. I worked for another startup and saw that that founder raised $3 million and didn’t have a whole lot of structure to it. It was kind of like we have an idea of what we want to do. But we really don’t know. I’m like if he can do it, I can do it, right? So I went down that road, try to raise money for healthcare company startup after working for a healthcare company, and realized that there are some pain points here. But we really don’t know what the challenge is. Is it access to a network? Is it information? So we started doing classes and courses and we offered a membership to keep us sustainable so that I could do that full time, then that really evolved into a 16-week curriculum that we’re able to now offer to incubators or universities or companies where someone could take an idea and
actually take it through product-market fit all the way to pitching the idea to
raise money for capital to start their company or to scale it.

JB  [02:55]: That’s awesome. So I assume customer development process, lean startup?

NY  [03:02]:  Very much so. Yeah, Steve Blanks stuff.

JB  [03:03]: Right up my alley. Right in my heart. That’s awesome. You know, going through this curriculum, is Ms. Tech designedfor women?

NY  [03:11]: One thing that I learned is that there are specific challenges that we have that aren’t really addressed, like wanting to go to an accelerator means that you can’t really just pick up and leave your family behind. If you can create something that they can go to once a week and receive that and still have that same access, learn how fundraising strategies are created, learn how to financial model like a boss. Some of those things, we really wanted to do that and do it in a way that was conducive to their lifestyles. And I also learned that because we have specific challenges or we have experiences that really are unlike what men go through. The Me Too
movement really bottomed out. When you’re an environment we can have this what we call an informal confab, where they discuss the greatest challenge and also like, share a victory of that week. And those are just some examples of some of the programming we created that was designed to kind of really make them more confident in what they’re doing.

JB  [04:10]:  That’s really neat. My sister is actually in a coding boot camp. Oh, so she just graduated. It made me think as I was going into this, I was like, oh, man, that is so important. Getting more women in technology. And I think that’s just near and dear to your heart.

NY  [04:26]:  Yes. And something else we do. Speaking of, you know, young women, we recognize that there’s a lot of coding schools for kids. Big focus on Girls Who Code and things like that we do a lot of stuff for Women Who Code. But then there’s this group of people who are in college and they’re not really certain, yet, what they want to do. They kind of have an idea and they’re in school because their parents want them to go for a certain degree. But they’re like, ‘Hey, I’m interested in maybe possibly being
an entrepreneur, or what is this all about?’ Like, yeah, I’m learning how to be
a software engineer, but how can I apply it in business, partner with other
people build to something cool, and actually think from their perspective? So we started with one of our former interns, she took Ms. Tech to her college campus, and she started Ms. Tech. Purdue Collective which is a college campus approved club. Most clubs on campus can only be like a business school club or tech school club. But this was designed so that any student from any school in the university could join, men or women, and they can work together. But most importantly, after they learn, come to a city like Chicago, see the opportunities we have here, tour different tech companies, and get excited about learning more about both business innovation and technology.

JB  [05:39]:  That’s really cool. I think that’s so important because I think a lot of people think of technology and software as scary. And it’s kind of a black box, right? You look at it and you’re like, I don’t know what goes into it. It’s too complicated. I can’t do it. So to allow them to interface with this new world that might not have been privy to before and say, “Oh my gosh, I can do this, this is cool and I like this.”

NY [06:00]:  And there are people doing it that look like me.

JB  [06:02]:  Yeah, they look like me. Exactly. Oh, that’s really cool. And how long have you been doing this?

NY [06:09]: So we started out as a Facebook group back in 2010. But we became an official entity in 2014. That’s when I realized it was becoming a job running this group. We’re very adamant about making sure that
there’s no promotion, and we stick to a very Q&A type of forum. So it
became an official entity. Really, it was four years ago that we partnered with 1871 and had this official, “we’re going to try this.” The first cohort was completely different than the second, after that it became a little bit more refined. Sure, it was nice to see that we could do that. So really 2014 is when we really kind of stomped into the ground, and we’re going to make
a business out of this.

JB  [06:46]:  Yeah, that’s awesome. And what does the future hold for you guys, as you’re looking towards? You’re building this curriculum and you’re getting is it more partnerships, or what does that look like?

NY  [06:56]:  We were a vendor company with 1871. So that was a really strong Strategic Partnership for us a lot of the prove out what our product was, as we look ahead, one thing that we realized that there is a lack of is data and information. And as you may know, like most of us need to know, kind of prove out what it is that we’re doing. If we’re going to go ahead and get out there and scale it. The data that’s out there shows as of January, I think it was in Forbes, that it went from 2.7% in 2010 to 2.2%.

JB [07:29]: It went down

NY  [07:33]: It went down. So it’s like all this awareness and all these organizations that focus on women yet, we have less women that are getting funding. So what are we doing? And for me, I’m like, okay, my lifetime is limited. And I want to make an impact on this. And what
can we be doing to make a greater impact as an organization and still be
different from the other women’s organizations that are out there so that we’re not overlapping but more enhancing and activating those other groups too? So I think that both through pursuing grants and more of a nonprofit type of sector, specifically for the college women and then taking what we’ve been doing and looking at possibly, do we raise a fund? Do we create an accelerator here? You know, we don’t have those answers yet. But we’re going to collect the data and our own data. Because I had a conversation with a really well-known investor. And he said, I think that data is wrong because 40% of my companies are female-founded, but I think there’s a discrepancy between having one female founder and your team and calling it a female-founded company. Versus, you know, there, there’s a woman who’s actually raising not the man on the team. And that makes a big difference. And we can’t really assess the problem and create real solutions that make the impact without knowing what that problem looks like.

JB  [08:45]:  Yeah, that makes sense. And so are you setting up shop here in Chicago? This is like your home base?

NY  [08:50]:  This has been my home base. Recently moved to Cleveland.

JB  [08:53]:  Sure. Oh, nice and exciting adventure.

NY  [08:56]:  I don’t know it’s home. So anyway, back home to family. But I realized that we don’t have to be in one specific place. We have a huge presence here in Chicago. It’s been kind of our stamp and Chicago is the world’s capital, they say, out of all the tech hubs Chicago has the largest amount of female founders 34%, and the average is 18%.

JB [09:19]: So that’s a lot. That’s a lot bigger, actually.

NY [09:21]: Yeah. With that, we know that, that the community that we have, and the other communities that exist for women here have only just tremendously propelled that forward. Now, it just goes back to money
still. So, like, yeah, how many are getting the funding they need to see
something that’s really high tech, high growth exists without someone else
coming into the market and taking that idea and scaling up faster?

JB  [9:41]:  Yeah. What are some ways that you think that? So obviously, some of the ways are training right with women of how do we increase that number from 34%?

NY  [09:50]:  So you’re saying the number of founders? I think the biggest thing that we have had here in Chicago is that we have a community where women are talking. I mean, I don’t know if you were around when there was a technology conference that was here in town for a long time? There were some things that happened in the stir upping communication amongst those women who were in tech or startup founders. We were communicating. And then we got to talking about we’re having more meetups and more, kind of just that, that element where people are talking to people face to face, and we’re creating opportunities to elevate the profiles of women and what they’re doing. So that allows other women to say, hey, if she can do it, I can do it. Right. I’m really interested in that. And I never really thought about myself doing that, but I like her, and I like what she’s doing. And, and/or like, she’s, she’s someone who I can go to and trust with this question. And have mentors that are really not just the label mentor, but someone who’s going to help them.

JB  [10:48]:  Raise them up.

NY  [10:49]: Yeah! And also make introductions for them.

JB  [10:51]:  So inspiring confidence. That’s a big thing.

NY  [10:53]:  I had a conversation with an entrepreneur here today. That was in one of my cohorts before and she said she went into the Miami market with her company and she said the greatest thing I got out of that experience was the confidence. And she said, ‘Before I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur, I saw myself as a hustler.’ She said, ‘but now I’m running with Titans down there and I have it all to thank for the program
that I went through.’ So it was great to hear that.

JB  [11:16]:  Oh, yeah, that’s always good to hear. I mean, it sounds like Ms. Tech is making it a big impact.

NY  [11:22]:  My goal is to do that, but I think that constantly learning how we can make a greater impact with this small amount of resources we have, but how we can gain greater resources to make a bigger impact or partner with others.

JB  [11:35]:  Right. What are some of the things and I think I know some of them, but I just had a curiosity about why the low number?

NY  [11:41]: I have assumptions. I just need to prove them out. From my experience working with these other cohorts, especially as a woman who tried to raise money before, no one wants to say that, you know, it’s because we’re women, right? We don’t want that focus. But I do think there’s a difference in how we approach business. And one thing that I’ve noticed that, you know, a lot of founders who come into the sessions that I have is that they don’t know what they don’t know. They are experts in their industry, but they aren’t experts at being entrepreneurs. They don’t know what an executive summary is to send out to an investor before they get a chance to pitch. And instead, they might be sending out their pitch deck and losing the opportunity to pitch in person. That’s just like one small variable that makes it feel like a big difference. Learning what needs to go in that executive summary and what’s going to pique interest for an investor. How do you secure that meeting? How many meetings do you have to have? And that’s the other piece, I think that many of them will have 25 to 50 meetings with an investor for a pre Series A round. But then, you know, the successful entrepreneur I’ve talked to has about 150 meetings, and they’ve gone to both coasts to do it. So, I think, yes, the investor has a lot to do with it. But the entrepreneur does too. And if that’s within our control, I want to see whatever we can do in our control to teach other entrepreneurs as quickly as possible that these are the things to do. This is what I’ve learned. This is what I know has been successful. Here’s how we share that information quickly and help those women set themselves up for success.

JB  [13:13]: Right. That makes a lot of sense. I mean, it sounds like a lot of education. It’s just educating them and empowering them with the right tools.

NY  [13:24]: Yeah. And learning development. Yeah, I think it’s interesting that, you know, in the past have found myself in these training and learning development roles and companies. And then my company ends up being an education company, but never really planned on it.

JB  [13:38]: That gives you a lot of experience. Well, it’s good.
Yeah, that’s good. Two or three years from now. Like if you could forecast the future, what does the Ms. Tech look like?

NY  [13:46]:  So ideally, I would like to have a fund in the future. I think that might be five years from now. Yeah, but two to three years from now. You know, having a goal to go to different cities is kind of on our radar right now, where we have events, build a community in each of these cities, and then really expand from there, really kind of just like looking at what, what is needed. Because every community is different. We’ve learned that so what we need here is and be different from Detroit, even just my experience going to like Ljubljana, Slovenia, and seeing that there’s a lot of tech talent there. You know, what is it that we can provide? You know, they have so much tech talent. And here we’ve got a lot of marketing and sales talent. How can we work together for, you know, to help these people raise money?,

JB  [14:33]: Right good. I mean, that’s really exciting. So Chicago, that’s your focus, but you want to go to other cities as well?

NY  [14:40]:  Yeah. Before we can really go to that level of where we’re going into Slovenia, or whatever bringing it online so they can access it because they wanted me to bring it there. But really looking at, you know, what we’ve
done well here, and what we know that will work there, but the only way to find out is to meet people.

JB  [14:58]: Right? Right. Connections are big. Yeah, yeah. What would be the next cityor two? Are you guys planning for?

NY  [15:05]: We’re going to focus on the Midwest because we don’t want to

JB  [15:07]:  Scatter everywhere.

NY  [15:09]:  Yes, because obviously each coast has a lot of like, great resources and access for those women there. And we know what works here in the Midwest, and I think a lot of like the tertiary cities, you know, the ones that are overlooked, we find that there’s a lot of women building companies. Yeah. And really great opportunities. And seeing also like, kind of the companies that have done well over the last couple years, where have they come from, what do they look like? How do they get started? And I like to see that they didn’t come from an Ivy League school, because that’s the easy, easier route, because they have the network. I don’t want to make assumptions right there. But definitely a lot better network than someone that’s going to come from a commuter school, for example. But still seeing that they are building great ideas because they are experiencing different problems.

JB  [15:57]:  Yeah, that’s very true. Now what can someone do, women listening or anyone listening? How can they get engaged with Ms Tech?

NY  [16:05]: Yeah, that’s a great question. So a number of ways if they would like to start a community reach out to us and see what they can be doing to lead a collective in their city, we can be found on ms-tech.co, we have a
request to be invited to our private Facebook group, which is closed off. But
we would love to have anybody in there. It’s free to join. And they can ask
questions and not feel silly about not knowing tech or vice versa.
Entrepreneurship. They can also find jobs on our job board and things like
that. When get engaged in that way. We actually have a page that says how to get involved. Yeah. And those who are really kind of made it, where they’re at in their career. And if they’re listening now, like we need your knowledge and we need to share because it’s not just what we know, we actually believe in activating people. So, the women who are running service based businesses in their city, like How can they get involved and get business for themselves but share their knowledge in a way that is giving back. But what we found even like with the past accelerators we’ve done is that those women go back to the women they learn from to give them business. And that’s really important for every ecosystem.

JB  [17:15]:  You know, another question that comes to my mind is, are there organizations like Ms. Tech that you’ve aligned yourself with that have a shared vision or that that are you’re moving towards with or is this very unique thing? There was a gap in the market?

NY  [17:26]:  You know, we find ourselves similar to other organizations a lot. But we do work with other organizations to help propel things that they’re doing to support what we’re doing an example is like we have done an annual conference called the Fear Paradox. We partner with organizations like the YWCA. They do a Y Shop Pop-Up, and we knew that if we can get all their women in the room and do a pop up shop at our conference, so both like send them business, create awareness for them, and it’s just really great alignment. And Dorri McWhorter who runs the Chicago YWCA is just an awesome friends and also mentor of mine.
But yeah, there are lots of organizations, we are looking to partner with more, of course and see where we can align. The Women’s Business Development Center is another example. There, you know, they don’t have a lot of tech focused programming, but have discussed with them and you know, kind of aligning with their innovation funded by the SBA educational opportunities for our women to go to their, you know, classes or sessions. How we can just take the access that we have as far as people, we have about 5000 community members here locally, and then just sharing information with them about opportunities. That whole word of mouth, obviously is important. And if they hear it from a source that they trust.

JB  [18:44]:  Yes. So, as you were starting Ms. Tech, and as you’ve been doing this, what are some things that you’ve learned through this process?

NY  [18:53]:  So much. Do you have another hour? You know, I think that not giving up, persevering through and reminding why you started yourself why you started sometimes I think that you can get caught up in like, Okay, I need money I need funding, like, where do I go to get that and that can really pull you away from your WHY? Your personal why. And if you
don’t believe in that and have that drive and that excitement, you won’t get up in the morning. Right. So, I think that’s the greatest, you know, takeaway for the last 10 years and we’re working on this. But you know, also that people are really the conduit to everything and having relationships. I mean, I would say that if there’s anything that is a strong suit for me would be just being relatable to other people and bringing them together and being a connector that has always then you know, provided that reciprocity as well. So, the things that I am not good at, recognizing what I’m not good at is also a very important lesson I’ve learned over time and not trying to do it and wasting the time to do it, but again, reaching out saying I need help. Because the moment I asked for help, all these people I’ve helped in the past are like, hey, how can I get involved? or What can I do to support that?  building a good team and team doesn’t have to be people on payroll it Yeah. Advisors, mentors, partners, and community members.

JB  [20:17]:  Yeah. What are some things you’ve learned about building? You know, because this is  a very interesting one of building strong community. Yeah, right. How do you how do you build a strong community?

NY  [20:27]: Have you ever seen that video? The First Follower? It’s a great video, YouTube it, but that was one I watched before. Because I don’t think that like you can just build a great community. It’s something that’s done with other people. But the one thing I tried to lead with is like an authentic voice. And when I need to get something done with the group, and if I’m
uncertain what direction to go, I ask them. So early on, you asked about the
name Ms. Tech. Early on, we found out that we had, like, I think I called it
Girls in Tech or Women in Tech and it was already taken obviously. Yeah. So, how can we create something that’s unique? We crowdsource the name someone picked it. You know, you can probably find the thread somewhere in our Facebook group. So I mean, I didn’t pick it, it was a group crowdsourced name. Everything that we do is starts first with checking
with the organization in the community because they’re the ones who know whatthey need. And what they’re going to pay for right and return to support us and volunteer for they’re the voice that I listened to, because I have my own experiences, but they’re really those who drive the organization.

JB  [21:38]: Oh, that’s great. Really empowering others to rise up to say, hey!

NY  [21:43]:  Exactly. And when you’re genuinely inquisitive, you don’t have to create a community it creates itself.

JB  [21:49]:  It creates itself, it’s just organic. Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. You don’t want to contrive something that’s not there. Right?

NY  [21:55]:  It’s funny when you see other people that want to try to create a Facebook group that’s really active and involved. I mean, sometimes I’m like, I can’t keep up with these things. But it’s a good problem to have. Because the other part of it, I would say that was really important to me was knowing what I wanted from the community that was speaking to something that I needed that wasn’t out there, which was, there were all these other groups on LinkedIn and Facebook that people were like posting their jobs to or their events too. And they were like, come to this event. We really moderate whether or not you’re allowed to share that sort of information. We do not allow event marketing in the group, and we don’t allow people to post their jobs to the group. We have a job board, you can pay us for it. If you believe in our cause, you know, and then we will share one post every Wednesday called ‘Work it Wednesday’ of all the job
postings, and we’ll post it on our other social media channels. So, we still
want to answer to their needs, but in a way that serves them first. And then
pays second.

JB  [22:55]:  Thanks, Nicole. I really appreciate your time

NY  [22:58]:  Thanks for thinking of me and reaching out. Y

JB  [23:00]:  Yeah, it’s a real awesome effort. I mean really awesome initiative. Yeah,I love it. I mean, I think we really need more women in tech. I’m totally on board. So I want to talk to you afterward about how we can get involved

NY  [23:10]:  Great. Thank you so much.


Innovation Through Entrepreneurship | EP. 025

Finding the perfect work-life balance can be hard and throwing in a side hustle in the mix can make it even more challenging. Melissa Byrn is on AAI today teaching us about innovation through entrepreneurship.

Melissa is the founder of FORESEEaBILL and the Director of Innovation Programs at the Polsky Center. Not an entrepreneur by nature, she discusses the balance between teaching entrepreneurship to others and learning how to be an entrepreneur herself.

Josh and Melissa discuss why she believes that innovation is pushing through barriers and she opens up about the beginning of her venture, FORESEEaBILL.

Tune in to learn why customer discovery was the most important part when starting her company. Stay to learn why building a network is important and why talking about what we’re doing helps us find people that share our passion.

Thanks so much, Melissa!

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Are you interested in being interviewed or know someone innovative perfect for this podcast? Leave a comment below.

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