Ep. #1038 - Building Communities that Build Businesses
It’s the final episode of Founder Fridays with Frank! And our last but definitely not the least special guest is ready in the queue to discuss how she is building communities that build businesses.
So for the fourth episode of this Startup Hustle series, Frank Keck puts Lauren Conaway on the Founder Fridays hot seat. The CEO and founder of InnovateHER KC talks about how she built and continues to scale the organization. And what the future holds for her and InnovateHER KC as she grows with the people around her.
Have you missed an episode in the series? Get caught up! Here’s an all-access pass to all the sessions on Founder Fridays with Frank.
Covered In This Episode
Lauren is our in-house Startup Hustle diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) entrepreneur-host. She built InnovateHER KC as a platform for building communities that build businesses. And Frank asks the questions everyone wants to know about her organization.
She talks about her journey as a founder before and after founding InnovateHER KC. In addition to that, she shares the culture that she has been cultivating within the community. Lastly, she unveils the future she sees for the women-led collective.
Know more about Lauren and InnovateHER KC now. Listen to this Startup Hustle episode today!
Lauren Conaway’s Three Ingredients for Success
Conquer the challenges in your entrepreneurial journey—the Lauren Conaway style. Just remember these three things, and you will be alright.
- It’s okay to take baby steps.
- Always circle back to your mission and vision.
- Manifest positive things and think, “everything is always working out for me.”
- The hosting advantage: Startup Hustle helped Lauren build her social circle (04:35)
- The idea behind InnovateHer KC (08:52)
- On creating a community for women (12:57)
- When you’re taking an entrepreneurial leap of faith (14:52)
- What’s in store for InnovateHer KC? (16:19)
- About being passionate in your work every day (20:11)
- Lauren’s story on creating a culture (21:56)
- Being intentional about doing things (24:29)
- Does Lauren have a takeaway from the culture accelerator? (27:29)
- Knowing what you stand for as a leader of an organization (29:53)
- Lauren’s most significant people challenge today (31:50)
- Suggestions on how to rise above founder challenges (34:46)
- Amplification of work and sharing stories (38:48)
- What happens when you don’t share your story? (43:25)
- Fast questions from Frank (44:46)
Startup Hustle has transformed my life personally and how I do business professionally. It allows me to reach new audiences. I can share InnovateHer stories, our member’s stories, with a very large global audience. It’s just something that I’m proud to be a part of.– Lauren Conaway
For me, at least, it’s not so much changing what we do. But it is changing how we do things to do what we do better. And to be louder within the space in which we exist.– Lauren Conaway
Our culture is one of sharing successes but also being vulnerable, and we have things that we do to kind of drive forward our culture. You know, amplification of mentorship, our pillars, which are social connection, professional development, mentorship, championship, and resource sharing.– Lauren Conaway
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Frank Keck 00:00
Howdy, everybody. Welcome back to another awesome episode of Founder Fridays with Frank, I always get stuck on all the “f”, to explore the challenges founders face. There are more f’s on any given Friday or any day. Our goal is to give you ideas and tools, and support to help your business grow in a healthy and productive way. I’m your host, Frank Keck. I’m excited about our program. Today, we have one of my favorite people in the whole world and one of the few people I’ve made cry. Maybe she’ll talk about that. My background: I am the founder and CEO of CoreBuild, where we help build strong leaders and amazing workplace cultures, which are very busy today. Lots of people are trying to figure out how we get people to get here and become engaged and stay. That being said, as an entrepreneur at heart, I love working with founders and startups. And that’s exactly why I’m excited to bring you these Founder Fridays with Frank episodes. You’re in for a real treat. You’ve heard the first three of the four guests in our series. And this fourth one, you’ll likely know pretty well. She was also one of the hosts of the Startup Hustle. I guess it’s just Startup Hustle. I’m adding stuff to it. Now, she’s one of the hosts and co-hosts of Startup Hustle. And I’m excited to have her in the hot seat so that you can learn more about her and the awesome, truly awesome business that she has built. Before I tell you who our guest is, I just like to take a quick moment to thank Full Scale for sponsoring today’s podcast episode. To learn how Full Scale helps you build a winning software team quickly and affordably by visiting FullScale.io. And now, without any further ado, let’s welcome our third guest. Actually, our fourth guest in this four-part Founder Fridays with Frank series. I’m giddy as all hell to have as our guests the incomparable Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. Lauren, welcome.
Lauren Conaway 02:09
Thank you. Thank you so much, Frank. I’m so excited. I mentioned this in the pre-show, but I have to tell you, this is odd. And it’s a trip from the other side of the metaphorical mic. So I’m really excited to be here, though, and really excited specifically to talk to you, sir.
Frank Keck 02:28
Well, thank you. I was talking to Matt Watson. And he said, So you’re the guest host? And I said, Yes, I am. Does that make you the guest?
Lauren Conaway 02:38
I liked that. I guess you’re right.
Frank Keck 02:40
You’re my guest today. And so Lauren and I have known each other for quite some time. And it started with Watson because they said, You know, I’ve heard, Matt, that you are the best looking of the four podcast hosts, right? And he blogged, and he did not deny it. And so I’m like, okay, everybody’s gonna have their best statement. And so I was thinking about it because you brought so many moats. It’s like, okay, what is she the most of?
Lauren Conaway 03:11
I am anticipating the end of this session.
Frank Keck 03:16
But I remember that this goes out all over the world. So I gotta keep it calm on the PC. But I think the word you’re the most is your most social hosts. Right? And for those of you, if you’re not on Facebook, get on Facebook. And I think you’re on Instagram and probably some other stuff. I’m not aware of somebody with 8 million pictures meeting people. You are my hero. So tell us a little bit about well, so I have two questions. My first one is how hosting the podcast helped your social life if you needed any? Oh, yeah. Let’s just start there.
Lauren Conaway 03:57
Okay, well, so first things first, I have a couple of things to address number one, Matt Watson is a very handsome guy, and I tip my hat, and I allow him the crown for most handsome, you know. But yeah, you and I have known each other for a long time, man. And I do want to talk at some point about how transformational your culture labs were to my experience. But first, so, InnovateHER KC is a leadership community for women and individuals of marginalized gender experience. We have a focus on low barriers to entry and inclusion. Currently, we have about 5700 members. So yeah, we grew up pretty fast, too. We take on about 100 to 200 new members a month, and that’s all organic growth. We don’t really recruit per se. But you know, I was humming along, and I was innovating, and I love my organization. But you know, Matt DeCoursey and we’ve known each other for a long time, and when he reached out, he asked me about Startup Hustle. It was a perfect time. I had just wrapped the InnovateHER podcast. So I had podcasting experience. And Matt had listened to a few episodes. And he asked if I would come along, particularly to bring my unique lens to Startup Hustle, are longtime listeners, the folks who listened to my episodes will know that my focus tends to be on female and diverse founders, ecosystem development, community building, all of those things that I love, and that, that bring me a lot of joy. But I would tell you that Startup Hustle has really, really transformed the way that I relate to people. It’s really interesting. So, first of all, Startup Hustle has a really great reputation. I mean, I don’t even know if you know this, but we’re a top 20 entrepreneurship podcast on Apple, which is pretty, pretty significant. Yeah, there are 1000s upon 1000s of podcasts about entrepreneurship on Apple. And so being a part of Startup Hustle is really a gift. But what’s interesting is I’ll tell people what I do. And I’ll tell people about InnovateHER KC, and you can sense that you know, that’s interesting, that’s great. But then I’ll start talking about Startup Hustle, and they get super excited and enthused, I think, because everybody has some kind of personal experience or expectation around casting, you know, either they have one, or they listen to podcasts. And so having Startup Hustle in my back pocket and being able to relate to people as a host is really, really cool. For me. I’ve gotten speaking engagements out of it, and I definitely have gotten emails from listeners who have been impacted by either one of my shows or one of the other amazing co-hosts that we have. I fully expect you to be added to that pantheon. Frank, you know, you’re going to hear some good feedback from your episodes, I’m sure. But Startup Hustle has really transformed my life, personally but also professionally, the way that I do business. It allows me to reach new audiences, and I can share InnovateHER stories or member stories with a very large global audience. And it’s just something that I’m really proud of being a part of.
Frank Keck 07:18
Wow, that is so cool. That is not what I was expecting. I don’t know what I was expecting. But that wasn’t it, that wasn’t it. But I love that. And you know what I’ve learned, Lauren, and just getting to know all four of you a little bit better is just the passion that each of you has for what you do, and you each bring it to the show in your own way. But just like everybody that has their own lens, they’re their own person. And, and that’s really what Startup Hustle is about is like encouraging people, Hey, be you bring your A game, and just do your thing, which really is what your whole organization is about. So that’s my second question. Tell us a little bit more. You tell us a little bit about InnovateHER KC. How did the idea come to you?
Lauren Conaway 08:11
Oh, man, um, so people give me way too much credit there. They always ask me what inspired me to start InnovateHER, and I would walk it back just a little bit and say that InnovateHER was something it was. It was an accident. It was not something that I intentionally started. I have been operating in the entrepreneurial space for several years here in Kansas City. And I was working for an organization that I loved. I deeply loved star lenses, and I was the director of operations for about two and a half years. But I looked around, and I noticed, and I think that you would probably agree that, you know, the startup communities across the world, they don’t tend to reflect a lot of diversity. They tend to be very sis-head white male dominant. And that’s not a complaint. It’s just a reality. And so I was seeing all of these really fantastic women within the startup community here in Kansas City, but there wasn’t really any meaningful way to engage them specifically. And so I actually asked my boss at the time, I was like, Hey, would it be cool if I just put together a little popup event for startup women, you know, we’re surrounded by dudes all day. And you know, we speak the startup vernacular and all this stuff, but I just want to bring us together and be girls and get to know each other for that. And so our first event was a popup event, we did many patties, and I brought some little splits of champagne and some snacks, and I think I invited about 20 people. 12 ended up coming in, which was fantastic, like the people who went. We had a great time. But then what was really cool is over the course of the next few weeks, I started getting these emails, and they all started the same way. And it was something along the lines of You don’t know me, but it was women who had heard about what we had done. And they were like, that sounds like so much fun. I heard it was a great time, would you? Would you put me on the mailing list and invite me to the next one? And in my head, I’m like, There’s no mailing list. What are you talking about? But I decided I was like, Yeah, I could take that hit. I could, you know, it wasn’t a difficult thing to do. Right. That’s kind of how we started. But then, and I think you might know, Carlotta McKinney reached out to me. And at the time, she was working on a startup that was related to bras. And she asked me, she’s like Lauren, you know, a lot of women entrepreneurs, can you help me find some women for focus groups? And I was like, Yeah, sure, no problem. So very lazily. I didn’t send out an email. I just did a quick info dump in a Facebook direct message to a bunch of the women that I knew when I was like, Hey, come out, support a female founder, talk about your boobs for an hour, they’ll have cup cookies, like this is not, you know, a thing that I put much thought into, but women showed up. And in this chat, this was so interesting. We kind of started talking back and forth about our experience with, you know, bras, finding custom-fit bras, how difficult that is. And we were all laughing and sharing stories. And then someone noticed that we were all women from the entrepreneurial community and cracked a joke about being a woman and entrepreneurship. And we were all just like, oh, yeah, totally get it. Like we were all just very, what was said resonated with us. And so right, it just kept on going, and it wouldn’t die. And this Facebook DM chat went on for about three weeks, and women started adding other women to it. Wow. So these two things, the meetup that mani-pedi meets up and then the direct message thing, they all happen in pretty short succession. And so I kind of got smacked in the face from the universe saying like, hey, there’s, there’s something here, and I sat down, and I was like, what’s, what’s the commonality? And the answer, the hypothesis that I came up with, rather, was that women need women within the entrepreneurial community in Kansas City. They need a deep connection point and an authentic, really, really powerful connection point. So I created a Facebook group called Startup Sheroes. And I was like, my hypothesis is if you give these women the opportunity to connect, we will be able to strengthen each other, champion each other, and share useful information with each other, right? And our first Facebook group was called Startup Sheroes. That was back in 2018. I’m not super proud of that name. So don’t hold it against me. We started growing, and it’s just Well, that’s not actually true. For the first few months, it was just me talking to myself a lot. Like I would post things that I thought were interesting events that were coming up, I would ask questions, and it would be crickets. But slowly, people started to engage. And then they started to invite their friends and their family and their co-workers. And eventually, we reached a point where we weren’t all entrepreneurs, and we weren’t all founders anyway. And so we changed her name to InnovateHER KC, and we became industry agnostic. And that’s when I sat down and got really intentional about what’s our differentiator? What’s our mission? What’s our vision? What’s our purpose? Because I, we had just reached a point, we were growing so quickly, that I realized it was like, you know, if this is what’s happening, and the response that we’re getting, if this is what’s happening with 10% of my attention, what can we accomplish with 100% of me throwing myself into this? Right, and that is our origin story.
Frank Keck 13:43
I love that. And, you know, I think there’s a lot of people that listen to this program who have started something, or they have an idea for something. And I was just reading about this morning. Somebody wrote in and said to Matt, and Matt, you know, as I was doing my startup and going through all those tough, tough times, a lot of times I felt alone, yeah, I’m the only one going through this. So I love your story. Because I think there’s somebody out there that needs to hear that, right? Just like you get this, the universe sends you a message and puts everything in front of you. And you’re like, I can’t do this. Right. You know, the other thing that I love about this is you don’t sound like you are like, Okay, well, I have a crystallized business plan. Here’s how we’re gonna go make a bazillion dollars, right? It’s like, I have to do this. I’ll figure it out.
Lauren Conaway 14:32
Absolutely not. And I mean, there’s that old gem that floats around entrepreneurial communities, like being an entrepreneur is jumping off the cliff and building wings on your way down. And that’s essentially what happened with InnovateHER. And it’s what happens for so many founders that I know it’s like you, you identify a problem, but more often than not most entrepreneurs, they experience a problem with themselves, and they create a solution that would work for them. And then you know, develop ideas, iterate all of those beautiful Things to create a product or a service or whatever, whatever it is they’re selling. And that’s exactly what happened with InnovateHER. I just saw a problem. I was like, well, this would work for me. Let’s give it a shot.
Frank Keck 15:12
Right? So you guys are nonprofit? Where do you go from here? So you’ve got this wonderful growth, you’ve made a name in Kansas City, what I’ve experienced is, like, there’s now a huge awareness for women in general, right? Especially startups, but like, you don’t have to be a startup female just to be part of this group. And I like you’re out everywhere. We’re celebrating people who are diverse. I love that, what’s the next step for you?
Lauren Conaway 15:45
Well, so our core for InnovateHER, you know, is the reason that we kind of shifted or pivoted, or whatever you want to call it from, from female founders. It was a little bit of a journey. But ultimately, I had, so I had many members reach out and be like, hey, you know, Lauren, you’re called Startup Sheroes. And you don’t really. I don’t really identify as a startup or I am no longer in the startup phase, I’m scaling. This doesn’t speak to me. And so we very, very intentionally decided to kind of open things up to different verticals and industries. And ultimately, we became industry agnostic. And so we have educators, we have politicians, we have entrepreneurs and small business owners, we are members run the gamut. And what’s been really, really interesting and really, really powerful for us, is being able to see how that choice and how that, how living like that, or having that be one of our foundational principles has impacted our members. So we see collaborations and opportunities come out of InnovateHER that I don’t think we would see from a lot of professional networking organizations, because we’re introducing the educators to the entrepreneurs and saying, hey, those entrepreneurs into your classrooms, and we’re introducing the artists to I don’t know, the health and wellness professionals, and I’ve been we’ve seen, we’ve seen really, really interesting things come across or come about because of those collaborations that might not have otherwise happened without InnovateHER KC. And so it’s been really, really fascinating to watch that. Now, the question that you asked was, what’s the future look like? And I think, for me, at least, it’s not so much changing what we do, but it is changing the way that we do things to do what we do better, and to be louder within the space that we exist in. And so you know, one of the things that it’s really fascinating to me, like we’ve actually had people reach out from cities across the country, and even the world, as far away as London people reaching out and being like, how do I start an InnovateHER chapter in my city? Wow. Yeah, it’s, it’s really cool. And I have no idea how it happens, or how these people heard of us, but I’ll take it in. And I’m sure that probably some of that is Startup Hustle. But you know, when these folks reach out, my answer is, you know, we have to get really tight on what we’re doing here in Kansas City, because I don’t feel comfortable releasing InnovateHER out into the world unless I can be confident that we stay true to our values. And we stay in our culture and these things that we’ve been very intentional about cultivating here in Kansas City. So next steps, we’re looking to regional national global expansion. My ultimate goal is to have a leadership development center, not not a business development center, but a Leadership Development Center. How do we help women take the next steps on their leadership journey to avail themselves of those opportunities that we, that we help our members connect our members to today like, engagements? Do you want to run for office? Great, let’s connect you to the appointments project, you know, are you interested in sitting on a nonprofit board? Awesome, here are some nonprofits that are innovator-lead that would love to have you join their team, you know, so figuring out figuring that out, creating a geographic place to bring all of that together so that we can serve our members and continue to do what we’re doing now. But just more Does that make sense?
Frank Keck 19:30
I love that. I love that. Yeah. It’s, as you were saying that I thought I wonder if she has an evil laugh.
Lauren Conaway 19:39
Because I want to hear you do your nomination.
Frank Keck 19:40
I’m going to take over the world. But I love that because people are kind of saying, Hey, we love what you’re doing. Can you come help us do it? Right? Yeah, that’s, I mean, that’s kind of what we all go into this hoping is okay. I want to change the world. Yeah. And I love that you’re doing it with something that’s so important to the world, but also it’s near and dear to your heart, right? You can tell just with the passion.
Lauren Conaway 20:06
It absolutely is. You know, and I want to be really clear here. So people often, you know, talk about the fact that it’s innovative, like you’re changing the world. And like, actually, we’re not, I don’t don’t put that on me, our members are changing the world. We’re just empowering them to do that, in better, more efficient, you know, stronger, amplified ways. And so I put all the credit for that changing of the world, on our 5700 members, you know, we’re just providing the platform and the space to congregate.
Frank Keck 20:41
That’d be a great tagline empowering women to change the world.
Lauren Conaway 20:44
Yes. Well, so right now our motto is, because we, because radical positive changes women’s work. That’s our motto. But I liked that one, I think we might have to adopt it.
Frank Keck 20:58
So you talked about culture, which is kind of my gig, right? And leadership, I definitely want to talk to you more about the Leadership Development Center. So I have some of what you want to do, and you know, you’ve got my support on that. But I want to talk first, a little bit about your culture. So when you started this, I mean, it’s just kind of like a fire, right? It’s kind of like, okay, now this thing’s big. So for those people that haven’t really thought about culture, but either they’re just getting started, or maybe they’ve already experienced something similar, like, holy crap, we created something people want. Like, how did you find time to start thinking about your culture? And where did you start?
Lauren Conaway 21:45
So that’s a really great question. And I would say that, because I actually, in part because of you, and because of my experience with the culture lab and the conversations that we had had, for me, it wasn’t a matter of finding time for establishing our culture, it was a matter of finding time for everything else. Because establishing that culture was such a huge priority for me. You know, there are a lot of professional development organizations out there for marginalized leaders, there are a ton, you know, throw a stone, and you’re gonna hit one. So I had to figure out as founder, and as the chief culture setter, I had to figure out what is our culture? That was actually like my first priority, like, what do I stand for? How are we different from these other organizations? And the answers that I came up with in my head were low barrier to entry, true inclusion and belonging, which are foundational ethics, they are the decisions that I or they are the lenses that I use, when I make any decision regarding the organization, does that fit within our foundational ethics does the solution work? But really, that was the first thing that I did, when I had realized that InnovateHER was taking off. And it was more than just this little Facebook group, it had a lot of potential. I sat down and I was like, what is our culture? And so that was a huge priority for me. And our culture is one of winning championships. You know, our culture is one of sharing successes, but also being vulnerable. And we have a culture where we have, you know, things that we do to kind of drive forward our culture, you know, amplification, mentorship, our pillars, which are social connection, professional development, mentorship, championship and resource sharing, like, those are the things that we do in our culture. And, and so that I mean, that’s where I started. That’s where I started with everything, you know, you ask where I started, and like, that’s it.
Frank Keck 23:48
So it was there from the very beginning. And but it sounds like everything that you’ve done has kind of just started generically and like what felt right. But you stopped and you were intentional about it. Yeah. And, and that’s how you’re, you’re drawing people who are aligned with you. And I think that’s one of the reasons that you’ve had such great success so quickly. And I think that’s one of the things for you all out there in podcast land. I think that’s a huge takeaway that Lauren may take for granted. Like she’s just as brilliant naturally. But I think for us to say, Okay, what lens do I look through, right? Those are your values, because that’s going to attract the kind of people that you want to be to do life with, basically. And, you know, it’s interesting, because I think a lot of people in the tech world have a hard time finding the right people. Heck, now we have a hard time finding people at all. But you know, Lauren, finding experts, software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs and then see what Available developers, testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more.
Lauren Conaway 25:07
I love Full Scale so much.
Frank Keck 25:10
So, you’ve, you’ve done some cool stuff. I know your relationship with Matt has really helped you. Just just in watching that a little bit. But I want to go back. So when you were working for Starland, you talked about the culture lab. And just curious, because I remember, we came and did a workshop together. And there we were going through some stuff, because some of the people there said, Oh, we want to have radical candor.
Lauren Conaway 25:45
Yes. And I think like having the book just come out read a book called Radical candor. So that was a big topic of conversation.
Frank Keck 25:52
And so I said, Well, okay, well, let’s just talk about what that actually is. Yeah. And I think as we dug into it, they’re like, Ah, well, maybe we don’t really want that. But I’m just curious what you learned from the culture lab. And like, you’ve kind of figured out what the values of InnovateHER are. And I love how you said it. Right? These are the lenses. I look at everything through. So you guys out there listening? That’s what I would ask you, what lenses? Are you looking at everything through? Positive or negative? Those are your values. Yeah, right. So what’s your What was your takeaway? You went through a culture lab, which is a program that we sponsored several years ago, it was a 90 day culture accelerator. So you know, accelerators. Those days were all the rage. And so we said, Well, why not do a culture accelerator? And so Lauren was kind enough to go through that. So I’m just curious, what was your takeaway that maybe our listeners could learn from?
Lauren Conaway 26:50
Well, so first and foremost, and I feel like this is a pretty base, base takeaway, but one of the most powerful things that you ever told me was, you have to establish your culture early, you have to establish it often. And if you don’t, someone else will establish it for you. And you’re probably not going to like the culture that they establish. And so that was kind of like the foundation of the pyramid of belief and learning that I took from the culture lab. But what you did and what you and Rachel and Jesse did was you allowed, you allow a bunch of people, a group of people from very disparate backgrounds, and with very different understandings of scaffolded learning when it comes to culture to come together and to think really intentionally, not just about what you wanted your culture to be, but culture in general, like, what does that mean to your team? How is that? How is your culture establishing whatever culture works for you, or that you decide is what you’re the one that you want to go with? How is that going to fundamentally help Excel, your business is to accelerate your business and accelerate you as an individual. And so I would say that my biggest takeaway was pretty basic. But it was just something that I hadn’t really thought about before. It was just one of the cultures, it was just one of those things that happened to me and happened around me. And, and so just even having that space was really, really profound for me, but I don’t know you, you have the worksheets and the workbooks. Katherine also, if he was actually now on our leadership team, that’s where she and I met. And I remember, we were you who gave us exercise. And it was like, you had to interview the other person about values. And so we were kind of talking back and forth. And Catherine asked some really, really insightful questions. So she and I are like, still really good friends to this day. But first, I had to figure out who I was and what I believed. And then I had to allow my organization, the space, to reflect those values. Wow. That’s what that’s really what I got from the culture lab, like who am I? And what does that mean within the framework of this thing that I’m building?
Frank Keck 29:13
That is really huge Lauren, and man, it just kind of gives me as they say, in the south chill bumps.
Lauren Conaway 29:21
In the Midwest, and I’m like, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you opened my eyes.
Frank Keck 29:25
But I think that’s why the reason that gives me chill bumps are goosebumps, or the chills is because I think so many people don’t do that. Right? We get in such a hurry to build something. Yeah, that we forget. Everything is going to be built on a foundation and what kind of foundation are you putting together? Yeah, right. And, as you know, every organization is an organization of people. Right? Right. And if you don’t know what you stand for, like if you don’t stand and this is what I heard you just say right if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything, right? Somebody will come push you over. Right? And so I think, you know, those of you out there, if I came and asked you, what are your three primary values, if you can’t tell me right off the top of your head, you don’t have three primary values. And that means that you’re kind of not having a rudder. And so what are the lenses that you look through? I think Lauren is a great example of that. And, okay, so now I’m gonna put you a little bit more on the hot seat. So Ryan had great growth, and you’re in a lot of pictures and COVID. Right?
Lauren Conaway 30:36
They’re gonna get together with you because I’ve had COVID twice now.
Frank Keck 30:39
So you need to get it one more time.
Lauren Conaway 30:46
Don’t please, it’s the best. I don’t recommend it. No.
Frank Keck 30:50
But what I’m so like, people look at you. I’m one of them and go, Wow, she’s really successful. She’s hit the big time. Right? And because I don’t think that success necessarily means that you’re making a million dollars. Yeah, the fact that you’re having this wonderful impact on people. But my question is, what’s the biggest challenge you have now? Right, so you’ve hit this first level of success? Maybe the second level of success? What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Lauren Conaway 31:18
Um, that’s a really, that’s a really interesting question. And I would say, right now, my biggest challenge is not enough. You know, there’s not enough of me to go around, there’s not enough of my organization to go around. In every single time, you know, I’ve just reached a point in this career trajectory, where I want to create more impact, and I want to do more and be more and I want InnovateHER to do more and be more and we just, we can’t, right now, and that’s a very frustrating feeling. And so, to an extent, I’m aware that that is probably a lot of that is probably internal, you know, me looking at what I looking at vision and seeing the discrepancy between where we could be and where I want us to be, and then where we are, you know, so a lot of that is probably internally imposed. But one of Yeah, one of my biggest struggles right now is just trying to prioritize around people. Because, uh, you know, we’re a community building organization, that is our scope. It is, it’s what we’re designed to do. And community is people. So that is my business, when people are like, what do you sell it? And I’m like, people, which is a horrible, horrible thing to say, please do not take that out of context, you know what I mean? But we’re selling what we’re selling is community. And we’re winning support and championship and all of the relationships, right, yeah, relationships, all of these very kind of ethereal things that are not tangible products or very explicit service. So every single time, I have to say no to an opportunity, or anytime I have to say no to even like a coffee or something like that. I am hyper aware that that is a missed opportunity. And that there is potential there that people are being left behind. And that really, that scares me. You know, my whole life. And InnovateHER’s whole life is designed around service to people and relationships. And so anytime I feel like I’m failing in that, it just, it kills me, it breaks my heart, it’s there. And it happens a lot these days so it’s just like, oh, just punch to the chest every time.
Frank Keck 33:47
So I appreciate you sharing that. And, you know, I just wrote down a couple of things as you were talking. And so part of what we want to do on this podcast is to get some of the challenges that founders have, right and I’ve got some suggestions why we’ll throw those out. So everybody can learn from it. And then we’re gonna give Lauren an assignment. Part to come. But I wrote down three things: First of all, baby steps, right and part of the society. As part of what society is telling us today is it’s good to be busy. Well, shit, it’s not. It really isn’t. And so but people put it where busyness is a badge of honor, right? And so it’s like, I work 60 hours this week. I worked 80 hours. I took work home. I worked over the weekend. I have one client that literally is how successful you are is how many hours a week you work. Well now everybody’s burned out. Right and they can’t get good people to come work there because nobody wants to work that privacy, the great resignation. Yeah, and the great resignation has been around for a long time. It just kind of got published since COVID. Right so thing baby steps, right. Okay. Let’s just not be in a hurry. Because that leads me to the second thing, which is called mission and vision creep. Yeah, right. And values creep. Because what Lauren is not doing you guys is she’s not letting value creep, right? And so she’s staying true to the value of offering value to her members, to these ladies to these women to these people, and not saying I gotta be busier, I gotta be bigger. Yeah. Right, busier and like busyness is a is a, it’s a value is not a very good value. So on keeping your focus and saying, This is what we’re here to do, do we want to do it well? Or do we want to do it fast?
Lauren Conaway 35:48
Right? Well, and I think for me, like it was, it was a realization that probably took me too long to come to, it’s that I don’t have to do all of the things I have to do the right thing. In the long term doing the right things. That’s the way that I bring value and impact to this community. Right, right. Yeah. And so yeah, like, and that was something that we talked about a lot in the culture lab, you know, that being busy is a value. It’s not, as you said, it’s not a good value, you know, doing being busy at the expense of doing meaningful work. That just gets in your way.
Frank Keck 36:28
I have a new saying for you. Yeah. I’m gonna write it down. Okay. This has impacted my life in a wonderful way. Everything is always working out for me. Okay, everything is always working out for me. And so many times, we think, Oh, man, why am I going through this hard time? Why is my business night growing bigger or faster? Or why didn’t I get that other date with that person? Or why doesn’t this person like me? Or why didn’t I make more money? Or why didn’t I make less money? Or why didn’t I get the cheeseburger? Right? Whatever it is. But I think just to have that perspective of what you know, what’s supposed to happen is gonna happen. And you may not like it at the time, but we always learn from it, right. But I think I have that mindset of, hey, everything is working out for me. I’m going to keep moving forward towards what my goals are. And that’s what I love about what you’ve done is you’re moving towards what you want, instead of away from what you don’t want, right? That’s a huge thing and businesses move towards what you want you guys all the time. As long as you’re always moving towards it, you’ll move faster when you need to, and you’ll move slower when you need to.
Lauren Conaway 37:39
Absolutely so profound, my friend, you come up with nuggets like that all the time.
Frank Keck 37:45
Well, thank you. They hit me in the face when I like what the crap is going on here. Oh, here you go. Learn from this thing. Love it. What is a segue into the next question, what is one thing that you’re doing? People? Why’s this really kicking ass?
Lauren Conaway 38:05
Ah, okay, so this is a conference, this is a weird conversation for me, because I’ve gotten some heat for this. And I’ve also gotten some huge kudos. But like you mentioned that, you know, people always mentioned that they see me on social media. And I’m like, my, I never really know how to, like react to that. But my, my general response is like you too, can overshare on social media, it’s not difficult to do. And so I just want to be like, very, very clear about it. So like, one of the most powerful things that it’s the cheapest thing that we do, and it’s one of the most powerful things that we do is amplification of work. And so one of the reasons is amplification of work. Yeah, it’s one of our pillars, you know, sometimes we call it championship, sometimes we call it sponsorship, but in my head, I call it amplification of work. What do we mean? Well, it so the question that I have to ask myself is how do we tell the stories of our members of the leaders who are creating radical positive change, often under resourced, under networked, under met, mentored, underfunded, you know, how can we amplify the work of these incredible human beings, so that they can be seen so that they can be heard, so that they can be propelled forward to the next opportunity, particularly from those who might not otherwise have heard of them? And so the reason, the core of why we are so active, why we are so active and why I personally, am so active on social media is because of that, because I want to storytel and I want to share these resources and these individuals who are doing incredible work because without that intervention in it Not just me, like it’s organizations all across the city that do this work, but, but when that happens, again, you’re going to see these opportunities just come out of the woodwork, you know, awards, sales, finding brand advocates, like all finding funding support, you know, and I kid you not like, it’s so odd to me because like, because people know, they talk about my social media stuff all the time. And I’m like, Yes, I know, I’m on social media a lot. But like, that’s the reason. I want to, I want to tell these stories. I want InnovateHER to become a hub of women leaders, gender minority leaders, you know, like how come to us and we’re going to point you to 5700 incredible human beings who are out there in the world doing the work, and have in many cases up until now gone unacknowledged, or under acknowledged. So when you’re asking, you’re asking what we do really well, and that’s something that we do really well, we storytel And we amplify our members. They’re incredibly important work.
Frank Keck 41:12
I love that. And you know, everybody has a story to tell. And I love that you’re creating that platform. And you call it an amplification of work. I think that came to me as well. It’s really an amplification of awesomeness, right? You’re letting everybody go out and be awesome. And I think you know, to be successful in the world, you have to tell your story. Yeah, right. You may have the greatest app ever invented. But people want to know the story behind it. Like, that’s why we started off with your story today. And in a lot of these podcasts, we want to know the person’s story. What’s behind all this, whether you’re making a lot of money or changing a lot of lives, there’s a story behind it. And I think that’s the real thing. And because people don’t, let’s see, I’m gonna get this thing, right. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care how much you care when you share your story.
Lauren Conaway 42:06
That’s right. I love that phrase. Did you come up with that, Frank Keck?
Frank Keck 42:10
I just invented it. No.
Lauren Conaway 42:13
I was gonna be like, that was really somebody more profound than me.
Frank Keck 42:16
Probably Dale Carnegie’s, probably. Well done, man. But I think that’s part of what Startup Hustle does is it helps people to tell their stories. And I want to encourage those of you listening, you know, what’s your story? How are you getting it out there? Because the other thing Lauren that happens is this kind of goes back to the point you made earlier, if you don’t get out and tell your story, one of two things is going to happen. Either nobody’s going to tell your story, or somebody else is going to make one up. That’s right. Right. So it’s like, I don’t know, dating from the female perspective, because I’ve never done that. It’s always been from the male perspective. And I’m married now. So I don’t do it nearly as often.
Lauren Conaway 42:59
But I’m feeling like, I would ask someone out, and then they’re like, you were just like waiting.
Frank Keck 43:03
And like they had all the power until, okay, well, she’s gonna call me back and she’s gonna say yes, right. And so when you’re in kind of that limbo, right, and so and so what would go on in the male mind is you would make stuff up until you heard from her. How come you didn’t call me back? Oh, well, I was in.
Lauren Conaway 43:26
Me she, you know, she’s not. She heard. She didn’t like me, when in reality, she just got busy.
Frank Keck 43:36
I mean, it’s like you and I were talking before we started the program today. It’s like, Man, I feel like you hate me. And you’re like, Nah, I don’t hate you. I’m just like, I’m so overwhelmed. I’ve got so many things. I’m changing, right? But, we create our own narrative, right? When we don’t know the other person’s narrative. So you guys, if you take nothing else away today, make sure that you know what your story is, and you start telling your story. Because it’s so important. To have four I like to end my programs with what I call the four fast from Frank. Okay, are you ready? Bring it on? First thing that comes to your mind, paper or plastic paper? To relax? Do you need to be by yourself or be with other people by myself?
Lauren Conaway 44:26
Okay, I think it surprises a lot of people. introvert by nature, this is all learned behavior.
Frank Keck 44:32
You know who else said that? Who? Every one of the four? Yeah, kind of your favorite cartoon character and what you like best about them?
Lauren Conaway 44:43
Oh, Hells Bells? It’s been a minute I have to admit. You see, I can’t do that quickly because it’s been a while since I’ve watched cartoons. Oh, my God. Family Guy is the first thing that popped into my head because I think it’s the most recent thing that I watched so I’m gonna go with that. Oh Chris Griffin. I don’t love that answer though.
Frank Keck 45:04
But go ahead. I know Peter, Chris Griffin, he’s the son.
Lauren Conaway 45:07
He’s the dopey son. I like him because he’s dopey but never malicious. I don’t know. I think he’s, he’s silly.
Frank Keck 45:18
So the reason we asked that question is because psychologists say the character that you picked, Chris, and what you liked best about them say it again, what you liked best about Chris Griffin.
Lauren Conaway 45:28
He’s dopey but never malicious, I think is what I said.
Frank Keck 45:32
That is typically how you see yourself.
Lauren Conaway 45:34
Oh, my God. Well, all right. That’s incorrect.
Frank Keck 45:38
I love me, but you’re definitely not malicious. So I think that kind of fits. All right, I’ll take and what slogan or mantra do you live your life by?
Lauren Conaway 45:50
Ah, I did well, so you can do hard things. It is my mantra. And usually I say it to myself when I’m about to do something that is difficult for me. That stretches me, but it’s helped me, you know, get out on stages. And it’s helped me make difficult choices around InnovateHER, but sometimes just reminding myself that you’ve done hard things before you can continue to do them. You will get through this is very powerful to me.
Frank Keck 46:22
I love it. No, this has been great. Thankfully, 45 minutes went by really quick.
Lauren Conaway 46:27
I know we just flew by, man. Please tell Aaron I said hi.
Frank Keck 46:31
Well, we’ll do this again. Because I have to think of some homework. I didn’t give you any homework. So I will give Aaron some homework but I don’t even know who I’m talking to.
Lauren Conaway 46:44
All the time. And I think it’s because Aaron and I have such . . . so Aaron is my husband for those of you who don’t know. But Aaron and I have very similar names, like the vowel ending with the REN Ron sound and Lauren Lee happens all the time.
Frank Keck 46:58
So this has been great. And before we sign off, just before we say goodbye, just another shout out to today’s episode sponsor, Full Scale. Do you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders? Let Full Scale help. We have the people on the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions and then let our platform match you up with our fully vetted, highly experienced team of software engineers, testers, and leaders at Full Scale. We specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you to learn more when you visit FullScale.io. That’s our program today, ladies and gentlemen and kids of all ages, and it’s been our honor to have an awesome guest Miss Lauren Conaway. Lauren, thanks again, and we’ll be looking for you in your next episode.
Lauren Conaway 47:56
Awesome. Thanks so much, friend. And thank you, listeners, for coming along on the journey with us. Thank you.