Insights from Four Trailblazing Entrepreneurs
By Monica Santos-Pinacho
CREDC’s second Grow Clark County event of the year featured a dynamic panel of women founders from across the region who shared stories about their journey starting and growing their businesses in Clark County – including the challenges they faced and what it took to innovate in a fast-changing environment.
The panel—moderated by CREDC Board of Directors Vice Chair and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt Shareholder Lisa Lowe—included:
- Allie Magyar, founder and CEO of event management software company Hubb. In just six years, Allie has led the company to achieve impressive regional recognition, including this year’s Technology Association of Oregon's Emerging Company of the Year, Vancouver Business Journal's Innovator of the Year and inclusion in Portland Business Journal's 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies.
- Callie Christensen, co-founder of children’s toy company Slumberkins. Along with Kelly Oriard, they co-founded the company in 2015 and have reached great heights, including an appearance on Shark Tank and, most recently, landed a TV deal with The Jim Henson Company.
- Miriam Kim, co-founder and COO of the leading developer and innovator of connected kitchen products Perfect Company. With 12 years at Intel under her belt, Miriam is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded two other successful companies: Ensequence and Pure Imagination.
- Lisa Schauer, president of leadership development firm PointNorth Consulting. A champion of women in leadership roles, Lisa became the first female partner and the first female Board Director at MacKay Sposito and helped found H-RoC Political Action Committee to advance women leaders in Southwest Washington.
Below are key pieces of insight from this impressive group of Women Founders, highlighting their motivation, entrepreneurial spirit and advice for others looking to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey. We hope they inspire and motivate you as much as they did us!
(Quotes have been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
Motivation and what keeps them going…
“82% of people don’t trust their bosses. 77% of people believe that integrity is one of the most important characteristics to have in a leader. Values have to be more than just words on a wall, they have to be behavior…As humans, we just want to connect. How do we find ways to connect, and how do we do [it] with a thread of ethics, integrity and character? That’s what really motivates me.” – Lisa
“When there are days when I feel I can’t get out of bed, I tell myself [‘you are very lucky to be pursuing this dream’].” – Miriam
“Being [both] educators and moms ourselves goes hand-in-hand with the passion that gets us out of bed every day. There are real issues that families face every day. Our mission is to normalize [important and often times tough] conversations and empower parents to be in the driver seat of their children’s social and emotional development.” – Callie
“Entrepreneurship is a constant roller coaster – you may be on a total high one day then something comes in that rocks your world. Being able to deal with that constant churn [is critical]. When you are doing something you love, surrounded by people that believe in the same thing, it makes it easy to wake up and be inspired every day.” – Allie
What they wish they knew before starting their own business…
“Know your vision and your mission to its core [early on], so that you can stay focused as opportunities come your way.” – Callie
“Patience and managing expectations. [Know] what is reasonable in year one versus what you hope to aspire in year five.” – Lisa
“You will get a lot of no’s before you get a yes – and it hurts. Get yourself ready for it. Know that it is normal. All you need are a few yes’s – and you’ll get them.” – Miriam
“When I started doing this—at 18—I had this wild, crazy idea that things would get easier in the future, and I’ve been telling myself that for the last 20 years. I think it’s really important to realize there’s no perfect future. There will always be struggles, it’s always a different type of struggle. Be sure you take time to experience life and enjoy what you are doing…There is no perfect future state – its only right now, enjoy every stage.” – Allie
Lessons from the biggest challenges they had to overcome…
“As an entrepreneur, there is a false stigma that you are supposed to know everything, that you should be able to be the unicorn and scale... You have to be willing to ask for help. Utilize the amazing resources that we have in this area. There is nothing like the Vancouver-Portland area as support for early stage entrepreneurs. It’s okay to not know everything. [Be] willing to be vulnerable, open up and ask for help and support…” – Allie
“In 2014, it became apparent that to get to the next level, we needed to raise money. [My husband] and I didn’t know how to that. You have to network, network, network.” – Miriam
“[Have] a transitioning mindset [where] we give ourselves some grace that it takes time to build a business and assemble the right team. [Manage] the difference between moving too quickly and being strategic enough to move at the pace that makes the most sense.” – Lisa
“Understand fundraising basics and what it means to take on investors for a business – taking money from a VC versus and Angel [Fund]. As educators, we had no exposure to that at all. Business finance has been our biggest challenge, and understanding [the best options on] how to scale a business...” – Callie
Their take on the F word (failure)…
“Failure is what has driven me to everything I have been able to do. There is nothing like failing – you have to give yourself a little moment [to] grieve it because it is a real thing, but you also have to look at it as an opportunity to [see] what [you] can learn from [it]...” – Allie
“Slumberkins is the only business I’ve ever owned or started. Initially, we took not winning Shark Tank very hard; however now when people ask us ‘did you win Shark Tank?’ we say, actually yes! The whole process made us better business owners – even filling the application. It was a great platform for us to tell our story and America really resonated with our mission and what we are trying to accomplish.” – Callie
“…There are failures that happen every day, and it’s how you recover. You have to surround yourself with people that will help lift you up – inside and outside your organization. [It’s a] combination of reflection and continuing to more forward – look positively at what [you] learned, what will [you do and not do] again.” – Lisa
“If you sign up to be an entrepreneur, it’s a life of uncertainty. As long as you keep your eye on the price, somehow it always works out.” – Miriam
Final words of wisdom…
“What’s inspiring is when you [find] a passion for something.” – Miriam
“For me, women in leadership is an area that really gets me motivated. When I see a young leader, who has found their voice and they are using it, that keeps me motivated.” – Lisa
“See the bigger vision and find the people who will make it possible. Your quality of life depends on who you surround yourself with. Recognize what they are good at and what you are not good at. You need grit and determination in the early days, then be able to identify who you need to help you scale the business.” – Callie
“There’s no better time than what’s in front of you. Be willing to take the leap when the opportunity presents itself and don’t be afraid.” – Allie
Special thank you to our sponsors Zenith Properties NW, Kaiser Permanente, iQ Credit Union and Opsahl Dawson for making the event possible and to Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt Shareholder Lisa Lowe for being a fantastic panel moderator.
Since 2015, GROW Clark County has served as a forum to showcase the broad range of businesses in the region, spotlighting the people driving innovation and empowering connections with entrepreneurs pushing the local economy forward. GROW Clark County aims to help build connections and open opportunities for the business community – from groundbreaking startups to thriving business looking to interact with other businesses and find resources that can help them achieve short and long-term business goals.