Success Stories

Igniting a Culture of Potential: yours, mine, and ours.

In my work at Startup Colorado, our dedicated team agrees wholeheartedly that our mission is:

  “…to demonstrate that rural entrepreneurship will ignite a culture of potential, empowering people and places to thrive and define their future.”

Notice that our mission is not about just creating jobs or inspiring more business starts, but rather about igniting a culture of potential. These are words that roll off the tongue like poetry and pluck an emotional thread, but what is a culture of potential?

The words alone are historically significant from their Latin origins to their casual use today, with cultura or growing and potentia or power. When paired together, the words become a statement to grow or cultivate the latent or inherent power within an object or lifeform. There are many diverse and varied applications for a culture of potential, from the arts to the sciences (biology, physics, and even quantum physics) and, perhaps two of the most important words to define what it means to be human.   

Aren’t we all the embodiment of potential, exploring various states of expression while reacting to various internal and external factors?

Why do we believe in our children and value their future and opportunities? Why do we love seeing someone overcome adversity against all the odds? Why are we drawn to the notion of finding our purpose or having passions? All of these are examples of how we pursue and get inspired by the expression of human potential. 

Likewise, we remain fascinated by the expression of culture as a series of social contracts (spoken and unspoken) that define the behaviors and attitudes of communities of people that often expand and evolve (or degrade) organically. Similarly, when we pair culture with potentia or power, we create a declaration that potential is inherent to being human and that its expression informs the culture as a whole. 

In simplest terms, a culture of potential is an agreement within a community that our inherent creative and expressive potential as human beings is worthy of cultivating both within individuals and the group itself.

Furthermore, as a culture of potential matures, it will be self-propagating within the community as the cultural behaviors, attitudes, and norms that ignite it will become ingrained.

Through the lens of entrepreneurship, we might state this as: The community desires the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of entrepreneurship (such as personal freedom and jobs) and agrees that to gain such rewards, sufficient investment in igniting the inherent creative potential of its people and developing their entrepreneurial skills is a core value.

The first order of participating in a culture of potential is to believe in the inherent power of the people who are part and parcel of it. The greatest reward of this work is a new door into diversity, equity and inclusivity because to look at every human as a node of inherent potential in a state of ignition from latency to full spark is the cultivation of our collective ability to see people at their core and most valuable.

Inside Delaney’s talk on July 20, she will go deeper into the culture of potential with easy steps to start practicing this every day as it applies to individuals, groups, and communities.
Register Free for The Power of WE (Women Entrepreneurs) Forum Series 3 held July 20th at noon.  Featuring  panelists Jenna Pfingston, Sydney Schnurr, and Delaney Keating to discuss the Power of Feminine Leadership. 

About Delaney Keating, Managing Director of Startup Colorado

Purpose: Seeing the Possibilities
As a Colorado native and rural resident, Delaney is honored to steward the inherent genius she believes exists because of living farther off the beaten path. Delaney is a seasoned creative, entrepreneur, and change agent.  She successfully owned, operated, and exited her first company and has since been dedicated to fostering ingrained cultural values for art and innovation. As Executive Director of Startup Colorado, her mission is to drive greater coordination within the entrepreneurial ecosystem on behalf of rural entrepreneurs and the communities they call home. She is an unwavering believer in the potential of ideas, the people behind them, and the places they create.

To view previously held WE Forum Series webinars email

Objects in the Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer than They Are.

When Jamie asked me to be part of this panel my response was that I really only fit half the bill. I am definitely a woman, but I am not an entrepreneur, unless you count creating a program for fast tracking people of color in the philanthropy sector or being a founding member of a Community Foundation. Mostly I am a retired professor and fundraiser.

Having said that, I do believe I can share some of my experiences and hopefully be helpful to you in your current and future endeavors. As singer Meatloaf sings, “objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are.”  My hope is that my experiences (some close and some not so close) will inform your future in some way.

When I was a fairly new graduate of a MA/MBA program in Arts Administration, I was selected to be part of a year-long program for women which was presented by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Participants were chosen based on who the Chamber believed were candidates for future C-Suites positions. It was a diverse group that mostly included women in the for-profit world, but there were a few of us who worked for nonprofits in the community. 

We were divided into Master Mind Groups of 8 and assigned a coach.  She worked with us throughout the year individually and in a group. We attended a weekend workshop with a horse whisperer who taught us about “leading from behind.”  Speakers covered a wide range of topics including Girlfriendology, Performance Psychology, Power and Influence, Good Management (Coaching), Conflict Resolution, and my personal favorite, Human Auras. We also took a battery of personality tests to help us understand our skill sets.

One of the most useful things we did was create a personal strategic plan, which included the usual components – Situation Analysis, Mission, Vision and Values Statements, Goals, Action Steps and Measurements. If you haven’t done this for yourself, I highly recommend it. It can help you focus on what is really important – and not what you have been told is important.

After that year of self-reflection (who gets to do that in midlife unless forced), of the eight women in my Master Mind Group, only one was still focused on making it to the C-Suite. What we all realized as we did the work of the course was that we were striving for someone else’s goal for us. It was incredibly freeing to let go of that and plan for what we knew was important to us. Some of us had the voice of a parent urging us on. Others had a boss or a teacher whose misplaced encouragement meant that if we didn’t “make it” we would disappoint. In my case, it was someone in my past who told me “you might as well forget about doing it, a woman can’t make it in that field.”  My motivation was to prove him wrong.  Surprise — it turned out I didn’t like the aforementioned “field” after all.

As Glennon Doyle says in her new book UNTAMED, “What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world’s expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves.  What we need are women who are full of themselves.”

I would say that the women in my group left WE Lead as better leaders, parents, mentors, and individuals because we had detoxed from the world’s expectations and had found ourselves.

Now almost 15 years later, all of us are still working in some capacity. One is in the C-Suite, as planned. We have made the changes we needed to make, and we are all true to our personal missions. 

In the nonprofit world we have what we call the “double bottom line.” Though we are called nonprofits, that does not mean we are called to lose money every year. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the community we serve to be fiscally responsible and, in that case, a goal of making a profit and putting it back into the mission is key. But the other part of the bottom line is a commitment to that mission. Every decision we make is run through both lenses. 

Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. 

I recently read an article about Patagonia, a certified B Corp, and its reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. They were one of the first to close and will likely be one of the last to reopen fully. They will have to be creative in their pivot because many of their stores are social meeting places. This will not be good for their profits, but it does balance with their core values. As their CEO, Rose Marcario, said in the article“The challenge that we face now is how do we take care of our employees and our community while all of this is happening in a way that is true to our values?”

What if we as women treated our lives like a nonprofit or a B Corp? Instead of making getting to the top our goal – or whatever that little voice is telling us – let’s take some time to detox from what the world says that we want, and create a plan for ourselves that allows us a double bottom line – fiscal responsibility AND being true to our core missions and values.

Take a minute to think about what that would look like if companies took this idea to heart. And even more important, if their shareholders did. The bottom line might be smaller, but workers would have healthcare, childcare, a living wage and our planet would be greener. Who knows, people might pay more for their products if they knew that. It works for Patagonia.

As women entrepreneurs and nonprofits we have the opportunity to model that – in our work and in our lives. If we are truly detoxed from what others expect, we can focus on what we expect from ourselves. I suspect that it might be different from what the world tells us success looks like.

Here more from Sydney at her talk on July 20.
Register Free for The Power of WE (Women Entrepreneurs) Forum Series 3 held July 20th at noon.  Featuring  panelists Jenna Pfingston, Sydney Schnurr, and Delaney Keating to discuss the Power of Feminine Leadership. 

About Sydney Schnurr, CFRE

Sydney recently retired from the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music where she taught in the Graduate Arts Administration Program. 

Prior to that she was Development Director for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival and Associate Development Director for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. She also served as President of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Fundraising Professionals where she helped found New Faces of Fundraising, a program for fast tracking POC in the fundraising profession. Sydney currently serves as a founding board member of the Chaffee County Community Foundation.

To view previously held WE Forum Series webinars email

Your Core Gift – Your Thread of Light: The Gift You’ve Been Threading All Along

Every once in a while we do something and a little voice inside says, “There, that’s it. That’s why you’re here.” And you get a warm glow in your heart because you know it is true. Do more of that. – Jacob Nordby

Years ago, in the midst of a heart-aching quest to discover and understand my “purpose” (as though it were the Holy Grail that would solve all my problems), I was invited to a work event as a representative for the non-profit I worked for at the time. Bruce E. Anderson, of an organization called “Community Activators,” introduced our room full of folks in helping professions to something called “Core Gift.” The idea of using “strength-based assessment” in our work as counselors, social workers, teachers, etc, was relatively new in the early 2000s. But this took that notion to an even deeper place, giving us an indispensable tool to use in our work as well as with ourselves and our own families.

Mr. Anderson presented his data and research by starting with a poem by William Stafford that contains this line: “There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it does not change.” Then he walked us through a process, backed by countless case studies, to show us how to help our clients identify what he called our “Core Gift.” We participated in the process ourselves and by the end of the day I had a purpose statement that resonated with my heart for the first time in my life.

It has morphed and changed as I’ve gotten to know myself more deeply. But the essence of my Core Gift has not changed. He presented the case that whatever your spiritual or psychological background is doesn’t matter – everyone possesses a Core Gift. Now he runs the Core Gift Institute where their motto is “Walking your purposeful path,” and they include this in their About Us section:

One thing we know for certain: understanding and using our gifts is both an old and a new idea. Cultures and faith traditions, many centuries old, used specific methods to identify and use gifts in their members. Now, modern neuroscience and positive psychology have backed up older wisdom traditions by proving that individuals thrive when they are able to find meaning in their lives by knowing and giving their gifts.

Up until this point, my young 29-year old self thought I’d have to go through some mystical process to find my sense of purpose, some sudden enlightenment that would come after years of arduous questing. But here, in this little one-day event, in a process that was engaging, fun, and simple yet thought-provoking, I watched my Core Gift revealed before my eyes in a matter of 90 minutes.

The methodology underpinning the process taught us that we and our clients have many skills, talents, and general gifts that we can give in our work, personal life and community, but that we have only one Core Gift that is our thread weaving through life everywhere we go. He also pointed out that our Core Gift comes from our greatest point of suffering (usually sometime in our young lives).

The Core Gift process is a type of interview. The person discovering their Core Gift is the interviewee and the interviewer writes down her answers verbatim – acting as a sort of witness to her discovery. After the interview is complete, the interviewee cuts up the answer sheet and sorts her answers into piles that feel like they have a theme. Then she goes through the piles to decide which theme speaks to her as being the most important or consistent in her life. The other piles become the how of living her Core Gift.

For example, this is my “Core Gift Statement”: My Core Gift is to BE HOME. I live this through feeling at home in my own skin and modeling this for others; and I serve others by cultivating a safe, inviting, and playful space for them to be at home in themselves and in their lives. Everything I do now – in my career, my relationships, my community – is filtered through this statement that rings very true to my heart. It helps me discern where and how to spend my time, energy, and resources.

What I’ve loved about the Core Gift process is that during the sixteen years that I’ve shared this process with others is that it is so elegantly simple and accessible to all. And when someone really “gets” their Core Gift, it is like being truly seen for the first time. Granted, the statement one comes to in the first session is just a beginning, an invitation to step into noticing how and where one has been threading this Core Gift all along.

So how does this apply to our work as entrepreneurs and as women balancing many roles in our lives? Knowing our Core Gift helps us to cut through the noise of everything calling out for us to fix it or save it or just “make it happen.” The myth of the woman who does it all and still keeps it all together is wiping us out. I feel this thread deeply in the calls I get from women asking for coaching.

Parker Palmer observes in his brilliant book, “Let Your Life Speak”:

“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless—a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.”

So this is how we save the world (and create successful businesses in the process) – we give our Core Gift consciously and fully and then we make space for others to do the same. That is how we are truly #bettertogether!

The diseases of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and doing it all threaten to lead us into burnout or worse, now more than ever. And we don’t want to deprive others of the ability to give their natural Core Gifts by staying married to false responsibility.

Parker Palmer continues: “One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess-the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.”

What is mine to give? Knowing what our Core Gift is helps us answer this question day in and day out, and can protect us from burnout because we become clear about what is truly ours to give and what is not ours to give.

For more on the Core Gift process and how you can identify yours, contact me at and mention this blog or the webinar for a 10% discount. And for more on Purpose check out a podcast I was interviewed on not too long ago all about that here:

To view previously held WE Forum Series webinars email info@centralsbdc.og


Starting Up During COVID-19 storytelling and pivots – The Power of WE

Starting Up During COVID-19 | Lessons I learned launching a cleaning company during a pandemic + other tips and takeaways for authentic storytelling.

Authentic storytelling is the most important thing you can do for your company. No matter the size of your business, or the industry you are in, authenticity matters. Your ability to be authentic affects your brand’s growth and ultimately its bottom line.

Many experts often use the “Apple Effect” to prove this point. Apple isn’t the greatest innovator in their industry. They have competitors that often out innovate them, and beat them to market. What Apple does do better than anyone else, is tell an authentic story. Watch this video here with Simon Sinek for the full breakdown on the consumer behavior behind this “Apple Effect” theory.

If you stop reading here and take nothing else from this article, ingrain these 3 things into your brain:

  • People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
  • Stories stick. Learn how to tell yours.
  • Be authentic in how you tell the story of your business, but do it with your end user in mind.

I have built many brands and launched many startups throughout my career. You could say buying domains and dreaming up new businesses is a hobby of mine and my favorite dinner table topic. I once took on a challenge from the author of the $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau, to take an idea from a concept to market in three weeks. I met this challenge and in three weeks was featured on The Next Web.  While I no longer consider myself a “serial entrepreneur,” I am still obsessed with bringing ideas to life and have learned many lessons along the way. However, I don’t believe there will ever be anything compared to launching a cleaning company in the middle of a pandemic.

I’m currently a partner in two brands, Plant Aid and CAUSE+MEDIC. I oversee marketing and brand development for both. One is a plant cleaning solution that’s marketed for farmers and growers in the agriculture industry. The other is a luxury CBD skincare company. These sister brands might seem very different at first glance, but they do have something in common: their ethos. At the core of both of these brands is the belief that we can, and must, create products that are free from toxic chemicals to take care of each other and our planet, which ensures a safer, healthier and happier future for all. This is in our identity, it’s what drives the brands and the humans behind it.

About seven months ago we launched a new product called Clean Republic. It uses a variation of the formula found in Plant Aid, and the same active ingredient – Hypochlorous Acid (“HOCl”). Through CAUSE+MEDIC, we realized there was a need in the spa and hospitality industry for an effective, yet toxin free, cleaner. We knew what we had with Plant Aid could fill this need. We had our chemists formulate two different products, a Disinfectant + Sanitizer and an All-Purpose Cleaner, which we branded as  Clean Republic, and officially birthed her at a high-end hotel in Maui this past December.

We were just gaining some momentum in the spa and hotel space when the pandemic hit. It was early March when we realized that this virus was here, at our doorstep. Our small startup was faced with the great challenge of scaling and expanding overnight. Without a team meeting, or really a discussion of any kind we all quickly put our heads down and pivoted. We pivoted faster than I ever knew was possible – expanding our messaging and marketing strategies beyond high-end hotels and luxury spas.  We knew we had a moral obligation to share our effective, yet safe, cleaning solution with the masses. We sought to provide an alternative to the harsh, harmful chemicals we knew everyone would be using in greater volume.

My partners worked on creating strategic alliances, calling on everyone they knew that could help us expand our distribution so we could meet demands. It was – and quite frankly still is – a daily marathon without a finish line. It’s exhausting but certainly rewarding. I believe we are the exact team that was meant to do the job, and we were all called together to get it done. Today we are helping families across the nation keep their homes clean and healthy. We’re donating toxin free cleaning solutions to hospitals in need. We’re working with businesses big and small across a variety of industries. From hotels to hospitals, to industrial warehouses and luxury spas, office buildings and universities, and so many mom and pops in between.  It’s our jobs, our moral obligation and our ultimate pleasure.

Last month I quietly opened a storefront in my office space on E. Main Street in Buena Vista, CO. Before this pandemic, we planned on opening our first flagship store for our CBD skincare company, coupled with a spa. However, with the state of the country, we decided to launch this shop with Clean Republic as well – to ensure these essential cleaning supplies are available to the community. The shutdown has pushed our grand opening back, but we still plan to expand our inventory and open our spa services in time for summer.  If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that community, wellness and health should be our greatest priority.

To sum up, here are my 3 takeaways that I learned through launching a business during COVID 19.


This pivoting moment was of course loud and clear for Clean Republic. During my career however, I have had other cases where this transition wasn’t so matter of fact. In instances where it isn’t so cut and dry, you’ll want to look at your performance, poll your audience, and listen to your intuition. It can sometimes hurt or feel like you’re back peddling, but your future self will thank you for being honest for the sake of your business.


What pain points do your customers have and how can you help solve them? What are their fears and how can you help ease them? Here’s one recent example of this I can offer: as a business owner, I can imagine exactly what will go into reopening a business. Staff meetings, rehiring, logistics of hours, time, payroll, not to mention a new sanitation routine and new regulations you have to meet. So many things. And then you have to consider marketing and PR. Instilling confidence in your customers and employees, and convincing them your business is a safe place, will not happen without a thoughtful plan. I knew right away the marketing piece was something we could take off the plates of our clients,  by providing them with collateral that shows their business is clean and safe. I created “Certified Clean Republic Company” marketing kits that include window clings, stickers and postcards. We offer this complimentary to new accounts because we know these are pieces our clients will need, and if we can take this small but significant task off their plate, then we’re happy to do so. This has been a win-win because it drives sales, instills confidence and shows our clientele that we are happy to go the extra mile. Our ability to ease these growing pains for our clients allows us to serve them more successfully, which gives us purpose and gives our company wings.


I learned through hard lessons that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. We would not have survived without our team. We are small but mighty. We all bring something different to the table. When I hire someone, I seek out people that can help fill the areas where I am weak. We all have strengths and something to offer the world – and we also all have weaknesses and imperfections. Set your ego aside, hire the right people, and then get the hell of their way and watch them shine.

By Robin Vega – Robin is a native Texan with a degree in Communication Studies from Texas Tech University. Robin has over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship, business, and marketing strategy. She’s worked with clients big and small across a variety of industries, including cosmetics, technology, food & beverage, agriculture, and cannabis.  Robin has a gift for helping businesses develop authentic brands and tell their stories through thoughtful design and intentional content marketing. In 2013 Robin’s marketing software company was successfully acquired allowing her to follow her arrow to Colorado and pursue her passion working with entrepreneurs and purpose-driven brands. Currently, Robin is a partner and serves as the Director of Brand Development for Plant Aid and CAUSE+MEDIC.

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To hear more about this topic join Robn in a panel discussion “How Do YOU Bring Purpose to Life, Exploring Our Gifts & Sharing Them Through Authentic Marketing.” Held on June 15th from noon to 1:30pm. Register

The Power of We (Women Entrepreneurs) Forum Series, held monthly through the fall, will focus on heart-based thinking, the power or purpose, sharing one’s gifts, reimagining life/work via creativity and innovation and thriving by tapping into one’s authentic self and intuition.

To view previously held WE Forum Series webinars email info@centralsbdc.og


Your TRUE Purpose – The Power of WE

Right now we are being called to stand strongly in our purpose and higher calling.

But how do we know if our purpose is coming from our heart, or from our conditioning?

We talked last month about how our cultures and societies have shaped our language and how it makes us feel. I used the example of the words Success and Value. Our definitions, and the responses they bring in our bodies, come from the very paradigms that are being challenged and tested right now.

The world needs change, our communities need change, we need change. In the midst of this global unrest, the idea of change can feel overwhelming, unless the change we move toward is coming from our higher purpose.

Those ideas that won’t leave you alone, the nudging you feel to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, the desire to move into work that fills you up – these are all coming from your sense of true purpose.

Everything we are feeling called to do right now, is coming to us because we have the capacity to bring it to life.

I want to share again the work of HeartMath. They have a meditation to help you tune into your heart and begin to understand what it feels like when the messages and ideas come from this heart space instead of our brains.

The heart messages are the feminine, while the mind is the masculine. We don’t favor one over the other, but we need to relearn how to listen to the feminine side of our beings to bring ourselves and the world back into balance. Our conditioning, education, expectations in the workplace have all been created within this masculine paradigm. We are seeing, in extreme situations, that these structures no longer work. Have they ever? For some – yes, for all – no. Why? Because they operate from the absence of the feminine. They discount and discredit the intuitive, deeper knowing that is a connection with the greater good working to emerge.

So, what to do? How do we recognize and move into action around our true purpose? The answer can be found within your heart. How to move forward will look different for us all, based on our strengths and gifts. Putting those gifts into action requires the feminine qualities of trust, acceptance, and acknowledgement that the light and dark exist within each other.

I invite you to sit quietly and take some long, settling breaths. Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and ask this space of deeper knowing, What is my true purpose?

By Laurie Benson – Laurie works with women (and men) who are curious about the role they are here to play in the world. Whether they already sit in positions as leaders of businesses and industries, or are just stepping into what leadership of themselves, and for their families, and their communities might look like, it all begins with inner awareness.

She knows that the road to change begins with heightened self-awareness. We must create change in ourselves before we can change the world. Laurie and her husband Joel Benson also own and operate BV Roastery and is Laurie is also the founder of The Village in BV.

To hear more about this topic join Laurie in a panel discussion “How Do YOU Bring Purpose to Life, Exploring Our Gifts & Sharing Them Through Authentic Marketing.” Held on June 15th from noon to 1:30pm. Register

The Power of We (Women Entrepreneurs) Forum Series, held monthly through the fall, will focus on heart-based thinking, the power or purpose, sharing one’s gifts, reimagining life/work via creativity and innovation and thriving by tapping into one’s authentic self and intuition.

To view previously held WE Forum Series webinars email info@centralsbdc.og

Your True Purpose Links & Books Enjoy!
HeartMath works