Hustle Unlimited

Hosted ByDonald Thompson

Donald Thompson, serial entrepreneur, mentor, and diversity-in-the-workplace trailblazer, chose Earfluence to amplify his influence for more speaking opportunities, business development initiatives, and networking with established leaders.

How LaunchMyCity Caught Fire, and What It Really Means to be an Entrepreneur, with Wake Tech’s Katie Gailes

As Director of Entrepreneur Initiatives at Wake Tech in Raleigh NC, Katie Gailes has been able to help thousands of entrepreneurs with networking, funding, mentoring, and training. But she also says that entrepreneurship does NOT necessarily mean starting a business.  On today’s episode, Katie talks about what being an entrepreneur actually means, some of the amazing things she’s doing with Wake Tech AND Launch Wake County, diversity in entrepreneurship, and so much more in this inspiring episode!

Hustle Unlimited is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and hustler himself, Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

Hustle Unlimited is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on the Earfluence Podcast Network, visit @EarfluenceMedia on any social media platform.

Jason Gillikin, Executive Producer Hustle Unlimited, CEO Earfluence:

Welcome to the Hustle Unlimited Podcast with serial entrepreneur Donald Thompson! You are listening to episode 8 of season 2. This season we’ve had so many amazing guests who are supporting entrepreneurship in their communities, and today is no different, as we have on Katie Gailes, Director of Entrepreneuship Initiatives at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh. I’m Jason Gillikin, producer of Hustle Unlimited and CEO of the Earfluence Podcast Network.

On today’s show, Katie Gailes talks about what she’s doing both in Wake Tech and outside of Wake Tech, and how she’s using both taxpayer dollars and private funding to give businesses – mostly what she calls Main Street businesses – the education, the networking, the support, and sometimes access to funding – that they need to thrive in their communities.  Katie started up the Launch Wake County program which has absolutely caught fire. So today she talks about that, what entrepreneurship means to her – and it doesn’t mean starting up a business, the inspiration she has from her parents, diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, and what we should be doing to support our business communities.

I’m so excited to share this interview with you today.

But don’t forget, if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. That way, when we have new episodes with the hustlers of the world who are making their communities a better place, you will be the first to know.

So let’s get started. Here’s Walk West CEO, investor, speaker, mentor, advisor, and all around hustler himself, host of the Hustle Unlimited Podcast, Donald Thompson.

 

Donald Thompson, Serial Entrepreneur, Host of Hustle Unlimited:
Hey guys, this is Donald Thompson with Hustle Unlimited and I have Katie Gailes with me today. Katie, would you introduce yourself real quick? Just tell us name, what you do for a living, a little bit about your background.

Katie Gailes, Director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Wake Tech Community College:
Okay, Katie Gailes of course. I’m Director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Wake Tech. My mission is to look at the entrepreneurial fabric in Wake County, find some holes and develop some programs to plug them.

DT:
That’s awesome. Now how did you get to the point to where helping entrepreneurs became your mission? Because that’s really what it is, after getting to know you little.

Katie:
It really is. I think of myself more as a creative problem solver. And I’ve found this entrepreneurial space where there are a lot of things that need some creative energy thrown at it. I think I’ve always gravitated towards doing these types of things. You know, we treat entrepreneurship like it’s something brand new and cool. Not true. It’s been around forever. We just didn’t have the big word for it. So when I looked around my community as I was growing up, even in my family, entrepreneurship was everywhere. I mean, my father made fishing gear. He made rings out of coins. He raised rabbits for Duke Medical Center. You know the, the little white ones with the pink eyes. They were so cute. I got the hold them and keep them, and then they would disappear and we wondered where they went. They went over to Duke.

My mother…they called them dressing chickens, but you know what that means, right? For farmers who wanted to sell the chickens already prepared to cook. She took care of that for them. She was also a wet nurse and a wet nurse is a nursing mother who nurses other women’s babies for money. So when I was growing up, you know, big cars will pull into our little yard in Oxford, North Carolina and women, usually Caucasian women would get out of these cars and come up and sit on the porch and hand their babies to mom and she would nurse them and they would chat and then hand her some money and they’d disappear. You know, it was very normal to me, but when I look back on it, that was an entrepreneurial venture. So it was everywhere. And so I think I’m just kinda continuing a tradition. Now we have a big word for it.

DT:
That is powerful. I want to segue to your mom just a little bit. You mentioned her and I saw your face light up in a super powerful way. Talk to me about some of the lessons that you learned, whether it be entrepreneurship, but just as somebody that you admire that’s helped shape you.

Katie:
Okay. Well, mom is no longer with us. She left us in 2005 and I think – this is my theory – that sometimes we don’t get to know those people that are closest to us until they are gone. Because when they’re here, we’re seeing them through our own lens. But when they’re gone, now we have, we see them through everybody else’s lens. So I will tell you that I’m getting to know my mother even more. And though I have been 39 more times than I will admit to anyone, I am still trying to grow up to be like my mom. But what I learned from her was resilience. Some of the things she experienced in her life, creativity, spirituality, the difference between spirituality and religion. When I was growing up, my mother read at a third grade level, but she really admired the people in the church.

She wanted to teach Sunday school, so she would take the Bible and the dictionary and she would agonize over the words in the Bible, studying them, asking us for help sometimes till she got to the point where she really could teach Sunday school and then she eventually became a minister. Yeah, I told her she was a mercenary minister. She never wanted to be attached to a church. She would go and fill in for all the ministers and teach Sunday school when others couldn’t. But anyway, I learned that from her, the difference between religion and spirituality, because my mother eventually became this person who was like a wise sage. She had a Muslim physician, she had Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists who would come by and sit, they would talk about the Bible and things, things that they agreed on, things that they disagreed on.

DT:
No, that’s awesome. I think we are all shaped by our parents. I’m the son of a football coach and I learned toughness and teamwork. My mom is a former insurance executive and she always taught me to ask the question why. And never assume just based on what somebody told me that that was the absolute truth. And so she kept my mind always exploring curiosity. And um, TV was fun but having a library card gave me a source of knowledge. Now the kids today don’t know anything about a library card. I used to have a library card and I would go and pull out books and different things and she helped me to read. And so that’s really powerful to hear the lessons that you learned from your mom. And I feel the same way about, about my parents and, and mom in particular. When I look at your corporate career, you spent time in marketing and PR, right? Worked at IBM for a while. What are some of the things that you learned in the larger company context that helped you as an entrepreneur?

Katie:
I think that, when I look back at it, what I really learned from my corporate career is the value of having processes. You know, sometimes as entrepreneurs we get this passion, we are excited about something. We just go for it and we’re making it up as we go along. But at some point, and that’s wonderful and exciting and, and that’s how one of my programs actually started. But at some point you have to stop and put some rules in place and put some processes in place.

DT:
I think that’s a very powerful thing because when we start businesses, we want those businesses to grow, have business value at some point. Want to make some money. And in order for you to not just own a job, you’ve got to build a business that can live without you. And that’s the process that you’re talking about. And so I’m a big believer in that and that makes a lot of a lot of sense. We were doing some research on you and your background and different things.

Katie:

I’m innocent!

DT:

You said that everyone should have an entrepreneurial mindset, but that doesn’t mean you need to start a business. What did you mean by that?

Katie:
Well, if you go to the Webster’s Dictionary, I actually have a couple of those actually in my house that you can pick up and holding your hands out on us. Always Google the word, but if you look at the definition of entrepreneurship and the Webster’s dictionary of the definition of an entrepreneur, it is someone who sees an opportunity and is willing to assume the risk to pursue it. It does not say someone who starts a business. And that opportunity could be anything.

So if you think about it, someone who puts together a group of kids to pick up trash in their neighborhood, somebody who thinks that they are not reaching their full potential, they see opportunity there and they put together a plan to do that. That’s entrepreneurial as well. A lot of the great developments that have happened inside corporations have happened because people were thinking entrepreneurially but they were not starting a new business and please don’t everybody run out and start a business. Because if you did, where would those of us who start businesses find our employees, there’d be none left. But I really believe that if you look at the attributes of entrepreneurs now, they are also life and leadership skills that can make you successful in anything. Thinking about what traits I think are key for success as an entrepreneur but are also key for success in life is I really think entrepreneurial characteristics, those of the life and leadership skills of the future. I think it’s an inner drive or motivation. You know, you have it. It has to come from inside of you. You can’t sit around and wait for somebody else to make you do things. A curiosity and a willingness to change. Creative problem solving. I could start a church around creative problem solving. I really believe in that. Having a healthy relationship with failure. We can’t get embarrassed every time something doesn’t work. Cause there are always so many lessons to be learned. And so many entrepreneurs have in the traditional sense failed, but they failed forward. They’ve learned something that they’ve used in the next venture. And also being coachable, having of collaborative nature. Nobody does anything big in life all by themselves.

DT:
I tell you what, yes, this is a really, really powerful list and I want to talk about these things just a little bit. Curiosity. The company that I work with Walk West, where I’m the chairman and the CEO, that’s one of our core values. We want to hire people that are curious because that actually leads into the problem solving, right? When you’re always looking for that next idea that can make something more efficient. You can change the ideation of a new product. You can create a new marketing campaign and like you say, the curiosity is a characteristic that works inside of a company for a new venture. It’s just something that allows you to be on the cutting edge of what’s next, which is really, really great.

Katie:
And a lot of people that we work with who come with business ideas already have businesses. I find that sometimes that inner drive is missing, you know, they want it, but not bad enough to really go out and get it. And the curiosity being willing to change and adapt and learn and continue to learn. We worked one time with the tailor who been in business for 20 years and he’s excellent. He looked good, he wore his own product, but he wasn’t on Facebook. He didn’t use email marketing. So he hadn’t learned. He had not changed his prices in years. And so getting him to understand that if you’re going to stay viable, you gotta keep learning. You gotta be curious enough to want to know what’s out there, what’s next, and how you can do things better. Then of course, creative problem solving, it is a muscle, I believe creative problem solving is a muscle that the more you do it, the better you get. So I sit with people sometimes and they tell me what their issue is and I’m not bragging, but I come up with a solution pretty quick. But I’ve worked that muscle alive in working with people.

DT:
That is really powerful and the creative problem solving being a muscle, a lot of times people think that others succeed based on being more talented and a lot of times it really is that motivation and when you’re motivated, you’re open minded about different ways of doing things right? Because that motivation forces creativity, right? When you have a limited budget or when you have a limited amount of experience, but you’ve got to build that business to take care of the people you care about or to birth that dream. And when the motivation is strong enough,

Katie:
All the other details can be dealt with.

DT:
When the motivation is low than all those other details can, can kind of overcome the dream, so to speak. And so this is a really, really powerful list and I love it and I think we should expand upon that. What are some of the things specific to your role at Wake Tech that you guys do? What are some of the programs that you have? What are the things that you do to support entrepreneurs? Because I want our listeners to really understand you as a resource in our community as well as someone that is giving today a lot of enthusiasm and hope for the future. How do you underpin that with things that you guys do at Wake Tech?

Katie:
Oh goodness. So first of all, just let me say that as a poor, barefoot country girl from Granville County, North Carolina, I know that if you want to grow something good, you got to have some good dirt. And there is good dirt at Wake Tech because they allow me to do things and they allow me to start things and, and I feel very lucky to be there. So I work collaboratively with the small business center, and every community college has a small business center that’s funded by tax payer dollars. The small business center provides some core services to everybody in the community. Wake Tech’s territory is Wake County, so we don’t provide services in Durham County, Vance, Granville, Johnston, they have their own community colleges and small business centers to do that. But all the small business centers provide some of the same stuff. They all provide a set of seminars and webinars.

These are two hour chunks of information, very targeted for the small business owner and they are free to put together their own list of seminars based on what they see the needs are in their territory. And they also provide one-on-one confidential counseling by paid professional business counselors – unlimited because it’s funded by taxpayer dollars. So people say, what do I need to be able to come to Wake Tech and get some counseling? I thought, well, you know, check your wrist, do you have a pulse? That’s all you need. And that’s a resource that if you walking down the street and an apple falls on your head and it gives you this great idea, you can schedule an appointment and come in. Or if you got a patentable idea to do something in manufacturing and you need $1 million, you can still come in. It’s a resource that’s available to the citizens.

So that’s the underpinnings of what we do. Now. What I do specifically at Wake Tech is develop longer deep dive programs to fill needs. And I do this inside of the college and outside of the college because entrepreneurship knows no boundaries. I say entrepreneurship drives everything. So let me talk about what I do outside of the college first because it’s evolved into something fairly significant. And I was so fortunate to, to have this program brought to me in 2016 Matthew Cain from the North Raleigh Rotary Club presented me with an idea to help put together a program to solve an entrepreneurship desert in Southeast Raleigh. Cause all the cool stuff…you know is happening over there in the Warehouse District. And they would get to Wilmington Street and say, oops, not going over there.  And we saw that and we created a program, it started on the campus of Shaw University to help entrepreneurs in Southeast Raleigh.

And it had the four things that entrepreneurs need to be successful. It had training. And we use a curriculum from the Kaufman Foundation. It had mentoring, six months of mentoring, commitment of four hours a month maximum from a mentor. It had networking by getting them plugged into everything else that’s happening around here. And help find a little bit of money if that’s what they need. And we were so excited about what we did was like a start up. There were a bunch of us in the room. We ended up with eight collaborating partners, including the HBCU, Shaw, St. Aug’s, the city and rotary club and SCORE and Carolina Small Business Development Fund and Wake tech and Passage Home. We were all in there and we were just crunching away making this program work. And I’m wearing the orange hat today and tomorrow wear the green hat and we were so excited that rotary international put up a website called Launch My City so we can share what we’ve done with the world and then it caught fire and it’s become a movement.

So right now Launch Wake County is my flagship program. We have so many things going on. I had to put an umbrella around what I’m doing. There are seven towns in Wake County that all have launch programs; Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Raleigh, Roseville, and Wake Forest. And my mission, my goal is to have one in every one of the towns in Wake County eventually. And there are 12 towns, so a little over halfway there. So far we’ve trained 229 mostly main street entrepreneurs and with the 82 that have gone through right now, by December it’ll be 311 so we’re basically creating a Wake County Chamber of Commerce

DT:
That is super powerful. Like when you think about the reach of these entrepreneurs, how do you get the word out more about what you’re doing? Like what, what could be helpful to you? What do we need to do to support what you’re doing so that more people know about it? Because I, Heather Chandler was a guest on one of our podcasts and she runs a company called Whole Brain Escape and those escape rooms that are super interesting. And she talked about Launch Apex. But that was the first I’d heard about it. How do we get more of the word out? What are some of the things that we can do to help?

Katie:
There is a secret sauce to Launch Wake County. Actually there are two. First thing is, the reason this has become a movement is because there are teams of people in every town, mostly volunteers who are committed to growing small businesses in their town. I’ll do business with other small businesses in their town and in every town there are anywhere from five to 11 people on the teams that make this all work. And like I said, they’re all volunteers. They allow us at Wake Tech to be the facilitator for all of this because the real heavy lifting in making the program work happens in the towns. They get the word out in town, they hold the information sessions, they interview the entrepreneurs, we hand pick people, go into the cohorts. That’s why we only have about a 7% dropout rate. They get support from local businesses to feed them every day before class. Wake Tech comes in and we pay for the training with private dollars that we’ve raised and we are the convening organizations. So when we have a reunion Wake Tech handles that. So the secret sauce is the fact that this is community based.

DT:
That is awesome. You should be super proud of that. I mean I think there’s one thing to talk about entrepreneurship and there’s another thing to lend your expertise and experience to give other people a chance for their dream to rise. And that’s something that you’re doing every day, which feels like a dream job. Like that’s pretty loud. That is pretty awesome. Now you’ve worked with over a thousand small business owners, entrepreneurs, and we talked about some of the characteristics. What are some of the success stories that you’d like to tell us about some of the folks that you’ve worked with that you’re just super proud of?

Katie:
Oh, okay. So you said success stories and super proud of, and I was thinking about this, how we define success may vary because sometimes we measure, especially here in the Triangle, we’re so tech oriented, we measure success based on a tech startup, a yardstick. How much money did they raise? Are they scaling? And for a main street business that is not at all relevant. First of all, let me define what a main street business is. If you were to go into a small town, decide whether or not you want to live there. You walk down main street, you look for certain things, coffee shop, dry-cleaners, insurance salesman, CPA, daycare center, someplace to buy some clothes, someplace to buy some food, maybe a cool bar, a brewery, that’s main street. Nobody ever goes to a small town deciding if they want to live there and say, well, let me look where I see the way the app developer is. I’m gonna make my decision based on that. Main street businesses are the businesses that make communities work and their measurement of success is different. I can talk about some by some of the things people I’m proud of, but they may not be successful based on the yardstick of tech startup.

DT:
Answer both though because I agree with you in terms of, and I believe this very strongly, that success being different for others. Somebody may have left their jobs, start a business and are able to put their kids to college because they were self-employed, not what they were making working for another company. And they want to leave that legacy to their kids and that’s their success. And to me, I’m as an entrepreneur and a business owner myself, I’m just as proud of the risks that they took and the journey that they were on as somebody that startup was sold for tens of millions of dollars. And so I completely agree. So I’m very open to those success stories. I want to hear them.

Katie:
And so here’s the risk. We’ve, we trained 229 people and it’s difficult for me to pull out one cause I’m gonna make all the others jealous. Of course, cause we’re, we’re very, I’ll talk about in general terms very, you’ve already had Heather on here. We’re very, very proud of Heather and she’s a prime example of somebody who came in with a, with a great idea and the commitment and the hard work and the fact that she’s already in the black and her business is not a year old is wonderful. What makes her successful is she’s in consistent activity around her business. Some of the, some people have come through and decided that their business idea was not viable and that’s an success because saved them lots and lots of money and frustration.

DT:
Well, let’s talk about that for a minute. One of the things that people as entrepreneurs have to realize is that just because you have an idea doesn’t mean it’s a business. And what you’re teaching people to do is evaluate whether they have a business and then if they do have an idea that could be or should be a business, are they the right person to run it? Is it the right time in their life to do that? And that defining success for them appropriately gives them the right yardstick.

Katie:
And so letting them know it’s ok to change, that’s right. One entrepreneur, I’m very proud of, this young lady, she has a wonderful immigrant story is Veronica Saca, and Veronica was in our first Launch Raleigh class. She had an online men’s accessory business, bow ties and pocket squares and like I actually bought some, I wear them with little jewels hanging off of them and they were beautiful. They were wonderful products. She came to the class, she got really deeply involved. She created this wonderful website. She got deeply involved in her business. She was donating money to a charity from each sale and she realized she really didn’t like the work of being online all the time. But now she found her passion in real estate, but she’s applying the same thing. She learned to build her presence in the real estate market. And so to us she is now a serial entrepreneur because she’s taking what she learned from one venture and using in another venture.

DT:
That is fantastic. And what a great example. I think of the wisdom that you shared that you have to be ready for different transition points. And that comes back to the curiosity you described, the problem solving and using Veronica, the first idea wasn’t her passion long-term, but the lessons were transferable and you described entrepreneurship as kind of the engine for the, the next couple centuries. And I totally agree. I want to pivot and ask this. You’re very successful. You’ve got a lot of awards. I know that you’re a very humble person, but you won, let’s see, the Triangle Business Journal Woman in Business Award. It’s one of the awards that you won. And during your acceptance, you talked about what would you advise your 21 year old self and you said you’d take more risks and be bold. What’d you mean by that?

Katie:
Well, when I look back, I got out of college, and when I really wanted to do was be able to and to have some money because I was one of those kids that wasn’t supposed to go to college, I mean I threw my stuff in the truck of my boyfriend’s car and I went over to college and I was the first one. I’m, I’m lucky number 11 of 12 children and… I don’t know, I hope my mother thought that was lucky. But anyway, um, I was the first one to go to college, graduate from college and so I was so broke all the way through college. I was so glad to get that job at IBM and buy stuff. I wish I had taken more risks to do more non-traditional things and explore and have more and build more experiences. I have a sister who invited me to, to sign on to the crew of a Norwegian cruise ship for a year right after I graduated. No, no, no. I wanted to get into the real world and be an adult and I’m grateful to IBM for the experiences I got through. Then they pay for my MBA. They paid for my braces. They paid for my baby, but I wish I had done more, taken more chances early on.

DT:
No, that is powerful. So we’ve talked about entrepreneurship, we’ve talked about your background and what you do today at Wake Tech, which is phenomenal and we appreciate the time that you’ve invested in sharing with us and our audience. If you had a magic wand and we think about what’s going on in our world, what would you change?

Katie:
Oh my goodness. I should have had a couple of weeks to think about that question. I think everything comes down to people and somehow we have lost our connection to each other and I think it causes people to make decisions without understanding how it affects other people. If we ever make a decision without thinking about how it affects other people, it eventually comes back and affects us. We also don’t have the wisdom to understand that. So if I could change anything in the world, I’d change it to make us better, connect us to each other so that we recognize that every decision we make affects not just the people that are in our immediate circle, but all the people and that we need to see other people as significant. Think about all the things that happened in the world today and somebody made a decision that’s going to dramatically affect the lives of other people because they’re over there or because they look different or they have a different amount of money. It’s okay for those people to suffer.

DT:
No, I think that’s powerful. I mean I think if I were to kind of extend what you’re describing, it’s how do we be thoughtful outside of self and that unfortunately, and hopefully we’ll get it back, but we’ve lost some of that humility and we’ve lost some of that sense of community. It’s pretty amazing with all the social things that are supposed to connect us, how far that we become anti-social and how far we are apart. And so I think that’s a words of wisdom that hopefully we can, we can continue to move forward in that way.

Katie:
So I didn’t get a chance to tell you about the internal stuff we’re doing at Wake Tech because Launch Wake County is so cool. But several years ago I started something called Statup at Wake Tech that’s about to be renamed, but I can’t tell you what the new name is going to be.

DT:

Because you don’t know or because it’s super secret?

Katie:

It’s super secret. It hasn’t officially been, it’s gonna make sense and it’s gonna be once it comes out. But I wanted to bring entrepreneurship into Wake Tech and also bring Wake Tech more and make it more of a player in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. A lot of cool stuff happens inside of Wake Tech that small businesses can benefit from. So it started at Wake Tech. Any instructor can request a speaker, they can pick from some canned lectures and all they have to do is say time, date and place and somebody shows up. And so any instructor can infuse entrepreneurship into their course at Wake Tech. We also have a three year partnership with our graphic design program where every year I bring in a group of entrepreneurs to pitch to the students. The students pick the ones they want to take on as their clients for four months and they become their branding agency. In the past three years we’ve probably done about $50,000 worth of free branding work for a dozen entrepreneurs. I think that’s very cool. We also, we are infusing into our Barbershop school and Cosmetology schools, entrepreneurship training cause those people are definitely entrepreneurs. Most don’t think of themselves that way and I’m really excited about this. We have two English as a second language classes going right now, programs, and in these classes there are people from multiple countries. What they have in common is they’re new to this country and they’re trying to learn the language. Well we are now offering a launch your own business class for people who are learning the language. So as they learned the language, they can also learn how to start a business. So that’s what’s happening internally with entrepreneurs, is that all of it.

DT:
I think that’s great. But thanks for zeroing in on that. Cause that is, it would be remiss if we didn’t share that with our audience because one of the things that is changing is that people are seeing the community college system is a phenomenal way to get educated, to get retrained, to launch something new. And many years ago, it was a four year degree was the standard. If you didn’t have that, you weren’t gonna be successful in life. How are you going to get a job and all that good stuff. But I think the world of education is changing to where now it’s a focus on how do you prepare people to do things specifically in the area of their goals.

Katie:
And we’re getting back in touch with the dignity of work too. I tell people when my, when my hot water heater exploded, I wanted a plumber. I didn’t care how much it cost. I just wanted him here right away. And I think somebody told me the average age of a plumbers is 57 years old. So the community college is where we solve the problems that we have with the people, the jobs that require you to work with your hands. Because eventually, I know right now if I call my plumber, I owe him $87 before he even gets to my house. If we don’t do something about that, eventually I’ll owe him the same amount of money as my lawyer before I go in and talk to him maybe more, maybe more, cause I can do without the lawyer most of the time. Can’t do that alone.

DT:
No, that’s exactly right. When you need them, it is a high value service. And that’s a great, great point. Well, we have enjoyed having you. I’m even more excited about Wake Tech than, than even before. And we’ve known each other for a little bit now. And one of the success stories of our connectivity is when I learned about the small business initiatives at Wake Tech, one of the things that we did at Walk West is partner with you all to build out a social media curriculum and actually build out a partnership with Wake Tech. And so we’re in our second year of doing that and training students in the social media construct because it’s a way to get jobs that are well paying. It’s a way to move up in your current job because marketing and communication is starting to touch every type of business.

And so we’re super excited about the introductions that you’ve made for us to be able to do that. And maybe we can work something else out. We’re very open and especially now that we have the content, you were talking about some of the courses in the small business center and different things. We now have a lot of content that can be repurposed for a lot of different reasons. So it is my hope and expectation that we continue to stay in touch. And the next thing that we’re working on here at Walk West is Diversity and Inclusion. And so we’re actually building out an online certification course in and around D&I and we’re pulling together experts. Several folks on my team are going to training in January to get certified. And we believe that helping companies in marketing is only part of it. If you don’t have a workforce that is diverse and powerful and chasing ideas, then you’re not going to be the best you can be as a company. And so we’re taking it on as our mantra to be an example. And by being an example, you’ve also got to teach what you’re doing that’s working. And so we’re super excited at that. Well with the Launch Wake County program, sometimes I get these numbers reversed. I should’ve brought my cheat sheet with me, but um, we have 60 to 70% minority, 60 to 70% women in our Launch Wake County program, and in a security program where people apply, they’re interviewed and hand-selected.  I think that entrepreneurship and the small business network has always been diverse because minorities, people of color, especially black women, start more businesses than anybody. So it’s always been diverse. What has not been diverse is the infrastructure and the systems that have been put together to support those small businesses. So the programs that are out there that don’t reach deep enough into the community to find those people, the capital programs that aren’t patient enough to invest in anything other than tech, the events that are always held in the same place and never held out there in the community where they can be accessible. That’s what’s not diverse.

DT:
I think that’s powerful. And one of the things that is important is to illuminate the success stories of what is working, but not forget where we still have gaps. And I think to your point in the Research Triangle Park, our ecosystem for entrepreneurship is growing. It’s thriving. There’s lots of success stories, but that doesn’t mean we have arrived, right? That there’s not more great work to do.

Katie:
So if you plot it, almost everything is happening in the same places. And I know success attracts success, but we’re tending to put the resources in the same places all the time where they’re really not needed. It’s cool to be out there, but it’s not needed. We, if we would plot everything on a map, we will find that the Eastern part of Wake County and some parts of Raleigh not getting any resources, but there are small businesses out there, you know, people out there starting businesses. We’re just not taking the resources out there to them. Now ok, if we have stuff here, they want to come on over here where everything is, fine, but if we’re really, really serious about growing this entrepreneurial ecosystem, we would take the resources to where the entrepreneurs are and I think that’s why the Launch Wake County movement has grown because everything that we do in Apex happens in Apex. Everything happens in Cary. Everything we do at Knightdale happens in Knightdale. We go to Knightdale, we don’t tell the people to come over to a Wake Tech campus. Everything that we do for the Roseville people happens in Roseville.

DT:
You’ve taken powerful knowledge and made it local.

Katie:
That’s right. Make it accessible to everybody.

DT:
No, I think that’s awesome. Diversity and Inclusion in my mind now is a topic that everybody nods yes, it’s good, and we need to move to how do we implement programs, processes, and support so that we can move the needle for underserved communities and educate along the way and I’m super proud of the work that you’re doing in that area.

So anything you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?

Katie:
Just that, um, you know, entrepreneurship and small businesses are the ones who anchor our economy. They also anchor communities and they feed elephants. I know that a lot of our traditional economic development efforts are aimed at bringing in the next elephant, but elephants eat grass and the entrepreneurs are the grass, they serve those big companies and we gotta make sure we have a really healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem in order to have a healthy economy.

DT:
I’m going to let you have the last word. That was powerful and a great way to end our time together. Katie, thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your wisdom. It was great.

So one of the things that we’re working on is diversity and inclusion. I’d like your thought process a little bit, your thinking and how you’re taking all the different things you’re learning and creating an environment, encouraging diversity and inclusion in and around entrepreneurship.

Jason:

That was Katie Gailes from Wake Tech and the Launch Wake County Program.  You can find more information on Launch Wake County by going to LaunchMyCity.org.  And if you want to hear from one of the graduates of that program, we had one on Hustle Unlimited, and that was Heather Chandler from Whole Brain Escape on episode 1 of Season 2.

Thanks for tuning in everyone, and thanks to Katie Gailes for sharing what she’s doing to make the business community in Wake County more knowledgeable and successful.

This episode was edited and produced by me, Jason Gillikin, for Earfluence. For more on the Earflucence Podcast Network, visit Earfluence.com or check us out on social media, we’re AT EarfluenceMedia.

Intro and outro music for this episode is “You Can’t Stop Me” from Jensen Reed. You can find more of his music at JensenReed.com.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time on Hustle Unlimited.

 

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