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Learning to embrace growth navigating the entrepreneur highway

Last week I presented at our local Minnedemo event to a crowd of 500+ people. It’s a friendly crowd there to celebrate MN Tech. Our product has definitely been all about MN from the ground up. Naming, branding, design, trademark and the tech itself built here in MN. That’s Paul Modderman and I in the lower left. I was encouraging the adorable little fan in the second row to cheer loud for the presenters. 

I had the last pitch of the night, and was ready to share more of the Bella story. I was also nervous too about how my message might be received. It would have been easy to nerd out and focus on the technology stack with my co-presenter Paul Modderman. Hey, I am an engineer after all and talking about the tech is my default behavior! But we opted for a different approach. We talked about the processes used to build our product as well as how we want to build more inclusive technology ecosystem. *Gulp*

Finding my voice as a tech entrepreneur has been challenging for me. I have a 20 year background in tech from the SAP industry. I was very comfortable here in my niche in Treasury and payment technologies. I used to joke that my job was to swap out train cars for corporate customers on a moving train without derailing it. But stepping over into the land of web and Google and Amazon has sometimes felt like another planet. This time it is about my vision for a product. And how to bring that product to life.

The idea of building software while involving people throughout the build was a novel little idea I had 2 years ago. I had NO idea how to actually accomplish this. But we did it and adjusted along the way. Over 150 people provided help in the form of interviews, prototype testing, feedback groups, etc. while we built. Over half our feedback was from women. My spine still tingles every time I get to say this. In many ways, this is my own love letter to our tech industry and what I hope we can become through more inclusion.

I’m still learning to celebrate what I bring to the tech dance that is unique. I’ve always been one of those lead by example kind of people. Collaboration, human centered design, and trying really hard to make space for people. It means sometimes we go slow in order to go fast later. For me, it meant taking two years to get Bella Scena built. It also meant taking steps toward more inclusion in technology. It’s a journey for us to keep expanding the conversation and keep making space. We aren’t perfect- but we are continuing to try to get better. It also means I have to keep getting better too- I need to tell the story, and provide a different perspective even if that’s scary for me.

How did the story end at Minnedemo? It ended with tremendous support from the local community, and an amazing set of conversations after the event. It pretty much felt like a big hug, which I appreciated. Thank you Minnedemo! I hope it provided encouragement to others that are walking the paths of approaching things a little differently. I know someone must have heard me because I had the quote of the day in Twin Cities Business. Thank you TCBMag as well for the kind shout-out!

Walking the path of a woman led bootstrapped tech startup isn’t easy. I’m steadily finding community around me that wants to keep nurturing me (and sometimes giving me a kick in the rear when I need it). There are still three more days to startup week. I’ll be at events Monday-Weds, making new friends, listening to new perspectives and getting over-caffeinated to keep up.

Are you part of our broader business community here in the Twin Cities? Please attend at least one event at Twin Cities Startup week. I know it’s scary coming over to startup land, but I promise we are a friendly group! You might be surprised at how many of us come from corporate backgrounds. Getting out of your normal could be exactly the fresh input you need to approach your business challenges with fresh eyes.