At WOD, we know women pack a powerful punch when it comes to strategic thinking, and advocating for others. Kristina Bergsten is a perfect example.
An attorney at Bergsten Law Offices, Kristina's passionate about advocating for her clients, and she demonstrates this by helping others resolve problems in some of the most challenging and emotional circumstances.
What do people often thank you for?
Being open, direct, and honest with them.
What's been inspiring you lately?
The strength of other women and minorities to change their situation and the institutionalization of sexism and racism in this country.
What do you love most about Women of Denver?
The meaningful educational opportunities and connecting with smart, empowered women entrepreneurs.
What unique impact do you make on the world through your work?
I help people resolve their problems to the best possible outcome, often in highly emotional and stressful situations.
Tell us about a recent accomplishment you're proud of?
Resolving a case in favor of my client that was predicated entirely on racial bias.
What actions do you take to support and empower other women?
I provide free advice to women survivors and sufferers of domestic violence, do my best to shop at women-owned businesses, and promote women-owned businesses on my social media pages.
What else would you like our readers to know about you?
I am a domestic violence survivor. I want other women to know that they are not alone if they find themselves in an abusive relationship and that it can happen in relationships where both people are well-educated and from "good" backgrounds. I want women to know that they should not feel ashamed, or that they need to hide their situation from the world. It is best to speak up and speak out and get help.
I also want women to know that anything is possible: when I left my abuser, I never would have imagined I would be practicing law and running my own law firm. I am happier and healthier now than I ever was with him and I look forward to seeing what I will continue to achieve in the future.
by Joce Blake
When women have power and agency, we reign supreme. Marvel’s groundbreaking film, Black Panther, proved this theory this weekend as millions of people watched women be portrayed in a heroic light. This is a turn in the right direction for the film industry since women have historically stood on the sidelines in action films. The film is not only comprised of predominantly black characters but also unapologetically emboldens the roles of badass women.
“Long Live the King” is the slogan for the film but from my perspective, it was the women who made Wakanda a country that everyone wants to call home. From Shuri, the smart, witty princess to Okoye, the fearless leader of the female warrior band, the female characters in this film made me so proud to be a black woman. It’s not often that we see females being labeled technological geniuses as Shuri was in the film. The fact that she is also a woman of color makes it more real for me personally. Watching the film, I felt proud and emancipated. I have not felt that way since I saw Hidden Figures in early 2017. Watching actresses Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright be own their valiance without having superpowers made me feel like I can truly do anything. Being a woman is a superpower in itself.
Letitia Wright’s character, Shuri, was undeniably my favorite character. Her quick, amusing comebacks alongside her irrefutable brilliance made her the shining star of the film. Shuri was able to achieve her dreams of saving the world through her technological advancements because of the resources she had and the support of her tribe; power and agency. During a Black Panther press conference, Wright said, “What I loved about [the character was] with how it was written, is that the men are always behind the women, as well, so no one's like undermining, the men aren't like, ‘You shouldn't be in technology, and you shouldn't be in math.’" Wright continued, "They're like, ‘No, go ahead.’ T'Challa's like, ‘Go ahead, sis. This is your department. This is your domain. Like kill it. Then I'm gonna work with you to finalize it," 'cause he's dope. But then it's like, ‘Okay. Just do your thing. Stay in your lane.’ That's the mentality of a king, and that's brilliant.”
The film attempts to tackle concepts of racism, colonialism, nationalism, colorism and sexism in an unimaginable way. While I am aware that this single movement cannot erase years of discrimination of various forms, I was elated to see director and co-writer, Ryan Coogler, produce something so beautiful. Black Panther promotes black excellence in a way that I didn’t realize I needed to experience. Representation is essential to the evolution of culture. Even through the beauty and fashion of this film, I now feel more liberated to be proud of my melanin skin and natural hair.
It was heartwarming to see that other women were echoing my same sentiments. Women of Denver member, Sarah Hipps shared, “I was surprised that I couldn't quite express my reaction to the film. But when I saw strong black women alongside strong black men, in a world of success and leadership that felt assumed and not in any chains or battling direct racism or being portrayed as broken down, it actually felt like a representation I knew was missing but hadn't FELT until I saw it last night. I'm jealous of the little girls who have so many black women to look to these days that have skin as dark as theirs, hair as untamed and natural as theirs, unapologetic fierceness, and a strength shown that we are often chastised for. It felt so good to see unapologetic blackness.”
As I was leaving the theater, I heard a young black girl say to her mom, “I’m going to be like Shuri when I grow up. I am going to be so smart like her!” As my eyes welled up, I realized the grave importance of this film. Thank you, Marvel and Ryan Coogler for making a film I can truly be proud of.
Contributed by Kristen Giovinazzo, a freelancer from California with a Masters in Public Accounting
Less than 10 years ago, there was a new area of business everyone was curious about -- cryptocurrency. It all started with Bitcoin and quickly grew into a multi-billion dollar industry.
To many of us, cryptocurrencies can appear confusing and mysterious. We hear many stories about individuals who first invested a few dollars to discover years later, they are millionaires.
But who are the individuals behind the numbers and expanding this ever-growing business? We quickly discovered, a lot of them are women!
Today, highly educated women are forming businesses and assisting others to understand more about cryptocurrencies. Who are these women? We have compiled a list of 5 incredible women making their mark in this exciting new area of business.
Monika Proffitt, Co-founder and CEO of Rise Housing
Monika Proffitt is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker with 20 years experience in community design and real estate investment. She is the founder of Rise Housing, a real estate company using blockchain technology to the address issues of equity access for tenants and liquidity for investors. She regularly speaks at conferences and universities throughout the the Americas and Europe, and has been featured in Vogue Italia and New Mexico True TV. In her spare time, she writes poetry, creates art installations, and goes on long, meandering walks through New York City, where she lives.
TIP: Make sure the company that you invest in is playing the long game by making sure their token is backed by a real asset - not just a possible idea.
Elena Shkarubo, CEO of MeetnGreetMe
Elena Shkarubo – MBA from Kingston University, member of SPARK initiative to promote entrepreneurship globally and Co-Founder and CEO of MeetnGreetMe – a marketplace where international travelers can find personal assistants/concierges among local people. In September 2017 Elena decided to apply Blockchain Technology to the platform. Adapting the blockchain technology allows MeetnGreetMe to have its own means - MeetnGreetMe crypto-token - to incentivize contributors and reward the activities connected with the platform growth and development and fuel the MeetnGreetMe ecosystem.
The blockchain enabled payment system will allow them to exclude a costly middleman from the money transfer process in the future, and make it transparent and convenient for the parties regardless their geographical location. MeetnGreetMe has already successfully completed the Pre-ICO. The ICO will start on March 27 and last till May 21.
TIP: Don’t invest more than you are ready to lose.
Maria Eagleton, Co-founder of ChargaCard
Maria Eagleton is the co-founder of ChargaCard, a Boulder, Colorado startup that has created a cryptocurrency payments app that allows people to pay for goods and services with cryptocurrency. ChargaCard has a deeper mission related to social equity: tens of millions of Americans are mired in massive credit card debt or poor credit, and ChargaCard is the first B2C platform that taps into the informal credit markets to connect customers with legal and medical services—a true win-win for companies and the consumer.
Under Maria’s leadership, ChargaCard has embraced a policy of complete salary parity between women and men in the same positions, and ensuring that at least half of its employees are women (the current industry standard in tech companies now is closer to 20% female and 80% male). And there’s a practical rationale too: men and women think about the same things differently and have different approaches to development, and Maria wants this commitment to diversity and inclusion as a core element of the company’s DNA.
TIP: Do your homework! Each day, there are dozens of new cryptocurrencies coming online. The best resource is to read each company’s white paper, and get a sense for whether a company has the infrastructure and product in place that they claim to. If a white paper feels generic or doesn’t give a clear picture of what they’re trying to do, that should raise a red flag.
Kim Jackson, SingularDTV co-founder and President of Entertainment
As the co-founder and President of Entertainment at SingularDTV, a blockchain entertainment technology company, Kim Jackson brings about change by offering artists tools to empower themselves from funding all the way to distributing to their audiences.
She is responsible for all strategy and implementation of entertainment partnerships, including original and acquired content. An accomplished film producer, Kim has been a driving force behind Sundance winner BLUE CAPRICE and more than a dozen other award-winning films.
TIP: Before you make a decision on becoming involved in any ecosystem, it’s important to investigate the promises they make about products. You need to check that there’s an engine in the car that you’re buying - that there is something going on under the hood and that they have engineers backing their products. Doing your research and homework is very important.
Grace (Rebecca) Rachmany, Founder of IwriteICOwhitepapers.com & DAOleadership.com
Grace (Rebecca) Rachmany is the founder of IwriteICOwhitepapers.com, and also of DAOleadership.com. In addition to helping companies get to ICO (Initial Coin Offering), she works with growing decentralized organizations to instill the company culture and management skills needed for success in a decentralized world.
TIP: Cryptocurrency is not an investment. It's a currency. If you didn't invest in forex before, this isn't a vehicle you should be considering as an investment today either.
by Joce Blake
Today marks the one year anniversary of the Women’s March on Denver.
Last year, this single-day protest brought out women and men by the millions around the globe and hundreds of thousands in the city of Denver. From the inception of the Women's March, national co-chairs Vanessa Wruble, Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour had a clear mission "to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change."
The mission also states that the Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists and organizers to engage in their local communities through training, outreach programs, and events. Above all the Women’s March has been committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity, and respect.
The momentum the 2017 march created was exceptionally regenerative as many women felt liberated to run for office and take on roles that are typically dominated by males. Never in the history of woman-dom, have 390 women been empowered to run for the House of Representatives with the goal of giving the boot to the patriarchal men who currently occupy those seats.
This year the March on Colorado Board, Tish Beauford, Lisa Cutter, Jessica Rogers, and Jolie Brawner, knew they wanted to be intentional and inclusive. Jolie Brawner, organizer and executive director at local non-profit Washington Street Community Center, shared some of the details from what goes on behind the scenes of an event of this magnitude.
How long did it take to organize this year’s march?
We officially obtained the permits for the March and Rally on November 1st, and we announced we would be having an anniversary march at the 28th of October March on Colorado Women's Summit. The planning has really been in full gear since the permits were obtained on the 1st.
What goes into the effort to organize thousands of women?
Lots of time, patience, and support. Everyone working on the March is a volunteer, meaning we have given up our evenings, weekends, and any free time to make this happen (not to mention the amazing support and understanding we are all getting from our families and friends). So what goes into an effort like this? Everything we have because it's a labor of love.
Is there a small group of leaders or is this part of a larger organizational effort? What individuals or groups helped coordinate the event?
After the 2017 March on Denver a board was formed to facilitate strategic forward movement. Members of this board work to support all aspects of march planning, and thoughtfully direct momentum resulting from the march into the community. We believe that social justice, human rights, and equality are shared American values. We firmly believe that there is still much work to do and that real change will only happen when all marginalized people are an active and respected part of the conversation. Until we have socio-economic justice and are active participants in a government that works for all of us, there is a reason to march.
Last year’s March demonstrated the power of our combined voices, and many were galvanized to run for public office as a result. We believe it is important to continue the momentum created in part by the Women’s March, and serve as a forum for women, transgender, and non-binary communities to express their intention to create real and significant change in our society. The Women’s March belongs to all of us. To that end, we recognize that many groups have been working on women’s and social justice issues for decades. In our sincere effort to honor the women and communities engaged in this important work, we have created a March On steering committee. This steering committee is helping us shape the January 20th theme and speaker roster, in addition to helping channel the march momentum into impactful community efforts moving forward. https://www.marchoncolorado.org/about
What do you hope will change as a result of the Women’s March?
I hope the Women's march re-energizes individuals that have become so tired in this past year. Last year so many women were galvanized to run for public office by the moving display of the women's March; I hope this year is as inspiring. I hope this year as we urge people to March to The Polls in 2018 they hear the message and use the energy of the Women's March to become involved in their community, feel a new connection to their fellow Coloradans, and show up in force to vote this November. To ensure we have opportunities to direct the energy of the Women's March beyond the March we have established a "Continuation Committee" and have events available for people to connect to their local activist community starting the day after the March.
More information on events is on the March On Colorado Facebook page under events: https://www.facebook.com/pg/marchoncolorado/events/?ref=page_internal
What do you think drives so many women to participate in the Women’s March?
I believe people are driven to participate in the Women's March because they are sick of yelling at the news alone at home. The Women's March offers an opportunity for individuals to come together and feel connected to and supported by their community. There is something so powerful about looking around you and seeing thousands and thousands of people who want to celebrate what they are pro, support every individual in their community, and connect.
This year's Rally theme is "Hear my Truth." All speakers and artists are meant to be “everyday women”--women who have opinions to share and stories to share but who aren’t normally given the platform. Specifically, women who are marginalized but who feel comfortable in speaking in front of a large crowd will be given the microphone to share their stories…their truths. The idea is that if each community can be heard, they will rally stronger together.
I hope that two things happen.
1. That people hear a voice they have never heard before, and reflect on how different all our experiences are, but also
2. That everyone can hear parts of a story that they connect to and realize we are not so different after all.
In this member spotlight get to know Laura Naomi, founder of the Awakened Foundation.
What do people often thank you for?
People often thank me for truly listening. In especially vulnerable moments they feel accepted for who they are; they feel heard and seen. People thank me for my openness, for feeling a deeper sense of connection, and for holding them while they go through difficult things.
What's been inspiring you lately?
Everybody has a story to tell that needs to be heard. Being in a space of honesty, rawness and depth is incredibly powerful. Being able to hold others in their stories and see the beauty inside them beyond the suffering is an immeasurable gift. Also allowing myself to be held by others while being transparent and vulnerable is very healing. I am in a place of trust and I grow as a human being rather than remain in fear.
What do you love most about Women of Denver?
I look forward to connecting further with women in WOD. I love to collaborate and create opportunities for each of us to be supported in our visions, passions and gifts. When women come together the energy is unmistakable. Having sisters around me who encourage me both in the challenging times and also when I experience success keeps me focused and connected to why I do what I do.
Tell us about a recent accomplishment you're proud of?
Consciously choosing to be in a space of compassion. Last year I decided to challenge myself to a new level and fully commit to a cause I am very passionate about. Through a non-profit I support people who have experienced abuse. I also share my own stories in hope that it will inspire others. It can be an incredibly vulnerable place, yet so deeply empowering to have a voice. I have shared a lot of my experiences through artwork, music and other creative avenues because speaking about it was very difficult. I encourage others to also share their experiences through creativity. Indeed sometimes 'a picture is worth a thousand words'.
What else would you like our readers to know about you?
I have been deeply connected with shamanic communities in my life, so I feel at peace and at one when I am in nature. I also love traveling, all things creative and I'm a bit of a romantic! If I'm not painting, I'm singing or dangling from a tree to get that perfect photograph across a lake. Life is an adventure and I love it!
What actions do you take to support and empower other women?
Through my non-profit (The Awakened Foundation). I found my voice, and there needs to be a sacred space in order for others to find theirs. There is a Goddess within every woman and she is being woken up. A colleague and I also hold a Sacred Women's Circle every month. I encourage women to share their wisdom and it is a space where each sister can connect in authentic ways. Genuine encouragement and collaboration overcomes competition and comparison.
Contributed by Haylee Powers
Steve Forbes editor-in-Chief of Forbes said:
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business”.
The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs and startups making is that they do not know how
important branding and strategy is for the success in their business. I see a lot of confusion
about what branding is. Branding is not a logo or a marketing plan, a brand is a gut feeling,
experience and the ONE thing that makes you different from competitors. Your difference (we
call this a Unique Selling Proposition) needs to be compelling, concise and motivating.
Great brands create a quality experience and evoke an emotion in the customer. The way that
you can control the perception of your brand or product through the way you design and
strategize is mesmerizing. Brand strategist have studied neuroscience and psychology to create
a deeper understanding of how our brain works as it relates to brands we love and choose over
and over again. Design is used as a tool to create something beautiful but taken a step further
design is a tool combined with strategy to make real impact on customers and on the world.
Branding is meant to turn chaos into order and complexity into simplicity. Branding is SO
SIMPLE and that is what makes it so complex. It involves chiseling away at all the
miscellaneous information so that the exact message is you are trying to convey is obvious.
Branding yourself or your product is definitely an investment, but you know you are going to get
a return on it because your message is clear and concise.
Here a few things a brand strategy will do for your business:
1. Branding will differentiate your business from your competitors.
2. Branding will manage the perception your customers have about you.
3. Branding will build equity, brand awareness and loyalty.
4. Branding will form emotional attachment and trust.
5. Branding will highlight your unique attributes.
After you have created a solid strategy for your brand, you can then develop the Brand Identity.
Your Brand Identity will include things like your logo design, color palette, font choices,
photography, product packaging and more. The order in which you develop your brand is
important, the strategy always comes first when creating a strong brand.
Having a strong Brand will allow you to take a commodity and turn it into a brand.
Coffee, shoes and cars are all commodities. Starbucks, Nike and Mercedes Benz are brands that bring in millions. If you are serious about bringing in money, you need to be serious about your brand strategy. The truth is, customers will pay more for a brand they believe delivers outstanding service or benefits.
You are already branded… which could be detrimental.
Your design, in store experience, the copy on your website, the photos you use and more are creating a gut feeling in your customer and clients. Your customers are walking away with a gut feeling about how you present yourself, your touch points and the mission that fuels your company. Don’t lose money by letting your customer have a negative or uninspired experience with your brand. Control the perception people have of you and develop your unique selling proposition so that your business can bring in a higher income.
Haylee Powers is a Denver based designer and brand strategist working with companies as large as CBS and as small as the solopreneur next door. She founded Bad Bitch Branding in 2016 to empower women through brand strategy and design. She spends her time coaching female entrepreneurs and startups on their brand strategy as well as designing brand identities.
by Krystal Covington, MBA
Finding the right gifts can be challenging, especially when you've hit the last days before Christmas. This list is the perfect resource to know what gifts will truly resonate with the friends, colleagues, and family members on your list who spend most of their time ambitiously working towards their goals for world domination.
Best of all, these timeless, value-packed gift ideas don't require shipping or wrapping.
Prepaid Hours with a Personal Assistant
The #1 thing professional women struggle with is finding time to relax or complete additional tasks that will help them get ahead on projects. There are many services that offer in-person or virtual assistants who are trained to help with everyday administrative and life-management tasks. Purchasing 5-10 hours of help for a friend is like giving them their time back.
Mod Assistants is local to Denver and provides personal services, business services, and virtual assisting. https://www.modassistants.com
A Session with a Personal Stylist
We've all heard the saying "dress for the job you want," but for some of us it's an elusive goal. Getting personalized advice can be an amazing resource and the payoff can mean higher salaries for corporate women or being able to charge higher rates if you're a freelancer or consultant. There's a number of professionals out there, but choose a stylist you feel will challenge your friend to try new things while keeping her professional goals in mind.
In our Winter magazine issue we featured fashion designer and stylist Lil' Fresh Sam, who has worked with a number of business professionals.
Professionally Written Resume
Selling ourselves can be tough, which is why it's so beneficial to have someone else do the writing when it comes to resumes. They can see you from the outside and compare your qualifications to the many other resumes they've reviewed over the years. A professional resume makes a perfect gift to prepare your giftee for the new year. Whether they're seeking an internal promotion or a new job altogether, your gift will be a benefit to her dreams and goals.
Through a quick Google search I found Cherry Creek Resume Service https://www.resumeservicedenver.com, which offers personalized in-person resume consultations.
Membership to an Industry or Networking Group
The gift of education is priceless. Membership organizations are built to help members forward their goals and build a network that can help them navigate their careers successfully.
There are hundreds of organizations out there, so I recommend asking your giftee if they know of one they've been dying to try, but hadn't yet invested in. If you're going for a surprize, be sure to ask if there's a return policy, so you can get your money back if your friend doesn't like the group.
Women of Denver offers memberships at www.JoinWOD.com and a 45-day guarantee.
By Joce Blake
The great Mile High City is listed as #5 among the healthiest cities in the United States, according to Forbes Magazine. Every area in Denver has a host of gyms, golf courses, parks, and recreational areas, and of course, the beautiful Rocky Mountains set the scene, serving as a background and a playground.
With so many ways to stay fit, there is always a new and innovative trend in the fitness world. Whether you are a health nut or someone seeking a customized routine, feeling comfortable and enjoying your workout are most important, but not every space offers that experience. However, our very own Women of Denver member, Sheryl Langley, loved the fitness plan at FIT36 so much, she decided to open a new location after a year of high-intensity interval training.
Over a year, Langley dropped three sizes, and she says that it is all thanks to the “work harder and smarter” mantra that rings throughout the FIT36 locations. In just 36 minutes, the goal is to provide an intense but fun workout regimen perfect for any Mile Higher ready to see results and work hard. The 53-year-old entrepreneur and guru opened her FIT36 studio with hopes of inspiring others to “train to live” because she knows how great the muscle memory program works.
Inspired by this transformation, we asked Langley how it started. This woman of Denver told us, “The moment I decided to stop going the safe route and follow my passions to create the life I had only dreamed of. My year of transformation followed a divorce and there was a whole new life I was ready to create.” Langley recalls reading books that helped her overcome fear and self doubt. She also attended workshops on how to discover her calling and truest life passions. Langley went on to say, “I also joined a mentorship program to get the support and internal work I would need in making this big change in my life and believing in myself. I created a plan and knew I was willing to do whatever it took. Support was crucial, both with my circle of friends and my business mentors. In a short year, my experiences were beyond any challenges I had overcome in my entire life, and this was the transformation that has led me to where I am today, a stronger and more confident woman who is driven to live her passionate life.”
For every powerful transformation, there is a moment that is life altering and Langley recalled that moment happening at a workshop in Chicago. At this juncture in her life, she was considering her next move after being unhappy with her job at the time. “We all talked about what our greatest passions were and put them in the order of most important and I realized during that time that I was spending very little time in what really mattered to me,” Langley says. In that moment she asked the facilitators about mentorship and ironically they had just started a program designed for people like Langley who were looking to redefine their life. According to this brave woman, “That was the start of my journey.”
Social sciences have proven that giving a woman resources provides stronger benefit to the world. The resilience and strength that women exude is quite inspiring. That applies to Sheryl Langley. She too believes that as she shared with us, “Women have a sense of compassion and depth of being in touch with their inner self that allows us to connect on levels I feel some men struggle with (okay, most men). Women find and build their tribe and the level of support and love we give each other and the trials and tribulations we are willing to share with each other is a very special thing.” Above all things, we loved when the Mile Higher said, “We dream big and love to pursue those dreams. We are soft yet strong. Yes, being a woman is incredible!”
The Women of Denver was created to help achieve that very goal. For Langley, finding other women who shared her yearning to learn from each other has been amazing. “This group supports each and every member in every way you can imagine, personally and in business matters as well. To be able to share my story and experience with other members and inspire them has been something that truly transformed my life. Having a powerful support network has been a major ingredient for my personal transformation and WOD has been a part of that. The relationships you build at WOD can truly transform your life,” the Women of Denver member exclaims.
Becoming more passionate about inspiring others on a deeper level, you can expect to see Sheryl Langley doing more speaking and one on one life transformation coaching and mentoring. Langley believes that transformation challenges will be an integral part of her fitness business while integrating a full on mind and body transformation program that can be duplicated and used to help women and men who are ready to do the work on themselves both inside and out. She says, “It's going to be about focusing on the entire being and for me about slowing the aging process and helping others to focus on happiness that starts from within. From self care and self love.” We are excited for Sheryl Langley’s continuous transformations as she continues to make the world a more passionate place.
By Joce Blake
Picture a kitchen full of refugees working on lifelong, empowering skills—that kitchen is Comal Heritage Food Incubator in Denver’s TAXI development, located in the River North neighborhood. These young women are not just refugees but are also bright, intelligent entrepreneurs determined to change the world. Initially, the space was used to provide Hispanic women with job and language skills; it is now a safe place for Syrian women, as well. In the eyes of these strong women, intense ambition is their only choice, leaving behind a bomb-ridden home in pursuit of their goals and dreams.
We had the opportunity to have a conversation with Slavica Park, Director of Economic and Workforce Development at Focus Points Family Resource Center. Park was also once a refugee, so she understands the feeling of the unknown, and that understanding fuels her passion to pay it forward. Focus Points is responsible for the program at Comal, and it is more than deserving of the spotlight. We also spoke with one of the refugees, Sara Nassar, to see how this program is truly affecting lives.
WOD: What is Focus Points Family Resource Center?
Park: Focus Points Family Resource Center is a Denver nonprofit organization whose mission is to build better communities by strengthening families. Focus Points achieves that by providing programming in the following areas:
School Readiness, Adult Education, Economic and Workforce Development, Health and Wellness, and Community Engagement.
WOD: How did you get involved in the Focus Points Family Resource Center?
Park: I started working at Focus Points in May of 2016 as their Director of Economic and Workforce Development. I was very drawn to the mission of the organization and excited for an opportunity to re-engage in community work.
WOD: What is the importance of the community outreach program?
Park: Community outreach is important because it gives organizations a pulse on the community they are serving. If community outreach is not properly conducted, organizations are often unaware of what the community truly needs and how to best serve its members.
WOD: What are five things you want the world to know about the community outreach program?
Park: The Focus Points community outreach program helps ensure the following:
WOD: Where do you see the program in 10 years?
Park: I would love to see our graduates realize their dreams of launching their food-related businesses. Additionally, I would love for Comal to grow and become a true cultural center that bridges the cultural gaps in the city by engaging all communities in a conversation around food. I believe that our misunderstandings stem from simply not knowing other cultures that make up the fabric of our city.
WOD: Why did you choose Comal Restaurant as the spot to start this creative kitchen?
Park: I think Comal chose me! When I first started working at Focus Points, I met a group of community members who were interested in starting food-related businesses like catering, small restaurants, and food trucks. They had talent and passion; the only thing missing was the commercial kitchen. It was at that time I learned that Zeppelin Development had a vacant kitchen space that they wanted to use for social purposes. After meeting and planning for three months, Comal opened in October of 2016!
WOD: How did you come up with the idea to teach classes to the community spanning from cooking to culture?
Park: It was what the community asked for. Cross-cultural interactions are something I am truly passionate about. I have lived in three different countries, and learned that integration is a difficult process. One must have an international mindset in order to create spaces and opportunities for integration to occur. We have so much to learn from each other in order to help us grow.
WOD: Why do you think the program is essential to women?
Park: In addition to providing women with an immediate earning potential (50% of our revenue goes directly to women in the program), the experience gained sets them on a trajectory to successfully own their small businesses. Entrepreneurs in Comal are able to test out recipes, marketing strategies, and management styles. They build confidence and experience, all while having the opportunity to share their culture and their families’ recipes.
WOD: Why Hispanic and Syrian women?
Park: Focus Points predominately serves a Hispanic population, and therefore our first cohort was very representative of our community. As our operations got settled in the first few months, we realized we had the capacity to take on another day of lunch service, and decided to extend out to the refugee community. We focused specifically on Syrian women because of the current political climate. We wanted to show them that they are welcome here, and since their first day in Comal, our customers have been huge fans!
WOD: How did you meet Sara Nassar?
Park: I met Sara through Colorado Refugee Network Services. I reached out and asked them if they had any newly-arrived refugees who had a passion for cooking and wanted to be a part of our program. The very next week Sara and her friend Waala came to Comal and brought some delicious, authentic Syrian food for us to try. Their food was fantastic, and so were they. I am so impressed with the level of compassion, resilience, and drive that Sara has! I know she will be successful, no matter what she chooses to do!
WOD: How has working and learning at Comal restaurant affected your life?Nassar: Working at Comal makes me feel welcome in Denver, and helped me to learn more about the people here. Comal is such an amazing program—I love everything about it, from learning how to cook and serve in a restaurant, to meeting nice people. It's hard to pick my favorite part, but if I have to it will be the happy feeling I have when I see the joy on the people’s faces while eating what we are cooking. I am happy because they come every Friday. I am happy because we made something that makes other people feel good.
WOD: What would you like people to know about your life as a refugee?
Nassar: As a refugee, I have been in hardship, but achieving my goal by coming to a safe place and being here in Denver is priceless. I thank the god of the universe every single day. This taught me that everything is possible, and life has so much more to give than we'll ever know. I will work so hard, so no one will ever lose hope.
WOD: How has moving to Denver affected your growth and passion?
Nassar: The first thing I noticed when I was at the Denver airport was the sky—so big, so close, so beautiful. This city just gave me peace and hope. I am so excited to wake up every morning to continue living life again. I thought it was just because it's a new place, but no, it's real. I have been here for 8 months and I am not just feeling the same, but I am feeling better every single day !
WOD: What makes you feel empowered as a woman?
Nassar: What makes me feel empowered as a woman is having equal opportunities, and not being judged,stereotyped, or being treated as a human and nothing else.
By Donna Moriarty
I may be a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, but last night I had an epiphany about networking. I discovered I love it.
Okay, maybe I’m going a little too far. How about, I discovered that meeting people in a business or social setting doesn’t deserve the fear and loathing I’ve invested in it. In fact, it can be almost fun. I just need to remember a few simple principles.
I’m the sort of person who would choose a root canal over a networking event. Seriously. I have a really great oral surgeon who makes me laugh between bouts with instruments, and frankly, I would prefer that experience to a networking event that resembles some of the kind I’ve had.
But now I know there is a better way. Earlier this year I hung out my shingle as a sole practitioner of editorial services after decades of corporate and nonprofit staff positions. In those days, whenever I attended a networking event for my employer, I had no real purpose other than to schmooze, show the company flag, and just get through it until the boss signaled it was okay to leave.
Those occasions were marked by the most craven wallflower-ness. I would lurk in the corners of the room like some cobweb, scanning desperately for someone I knew or wasn’t too intimidated by. After glancing at my watch for the third time in 10 minutes, I’d sidle up to one of my colleagues and begin talking about how much I hated networking and was it time to go yet.
It’s easier to understand the root canal now, right?
It wasn’t until I started my writing and editing business that I knew I really and truly had to get over this phobia. So I did what anyone would do: I typed “I hate networking” into a search engine, and scanned the results for something that would put me out of my misery. I found it in Devora Zack’s wonderful book, Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected. I completely related to Devora’s insightful yet playful observations about being an introvert in an extroverted world. I loved reading her take on the differences between people who love networking (e-verts, feel free to wave your hands and yell, “That’s me!”) and those who hate it (i-verts, you can raise an eyebrow in recognition—or not).
I was so enchanted by her insights that I resolved to do a better job. I downloaded her book to my phone, registered for a local small business association’s holiday party—one of Devora’s tips (if I don’t register, I’ll find some excuse not to go), and then forgot about it until the day of The Event. I woke up in dread. I thought about it all day. I was on the verge of bailing. And then I remembered Devora’s book.
I opened my e-book to the chapter on The Networking Event Reimagined. Get there early. Hm, now there’s a concept. Instead of entering a room teeming with people, I could more readily approach the small number who were milling about at the start. Scan the nametag table to get an idea of who’s attending, and whom you might seek out for connection. Another excellent idea I’d never considered. Set a goal, even if it’s only two new connections. Ok, check. Two new connections, a low bar to be sure, but hey—training wheels. Survey the crowd before jumping in. Hand a plate to the person behind you in the food line. After a couple of interactions, take a break to regroup before starting another one. Ask questions, and listen. Know when it’s time to move on, and prepare a simple exit line.
Before long, I didn’t have to think about it; I knew what to do. Something about my confidence seemed to make a difference, too. A few people approached me, which made starting a conversation infinitely easier. I began to enjoy myself. I asked myself new questions, like, “Have I gotten the most out of this, or should I stay a little longer? Can I try something really bold, like approaching the CEO of a company that I’d love to land as a client?” By the time I looked at my watch—for the first time—there were only 15 minutes left before the evening would officially end. Well, shut up! I survived!
So all hail, @Devora_Zack, for rescuing me from a life of antipathy toward my fellow networker. All hail to the lively, helpful people at the business association’s holiday bash. And all hail to the quiet people out there who believe networking mastery is beyond their ken. It’s possible to do the impossible if you just remember who you are and what you are about.
And be a little brave. After all, it’s not root canal.
I’ve been writing since the age of seven, when a nun caught me telling an outlandish story, and said I would be a writer one day. After spending three decades writing copy and producing publications for various employers, I founded Silversmith Writing and Editing. I rarely meet a sentence I can’t improve, even just a little. A lot of website and marketing content, churned out just to fill space, really doesn’t try very hard. “Good enough” copy is stale, full of jargon and riddled with clichés. It needs a makeover. I like to tell my clients, “sit back, relax, and let me bring out your beautiful story.” When I blog, I like to tell stories from my own observations that can illuminate the dim corners of our everyday experiences.
You can learn more about Donna Moriarty at www.silversmithwriting.com.
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