Authenticity: A Key Sales Ingredient

Many people commonly associate “sales” with stepping out of their comfort zone. But, as I’ve learned, “sales” are less commonly associated with one key ingredient that actually makes sales successful.

Can you guess it?

Hint: It has to do with connection.

*drum roll please…*


Maybe this seems obvious. But let’s just get curious for a moment: How often is “authenticity” the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the next sales conversation you’re prepping for?

The idea of selling has a tendency, all too often, to feel scary, intimidating and nerve-wracking. Which is exactly why I love helping entrepreneurs actually experience sales as something fun—and not so scary.

This journey of marrying “authenticity” and “sales” in the same sentence, and living it, has been nothing short of eye-opening and diverse.

And it’s been a journey, let me tell you. One that’s taken me totally out of my wheelhouse and walking along spectacular views. And, one that began when I decided to step away from the career in HR that defined me since my freshman year of college.

Working in HR taught me a lot about communication, and how the way we show up in our communications makes a world of difference. Little did I know, the universe was setting my stage for the work I’m doing now helping clients have authentic, enjoyable and fruitful sales conversations.

When I left HR I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So I started my own business. And failed. I started again. …And failed, again. This happened again. And Again.

Four failed launches.

So I changed directions. Numerous times. I became well-acquainted with stepping out of my comfort zone:

  • I was asked to be part of the opening team (as restaurant manager) for Fort Collins’ dazzling Elizabeth Hotel. What began by staring at an empty lot of concrete and steel transformed to a team collaboration that created an integral and amazing aspect of the Fort Collins community today.
  • Constant Contact offered me a job. I took it and learned a wealth of information about email marketing.
  • I moved to Idaho, turned around and left four weeks later—because I wasn’t afraid to get honest with myself and recognize what was truly best for me, letting go of expectations.

In hindsight, it became clear that all these seemingly disconnected experiences were actually perfectly interconnected, and leading me to a beautiful part of the journey I now find myself on: successfully owning the Proffit Coach, helping others shift their sales experience.

What did all parts of this winding, interwoven journey of mine have in common? What allowed me to successfully launch the Proffit Coach and pay my bills (plus some) during the first 3 months of launching my business? (I spent zero on marketing these first 3 months, BTW. I know, it’s nuts. And yes, you read that double “f” in Proffit right–I’m lucky enough to have ”Proffit” as my last name 😉 ).

As I’ve reflected on a common thread, this is what I’ve noticed:

  • I wasn’t afraid to step out of my comfort zone and make a change (even when other people thought it was crazy). I was willing to trust myself.
  • I made authenticity the tone for all of my business (and personal) communications.
  • I’ve learned to be open to possibility.

Being committed to authenticity and open to possibility, and experiencing this firsthand, allows me every day to help clients apply these ideas to their own business.

What’s amazing is that sales (and most of business) isn’t just about stepping out of our comfort zone. It’s also about being committed to authenticity.

As you become more comfortable sharing your incredible gifts with the world, get curious and ask yourself:

  1. How do most sales conversations feel to you? Do they feel authentic, or does the conversation feel awkward?
  2. If you’ve experienced a truly authentic-feeling sales conversation, can you think of one important thing that made it feel so natural? (Get specific! 😉 ).
  3. If not, what is one thing you could do to help future sales conversations feel more natural? (Hint: check out this post for some tips).

When we communicate authentically, we have an incredible potential to transform our business engine (sales) from experiences in which we forget to breathe, to experiences that feel so natural and energizing that we detach from outcomes, and confidently receive what our journey has to give us.

This guest post is by Alison Proffit, the Proffit Coach.

Alison Proffit teaches small business owners how to become more effective in the sales aspect of their business. Her work focuses on becoming more clear on where the breakdown is, creating a sales process that resonates with them so that they can go into sales conversations more confidently and then have a plan to follow through on the connections that have been made.

Meet Matthew West, Business Librarian at Poudre River Public Libraries

The Poudre River Public Library District welcomes Matthew West to its team as the new Business Librarian. Matthew comes to Poudre Libraries from Loveland Public Library where he managed various library services, programs, and outreach initiatives.

“I truly appreciate the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout our community,” says Matthew West. “It’s a testament to a business ecosystem that understands and values startups and small businesses. I’m excited to be part of that system and help people successfully create and grow their businesses.”

Matthew brings a deep knowledge of data and market analysis, strategic planning, and research to his work as a Business Librarian. He is located at the Harmony Library and is available for one-on-one meetings to discuss business research and analysis and to teach methods for effectively using the many free business resources available at the libraries.

In addition to providing business services and programs at the libraries, Matthew will lend his expertise to the Larimer Small Business Development Center where he’ll work with clients interested in industry and market trends, and customer, demographic, and competition research.

To learn more about the Library District’s various business resources or to request an appointment with Matthew to discuss your small business or startup, visit the Library’s Business Center webpage:

You can meet Matthew at Fort Collins Startup Week 2020, where he’ll be on-site for the Scale-Up Week sessions.

What makes good professional communication? A healthy respect for boundaries.

Professional communication is based on customs and socially agreed-upon values. When you meet someone, how do you introduce yourself? In the U.S., we shake hands to greet people we don’t know.

Imagine walking into a job interview and introducing yourself by pulling the interviewer into a bear hug. Does that seem ridiculous? Uncomfortable? Silly? If so, what you’re feeling is a cultural boundary. When we don’t know people, we have a set of behaviors that we use in order to communicate. These behaviors are culturally established, and in the U.S. that means handshakes, not hugs.

Written communication also has rules of behavior that relate to cultural boundaries. When people don’t meet our expectations for behavior, we become uncomfortable.

Consider the following email:

I have an “eye exam” appointment this morning, after that I’ll go pick up the sandwiches for the meeting at noon and bring them in. Then I have to meet Grandma at the doctor’s office at 10. I will be back in time to deliver trays to the Education Room for the noon meeting. After that, you may find me in my office sipping on a cold frosty “one”. Okay, maybe not but it sure sounds good.

This is a real message sent from one professional to the entire office. Does it make you feel as uncomfortable as hugging that interviewer? It should.
Three aspects of this message cross social boundaries:

  • No greeting. Greetings establish the tone of the message. You are starting a conversation with a group of people. Face-to-face, we begin by smiling, waving, nodding, shaking hands, raising our arms for a hug, or saying hello. These behaviors establish that we are about to talk to each other. In email, the greeting does the same thing. A greeting should include a word or phrase like “Hi” or “Good morning” and the person or group’s name.
  • Too personal. The writer dictates everything they are going to do. Remember, this is a message from an office worker to the rest of the office. Do all of their coworkers want to know about the doctor’s appointment and the family member? No. Most people in the office probably don’t care. Personal details are the privilege of friends.
  • Too I-focused. The first three sentences begin with “I,” which signals to the reader that the writer is only concerned with the writer. Professional messages, ones that enhance our credibility, build trust, and create strong working relationships, show that we care about the reader. These messages pay more attention to what the reader needs than what the writer wants. Only two details in this message matter to the reader: 1) lunch will be in the Education Room at noon and 2) the writer will be away in the morning.

Here’s a you-focused, work-content only, revision of this message with a greeting:

Hi, colleagues,

Lunch will be available today, 10/12, in the Education Room at noon.

I’ll be in my office as soon as I arrive with lunch. While I am out this morning, Grant will be available to assist you.

A message like this doesn’t feel like a suffocating bear hug that you can’t get out of; it feels like a handshake. And that’s exactly how our professional messages should be.

This guest post is by Jenny Morse, Founder of Appendance, Inc. In her own words:

Words, language, communication, writing, books, poetry, brains. My background is in creative writing–poetry, non-fiction, and I’ve written a YA novel. Now I train professionals in business writing at companies around the country and at CSU. My expertise is helping people learn writing strategies that enhance their own credibility and build relationships.

She Leads, Indeed!

Women are taking the stage and taking up their space more than ever – globally, and right here at home.

Part of the mission of Fort Collins Startup Week is to empower entrepreneurs of all stripes, backgrounds and passions to build better business through a spirit of inclusion. It is important to our team that Startup Week celebrates entrepreneurship as a primary driver of social, cultural and economic equity.

Last year’s polling data revealed that 59% of our respondents identified as female. This is hardly surprising, as our Northern Colorado communities are rife with strong and visible female leaders. To ensure we are living our values, we crunched the numbers and were delighted to find that 54% of the speakers this year are women!

Given our values of inclusion, representation, and diversity, we often find ourselves aligned with local organizations that share our mission and empower entrepreneurs of all stripes, backgrounds and passions to build better business.

Enter: She Leads.

She Leads is a community of professional women in Northern Colorado. They consider themselves the “anti” networking group, suggesting we all “ditch the elevator pitch” and get to know people for who they are – not just what they do. Designed by introverts for introverts, She Leads embodies the #Give1st mindset. The group hosts two free events each month where members practice taking up their space, being seen as leaders in the community and increase their influence through personal and professional development.

Since its inception in 2017, She Leads has blossomed into a force to be reckoned with in Northern Colorado. With over one thousand members and counting in their Meetup group, sponsorships from powerful local organizations, and a paid membership tier to help scale the business while keeping regular meetings free and accessible to women from all walks of life, this is a community with serious staying power.

Sounds like a group that should be active during Startup Week!

As it turns out…they are. Of the 81 female speakers this year, 14 of them are active with She Leads, totaling 28 presentations throughout the week.

Check out these diverse and impactful presenters speak on a variety of topics from video production and sales to self-care and human resources. She Leads is proud to collaborate and support these powerful women, including:

So as part of our 5-day celebration of entrepreneurship, we would like to celebrate She Leads for bringing such talented leaders to Startup Week. We can’t wait to see you there.

To learn more about She Leads, visit:

She Leads is on Instagram: @sheleadsfc

Meet The #FoCoCreative

Building a business requires engagement, branding, and outreach. The minds behind growing your audience are media and marketing experts. Meet local media experts Scott Allen, Nick Armstrong, and Tim Wenger.
Scott Allen

Scott Allen

Owner, Northern Colorado SEO

Speaking on: SEO for Startups, Wednesday March 1 @ 2PM

I have been doing SEO for over 15 years and I still love it. Helping new and existing businesses improve their web presence is what I do best. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of speaking at Fort Collins Startup Week and hope to have many engaged business people in attendance.

I took a tour of the West and loved the feeling I got in Fort Collins. So I moved here.

Lots of great resources to make their startup successful and able to hit the ground running.

Take notes.

A feeling of having helped people understand the search engines and how they work. A benefit to the people attending in any way I can.

Nick Armstrong

Nick Armstrong

Geek-in-Chief, WTF Marketing

Speaking on: From Solopreneur to Multi-Person Business, Tuesday, February 28 @ 6PM

I’m a dad, author, Ignite and TEDx speaker, audio drama enthusiast, and award-winning serial entrepreneur. My company WTF Marketing has made marketing fun again for a large number of happy clients, including several multi-million dollar businesses and mom-and-pop shops in my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. I’ve even advised Fortune 100 businesses on marketing and technology. I leverage over a decade of hands-on marketing experience in building community and helping businesses tell stories, alongside over 15 years of web design experience. Alongside an amazing team of 13 other super-geeks, I built out Fort Collins Comic Con to benefit the Poudre River Public Library District and have raised over $45,000 for the Library and encourage youth literacy through comics. I love to be involved throughout my community and co-organize/help with events like TEDxFoCo, Startup Week Fort Collins, Ignite Fort Collins and more.

I landed in wonderful Fort Collins, Colorado to earn my BS in Marketing and Computer Information Systems at Colorado State University, fell in love with the city, and never left.

If you don’t walk away from FCIP: Startup Week edition (From Solopreneur to Multi-Person Business) with at least a few actionable tips on when, how, why, and with whom to grow your business, we either ran out of beer mid-talk, or you weren’t paying attention, or both. Growing beyond a ‘You-preneurship’ is a scary but necessary step if you ever hope to scale your time and energy.

Don’t try to do all the things, pick one or two events, absorb everything you can, take notes, and make as many good connections as you can. If you walk away with even one new idea, one new friend, or one new opportunity, you’ve won.

Fort Collins is expansive – in all the right ways. By providing a platform for all kinds of entrepreneurs and startups – from artists, creatives, and musicians to coders, techies, and makers, the city’s ability to solve 21st century problems like a world-class city should! Beyond the basics of employment, solving fundamentally complicated woes like homelessness, poverty, and inequality is all within reach with a well-established, communicative, and collaborative startup community.

Tim Wenger

Tim Wenger

Owner/Operator, Inkwell Media Services

Speaking on: Startup a Band, Wednesday, March 1 @ 2PM

Tim Wenger is a Denver-based journalist and founder of Inkwell Media Services. He is the author of So, You Have A Band and a frequent contributor to Matador Network and MicroShiner. After finishing a BA in Communications from Fort  Lewis College, Tim jumped into the back of a Ford Econoline and spent a few years playing guitar in dark bars while falling in love with travel, good food, and local drink. He’s been unable to rest his pen (or his feet) ever since.

I’ve been part of the front range music community since moving back up here in 2009 with my band, Oatie Paste. I worked as the Managing Editor of Colorado Music Buzz from 2011-2015, when I branched out and started Inkwell Media Services as a freelance business. Since forming in Sept. 2015, I’ve been doing a wide variety of media work for various clients including news and journalism, copywriting, PR, talent buying and event management, and anything else my clients need.

The vast majority of musicians, as great as they may be at writing and playing music, need help with business side. Through my book, So You Have A Band, and speaking events such as Startup Week, I hope to pass along what I’ve learned as an editor, talent buyer, and musician to those looking to grow the business side of their music career. I sincerely hope people walk away with a better understanding of how to put their best foot forward in the industry.

Make yourself easy to get ahold of. Carry business cards, and follow up with everyone you meet. List your email and phone on your business Facebook page and everywhere else you can. Your contacts are going to make or break you, so do everything you can to maintain them.

I am very interested in learning how to scale a media business. I hope to watch presentations from business leaders discussing how they have started the process of taking themselves out of the day to day operations.

Colorado is the place to be. We’re attracting all types of young entrepreneurs and hotshots to our state. Where we’ll be depends on how well we interact with those coming here with fresh ideas. Do we view them as competition? Or do we network, learn from, and work with/alongside them? That will be telltale sign.

Meet the #FoCoStarter

It is hard to know at what stage you are ready for investors or if you qualify for traditional financing. Three experts Dave Harris, Doug Johnson, and Mike O’Connell will be guiding you through funding 101 for entrepreneurs at startup week.

Dave Harris

Dave Harris

Director of Operations, Rockies Venture Club

Speaking on: Sharkless Tank: Aligning Angel Investors and Entrepreneurs, Friday, March 3rd @ 4PM

Dave Harris is the Director of Operations for Rockies Venture Club (RVC), the longest running angel investor group in the US. Rockies Venture Club is a non-profit organization furthering economic development in Colorado by connecting investors and entrepreneurs through conferences (Angel Capital Summit, Colorado Capital Conference, and Cannabis Capital Summit), networking events, educational offerings and facilitation of Colorado’s largest angel investor groups. Dave is also a Managing Partner with Rockies Venture Fund, an early stage venture fund focused on supporting Colorado startup companies. Prior to joining RVC, Dave worked as a collaborative start-up consultant specializing in strategy, business development, and project management. He also has 7+ years experience in international finance and content management at Thomson Reuters and Lipper, covering the financial markets for Latin America, Europe, and Canada. Dave is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and he enjoys climbing 14ers, backpacking, fishing, and cooking; often all simultaneously, while still answering RVC emails. Connect at or at @DaveHarrisRVC

Rockies Venture Club manages an Angel investor chapter in Fort Collins and provides educational content to investors and entrepreneurs in the Fort Collins area. The reason we feel strongly about this community is its highly collaborative and there is a genuine drive to support one another. That makes it unique to a lot of other ecosystems throughout the state and provides a major draw to investors in our group. That is what leads me to Fort Collins consistently from Denver. I really love taking part in this community.

From our Pitch Academy and Angel 101 events, I hope everyone gains an understanding of how Angel investors think and what they look for in companies they invest in. Investor psychology is fascinating. Entrepreneurs that can see their business through the lens that Angels do generally present much better and ultimately can build a much stronger business.

Our Sharkless Tank event is designed to be the “Anti-Shark Tank” where Angels and VCs will provide constructive feedback and questions to pitch presenters, but will also educate the audience on how actual deals are done. There won’t be any sharky negotiations that end up in worse deal for both parties. It’ll be a lot of fun and it will look much different than any other pitch event.

Dive in deep. Not only into the Poudre during the Poudre Plunge, but dive into all of the amazing content and opportunities that FCSW provides. It is electric to be surrounded by so many like-minded people so take advantage of this week as much as possible. I’ve made so many strong relationships from Startup Weeks, but it takes work.

I’d like to connect with more Fort Collins entrepreneurs that are considering venture capital. I’d also like to see more investors get engaged and take the pulse of this awesome community throughout this week.

I see Fort Collins continuing to mature over the next 5 years and the rest of the state developing a better understanding of why this community is so special. There will be several more major success stories to come out of this startup community over the next 5 years, and I anticipate that those companies will continue the trend of recycling their success and expertise back into the Fort Collins community.

Doug Johnson

Doug Johnson

Colorado Chair, Tiger 21

Speaking on: Access to Capital: Show Me The Money, Wednesday March 1 @ 3PM

Doug Johnson currently serves as chair for the Colorado TIGER 21 investor group, Senior Advisor to the Impact Finance Center, CO Impact Days and Initiative, chair for the Virtual Board and works with a number of high net worth individuals, families and foundations on direct investment and impact investment strategies. In addition, he is also a board member of The Interfaith Alliance for Colorado and serves on the Regional Development Council for the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado. A wealth advisor by training, Mr. Johnson has worked for Charles Schwab, First Western Trust and Everence and was most recently the Vice President for Access to Capital with Innosphere, Colorado’s premier nonprofit science and technology incubator. A Colorado State University graduate, he makes his home in Fort Collins, CO with his twin sons, Jacob and Dane.

I was born and raised in Fort Collins and thankful to still call it home. I’m rooted here with my family including my parents and my twin sons who are sophomores in high school.

Funding solutions that are right for their type and stage of business.

Be curious. Attend something new and stretch yourself to learn more and meet new people.

Satisfaction that the network and experience I’ve gained over the years can be paid forward to help more entrepreneurs.

A thriving innovation center of more than half a million known for some great startup wins in the arts, energy, water, technology and community building.

Mike O'Connell

Mike O’Connell

Director, Larimer Small Business Development Center

Speaking on: Top Six Ways Businesses Get Into Trouble, Thursday, March 2 @ 4:30PM


Lunch & Lightning Talks: Local Resources Pitch Back!, Friday, March 3 @ 12PM

Mike O’Connell earned a business degree with a marketing emphasis from Purdue University, and worked in a variety of executive sales, marketing, and business unit management positions, including eleven years with Thermadyne Holdings, North America’s third largest manufacturer of metal cutting and welding equipment. In 2001, O’Connell purchased Mountain Woods Furniture (MWF), a leading national designer/manufacturer of rustic hand-crafted furniture, and co-owned and operated that business until its’ sale in December 2011. MWF’s products were sold through Cabela’s, national furniture e-tailers, furniture stores, and to resorts and lodges desiring a rustic style. He provided over 6,000 paychecks to American manufacturing workers during his ownership of MWF.

He is co-chair of the Larimer County Workforce Development Board (WDB). He enjoys spending time with his three children, hiking and exercising, playing guitar, singing, and photography.

I was living in St Louis, and negotiating to buy a business. I came to Fort Collins to look at the business, and thought Fort Collins was a really cool place, and decided to go ahead and move here. I closed on the business about 3 months later, that I operated for the next 11 years. I’ve stayed here because the people are great, plus there are many many benefits to living here, with very few negatives. The weather is unbelievably good!

Useful real-world information, and an understanding of the resources to help them with their process.

We work with about 650 clients a year, and if I could wave a magic wand and fix two things for all of them, it would be: 1) Your business concept needs more focus. Most clients come in with a concept that is a mile wide and an inch deep. We want you to be a hundred yards wide and a half-mile deep. 2) Understanding that the sales process is probably going to be your biggest challenge – everyone wants to talk about the lease, product/service, loan, blah blah, and spends 15 minutes thinking about WHO they are going to sell to and WHY that person would buy the product. What’s your competitive advantage that’s going to persuade someone to give you their money ??

I would like to see the attendees exit FCSW being more street-smart about what really makes a business succeed, and better connected to useful resources.

We are going to have some significant new workforce challenges going forward that didn’t exist 20, 10, even 5 years ago. I think the businesses that will “win” will be those who excel at retaining/motivating their team members.


What’s the difference between a successful Misfit Entrepreneur and someone with a J-O-B?

A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business Your WayA special thanks to one of our Fort Collins Startup Week Speakers: Ariana Friedlander for donating a free ebook copy of her new book to every Startup Week Attendee: A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business your Way!

Misfit Entrepreneurs Read to Succeed!

Fort Collins Startup Week Attendees will be gifted a FREE copy of A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business Your Way eBook. If you’re RSVP’d on Sched, you’ll receive an email link to download the book on Friday March 3rd. You can also just go straight to the Amazon page on Friday to download:

Be sure to check out Ariana’s panels:

Tuesday, February 28, 11:30am to 12:15PM @ FVC Mesh Fort Collins: Getting Started with your Startup (The Secrets of a Business Model Canvas)


Friday, March 3rd, 2:30pm – 3:30pm @ the Community Creative Center: How to Self-Publish a Book Without Losing Your Shirt or Your Soul


About a Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur these days but no one is ever prepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride that it can bring. The constant pressure to put yourself out there, along with the extreme ups and downs of big wins and repeated rejection… it’s hard for many to persevere. A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business your Way by Ariana Friedlander and Co-Creators provides key insights to help guide entrepreneurs.

A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide helps readers who don’t fit the mold for traditional careers master their own entrepreneurial adventure. Ariana uses a bike metaphor to guide readers, provides excerpts from her own journal to highlight the trials and tribulations of the journey, and prompts readers to blaze their own trail with thought-provoking reflection questions.

In the Forward, Tony Middlebrooks, PhD, and Associate Professor for the Horn Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware writes, “entrepreneurship…requires two key ingredients from the entrepreneur: the ability to see the world differently, and the initiative to pursue their idea. A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business Your Way provides the kind of practical, personal guidance that will catalyze both abilities.”

Book Endorsements

“Original, witty, and inspiring. No one has been ambitious or daring enough to write a book like A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide until now. This is a must-read for Misfit Entrepreneurs everywhere.”
—Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On

“Anyone who meets Ariana is instantly struck by her thoughtfulness, knowledge, and humility, and these values are clearly captured and communicated in this book. Through her well-crafted collection of journal entries, stories, and experiences, she paves a path showing what’s involved in being an entrepreneur. These lessons, successes, and challenges provide inspiration, motivation, and real insight into how to manage yourself and your business while exploring the uncertainty associated with new ventures. She constantly reminds us that being a ‘misfit’—and learning to become comfortable with it and yourself—is really what the entrepreneurial journey is all about.”
—Barry O’Reilly, founder and CEO of ExecCamp, co-author of Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale

“Remarkable. Practical. Inspirational. Ariana gives us a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the trials and tribulations of the Misfit Entrepreneur’s journey to mastery. Want to chart your own path? Read A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide. Get ready for wisdom and insight that will catalyze your growth and transform you into a successful and satisfied entrepreneur.”
—Jason W. Womack, MEd, MA, cofounder of Get Momentum




Meet The #FoCoFoodie


Fort Collins is slowly emerging on the food scene in Colorado. Like everything that happens around here, a #FoCoFoodie has a very distinct nature. From food trucks to food distributors and all that lies in between, food startups are all around. Learn more about three speakers Taylor Smith, Trish O’Neill, and Tim Solley.

Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith

Founder & Owner, The Gold Leaf Collective

Fort Collins, CO

Speaking on: So You Want To Start A Food Business? Jesse Doerffel • Callie Koch • Elizabeth Mozer • Trish O’Neill • Josie Sexton • Taylor Smith, Thursday, March 2 @ 1:30pm

After 3 wildly successful years of his first food truck, The Silver Seed, Taylor Smith has taken a small start-up and grown it into an incredibly multi-faceted and diverse company. His second food truck, The Silver Seed, Too, began operations in 2016, and his new Fort Collins restaurant, The Gold Leaf Collective, is slated to open in 2017. The Gold Leaf will be the hub for The Silver Seed(s) as well as Leaf Seed Catering, and Laurel St. Bakery. Taylor’s passion for enabling and supporting his community has been his top priority from the start, and with the support of both his unparalleled team and Fort Collins’ progressive community, The Gold Leaf Collective is having a significant impact in food culture. Their mission is simple: to show the world that sustainably-sourced, ethical food can be insanely delicious.

I moved to Fort Collins January 1st, 2014 with the idea of opening a new kind of food truck. Despite all odds, I opened The Silver Seed on May 23rd, and since then, the roots of The Silver Seed have grown deep within this community. Since then, I’ve opened a second food truck, The Silver Seed, Too, and am now constructing the culmination of these roots in my first restaurant, The Gold Leaf Collective. My work with The FoCo Food Truck Alliance and Fort Collins’ City Council led to the crafting of food truck law that promotes a free market for food trucks to thrive. In 2016, I was in charge of the Food Truck Rally Series in City Park. I spent every Tuesday guiding 15 food trucks, live music, and over 2000 people together to enjoy one of the cities best weekly gatherings of families, friends, and food. Fort Collins’ spirit of entrepreneurship has been my guiding force throughout my time here. This is one of the only places I’ve ever lived where a good idea has potential to implemented- and fast. I intend to stay for a long time and contribute wholeheartedly to the growth of our wonderful community. Fort Collins’ is my home, and where my future will bloom.

If there is one person that understands the power of hearing the right words at the right time, it’s myself. My true hope is that there will be one person in the audience that is thinking about getting involved in our food movement, and if I can be even the smallest catalyst in helping that person commit to commencing, I’ll feel as accomplished as I ever could.

Don’t try to impress anyone. People sense that.

I plan to extended my network of passionate, dedicated, hard-working people that are involved – or planning to be involved – with our incredibly diverse start-up culture.,

Fort Collins’ will be iconic. Our city will serve as a prime example of a truly locally sourced infrastructure. We will resist corporate buyouts, and in 10 years have proven the overwhelming viability of locally-owned and operated businesses.

Trish O'Neill

Trish O’Neill

Founder & Owner, The Cooking Studio

Old Town Fort Collins

Speaking on:

Creative Team-Building Tactics w/ Ron Baker • James Lopez • Brad Modesitt • Trish O’Neill • Kaarina Robson, Monday, February 27 @ 11:00am

So You Want To Start A Food Business? w/ Josie Sexton • Ashley Colpaart • Jesse Doerffel • Callie Koch • Elizabeth Mozer • Trish O’Neill • Taylor Smith, Thursday, March 2 @ 1:30PM

Trish O’Neill is the Founder & Owner of The Cooking Studio, a recreational cooking school in Old Town Fort Collins. The Cooking Studio was founded in 2015 and has hosted over 1500 amateur cooks since opening. Chefs from all over Northern Colorado work as Chef Instructors. Programs offered include team building, private parties, culinary skills classes, international cuisines, date nights, baking and much more. Kids classes & camps were started in the summer of 2016 and are offered every week and on school holidays.

I was living in Boulder and doing a lot of business travel for a previous job, so when I decided to put down roots and open a cooking school it HAD to be Fort Collins! I moved here 3 years ago and love, love, love it.

I’m doing 2 events: Starting a food business and team building. Starting a Food Business: People should come away from this session secure in the knowledge that they are not alone! The food business community in Fort Collins will help. There are a lot of regulations around the food industry on top of what it takes to be a start-up. It’s hard, or even impossible, to know everything you need to know to get started. Don’t leave Startup Week without at least one contact you can call with questions.

Team Building: It’s not easy to assemble and manage a high functioning team, especially when the pressure is on. Functioning teams require communication, project management, time management & delegation skills as well as helping each other out in a pinch. Successful companies use team building activities to help teams practice working together without the pressure. And it can be a lot of fun. Team cooking requires team members to use all their collaborative skills to successfully create a 4-course meal, but in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. And the outcomes are obvious and delicious!

Get what you need from the sessions, but don’t get overwhelmed. Have fun! Meet other entrepreneurs.

Fort Collins will be one of the 5 top Startup Weeks in the US.

Tim Solley

Tim Solley

Rebel Leader, Rebel Popcorn

Fort Collins, Colorado

Speaking on: Hands On: How to Website Tim Solley, Tuesday, February 28 @ 4:30pm

Tim Solley has been working with startups for nearly 20 years. He got his start during the dot-com boom of the 90s, founding one of the web’s early e-commerce retail companies. Since then, he’s been a technology leader with several startup companies large and small.

His latest effort is a founder and owner of Rebel Popcorn, Fort Collins’ newest and hottest gourmet snack company. Though he wears many hats as an owner, his primary focus is on Rebel Popcorn’s marketing and technology efforts. He’s bringing high-tech to a decidedly low-tech industry.

In addition to Rebel Popcorn, Tim is the Practice Head of Cloud and DevOps Services at Xpanxion, a software engineering company with over 850 employees and seven offices worldwide, including one in Fort Collins. In this role, he leads all company efforts in the cloud engineering space, from pre-sales to delivery. Clients are primarily Fortune 500 companies such as Anthem, Sony, and The Weather Channel.

I moved to Fort Collins nine years ago to be with family, enjoy everything Colorado has to offer, and be a part of a vibrant, thriving community. I had no idea I’d find heaven on Earth and never want to leave. There’s so much to do, and I enjoy fly fishing, mountain biking, camping, exploring Colorado with my family, and hanging out with the awesome people of FoCo.

I want people to leave the event with the confidence that they can harness technology and bend it to their will, without breaking the budget. As a startup, you often need to wear many hats, and that includes technology. They just need to know how to get started.

Talk to other attendees! Get to know people, and don’t just “network”. Networking is traditionally selfish and transactional in nature. Get to know people, what their needs are, and find a way to help them, even if it’s just a simple tip. Give first. You’ll surely reap the rewards with interest. Events like Startup Week are valuable in what you’ll learn, but they can be equally valuable in who you will meet!

I want to deliver value to people in all walks of life and in all stages in their professional careers. Hopefully I’ll meet some really awesome people out of it. Usually the most valued connections I make are the ones I least expect or planned on.

I would love to see our community become a red hot nucleus of innovation. I want to see that paired with a culture of work/life balance and the excitement of experimentation.

Women are an intrinsic part of Fort Collins Entrepreneur ecosystem


Women are an intrinsic part of Fort Collins Entrepreneur ecosystem. Women of film and media are helping to shape an active, creative arts community. Get to know three women who strengthen the voice of the media: Dawn Duncan, Windy Borman, and Julie Sutter.

Dawn Duncan

Dawn Duncan

CEO, Yellowbright, Inc.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Speaking on: Your Creative Advantage, Tuesday, February 28 @ 4:30pm

Dawn Duncan is an entrepreneur, published writer, celebrated speaker, and music industry executive. She is the founder and CEO of Yellowbright, Inc., an agency dedicated to consulting the “creative class,” and works with individuals, groups, and companies to take them to the next level of professional growth. She has extensive experience working with entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, writers, and designers, including in her former career life of owning two boutique executive search and training firms (Creative Career Connections, Broadreach Recruiting and Consulting). Additionally, she is the founder and CEO of Sugarfox Records, an indie label founded in 2014 that was designed to co-brand between companies and bands as a way of cross-marketing and also funding album recording and promotion.

In 2015, she assumed the role of Managing Editor of Scene Magazine, a 28-year old music, nightlife, entertainment, and lifestyle publication for the Front Range of Colorado.

She has been a Fort Collins resident and entrepreneur since moving to Colorado in 1994 from Minnesota and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. During her 22 years in Fort Collins, she has served on numerous non-profit boards of directors, co-founded Emerge Colorado Young Professionals Networking Club, co-founded the first alumnae chapter of Delta Gamma for Northern Colorado (of which she serves currently as Chapter President), and is a Charter Member of WomenGive, a division of the United Way of Larimer County. Dawn and her husband, Michael, reside in Old Town and love the recreational lifestyle of Colorado, the music scene, and our thriving entrepreneurship-based community.

I love the mountains, our active community, how dog-friendly FoCo is, and the weather! Being from N. Minnesota, this is quite a refreshing change in winter. I love to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and be outside, in addition to going to shows.

I hope I can inspire people to feel good about their creative gifts and use these talents to become strong entrepreneurs who are successful.

Be really open to new ways of thinking, look for inspiration, and trust your gut. You’ll meet a lot of people and hear loads of advice, but not everyone or everything is right for you. Figure out what you need BEFORE you come and you’ll find answers a lot faster and more easily. Have fun with this as it’s designed to motivate you and also provide a glimpse into the fun side of business.

I’d like to meet a lot more creative entrepreneurs like myself, in order to do collaboration, projects, and brainstorming. Of course, it’s great to meet people who can become clients, too, but I am mainly focused on just networking with like-minded individuals.

My vision is that in 5-10-+++ years Fort Collins will be even more of an entrepreneurial powerhouse than it is today. I want our city to be known as a fun, collaborative, intelligent community that makes it easy for people to start businesses. We will offer the right resources, connections, and education tracks for people to really gain their footing and know how to navigate the world of business.

Windy Borman

Windy Borman

Board Chair, Women in Film and Media Colorado


Speaking on: Fine Art Film: Video and Film-making in Colorado, Friday, March 3 @ 3:00pm

Windy Borman, MST is a multi-award-winning director and producer, as well the founder of DVA Productions. She is currently the Executive Producer and Director of the groundbreaking documentary, “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed”. Prior successes include directing and producing the 10-time award-winning documentary, “The Eyes of Thailand”, narrated by Ashley Judd; and producing “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia”, which premiered at Sundance and on HBO.

I asked the Universe for a sign and she gave me a rainbow. I accepted the job offer and moved 2 weeks later.

I hope people are given some tools to produce film and media in Colorado and beyond.

I’d like to encourage female attendees to join Women in Film and Media Colorado (WIFMCO). We are dedicated to the advancement of all women working in the film, television, multi-media, web and video game industries in Colorado. Through educational panels, networking events, a newsletter, contests and more, we hope to connect, empower, educate and support all female mediamakers and help to elevate the Colorado media industry overall.

Julie Sutter

Julie Sutter

Owner, Unconventional Ink

Fort Collins, Colorado

Speaking on: How Coworking Can Save You From Destitution with Angel Kwiatkowski • Sara Durnil • Logan Hale • Julie Sutter • Aaron Todd, Monday, February 27 @ 9:00am

and: Sourcing and Valuing Local Marketing Creative with Peggy Lyle • Tom Campbell • Jesse Elliott • Logan Hale • Kerrie Luginbill • Kendra Spanjer • Julie Sutter • Paul Wozniak, Tuesday, February 28 @ 1:30pm

Julie Sutter is a: Writer. Reader. Meeter-greeter. Bike liker. Arts and culture advocate. Helicopters, sushi, documentary films, live music, dead poets, public radio, college basketball, kittens, puns and televised awards shows. Not necessarily in that order.

I’m a Colorado native and moved to Fort Collins 13 years ago with the intent of being a little closer to my family. I also got closer to community, and ended up staying in Fort Collins far longer than I ever thought I would — and that makes me happy. As a freelance writer and content creator, I started a business, Unconventional Ink, 6 years ago. Family brought me here. Community keeps me here.

A sense of involvement, inclusion, and inspiration. Entrepreneurship can feel like a lonely bit of business sometimes. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Reach out, introduce yourself (not just to panelists, but to the people around you). Share what you know, which is a lot. If you want to be more involved but you’re not sure you’re invited … you’re invited. I’m inviting you to invite yourself. Find Perspective.

Even more connected as we grow and change, that’s what I’d love to see. Conscious of ethics as technology evolves. Using our collective power for collective good. Never afraid to invite one another out for a cup of coffee or an ice cream sandwich. Or a coffee ice cream sandwich. Yum.