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Meet the new VP of Corporate Development & Operations at Sticksnleaves, Kristen Cooper.

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Kristen comes from an extensive background in non-profit fundraising and is often known as a "super connector." She brings with her a wealth of knowledge plus a passion for helping others. We sat down with Kristen to pick her brain a little bit. Join us, won't you?

After nearly 20 years non-profit fundraising, why the jump to the private sector?

In 2004, I was saying goodbye to a UC Santa Barbara donor in Orange County and out of the blue, I was hit by a car in a parking lot. Smash cut to the hospital. As I looked up from the x-ray table, I was shocked to see a wall of very large cabinet drawers. (The room had once been a morgue.) I had come mighty close to being inside one of those drawers. Three things became instantly clear. 1.) I was grateful to have met the love of my life, 2.) I had traveled a good bit but wanted to see more of the world and 3.) at some point, I wanted to create a company. When you spend your whole career surrounded by entrepreneurs, you can’t help but catch the bug! I’ve heard hundreds of stories about how ordinary people had an idea and through a series of trials and errors they triumphed. Sticksnleaves allows me to be an entrepreneur and work with entrepreneurs every day.

You launched the Women in Business series at the Indy Chamber, what’s next for the ladies?

Launching more women owned businesses around the world! Our whole team is devoted to empowering more women and minorities. Whether you’ve got an idea, are in a growth stage or are a mature business - we want to help you develop your product. After several unofficial meetings in the ladies room, I decided there were so many talented women at Launch Fishers, we all needed to get together. Our next Launch Ladies’ Luncheon is Friday, September 19. Have an idea for a business or just curious about what Launch Fishers is all about? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you an invitation.

You’ve lived on both coasts, in the midwest and England - where is your favorite place to live?

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Santa Barbara, California and Manchester, England are all awesome places to live. Westfield, Indiana is home. My closest friends are from all over the map and I choose to live here. Indy has one of the best Pride Parades on Earth!

Why do you like to be called the ‘F’ word?

I’m an ‘everyday activist’ feminist. It means that when you have the opportunity to elevate a woman, you do it. You do it because a diverse set of experiences will bring you a more diverse set of opportunities. You do it now, so that in 50 years, inequality in the C-suites won’t be an issue.

What advice would you give to a woman that has an idea for a business, but has no experience in starting up a business?

Keep talking about your idea - as you collect feedback from your friends, you’ll refine as you go. Purposefully seek out women that have had the kind of success that you’re hoping to achieve. Entrepreneurs are surrounded by entrepreneurs. So, introduce yourself at a networking event or send a message through LinkedIn to become acquainted with an expert in your field of interest. I hold office hours on Fridays from 3-5pm at Launch Fishers to discuss new ideas. Connect with me at kristen@sticksnleaves.com.

What are the similarities and differences between fundraising in the non-profit and for-profit sectors?

When you have a great relationship and both parties are in alignment about their passions, you’re going to do transformative things together! Understanding the driver of any kind of investor is paramount to a strong collaboration. Generally speaking, individual philanthropists tend to be altruistic, corporate philanthropists often want to elevate their profiles as good corporate citizens and investors want a return on their dollars. An investor also requires that you to do the math up front.

What is it like to go from a swanky office in Chase Tower to co-working space at Launch Fishers?

Chase Tower is enchanting - the views from the building are spectacular. Launch Fishers has an intoxicating energy. It’s full of dreamers. I recently overheard someone talking about how they just closed a $250,000 round of funding - you can’t help but be excited for them! And you can always pick up a conversation about startups, funding or Star Trek.

Who are your role models?

These people are local, inspiring and work really hard every day to move their peers and mentees forward. In case you want to start following them on Twitter, their super powers are listed below:

  • Advocate/activist for women in business - Billie Dragoo (Mattel should model a CEO Barbie after her!)
  • Epicurean - Vicky Keramida (you always want to sit next to her at a dinner party)
  • Voice of STEM for girls - Erin Albert
  • Entrepreneurship - Wayne Patrick
  • Public speaking - Lisa Schlehuber and Monique Matheson (She doesn’t live here, but she went to IU and is the VP of talent recruitment at Nike. One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard.)
  • Fearlessness - Carol Curran
  • Tech Leader - Audrey Taylor
  • Super Connector - Conrad Piccirillo
  • Mobilizer - Allison Melangton
  • Leadership - I don’t know what is in the water at Roche, but Bridget Boyle, Wendy Stein, Cris Wilbur and Jennifer Zinn are amazing mentors and sponsors for women on the executive path.

You’re often referred to as a ‘Super Connector’ - how did that happen?

Lots and lots and lots of listening. And cheerleading. My Aunt Sheri was so good at getting excited about peoples’ stories and achievements. I do that too. My work allows me the opportunity to reach out to people and learn about their goals and dreams. Figuring out how we can support one another along the way is just plain fun!

Why did you decide to join Sticksnleaves?

The co-founders Yaw Aning and Anthony Smith make me laugh a lot and are freaky smart. They also have a phenomenal reputation in the tech community. Anthony has created open source code that has been downloaded nearly 30,000 times! Both our business and life philosophies are congruent. I can help them grow and and work with them on my project, Friendtro simultaneously.

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