Today we’d like to introduce you to Grace Wright.
Grace, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am so proud to be recognized for my work with Wright Ventures, which supports startup-stage social and sustainable businesses in Colorado. Through this work, I engage with incredible, inspiring (and aspiring) entrepreneurs who want to use their time, talent and work to make the world a better place.
Since my earliest memories, I have been driven to use my life and time with purpose—to improve situations for individuals and the environment, to create and spread love, and to live joyfully. My journey into the business world was unexpected. As a young child, I was very concerned about human rights and education. In elementary and middle school, I began raising money to build schools in other countries and saw that I could use my voice, passion, and vision to help people take action about issues they care about. This experience led me to begin traveling internationally and eventually work as a Regional Network Coordinator for an international nonprofit, working to help young people harness their power to transform situations in their communities and the world.
I have been lucky to work for incredible companies and individuals who trusted me to do jobs I had few qualifications for, but recognized that I had the heart, drive, and “get shit done attitude” to execute well. These jobs also informed my view that business can be used as a force for good. Through a job at Whole Foods Market, I became involved in the Whole Planet Foundation, which provides microloans for entrepreneurs. I saw that a small business loan could transform the lives of female entrepreneurs in poverty. Seeing the transformative power of business led me to get my MBA from the Impact MBA (formerly Global, Social, and Sustainable Enterprise MBA) from CSU. The program made me an entrepreneur and a social enterprise instructor.
I have been teaching entrepreneurship and social and sustainable enterprise at Colorado State University since 2014. I am fortunate to teach in the program that I received my MBA from and support students from all over the world in their efforts to start businesses that positively impact situations of social injustice, poverty, or environmental degradation. Throughout this time, I also co-founded an international nonprofit that worked to bring low cost health solutions to women in poverty, founded a software literacy business for older adults, and launched Wright Ventures, which is my current focus.
My experiences have taught me to promote and support hardworking people with vision, dream big and execute well, and have shown me that there is a whole world of people who are radiating goodness and that are ready to take action to help others and the natural world.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Any advice for other women, particularly young women who are just starting their journey?
I think the first step is getting over the fear of failure. If you want to do great things, if you want to take risks, if you want to transform the status quo, you will always (and regularly) hit barriers, unexpected outcomes, and resistance. In one of my entrepreneurship classes, I required all of the students to watch the fantastic ted talk by Jia Jiang: “What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection” (https://www.ted.com/talks/jia_jiang_what_i_learned_from_100_days_of_rejection). In the talk, Jiang reflects on how crippling fear of failure can be for aspiring entrepreneurs and sets out on a 100 day exercise of facing failure on a daily basis. What he learns is that the things we fear — scrutiny from others, people saying “no”, etc., are way worse in our minds. In class, I had students identify things that would keep them from pursuing their dreams or creating their dream business and create situations where they had to face those fears. The outcomes and experiences of the students were incredible and transformational. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t face self-doubt and wonder if I should take a more structured, traditional path. But, I work to quiet those voices and then go out and create.
Another piece of advice that I would give is to develop what people in Design Thinking call a “bias towards building”. It is easy to create a website, create a logo, or do other things that don’t really progress a business towards having an actual product/service and actual paying customers. When we started our international nonprofit, we spent so much time doing analysis, creating a brand, and trying to raise money but never perfected our actual product. Now I know to build and test first, and once I have market validation, then work to formalize and scale. So—whatever you want to create, start now. Start creating the actual thing in as low cost of a way as possible. Test if people really want it. Test if people will actually pay for it. A lot of people have dreams of starting a business but get stuck in the analysis/structural phase and never pass into the actual creation phase. You want to write a book? Write a chapter today. Want to start a vegan nutritional bar company? Get to the kitchen now and get feedback on recipes. Want to create pollinator habitats? Design one for a friend and understand what it takes to build one.
The last thing I would recommend to young women just starting their journey is to be intentional about the community that you create for yourself. I have a quote framed on my desk that reads “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.” Starting any journey can be scary. Entrepreneurship is isolating. I am thankful that I have a community of friends that are courageous, odd, creative, and positive. People who are burning to do something BIG. Seek people who inspire the best in you, who fan your flames, who provide you hope, and who do good. Assemble a chosen family of offbeat, hopeful warriors.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Wright Ventures – what should we know? What are you most proud of as a brand, organization or service provider?
Wright Ventures provides startup consulting services to new ventures in Colorado. My work focuses on partnering with the entrepreneur to work on startup basics (legal structure, registering trade names, setting up bank accounts, and understanding legal requirements ), identifying a profitable and competitive business model and strategy, working on branding, financial planning and analysis, and initiating product development. I also have specialized expertise in social and sustainable venturing, including green product marketing, responsible business operations and legal structures, responsible product sourcing, sustainable packaging, and mission/vision alignment.
Because of my background, the businesses have all been businesses that seek to have a double or triple bottom line (focusing on people, planet, AND profit). There are so many people that want to transform a hobby into a profitable business or that want to use their talents for good. Sometimes people just don’t know where to start, need some help with structures and processes that will allow them to formalize or scale, need help with technical parts of their business, or need additional help with building out parts of the enterprise. I can assist with all of that.
When someone else is successful, that is what I am most proud of. For example, Emily Greer Henderson (who nominated me for this article) has built an incredible business called Cornelia Lively (www.cornelialively.com). I am so grateful that she allowed me to be a part of her vision from the very beginning.
Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
A book for creating work that is engaging and meaningful: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. A book for presence of mind and cultivating delight: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. A podcast to understand the entrepreneurial journey: How I Built This from NPR. An app that helps me focus and get mass amounts of work done: Pomodoro Timer.
- Website: wright-ventures.com
- Phone: 9703105990
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gracehwright/
Primary Photo: Photo courtesy of CSU College of Business: biz.colostate.edu; Classroom Photo: John Eisele/CSU Photography; Podium Photo: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography; Outdoor Photo: Kelly Haugen