Last fall, University of Minnesota alumna Amanda Yitong Ye, was looking into starting her own business. As she researched local startups and potential investors in the Minneapolis area, she noticed the lack of representation within startups and venture capitals in Minnesota. According to Amanda, our state is a booming scene for startups. “In fact, Minnesota has the largest state-wide startup competition in the country,” Amanda says. She further explains that the representation of women and people of color in startup businesses are very low– even lower in the field of venture capital.
Amanda started thinking to herself, “What can I do to change this? Is there a way that I can bring diverse entrepreneurs and investors together to share their stories, connect and support each other?”
That’s where SoGal came into the picture. For those of you unfamiliar with SoGal, they are a non-profit whose mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. SoGal aims to build a global platform for the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs and investors by providing resources, education, and community around the world. Two dear friends of Amanda’s from Agnes Scott College (where she studied for two years prior to transferring to the University of Minnesota) are involved with SoGal San Francisco and SoGal Singapore. Amanda had been following their journey with SoGal and was very impressed by their work. When she saw that SoGal was looking to expand, Amanda reached out to her friends and applied to be the Minneapolis Chapter’s lead. The rest is history.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by Amanda and had the honor of attending the launch event for the Minneapolis chapter of SoGal. It was such a well-organized event which featured an hour of socializing over hors d’ oeuvres and a great line-up of panelists consisting of local women and POC entrepreneurs. This event was held at and catered by Urban Growler.
Jill Pavlak – Co-Head Honcho at Urban Growler, the first women-owned microbrewery in Minnesota.
Alex West Steinman – Co-Founder & CEO at The Coven, a collaborative community and co-working space designed for women and non-binary folks.
Thong Nguyen – Founder & CEO at Roomera, Inc. featured in Minnesota Business Magazine 35 under 35.
KC Kye – Founder & CEO at K-mama Sauce, LLC. featured in Minnesota Business Magazine 35 under 35.
Sousada Manchanthasouk – Senior Technical Project Manager at Satsana, her own technology consulting firm offering services to businesses ranging from small to Fortune 500 businesses.
Personally, I was excited to attend this event because of Alex West Steinman. She is also an alumna of the University of Minnesota and studied my major (strategic communications – public relations). It was super cool learning about her experiences working at the local advertising and communications agencies in Minneapolis, starting her mommy blog, as well as being a founder of The Coven which empowers women and non-binary folks. Hearing her speak at this event has inspired me to continue working towards my goals and career aspirations.
Overall, my friends and I all had a great time eating hors d’ oeuvres, listening to the panelists, and socializing with business professionals in our local area. I think it’s amazing that Amanda was able to bring SoGal to Minneapolis and truly begin the movement of bridging the diversity gap in our own backyard. Kudos to everyone who had a helping hand in SoGal Minneapolis!