The Path To Leadership

Cultivating Community and Connection with Lauren Conaway

March 05, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 24
Cultivating Community and Connection with Lauren Conaway
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Cultivating Community and Connection with Lauren Conaway
Mar 05, 2024 Season 1 Episode 24
Catalyst Development

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Have you ever stood at the crossroads of doubt and accomplishment? Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC, joins us to recount the moments where her path took a brave turn into leadership, shaping a haven for women and gender minorities seeking empowerment and connection. This episode peels back the layers of Lauren's journey, revealing how InnovateHERr KC blossomed into a nurturing space where stories unfold and professional triumphs are celebrated. Our conversation traverses the terrain of male-dominated fields, demonstrating the organic growth of business opportunities that flourish within a supportive community network.

Unearthing the roots of imposter syndrome, Lauren shares her unconventional leap into an Executive Master's of Business Administration.  Her experience in a diverse cohort at Rockhurst and the pursuit of a doctorate are testaments to the transformative power of education and the significance of earned accolades for women in leadership. This dialogue also shines a light on the power of personal narratives, how overcoming addiction reframed Lauren's career missteps as valuable teachings, further enriching her professional journey.

The warmth of inclusivity radiates throughout our discussion on crafting environments that welcome diversity in its myriad forms. From fostering accessibility initiatives like the Connector Database to celebrating the radical changes honored during Women's History Month through the Innovate Awards, Innovate Her KC embodies the spirit of unity. As we close, the emphasis falls on the collective care and support found within Kansas City's vibrant community, inviting listeners to partake in the shared success and engage in the leadership journeys that await. Join us for an exploration that offers more than just insight—it promises to connect and inspire.

http://linkedin.com/in/laurenconaway

https://innovateherkc.com/






Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Have you ever stood at the crossroads of doubt and accomplishment? Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC, joins us to recount the moments where her path took a brave turn into leadership, shaping a haven for women and gender minorities seeking empowerment and connection. This episode peels back the layers of Lauren's journey, revealing how InnovateHERr KC blossomed into a nurturing space where stories unfold and professional triumphs are celebrated. Our conversation traverses the terrain of male-dominated fields, demonstrating the organic growth of business opportunities that flourish within a supportive community network.

Unearthing the roots of imposter syndrome, Lauren shares her unconventional leap into an Executive Master's of Business Administration.  Her experience in a diverse cohort at Rockhurst and the pursuit of a doctorate are testaments to the transformative power of education and the significance of earned accolades for women in leadership. This dialogue also shines a light on the power of personal narratives, how overcoming addiction reframed Lauren's career missteps as valuable teachings, further enriching her professional journey.

The warmth of inclusivity radiates throughout our discussion on crafting environments that welcome diversity in its myriad forms. From fostering accessibility initiatives like the Connector Database to celebrating the radical changes honored during Women's History Month through the Innovate Awards, Innovate Her KC embodies the spirit of unity. As we close, the emphasis falls on the collective care and support found within Kansas City's vibrant community, inviting listeners to partake in the shared success and engage in the leadership journeys that await. Join us for an exploration that offers more than just insight—it promises to connect and inspire.

http://linkedin.com/in/laurenconaway

https://innovateherkc.com/






Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Path to Leadership. I am so excited to welcome my guest today. Hey, lauren, how are you Hi? I'm doing pretty good. Katie, how are you? I am well, I'm well, I'm a little transparency. You know, we always say that we only with some parenting stuff. But yeah, we all get past it.

Lauren Conaway:

You know I mean you're handling it like a champ, for sure. And it's no surprise to me. Like you're a super mom, you got this thing yeah.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I just try to keep it together with bubblegum and popsicle sticks. That's what I I mean.

Lauren Conaway:

I feel like you're kind of you're ahead of the curve. You have two happy, well adjusted children, you have a thriving business, you have a podcast like it really you're. You're doing just fine.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Well then they. It's working. I'm trying to keep everything together. So Well, I am thrilled for us to have this conversation. Can you tell everyone who you are, what you do? All of that good stuff?

Lauren Conaway:

For sure. So my name is Lauren Conaway. I am founder and CEO of an organization called Innovate Her KC, very proud to be so. Innovate Her KC is a leadership community for women and gender minorities across the Kansas City area. We have a focus on low barrier to entry and inclusion and we are industry agnostic. So our members are entrepreneurs, they are teachers, they are community activists, their wellness professionals, nonprofit professionals and they just we have a very eclectic, very diverse, very passionate and brilliant community of what we call badass people doing kick ass things. Yeah.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

And I love the community. I mean it's, it's massive in Kansas City. I mean it's yeah, we do.

Lauren Conaway:

We have a. We have a deep footprint, for sure, broad and wide, but no, we have over 6,800 members in our virtual community. We have regular events where we engage with the community. We've got some pretty robust social media channels. We like to storytell and share the stories of our members, of innovators. So so, yeah, you know, we try to, we try to put ourselves out there with the intent that if people can see us, they can, if they can find us, we can help them. Yeah.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, and I just I told you we were going to probably take a little beer off to the right or left, and so here, here, I go taking us.

Lauren Conaway:

That's one of my favorite types of conversations, so hit me.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Well, it's funny because when I started Catalyst Development about 19 months ago I was trying to find like I don't know. I've been in the corporate world, I've been in higher ed and so I stumbled upon Innovate Her and then I've kind of been peripheral, dabbling in and but tried to be somewhat active on social media and I mean I, we get business from Innovate Her all the time, like just find a new client the other day.

Lauren Conaway:

It's working.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

It is. I mean, I think it's on Wednesdays. You're like what's going on, Share your story, what's happening, and I put something out there and it's immediately got a ping. It's like here we go. So you know it's very organic, but it works.

Lauren Conaway:

You know, I have to admit I'm biased, but I tend to agree Like we have a lot of different special sauces, I think, a lot of ingredients that contribute to this just really majestic community. Clearly I'm very proud to get to steward it, but, yeah, I mean, I feel as though we offer benefit to our members, we offer connection. There's this table metaphor out there that you know invite people to the table. And I think our whole paradigm is kind of look, if we're not gonna get invited to the table or if we wanna be invited to more tables, we're gonna build our own table, we're gonna create our own platform to connect and champion and mentor and instruct and it's it's just, we're just this really great opportunity and time to be able to very deeply connect our members, connect them to the community, and it's just a really cool thing to watch. But again, I'm very biased.

Lauren Conaway:

I feel like very, very biased here, but I just I love what I do, why I do it and how we do it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, well, and it is something to be proud of. But so what do you get here Like? What is your career journey? How did you get to this spot that you're at?

Lauren Conaway:

That's a really so. I get asked this question a lot and I always feel like I have the same story. You know I well and I share common experiences with a lot of our members and a lot of women out in the community, but for the bulk of my career I actually worked in male dominant environments. I worked in aerospace for a time, I worked in IT for a time and I spent a good portion of my career in automotive and I liked my jobs. I was very good at my jobs. I did everything that was not technical in nature, so I wasn't like the developer when I worked at IT, I was definitely the translator and the communicator. You know, I have a background in marketing operations and I was good at what I did and again, like taking great pride and satisfaction in my work. But I found myself in these environments and I had a lot of really great experiences, a lot of really awesome mentors, but I also had a lot of really really bad experiences that felt very gendered and so I always, in the back of my mind, had a pretty significant interest in women's professional equity. You know, I think that a lot of activists and advocates come to their mission or their purpose because they have personally experienced something, and so that was the case for me, and so I was kind of navigating this career and volunteering places and things like that.

Lauren Conaway:

Well, I moved to Kansas City and once again find myself in an environment where I'm working with startups and I'm working within the entrepreneurial community in Kansas City, and it is a very cool community, don't get me wrong, but it does tend to be another male dominated environment. And so I was working for a community building organization, and so I had started to see the world through this lens of community. How can we bring people together to strengthen each other? And I wanted to do that for women, and so I just very I asked my boss at the time and he was very supportive. I was like, hey, would you mind if I started putting together a series of events for women within the entrepreneurial ecosystem? And he was like, yeah, of course.

Lauren Conaway:

So went ahead and did that at the first innovator event, or what I consider an innovator event, even though innovator wasn't a thing yet. We went and we got mani-pedis. I invited, like I think, 20 women that I knew from the area within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We I was like, let's go be girls for an afternoon. Just connect, no real agenda. Let's just chat, get to know each other Cause we see each other in passing it networking events let's do it on purpose.

Lauren Conaway:

So I kept on doing these things and I would get these emails and what would happen? They would all start the same way and it was always hi, you don't know me, but I heard about what you're doing. So-and-so gave me your email, put me on the mailing list. I'm like there's no mailing list, that's not a thing, but it happened often enough that I realized I was like you know, this is kind of the universe talking to me here, like this is a need, this is a desire, this is spilling some gap. And so I just kept on doing them and I kept on kind of building it out.

Lauren Conaway:

August 20, august 28th 2015, or, sorry, 2018, I launched a Facebook group called Startup Shiros and that was not my proudest naming moment, but again just trying to connect women in the entrepreneurial ecosystem Invited about 50 people, talked to myself for a couple of months. It took a while to start getting traction, but then we started to grow remarkably fast and I sat down, thought about you know, what's our differentiator? What gap are we filling? What are people needing? What are people needing? And eventually came up with Innovate Her KC. That was a very winding story. It was a very complete story.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Well, and it's so perfect because that's the path to leadership. Like this podcast is about those winding roads and it's about sometimes we know where we want to go. We just don't know how to get there. Sometimes we don't know where we're going, but we know we're on the right path and it'll take us where it's supposed to. And kind of sounds like you were on the path and it was taking you where it needed to be. You just weren't really sure where that was gonna.

Lauren Conaway:

I mean, I absolutely believe that every single choice that I have ever made, every single job I've ever had, every single thing I've ever done, it's brought me here. And so how can I, how can I resent the process if I am loving the destination?

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. It's such a gift to put. Learn from those, and that's what I always try to encourage women and men. Like you know these, these bumps in the roads, these obstacles, and literally the conversation I have had with my daughter lately is you won't always understand why you're going through this difficult phase right now. Right, however, it's getting you to that next spot. It's getting you to something. You're either learning a lesson or you're progressing. There's a reason why you're at this phase in life.

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, yeah, curiosity is actually one of my core values. You know and you do those values. Exercises like curiosity is always number one with a bullet. For me, the rest of them kind of like change a little bit, they vary, like, according to my mood and what's going on at any given time. But yeah, curiosity is always number one and I think at least a piece of that is the knowledge that, like all right, even if I am in break, like I'm going to embrace the suck, like, even if this is a terrible, terrible moment in time, there is something, there is some kernel of truth buried in all of this BS that I need to find, because that's what the I mean. This sounds very like karmic and woo woo, but that's what the universe is, and like the universe is trying to instruct me on something. And just open your ears. This will not be a wasted BS situation If you can just really open not even open your ears, open your soul, just listen, listen.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, just take it where it's supposed to. And it's fascinating because I know you embarked on a really important journey this year with your executive MBA.

Lauren Conaway:

I'm coming my hands with glee for those of you who can't see.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Right. Our mutual friend Linda Innecott, who is heaven, Talk about going on that journey and like what and how and all of that good stuff.

Lauren Conaway:

Oh well, so Linda is just an incredible human being, one of the best humans I know. She is kind and she is brilliant and she is fun and she's just a wonderful human being and I am very, very fortunate that she is a mentor of mine. You know, we've known each other for years, we meet up for coffee and you know, I just I really adore learning at her feet because she's just such a tremendous person. So of course, she leads the Rockhurst MBA program. So it came up in conversation at least a few times. You know, just not shocking that she might want to impart the beauty of Rockhurst to me, but we talked about it often enough and it was.

Lauren Conaway:

I had a lot of imposter syndrome around it, for sure. So, just as a for number one, I don't have an undergraduate degree. I attended some college. I had a nervous breakdown instead of graduating, matriculating, and never went back, and so I was not. First of all, I was not aware that you could get a graduate degree without an undergraduate degree, but you certainly can. It's like 100% official and everything. But I didn't think that I deserved it, I didn't think that I had worked enough for it, and Linda, she just kept on bat in a way that she's like stop, you do, you are do it. And she did it often enough that I started to believe her and, yeah, I embarked on the Rockhurst Executive Master's of Business Administration program. I'm now in the second semester. I'm loving it. It's kind of head desking, yeah. So I'm in semester two and I'm loving it, but it is. It is a competitive. You know it's a difficult program. It's designed to be and I'm learning so much. It's really incredible.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. It's fun to watch your journey on social media. You know it feels like at first you're like what am I doing? And then it's like I think I really enjoyed this and you just look so happy when you're sharing about the journey.

Lauren Conaway:

It's a great program, like there are some really, really incredible professors and topics and you know, I'm having discussions that I never would have imagined, that I'm learning things that I so I actually love economics and I'm learning to love finance, and those are two things that I never thought possible. But we just have a really engaging. I have a really engaged cohort, I have really engaging instructors and like it's just, it's been pretty mind blowing actually.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's really cool how intentional Linda and Rockhurst but really Linda does to, you know, create a really inclusive group and it feels like she works really hard to craft a very cool group to go through. I've gotten to know the last couple cohorts of classes and it's just she does a really good job of putting the right people together in the right spots.

Lauren Conaway:

Absolutely. I mean that's been one of the most transformative parts of the experience. Like I'm meeting, like the people in my cohort. They're smart and they're committed and they're questioning and they're, you know, like we're having really great these kind of really profound conversations, you know, and like stretching our brain limits, I guess, and I just, yeah, I really dig it. I like being in an immersive learning experience again. You know, I mean it's been quite some time since I went to school and it's really nice being back in a classroom environment. Yeah, so you're Dr Katie Irvin, right?

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I uh yeah, so so talk to us about that lunacy. What? Why did you decide to to go bring your doctorate? Yeah?

Dr. Katie Ervin:

You will love, you will absolutely love this answer. I know you will. So I worked in K through 12 and there are a lot of doctors running around K through 12. And I ran up next to a superintendent and I thought my goodness, if you have a doctorate, I should have eight.

Lauren Conaway:

Like you are the like, was it like offensive to you? Yeah, like, how do you have that I? I I've never heard that as a motivation before, but I love that.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I was like, oh, you expect me to. Well, his big thing was I've earned it, call me doctor. And I'm like, but no, you have not earned my respect to call you doctor now, now that I've gone through the process, I I understand the. It is a whole lot of work and it is a massive journey and it is very stressful. So I understand the. I've earned it because I've written a Massive paper and done my research and done that. I get that, but the thought that you know he had earned my respect.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

So, yeah, I was just like well, you know what I feel like I should have a doctorate. I'm in K, through 12 the work I do make sense. Because I was waffling between I had my masters in HR but I was waffling with do I go and get my MBA or do I go and get my doctorate? And so it was kind of this and the universe puts the right thing in front of you where you're like oh, that's the path. And as I was kind of waffling in what to do, the path exposed itself and I Went across the hall and I was working up at Fort Leavenworth and I went across the the hall and talked to the people at K State and they were like, yeah, we actually have a new cohort starting here at Fort Leavenworth. Tomorrow night is the first class and so, yeah, we can get you in. And so I was like, okay, I call my husband. I said I, I think I'm starting my doctorate tomorrow night.

Lauren Conaway:

But that's the universe knocking, you just gotta listen to it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the beauty just like you talked about, like everything I've done led me to where I am today, like my, the work I did before my doctorate, my research, everything I do has led me to a list of all men, which is what I do, which is perfect.

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, so, yeah, that was awesome. Well, just you know, I love honorifics. I Like particularly Honorifics that women have earned, so I will be peppering this conversation with doctor.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I Used to tease that the only people that had to call me doctor, as my husband and kids, and it's like no, you know what. I've worked really hard for this and I live it every day and you know, as I run up against People who do similar type work I do, and that some are really phenomenal and some like slept at a holiday in last night and like we're like Do consulting. It's like now, what I do merits, merits that. So I'm very proud to be dr Katie.

Lauren Conaway:

That's a round of applause.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Dr Katie, okay, so let's take the attention off of me and back on you, but is, when this comes out, it's gonna be the first week of women's history month, and I Know for both of us that this is really important women and voice and celebration and lifting each other up. And so, when you think about women's history month, what does that mean to you?

Lauren Conaway:

So I actually my I have a an answer to that question, but it's not it's not the the most sunny answer because, like I, actually I have a love hate relationship with identity months. Okay, I love celebrating. I am the best damn cheerleader. That was never a cheerleader that you are ever gonna meet. It is, it is a piece of who I am.

Lauren Conaway:

I love celebrating people and cool things, but I also kind of I find it a little troubling.

Lauren Conaway:

I'm like it's like we have these conversations about identity and what it means to exist in a society that was not built for you, and we have these conversations and in a lot of ways, we limit them to one month a year and in that that Frustrates me.

Lauren Conaway:

And so people are like you must love women, women's history month, and I'm like, I'm like I do, like my soul does. It's fun for me, it's really affirming for me, it very much feeds into what I do and what I love and why I love it. And so, yeah, there's a piece of me that absolutely adores women's history month, but there's a piece of me that finds it a little problematic, and so One of the messages that we bring forth in innovate her KC is the fact that, like hey, you know, women still exist in April, black people still exist in March, people still exist in in June, like let us not stall these conversations for another year. You know what I mean, yeah, so, yeah, yeah, I am very much looking forward to women's history month, but I I do want to make sure that we have context around these months. Let us celebrate women. I celebrate women in my heart and physically and with every piece of my being all year long.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

That's got to be one of my favorite answers, because I see this a lot. On Friday Me, I'm changing my social media profile, I've got the flag up and it's like, but you don't like every.

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, they do July 1st yeah.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I love that answer because, to me, when I think about the work you do, it's that inclusivity all day, every day, year round, yeah.

Lauren Conaway:

It's one of our. We have two North stars low barrier to entry and inclusion and every that is the filter that we use. We apply it to every decision we make about innovate, her KSC and, yeah, I call them our North stars. But there are foundational ethics and if a proposal or if an idea doesn't fulfill both of those, we don't do them. That's it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's fantastic. Yeah, yeah, I like that and I, like I said, I love the response and appreciate it because it is true. I mean the people that grant stand on the month of the day or whatever it's like. What are we doing?

Lauren Conaway:

There's a lot that's very performative, for sure, and like, and you said, the puzzle is, in a lot of ways, a lot of folks, you know, not thinking about inclusion and equity every day. There are a lot of folks who don't know how to plug in, you know. But I remember George Floyd was murdered. I remember having conversations with people where they were like Lauren, lauren, like I want to help. I don't know how I want to have these conversations, I don't know how. I don't want to offend people, I don't want to anger people, and it's like well, there's, I understand that, like I understand that fear and discomfort, but for me, like, the fact of the matter is, evolution requires friction, it requires conflict, both inner and exterior. It requires because if everything were smooth sailing, if discomfort were not required out of the process, we wouldn't, we wouldn't be able to do it. And so I just I encourage people like I'm going to be uncomfortable, you're going to mess things up, you're going to, you're going to have a slip of the tongue, you know, apologize, acknowledge it, do better.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. Funny because Andre Davis, one of the very first times I met him he'll laugh about this because I was so proud I put together this panel and it had men and women and it was this, you know, unquote inclusive panel. And look at my panel and I'm so proud of it. And Jenna Scott says I want to introduce you to my friend, andre Davis, and I said Andre, it's so great to meet you. And she said Katie put together the panel. And Andre said in the way that Andre says it is where's your black people? And I'm like see you in a bitch. This is not inclusive.

Lauren Conaway:

I can't really hear that in Andre's voice right now, like just that that tracks.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I started with all the love and care, like stranger Appreciate that you think you're being inclusive, You're missing a few things here, and so you know who. Who I thought I was was fine. It was not intentional, it was just you don't know what you don't know. And now you know be and do better. And so I always hear Andre's voice in my head, and the other thing that he taught me over the four years I've gotten to know him is be comfortable being uncomfortable, walk in a room and sit with people that don't look like you, don't experience you, and the connections that I've made because he told me that are deep and powerful and life changing for both of us.

Lauren Conaway:

Well, and it's really interesting.

Lauren Conaway:

I was on a panel a while back and, like one of the discussions were like, when you start thinking through an equity lens and that inclusive lens, like it becomes a habit, like if you do it often enough, it's like you know exercising a muscle, you do it often enough, that muscle is going to grow, it's going to become easier, and then you, you can take on more resistance, you can take on more of that friction.

Lauren Conaway:

But I think the things that you also have to bear in mind is that, by embracing, getting to that place of ease, like we can't, we can't be complacent, but but All right. So I promise you, when Andre came to you, he walked into that room and he immediately scanned the room. Yeah, walk into every room, every room that I enter. I look around and I'm like, okay, we looking at it and it's, it's. You have to think through these things and you have to think them every moment consistently, like the lens through which you view the world. Now it's really interesting because you find that you're like oh, I see the data in real time being played out right here. We have anecdotal evidence, qualitative evidence, and then we have our quantitative evidence that, yeah, we have some stuff to work on.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's interesting too because inclusive environment is so much bigger than the room looked like and I've been very open to share. Like last six months I have gotten hearing aids because I can't hear and I will be in a networking event and can't hear and my tonight is flared up and I start to panic and so I leave the room and not realizing that disability, and I plan events. I try to be very careful having a wide, open room. You know these networking spaces that are so narrow and so low ceilings and it can be overwhelming whether it's or hearing or it is, and so it's bigger than just, you know, making sure that the room looks pretty, are we making sure that everyone can belong and feel comfortable in that room?

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, we had a situation where one of our members reached out to us and first of all, I love that story so much, katie, and I am so glad that you shared that and you know, for that vulnerability for sure. But yeah, like we think there are those things too, like we're talking about inclusivity, we're meeting at every level Geographically, yes, and gender, and like it all plays a part, it all plays together and so you know, all right, so I have a story. We had a member who she's blind and she had never been to one of our events, and so she actually reached out to us and she was like you know, when I go to events out in the community, my husband is my guide, you know, I just want to make sure that I would really prefer is there someone there who can help me, because I would really prefer to keep the space kind of sacrosanct women in gender minority space. But you know, guide, and so actually my one of my leadership team and I we actually attended a blind assistance training. Wow, yeah, it was very cool and like we recorded it and so we actually shared it out on our channels. We're like, hey, fred, we got the permission of the nonprofit, we made a donation, compensated them for their time and they were cool with us releasing it. But we shared this training because it's like, hey, if I didn't know, if I hadn't thought through the things that I learned in that training, like I just wouldn't have known and it's not something that I would have considered or thought about.

Lauren Conaway:

In all of our events we try to have not just a non-alcoholic option, but like an non-alcoholic option that required some level of thought. Not just here's your bottled water, how do we, how do we have the fun cocktails and like the fun, you know, whatever it is that we have at our events, but also making sure that, like folks who don't drink, like how do we make sure that they feel not just included but cared for? You know, like it's, it's, it has to be a piece of everything you do.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, and it takes intentionality. It's. It's funny because Emma and my team is vegan and it's like we went to this event and I, you know, with you know, we show up and of course, there's not a vegan option for her, and the chef was standing at the buffet line and I said you had a vegan meal. And he said I never got it and I'm like okay, cause there's vegetables online, she knows what she can eat. And I'm like, oh, okay, lovely yeah.

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, that's not a super service. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I just feel innovate her case. It is very diverse, as I've said, yeah, no-transcript, we're not going to get it perfect every time. We're not going to be able to get it perfect every time, thinking through things like accessibility, when we're thinking, but we're going to try our hardest. I do see so many organizations that are contributing to eating the disabled, but not really foundation. You've got Porter House, kc, you have these ecosystem entities that are advocating for this change and making sure that, hey, we want to leave people behind. We don't want to make people feel based on who they are. We don't want to make them feel excluded. What can we do? What action can we put behind that? It's very cool.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it is so cool. What's next for innovate her? What's happening? How can people engage?

Lauren Conaway:

We have so much going on right now. I am just a giant ball of stress all the time, but the best stress. We have recently launched Enhanced Memberships Very excited about that. It's an opportunity for our members in our community to definitely support their own leadership journey but also support innovate her KC. The things that we were really intentional about was putting together a suite of pretty awesome benefits thought leadership opportunities on our premium and paid events, mastermind circles. We've put a lot of programming and we've put a lot of intention around these benefits. But the thing that I'm most excited about is we're calling it the connector database.

Lauren Conaway:

We have put together a platform. It's essentially an intake process where we ask our members hey, identify the areas of leadership that you're interested in. Are you interested in continuing education, starting a new business, running for or being appointed to office, in taking part in media interviews or speaking opportunities? We put together all of these different leadership opportunities. We asked some follow-up questions and we're asking our members to raise their hand and say hey, yeah, I'm interested in this. Then the next step once we get that information, we can proactively share that with the community at large, like I have reporters who call me on a pretty regular basis and say, hey, I'm looking for somewhat like a baker who can talk about the high cost of eggs and how it's impacting their business. I'm like, hey, I've got three names for you, let me get you your information.

Lauren Conaway:

We're trying to put our members in front of opportunities that they have identified, that they've said they're interested in but maybe don't know how to access. Don't see big frustration, I don't know about them, but we bridge that gap and connect our member to opportunities. That's actually one and two, but three months is coming up. We have the Innovator Awards. We're opening nominations for that on Friday excuse me, soon. Awards are going to be March 28th and just super psyched about that to recognize and honor so many activators. We call it enacting radical positive change. That's what our members do, that's how they diffuse innovation and empathy into our community and we want to help them do that and we want to celebrate them for those efforts in Women's History Month. So yeah, I mix that a lot.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's cool, you guys have monthly meetups.

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah, first of, every month and we rotate to women owned and women and gender minority owned businesses around the Kansas City area. We just had one we were to the prospect which is a coffee shop but also a workforce development organization. They, they food deserts and food apartheid. I mean, they do cool stuff in their own by one of our members. So we went there and had coffee and got to learn about what they do and you know, they're just fabulous. Again, I'm very biased about it, like I get it, but we have a lot of fun.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

And how can I be with all of the amazing members in the group and all the cool things that women are in Kansas City and so, yeah, well, as we get a wrap up, I asked this question of everybody. And I asked this question of everyone because you know what we social media sometimes it's always the shiny or the glittery or the pretty and I think you and I try really hard to like. There's a big question of everybody, to the level you're comfortable sharing. What is the biggest leadership or career misstep that you've taken?

Lauren Conaway:

I saw this one on the intake and I was thinking about it. I mean, I've I've made a million mistakes over the course of my career and I don't know I actually there's a piece of me that enjoys mistakes. I don't like feeling awkward, I don't like feeling incompetent, but at the same time I'm just like all right, that was, that was an opportunity to learn, like, what can you make from it?

Lauren Conaway:

How do you not ever do this again? And so I write a few mistakes as opportunities for evolution. But, that being said, I just disclaimer Hashtag, not all the stakes, but anyway, I wanted my career. I was not particularly professional person, I I'm pretty open to this, but I am a recovering drug addict Eighteen years free of my drug of choice and I lost a lot of ground. I lost a lot of career trajectory. I always felt like I was behind the eight ball because, you know, I didn't graduate college and I just struggled to catch up.

Lauren Conaway:

And so there are a lot of moments in my early career where I just I shudder at my like, how I acted or you know, like how my addiction and my, my problems, how I allowed them to manifest in in my work life. And so I think that one of the things that I'm always really cognizant of now it's it's another one of my core values. But integrity and when I explain to people what that means to me, it means congruence. Integrity means that it believes something, I should say something. If I say something, I should do something, and and that's how I try to kind of view the world Like if I believe I asked myself with an elevator like how are we having our values? And I have answers to that question like specific answers. And so again you know like I'm a mistakes, but the shuddering at that early behavior and like my early career missteps, today I get to channel that into how to fix it, how to not do it. You know what I mean.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, and I, because there's all, we've all walked these roads of things that I don't want to be judged on my worst day and I want to make sure that I can come with grace for other people when they're in their worst day or their worst, worst moments or periods. And how do we support and love each other through those those times?

Lauren Conaway:

Yeah.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

So yeah.

Lauren Conaway:

Oh, like that. How do we support each other and love each other through those times? That was, that was profound, dr Katie, dr, dr, dr.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

You are awesome. I think I've told you this before. Like before we knew either, I was a fan from afar, and while we don't get to each other enough, I'm always rooting and cheering for for you and your success, and I'm inspired by the work you're doing and, more importantly, I'm inspired by the community of women that you have created, and entrepreneurs and just everyone in Kansas City. So thank you for the work you're doing.

Lauren Conaway:

Well, thank you, I will. I'm going to push back teeny tiny bit on something you just said, because I want to be very clear for listeners out there.

Lauren Conaway:

Listeners, no one person creates community. A group of people create community, or you know, two people but not person, and so so, thank you, that was very kind and very sweet and I feel, of course I feel the same for you. Yeah, I'm very proud of the work we do at Innovator, but a lot of the work that we do at Innovator is work that the community does. You know, I have very little with it, but I love to watch it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, Well, I accept that and appreciate it.

Lauren Conaway:

It was said with all the love in my head yes, yes, yes.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I still think you're phenomenal. So, yeah, all right. Thank you everyone for joining us on this episode of Paths of Leadership. I will share Lawrence contact information, all the good stuff, all the innovate her stuff, lean into the community, find ways to engage with everyone doing great the Kansas City, because it's when we come together and we support each other and we love and care for each other that we can all be wildly successful. There's enough room for all of us in Kansas City. Yeah, there is All right. Thanks everyone. See you next time.

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