Leaders and Influencers: An Interview with Heather Wentler

In our continuing series on Leaders and Influencers, we chatted with Heather Wentler about entrepreneurship as it relates to her roles as co-founder and executive director of The Doyenne Group, and as founder of Fractal, a STEAM enrichment program for kids. 

Heather Wentler

Heather Wentler

Tell us about The Doyenne Group.

Amy Gannon and I founded The Doyenne Group in 2012 after having the same experience of attending entrepreneurial events around Madison and noticing a lack of women in the room, both as attendees and as panelists/speakers. We knew there are lots of women starting and running businesses in Madison, but we weren’t sure why they weren’t engaging in the ecosystem.

Doyenne focuses on four key areas to support women entrepreneurs of various sectors and stages of running their businesses: 1.) Highlight entrepreneurs and give voice to their experiences, 2.) Build the network within the community so we’re all working towards making Madison the best it can be for women entrepreneurs, 3.) Support entrepreneurs through our programming and partner programs in the community, and 4.) Fund ventures through our Evergreen Fund to provide grants and small equity investments for those just starting out. Doyenne has a mission of expanding to provide support statewide and make Madison one of the top cities in the nation for women entrepreneurs by 2020.

What’s the single most important change you’d like to see to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our community?

The biggest change I would like to see in our community is the way an entrepreneur is characterized or stereotyped. In Madison we focus a lot on Tech and Biotech startups, which also means those on track for venture funding. I meet with entrepreneurs every day, and when I ask why they aren’t engaged with certain activities within the community they say it’s because they feel that they “don’t fit in.” Doyenne really emphasizes that being a successful entrepreneur is defined by the goals of a business. It doesn’t matter if your business is something that you want to start and run for the next 30 years or if you’re developing a technology to sell within the next 3-5 years; each business that is launched and grows within our community is a plus for everyone and provides economic impact to move us all forward.

What book do you think every aspiring entrepreneur should read and why?

I don’t have one book that I think everyone should read. Honestly I’m not a big book reader, partially because the traditional idea of sitting and reading a book from cover to cover doesn’t work for me. Each book that an entrepreneur reads (even if it’s only certain parts/chapters) should be meaningful and somehow reflect how it pertains to either what they’re doing or what they want to do. So, I don’t read books but I do read lots of blogs, articles, and research! Knowing your market, trends within the market, your competitors, and the new ideas coming out of them helps keep your company agile and gives you the competitive edge.

What do you find most interesting and rewarding in your position as Founder of Fractal?

Fractal is the most daily rewarding experience I’ve ever had. When I was teaching traditionally I didn’t always feel like I could be myself or engage my students the way I wanted to meet their needs, and when I would try, I would get backlash from others. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever want to go into business, let alone start a business. But the moment that I was able to make the decisions and teach the way I feel best serves those in our community was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I enjoyed teaching again. I love seeing how each participant brings his/her own ideas, approaches, and creativity to Fractal’s programming. Many of the kids I work with are either categorized at school as Talented & Gifted or At-Risk/Remedial, so being able to provide a space where they get to learn from each other on their own terms and at their own pace, in a way that’s meaningful to their lives, is the most rewarding feeling I’ve ever experienced.

 

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