Happy International Women's Day from CIC St. Louis!
We're celebrating by checking in with Mindy Mazur, the Executive Director of Brazen St. Louis - a nonprofit committed to empowering women entrepreneurs.
How did you end up working for Brazen?
Last fall, I met with Aimee Dunne of Brazen Global to discuss potentially volunteering as an expert mentor for Brazen St. Louis Power Hours. After our talk, I wanted to do more than just volunteer! I knew I might return to the nonprofit world some day for the right role and mission. Brazen St. Louis’ mission of helping women entrepreneurs in the region grow their businesses spoke to me as an innovative way to empower women, and I’m passionate about moving that mission forward.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Women entrepreneurs are making a greater impact on the global and national economy than ever before, women-owned businesses are on the rise, and women-led companies generate above-average financial results. However, many barriers exist for women.
Female founders got only 2% of venture capital dollars in 2017. The barriers are even higher for women of color (who are opening businesses at a faster rate) who received only 0.2% of all venture capital funding over the last five years. Research shows women are less likely than men to have the confidence to build scalable businesses. They often lack the needed connections to grow and fund their business, and have less awareness of existing resources. As a result, women frequently opt to run businesses that are significantly smaller than their male counterparts and, subsequently, generate less revenue and create fewer jobs.
How is Brazen changing the world?
By tearing down barriers for women entrepreneurs so they can successfully grow their own businesses, Brazen St. Louis is empowering more women which will lead to greater equity, opportunity and economic development in our communities. Brazen St. Louis takes a business-first approach to help growth-seeking women entrepreneurs advance their businesses. Our technology-enabled membership platform offers customized resources and a global support network for female presidents, founders and CEOs.
How does being in St. Louis affect your work?
My job as the Executive Director of Brazen St. Louis is to focus exclusively on serving women entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region, so being in St. Louis means everything. We have unique challenges and opportunities in St. Louis to become a national leader in this space.
What connections have you made during your time at CIC?
It’s great that Brazen St. Louis is able to host so many meetings and opportunities at CIC for our members, such as our Power Hours and Growth Group meetings. One of the highlights so far for me was co-hosting the Be Seen Elevator Pitch Training at CIC@CET in February. Between the Showroom and a few conference rooms, we had a great, multifaceted pitch training/competition workshop with 17 women entrepreneurs from the St. Louis area. The finalists from that event went on to pitch at the Be Seen Brunch Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs of Color on March 3rd.
Tell us a little bit about your team!
Right now our team is small but our reach is wide thanks to our sponsors and our volunteers. This allows us, as a non-profit, to keep a low overhead while serving our Brazen St. Louis members (the entrepreneurs). We have an incredible board of directors for Brazen St. Louis that truly care about and prioritize our work to help women entrepreneurs, including Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, Travis Sheridan, Beth Schulte and Martha Uhlhorn. And of course, as the St. Louis “branch” of Brazen Global, we have support from the great team at Brazen Global (led by Jennifer Ehlen and Aimee Dunne) as they work to expand into other markets. Everyone is mission-focused and that‘s what makes it great.
What have been your biggest learning opportunities and milestones? What’s your next one?
My first big learning opportunity was working on Capitol Hill straight out of college. After that, managing campaigns, serving as a statewide chief of staff, working for a non-profit health information technology start-up, and being a principal for start-up multi-media advertising firm. Through the years, I’ve also had some interesting media opportunities including doing live Presidential Debate and Election Night commentary for KMOV in 2016. Lots of experiences – and some hard lessons – have been packed into the last 19 years. I actually keep a running list of lessons learned.
My next milestone? Taking Brazen St. Louis to the next level by expanding our membership and our impact!
What's your proudest accomplishment?
On a personal note, I’d say being a mom to twin daughters. On a professional note, my proudest moments are when I see my mentees, former interns/staffers and colleagues land new jobs or achieve amazing things and make a positive impact in the world.
What causes are you passionate about?
Gender equity, racial equity, voting rights, women in leadership, social justice, health care, education…and many more. I’m passionate about a lot of things!
Who is your hero?
My parents, Mary Janet and Larry Ruff, are my heroes. They are retired public educators who’ve set an example for me of the importance making a difference for others, and what true generosity means. They also happen to be the best grandparents in the world.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
My guilty pleasure is cheese popcorn paired with a dark beer.
Thanks, Mindy! Keep up with Brazen St. Louis and Brazen Global by following them @BrazenSTL and @BrazenGlobal on Instagram and Twitter, and check out their websites at brazenglobal.com and brazenSTL.com.
Stay tuned for an interview with Shayba Muhammed, the winner of the Be Seen pitch competition - coming soon!