After seeing the business world fall into chaos with all the allegations of sexual harassment spurred by the #MeToo movement, I also witnessed a widening gulf between the genders that concerned me. I wanted to be part of a positive change forward, together.
But I felt like I couldn’t fix my own pipeline problem of finding more women to apply for our executive roles. Sometimes fixing the world starts with cleaning your own house. This is how the Chewse Rising Leaders Program was born. And the model for it came from my own journey to becoming co-founder and CEO of Chewse.
I started the company as a fresh-faced woman of 20, still in college. I joined 500 Startups a year and a half after graduation and moved to Silicon Valley — I knew none of the jargon and had no connections in the Bay. My first two financings took 11 months each to close, I was told by potential investors that I wasn’t out for blood, and I had an early investor turn against me. I had some dark times to grapple with.
During that journey, I met 4 incredible humans: Russell Cook, Jason Mendelson, Matt Munson, and Jeff Schenck. They helped me contend with the new world I was facing at an early, formative time. By title, they are investors, advisors, and one is a co-founder — but they went above the call of duty and became mentors.
They believed in me before I knew what I was capable of (they still do believe, and I’m still learning what I’m capable of). They took my panicked calls when I was in crisis, gave me permission to feel the lows and celebrate the highs, and challenged me to speak my truth even when it scared me. They (seemingly) used their social capital and time to make a sound bet on me and Chewse. My life is forever changed because of them, and I wouldn’t be here today leading my own mentorship program without their mentorship. Hopefully, the world is a little better as I pay it forward.
Our vision for the Chewse Rising Leaders Program is to train up diverse, emerging leaders flooding the business world. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a time of change that we need to be thoughtful about. The program’s aim is to enable leaders of all kinds to tackle problems as one, united humankind. This, to me, is true inclusivity. And the world needs us to come together now more than ever.
Please join me in welcoming Esther Kim, Maddie Cousens, Nykki Yeager, Krista Atwell, Maritza Mantilla and Cassandra Choi to the program!
We had a staggering 62 applicants globally — from nations as far as Senegal to Singapore to the US. 34% want to be CEOs, 26% leaders in operations, and the rest about evenly split between careers in sales, marketing, customer success, and new markets.
These high-performing women shared their stories with us in our application process. They opened up about their feelings of imposter syndrome, fears that being disagreeable would reduce their credibility, and concerns about their inability to trust their gut. These women dream of breaking free of limiting beliefs to lead as executives or start their own companies, to dream of showing up in the business world as their fabulous selves, and dream of making a massive impact. They’ve already made their impact on me — I’m floored by each and every one of them.
We could only choose six Rising Leaders for the first batch. Each of these women has been paired with members of our leadership team who volunteered to spend the next six months in a formal mentorship capacity with them. I’d like to thank Shaina Anderson, Pierre Calzadilla, Rustin Coburn, Megan Dilley, and Aakash Mathur for committing time and energy to these ladies while also growing an early-stage start-up.
Thank you to all the amazing women who applied to the program. We only wish we had a larger network of mentors to pair you with — please keep in touch as we learn from this first batch and continue onwards with more programs.
To our mentees, we’re thrilled to join you on this stretch of your journey. You’ll do great things regardless of us, but it’s a real honor to get a glimpse of your growth.
I hope you’ll find comfort and strength from these mentors that I found with my own — and ultimately I hope when you make it big, you’ll pass it forward.