Mara Hardy

Business Development Manager & Entrepreneur

Grand Junction Economic Partnership

Kayla Brown

Executive Director

Fruita Area Chamber of Commerce

Stacey Mascarenas

Public Relations Director

Family Health West

the full report

Renaya Demarest (00:01):

Well, thank you all for joining our first live virtual GROWL Connex of 2021. I’m Renaya with GROWL Agency and I’ll be today’s host. So today we’re joined by a few local lady bosses and talking about International Women’s Day, empowering women as leaders. So today we’re joined by Kayla Brown, the Fruita area chamber of commerce, executive director, Mara Hardy, GJ S business development manager and entrepreneur and Stacy Mascarenas the director of public relations at Family Health West. So now I’m going to talk to my ground and have everybody introduce themselves. So Kayla, why don’t you start?

Kayla Brown (00:39):

Awesome. Thank you for having me here today, guys. I’m Kayla, I’m the director for the Fruita Area chamber of commerce. I’m a grand Valley native. I was born and raised in grand junction and graduated from Fruita Monument and then CMU. You and then later graduated from Walden University. I’ve got two kiddos, got a 12 year old and an eight year old daughter and full family farm that we like to be with her side hustle.

Renaya Demarest (01:10):

Awesome. thank you. Mara, what about your background and everything that you’re involved in?

Mara Hardy (01:18):

Yeah, I’m Mara Hardy and I work at the Grand Junction Economic Partnership by day, and then my husband and I own a physical therapy clinic in town so I helped run the business side. And that’s been exciting and I also grew up in Colorado, but I grew up on the front range. And about two and a half years ago, moved from Denver to Grand Junction and love it. And my background, I actually worked at the chamber of commerce in Denver and then worked for the state of Colorado for the department of natural resources. I got my masters in urban and regional planning and started my own consulting firm for a hot minute. And then when the job that GJ opened up moved out here for that. So I’m kind of bounced all over the place in my background.

Renaya Demarest (02:03):

Awesome. Love it. And last but not least Stacy?

Stacy Mascarenas (02:07):

I am. Thank you for inviting me for this wonderful event. I’ve lived in the Grand Valley since 1977, graduated from Grand Junction High School and CMU. Then I started out at Mesa college, graduated Mesa state college, and then I was president of the alumni association when they changed the CMU. So I’ve had all three, but graduated with a political science degree. I hold a GRI and MRA distinction with the national association of realtors. I was on the fruit of city council from 2008 to 2016, I worked for Mesa County. National was 24 years. We’ll have to that career. Just so I could start a whole new career with Family Health West in 2015. And so, I’ve been here as the director of communications director of public relations and of course, real estate ever since and just have been so involved with, gosh, I could name a bazillion different committees. Most notably I I’ve been involved with How Are The Children, which has a child abuse prevention task force. So, I guess if you will for about 15 years but just anything community related and, and business related, anything to support community. I’m a part of it. I’ve got two kids Logan and Maddie and Logan is actually he owns his own company as well as his wife summer and both the CMU grads and my daughter, Maddie is a freshman at Fort Lewis

Renaya Demarest (03:53):

Awesome. Well, thank you guys. I’m really excited to have everybody on today and just really quickly, I wanted to kick off today’s conversation with a little bit of background on international women’s day and kind of lead into why we’re here today. So for those of you who don’t know international women’s day is celebrated globally today on March 8th, every year, it celebrates all things, women, and really the achievements accomplishments of women worldwide, primarily focused on women’s rights, along with contributions to the social economic and cultural and political advancements. So every year the international women’s day community selects a theme of empowerment and this year’s focus is to choose to challenge. So that’ll be a big theme today. We’re talking about how we can align and how we can empower female leaders and choose to challenge gender biases and stereotypes. So, getting started we’re all going to give a little background and start about your own stories, pivotal moments. What has helped you grow as a female leader? Talking about struggles, growth points and everything in between. So Stacy, since you have so much experience and you’ve been involved in so many different things, do you want to kick us out? Well,

Stacey Mascarenas (05:15):

I think I’m older than all y’all, but that’s okay. I don’t know, professionally you know, I started out young with Mesa County, which is, which would be kind of weird. You would think if you stay in one organization, then you’re kind of tagged as being stagnant. And I guess what I tried to do is I just kept trying to learn. And so I guess my own story with that is I just kept learning. I kept trying to not only challenge myself, but then challenge who I was working with in that I, they knew I wanted to grow, they knew I wanted to learn, and they knew that I wasn’t going to stay in just one spot. So that was kind of my story as I, as I started just that insistence. And they knew with it. It was interesting though that you know, we’re talking early nineties, which, you know, you wouldn’t think was that long ago, but you know, so many things have changed. And we had two very strong female commissioners Darlin Genova, and Kathy Hall. And I will always hold them in such high esteem, but what was crazy is we would get a lot done in the, in the women’s bathroom, honestly. And they would love to use that area to kind of see some of the younger women and we could talk to them. I mean, I know it sounds horrible, but that’s where we got a lot done. And that’s where I was able to kind of feel free to talk to them without any other interference which is kind of strange, but I will always remember having that. And another kind of my own story was my parents owned a property management firm and real estate firms since 1977. My father had the education, he was very much an extrovert. He had the connections, he had the networking, but it was my mother who had the traditional role of stay at home mom and you know, homemaker, whatnot. But she was thrown into this to run this business. So my dad was on the outside. My mom was on the inside. She ran that company. I’m, there’s no way this company would have been successful if it wasn’t for my mother. So I saw this, this pattern of, you know, my dad was the face, but my mom wasn’t the backbone. So to me that was a beacon of, of interest in that. And she stayed quiet, but there’s just no way, you know, it would be successful without her. So that to me was really interesting and that, so here’s a woman who’s, who’s quite successful, but yet she really couldn’t shine. And she, she was just stayed in the background. And so I will never forget that as being very much my, my platform to be different.

Renaya Demarest (08:26):

That’s awesome. Mara, with your experience too, in like government and economic development, what were some of your, your growth points or like struggles getting into the kind of career field? Yeah,

Mara Hardy (08:42):

I was really fortunate. My first job out of college was at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, I had a couple of kind of arms under the chamber and one of them was the leadership foundation. So we did leadership development, programming students all the way, all the way to C suite executives. And in that team, my immediate supervisor was an amazing woman who I really owe so much of my career and success and trajectory to her. She mentored me, guided me, pushed me. She was just an amazing person. And I think that was a huge pivotal piece in relationship. And then the rest of the leadership foundation team was very female oriented, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce was and still is run by a powerhouse woman as well. And so my first step into the professional world was seeing all these really strong women. And I think a thing I’ll kind of touch on a lot, this, this conversation is that they each had really different leadership styles and they had different ways of kind of engaging and being a leader. So some were more public facing and kind of that loud extroverted, you know, advocate. And some, it was more by you know, providing that leadership and mentorship for the internal team helping people figure out where they wanted to grow. So I think I was really fortunate in that first experience in the professional world to really see that there is a lot that you can do as a female in you know, economic development, business support, all that good stuff. And then, you know, I kind of, I always an in that role, my boss really taught me to say yes to opportunity and to try to challenge myself and to keep growing and learning and finding that next opportunity. So I ended up heading to the state for a little bit. I got my master’s, then I started my own consulting company, and I really did that because I wanted to move out of the front range and I wanted to live in a smaller, more rural place. So luckily that kind of helped get me to Grand Junction. And then I think a really pivotal role, which is very similar to Stacy’s mother experiences that my husband and I purchased a business January of 2020 and he’s a physical therapist. So he is at the office every day doing his thing. And then I’m really behind the scenes making sure that the business runs and we get everything done. So it very much is I feel the backbone of the business, but I am behind the scenes. And that’s okay with me. But I, you know, it’s funny to just to see that those roles that you need, you sometimes need that person who’s kind of that extroverted face. And then behind the scenes, you’ve got that strong person who’s making the business grow. And so for me, I really relate to your, your mother’s story. And I think it’s been really exciting for me to realize that I have this leadership within me and that I also can run a business, which I never thought or ever thought was going to be part of my life, but it is, and it’s exciting and challenging and rewarding. So it’s really all kind of come from having early support on, from early support from females and then also just saying yes to opportunities and seeing how you can continue to grow.

Renaya Demarest (11:43):

That’s awesome. Thank you. Kayla talking about your story and I know you have two young daughters and you’re with them all the time and on the farm and everything you do. So kind of why you’re talking through your growth and all your transitions and leading the chamber, helping business, the business community grow, how do you kind of see changing the community and really fostering that support? So like your daughters and every other young girl can like look up to you as a leader and look up to everybody as a leader and empowering the next generation, I guess.

Kayla Brown (12:21):

Oh, absolutely. So no growing up, I watched my mom, she was a single mom and she juggled work and school and raising me and we actually got into Girl Scouts early on and I feel like that program itself really, this empowered me to, you know, come together with other girls and what can I learn lead other female entrepreneurs. And that was just like something that I wanted to pass up my daughter. So I was a young mom, myself and school for people maybe did. I wanted to import my folder. Well, instead of focusing so much on work, we can get so held up and the day-to-day tasks. And it’s just so important for me to pass down a lot of that strength and encouragement to my daughters. And so, I became a girl scout leader a few years back and did that for about two and a half years before I had to step back for a bit. But it was just such a life changing experience to be able to work with young girls and to partner up with other team leaders and just be that resource for kids. I think it’s so important for our community to be involved, not even just on a business standpoint, but really just overall community involvement. Girl Scouts really teach girls strength. They teach courage and confidence and just at a young age that you can really accomplish anything and you can be anything you want to try. And so that’s something that I really think even with my leadership at the chamber is that empowerment to, you know, teach anybody that they can be and do whatever they want. If they put their mind to it. You know, at girl Scouts, you can create that safe space for girls to share their success stories. And I feel the same with my job. I want to create a safe space or other network of women can come together and, and just really build those relationships and maybe try something they haven’t before. And the, the chamber has a women in business program that I’ve seen really grow over the past few years. And it’s been around for quite some time and just that network of women that come together and the things that we do together, it’s really empowering to be a part of. And I learned so much from these other women and so many great women that I’ve come to, to become friends with. And even Stacy, she was my former supervisor in Boston. I really look up to her and admire her. She’s such an inspiration with everything that she’d been through. And I really feel that that women mentorship is so important in our community. Absolutely. So

Renaya Demarest (14:52):

Absolutely, so that’s a perfect transition. Let’s talk about like some of the resources that can help women grow as leaders. And I know you mentioned women in business, so feel free to talk about that and mentorship what you experienced yourself. And I know you and Stacy have mentioned a couple mentorship opportunities to me. So I’m going to S the floor is yours to just go through some of these resources, things that you are running Mara, what GGF is doing West Slope Startup Week, Welcome Wagon, everything in between, and how can we all come together and help inspire and empower our community.

Stacey Mascarenas (15:34):

Great. So I, I know Kayla will talk about the women in business. But I’ll talk about, I guess, that mentorship program that we want to launch just within it. And I, I think the first thing that young women are really any should do is one just get involved. That was one thing that my parents instilled in me is just one, you know, getting involved. I was a girl scout as well from an early age, but then getting involved with say a service club. Or so I’m a member of Colonia’s, for example, that to me, just first instilled, you need to give back, you need to be involved, you need to it plus it’s a good networking, but within the women in business mentoring program, it’s just partnering. And I hate to use the word older, maybe just someone with more experience partnering with, with a younger young professional female and not really be it’s not really a teaching moment. It’s just, let’s go to lunch, let me be your cheerleader. Let me be your sounding board. You know, let’s go to lunch and find out, you know, what do you want to do? Well, you know, what’s your next goal? Just throw things and not really be a motherly figure, not even, you know, be a teacher, it’s just be that, that cheerleader be that support, be that person that would give advice. Because honestly, if I had had somebody that, you know, wasn’t in my, wasn’t my mom, you know, it wasn’t my boss, but somebody that just truly had had a very subjective interest in my growth and someone that I could just feel that I could trust and, and not be afraid to throw out examples and, and get quick phone call and say, you know, what do you think about this? Or what do you think about that? Or even frustration in the workplace that, Hey, I just got passed over, or I feel like I’m not being taken seriously. You know, what some advice. And I just think that that would be just so helpful for someone younger just to have that sounding board. And I think that would also empower somebody a little bit older and kind of make them feel like, Hey, I still have some value. I still have something, you know, to share and some, you know, to pass on that wisdom, which again, I hate, you know, using some of those terms, but and I just think it’s a win-win and I just think that would just be a wonderful resource because I think when we have the younger women coming up just want all of those, those stereotypical barriers. I mean, hopefully we’ll be gone because it’s all about empowerment. It’s all about having trust in yourself and that there’s opportunities are so limitless. But it really is having that faith and trusting yourself. And I think if we can just do that and help each other and cultivate that, then you know, it’s limitless. But anyway, so that’s what I’m hoping for to get off the, off the tracks. So,

Mara Hardy (18:54):

Well, Stacy I’ll echo that. I think when I was reflecting on today’s conversation and kind of thinking about what I wanted to share, it really came back to me to some mentorship. I’ve had some amazing people who I either reached out to and said, would you be my mentor? Or they kind of adopted me in that. And it is a little bit where you can, I mean, there’s hard things you have to talk about in professional and personal life. How do you negotiate a salary that’s really hard and you know, to help someone work through some of those issues you know, how do you kind of ask for that promotion, ask for more responsibility. There’s a lot of things that come up. And so I think, and I’ll even say Stacy, that I think it could be really even, you know, the experience and non-experience is important. You know, someone who’s an emerging leader, getting with someone who has more established role and experiences. Great. But I also have mentors who are similar in age to me similar experience level, but they’ve got some skill or some experience that’s really helpful. And so I think what I would say is that if you’re a young emerging person, go find someone in the community that’s you know, got great experience and now they’re giving back and just ask them to be your mentor. And they will most likely say yes. People love to be able to give that back and forth. And, and I’d also say then, you know, for people who are more established or who have something, they feel like they can share to just find someone and say, Hey, do you, do you want to start getting coffee and just talk through some of these issues? And when I really think back at my career in the places that have been pivotal and the times I’ve gotten to that next level, it’s because I’ve had someone there that can help kind of bounce those, those, those ideas that you can be really vulnerable with and say, you know, I’m a new young, a new business owner. I’ve never owned a business before. And so being really vulnerable about what I know and what I don’t know. And that I think sets a really nice playing field where I’m not trying to fake it. You know, I’m not trying to say, Oh, I own a business now I’ve made it, you know, I don’t know a lot. And so if I put that out there, then people can actually help me and that can solve those challenges.

Kayla Brown (20:56):

Yeah. I definitely would have to echo what you guys say. I mean, amazing things really do happen when women help each other out. And when we, I feel like we do such a good job at being inclusive of others and really helping strengthen and build each other up. And with the women and women in business group, that’s under the British chamber. We just have a network of women that are so willing and able to support each other and to help inspire each other and just do what they can to support each other. And that’s really cool to see with the women’s mentorship piece that Stacy and I have been talking about. I just feel like this program could be so huge for our community to really help align younger women with some strong female leaders who can just really help mentor them and guide them and maybe help them with some of those tough conversations. Like you mentioned, Mara there’s a lot of things that’s hard to bring up and if you can talk with somebody who’s been through that experience, I really think that it’ll help me get a lot easier to go through. And so that’s why I’m really excited to, to bring this mentorship piece to our women in business group. And like I mentioned, it’s really been growing. We typically host two different types of events a month. We have a luncheon that’s more of a relaxed setting once a month at junction station. And it’s a time for women to come together and share experiences and just talk and communicate and just really build those relationships. And then we also do something more fun that maybe a little bit more daring or something that you don’t always get the opportunity to do. We’ll be doing Rocky mountain gun club coming up at the end of this month. We’ve gone ax throwing, we’ve gone stand up, paddle boarding, gone rafting. We do painting and crafting really the sky’s the limit. And we are always looking for more women to join us if anybody wants to host us. I mean, if anybody has ideas or things that they’d like to do that’s what this group is for and that’s the purpose and why we’re so passionate about it. So I appreciate you guys being part of it.

Mara Hardy (22:57):

And I’ll say a couple other programs that you mentioned Renaya and one that both another female and myself have actually been a mentor for the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy program. So young students can kind of get involved in this. I forget how many weeks, maybe seven weeks program. And they actually build a business venture and they do a business plan. And there’s mentors for that, which is a great place for people to plug in. But I’d also say it’s a great way for two women to from a really early age to get that taste of business and the entrepreneurial life. So that’s a really great program to support and also hopefully funnel more and more kiddos through. And then at GJEP we are involved, and this is really a community-wide effort is the West Slope Startup Week, which be this summer. And it’s a whole week just celebrating entrepreneurship, trying to share resources. And the whole program is developed by the community. So community members submit session ideas and then it’s all free. So anyone can hop in and out and engage, and we’ve got all different kinds of tracks and events and fun stuff that happens. So and we’re always looking for more students, particularly from CMU which could be a great way for people to plug in, learn some content and also submit some session ideas. And we love to highlight all different industries, all different ages and types of business. And then the last one, the third one is the GJEP Welcome Wagon. We are just launching that at GJ now, and that’s really for new people in the community to feel like they get connected and plugged in. So we match them with a local and they go through a yearlong program, which really just fun. And it’s trying to get them to understand the culture in the Valley and the different ways that they can give, get back and get plugged in. So just starting that program, but if you know anyone new to the community, who’s looking to kind of get engaged, make sure you send them our way.

Renaya Demarest (24:51):

Awesome. Thank you guys. Those are all really great resources. And I personally have been involved in a lot of them. I was part of the women in business group with Fruita chamber. I have experienced a lot of the connections that Kayla is talking about. Just finding that support system what substantive week has been amazing. I hosted a session last year and our track leader has been a great connection for me personally, and we bounce ideas back and forth and just, she’s very pivotal for mental health. So that’s amazing. So definitely recommend supporting all of these community resources. So I want to kind of wrap up our conversation today with everybody offering one piece of advice for our next generation of female leaders. So, I want to, does anybody want to start?

Kayla Brown (24:51)

I’ll start. So I think if I would have to give one piece of advice, it would be the growth and comfort do not exist together. If you really want to get involved, if you want to grow, then you have to step beyond your comfort zone. You know, take on things you’ve never done before. Attend a women’s conference. One thing I forgot to mention, we’re having a women’s conference coming up next month and it’s the first ever women’s conference and something that we took a growth step out of. So definitely you know, just challenge yourself to do more and step out of that comfort zone.

Mara Hardy (26:24):

I’d say my advice would be to, I felt for a long time that a leader was a certain way. They were very loud and they were out there and they were great at public speaking and, you know, they were very extroverted and I realized there’s lots of different types of leadership styles. And so to try to figure out and understand your own style and whether that’s you lead by example, or you are, you know, more one-on-one and then really own that and try to hone those skills. And again yep. Keep pushing your comfort zone and growing. But to understand that there are really different types of leaders and to, don’t try to look at someone else and mimic theirs, but really own yours and see how you can you know, keep growing in that sense.

Stacy Mascarenas (27:07):

And I guess I would say is just to keep learning and I don’t care what it is. It could be either a skill or it could be a certification. It could be just making sure that you read all of the different editorials and you know, but it’s just, you need to just keep learning and pushing yourself because if you can keep learning, that means you’re going to keep having conversations and you’re going to be keeping yourself relevant. And then if I could, there’s just one code that I just constantly keep in my mind. And that is just really simple. It’s just stop wondering if you’re good enough. Know you are and just start acting like it. And that’s what anything and everything, and it sounds simple and sometimes you eyeroll it, but it’s so true with anything. I love it.

Renaya Demarest (27:56):

Thank you, Stacy. I think it’s really important to everything we’ve talked about. I think about mentorship learning growth challenge, and always like taking the opportunity and speaking up. So, thank you guys for joining me today and thank you everybody who has been watching for watching our first live at virtual connects panel of the year, the full recording of today’s episode will be on our website later this week. You can find that at and we’ll include a list of resources. All the things we’ve talked about today, and this is the first of many women focused connects events to come this year. So stay tuned for more details. And if you are interested in learning more about this year’s International Women’s Day theme or sharing your own, choose to challenge, you can hop on social media and use this year’s hashtags hashtag choose to challenge and #IWD2021. So thank you everybody. And we have to see you next time.

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