Fellowship Provides Growth and Mentoring to Minority Entrepreneurs

In 2016, COCO launched a new Fellowship program, in which local Minneapolis-St. Paul companies sponsor a startup founder, providing them with a six-month COCO membership, mentoring, resources and connections in the business community. Here’s a look at how that actually plays out in real life.

Sarah Moe, founder of Sleep Health Specialists, was one of the first Fellows selected for the program. Clockwork, a Minneapolis-based interactive design and technology company, “adopted” Sarah in April, and she’s been busy building her business (which provides sleep education to local businesses and corporations) at COCO Uptown ever since.

We sat down with Sarah, and Chuck Hermes, Chief Experience Officer at Clockwork, to hear about both sides of the Fellowship experience.

Chuck: “[Clockwork CEO] Nancy Lyons thought the Fellowship program sounded interesting, and we had just kicked off our own diversity initiative. This seemed like a great fit, so we decided to sign up as a sponsor.

We chose Sarah because one of our staff members had just done a presentation for the rest of the company about an experience she had—she had suffered from severe depression and anxiety, and for a year and a half she was on all these anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds but was really struggling. Then it was discovered that she had sleep apnea. She was treated for that and completely rebounded to normal. So seeing Sarah’s profile and knowing the impact sleep can have, it seemed like a great thing for us to support.”

Sarah:  “I’ve always considered myself an unlucky person—I’ve never won anything. But I decided to apply for the Fellowship because it seemed like a perfect fit: I’m a minority small business owner who works at my kitchen table while my four-year-old runs around screaming.

I was so excited when I found out I was chosen, and by Clockwork! I was familiar with Clockwork because I had been to an event where [Clockwork Chief Operating Officer] Meghan Wilker was one of the speakers. I thought she was a total rockstar, so I felt incredibly honored to be chosen by them.”

Chuck: “I really wanted to pick a non-tech company, because we’re so immersed in technology here at Clockwork. And Sleep Health Specialists was such a nice fit, based on our employee’s recent experience. I think I would do that again, pick a non-tech company. It helps open our eyes to things outside of technology.”

Sarah: “The COCO membership that comes with the Fellowship has been amazing. I’ve found that after working in this space for the past several months, now that I’ve had it I can’t not have it. And Clockwork has been so helpful. They’re just 100% accessible. If I have a question, I email them. I thought about doing some video on my website, and I emailed Chuck. He said ‘Here’s what we do with videography, here’s our guy, mention my name and he’ll give you deal.’

I’ve been in healthcare my entire life, so business was always foreign. My business really started with a few friends as clients and word of mouth. I was still teaching at MCTC, and this was just a fun idea—I didn’t even know how to start a business page on LinkedIn.

Since focusing my time and energy on it here at COCO, I’ve grown exponentially. After doing my website and having the company’s digital presence become more professional, I’ve had companies reach out to me, I’ve been invited to events. It’s gotten me to the point where I don’t have to try as hard—things are coming to me instead of me having to seek everything out.”

Chuck: “There’s no way to measure what kind of return we got from sponsoring Sarah, but it makes everyone on the staff feel good that we’re supporting a small company and someone from a diverse background, being involved in the community, and supporting what COCO is doing. We all love COCO. I was very happy that we were invited to do this, and the whole staff is glad we did. They’re all really looking forward to Sarah coming in and doing her workshop for us.”

Sarah: “This relationship I have with Clockwork is so meaningful; I know they’ll continue to foster my growth. I feel they’ve come to care about me as well, and my business. It’s not just ‘let’s help a minority.’ They support what I’m doing and what I want to do for the community. I’m very grateful for that relationship.

Starting a business seemed overwhelming to me. But winning this Fellowship made me think this is where I can make the biggest difference. Having other people see that was so validating and encouraging and awesome. I have had a huge few months as far as validating my career choice.”

To better understand how your company can be a Fellowship sponsor and support the work of dreamers, creators and doers, contact us at sponsorship@explorecoco.com