I walked out of the doors of SeventySix Capital shaking. It was May 20th, 2016, and I was in Philadelphia on a work trip where I had just left a conversation that changed my life…
As an entrepreneur, there are some conversations that leave you feeling worthless, leaving you feeling like your idea isn’t good enough. And there are conversations you walk away from and realize there is so much work left to do. It’s at these moments you question whether you should keep going. And these conversations happen far more often than the other type.
These people touch you in a way that is so profound that you cannot articulate the words to describe your visceral reaction. The type of conversation you walk away from where your dreams are more tangible. These discussions come few and far between.
But when they do happen, they give you that feeling anything is truly possible.
This happened when I talked with Wayne Kimmel, founder of Seventysix Capital, Philanthropist, and Author of Six Degrees of Wayne Kimmel.
I walked into doors of Seventysix Capital, a Venture Capital firm in Philadelphia where the digital and physical worlds merge. I sat down, was offered a water, and waited for Wayne to meet me. For some reason, I was more nervous than usual. With the entrepreneurial journey, you have to meet so many people, and meeting new faces becomes second nature. But this conversation felt different as I was talking to a bonafide innovator. To say I had butterflies would be an understatement.
Wayne sat down, carefully analyzing me, and asked “So, how can I help?” I stuttered a bit, not expecting a question like that right off the bat. I began telling him about my vision for Wish Dish. The conversation continued, and Wayne kept asking me questions.
I wasn’t in this meeting to talk about myself. I wanted to learn more about him and his journey. I had so much to ask! Such as … how did you start a venture capital firm? What makes you get up in the morning? How did you bring the Microsoft Center for Innovation to Philadelphia?
There was a brief lull as he stared at me patiently and leaned back in his chair. Here was an opening for me to ask my questions.
I began by asking Wayne about a project he had once only dreamed of bringing to life: to bring a center for innovation to Philadelphia where people of all races, colors, and backgrounds could come in and see the forefront of technology. This center would one day connect the city of Philadelphia through entrepreneurship and technology and shape the future of innovation in Philadelphia. This center ended is now the Microsoft Reactor which opened up this past summer.
While Wayne had a large role in bringing the Microsoft Reactor to Philadelphia, what impressed me was not that he pulled off bringing this center to Philadelphia. What caught my eye was the electric nature of his voice. The passion he spoke with about making this happen and how it could impact the city for generations to come was infectious.
I thought to myself, how lucky am I to be here right now, hearing this story and seeing someone who took his passion and made it into a tangible accomplishment. I can only imagine the pride he must have felt the day the center opened. What if I could have the same impression on those I’m around? When I had the opportunity to ask Wayne about his Venture Capital Firm SeventySix Capital, the glow in his eyes came through once again. He remarked,
And then a series of goosebumps tingled down from my back. We live in a world where so many people are miserable with their jobs, and Wayne sits on the other side of the table where he can help people realize their dreams to assuage that misery. He’s in the business of improving people’s quality of life if they want to take the leap.
I slowly began to ask myself, what could be more fulfilling than a life with purpose, a life to help others’ dreams succeed? And then I started thinking about what that looked like for myself twenty years from now and realized … I could do it too.
We at Wish Dish have a dream to give millions of people a voice and connect them to others around the world in a meaningful way. If we are successful, we will be able to invest back into those in our community that serve our mission and into the lives of entrepreneurs who are pushing onwards for the betterment of society. When I think about Wayne and his mission at Seventysix Capital, it seems we are aligned in our pursuits.
The conversation concluded by Wayne telling me a story about going after things he believed in and doing what it takes to make it happen. Wayne mentioned how he once had needed to get in touch with Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, and now the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for one of his portfolio companies.
He found out that Mr. Ballmer was going to be the morning keynote speaker at a tech conference in New York City. He showed up at the conference and stood in the hotel lobby to meet him. As Mr. Ballmer walked in, Wayne walked right up to him and introduced himself. He handed Mr. Balmer his business card.
Mr. Ballmer was certainly caught off guard, but Wayne had a plan. Wayne told him that they had a mutual friend and that immediately set Mr. Ballmer at ease, especially because it involved a funny story. Mr. Ballmer asked Wayne what he could do for him, and Wayne asked to be connected to one of his top lieutenants at Microsoft.
I proceeded to tell Wayne about the depths and lengths I went to meet Mark Cuban during my early days when I first started Wish Dish.
Walking out of the room to the car, I felt pure excitement, not only because of what I heard but also because of the connection and bond we had formed.
While Wayne, who is 46 years old, and I may be 23 years apart in age, what we have in common is the mindset, passion, and desire to shape both our own future and the future of others for the better. We believe in the power of people and that their ideas can truly change the world.
My name is Ashley Olafsen, I am 19 years old, and I literally just published a book!
I’m really excited for you all to read it – It’s called Survival of the Prettiest: The gender, mental health, and sexualization crisis as told by a teenager. I wrote it because it’s the book I wish I had when I was younger, and I basically just talk about body image, media, mental health, relationships, competition, and a bunch of other issues that kids and teenagers face while trying to grow up. I tell my stories and share my friends, and what’s even cooler is that the book is interactive and filled with reflection questions!
Let’s back track:
When I was 15 years old, I became angry about the things my friends and I were going through. We were dealing with low self-esteem, poor body image, mental health issues, unhealthy relationships, and so much more. For example, I was really struggling with my body image. I hated the way my thighs, stomach, eyebrows – pretty much everything looked. My insecurities were truly affecting me and keeping me from speaking up during class discussions, and becoming my authentic self. It seemed like NO one was talking or even cared about what we were facing, and it felt like there was this unresolved crisis going on right in front of my eyes!
I decided that I wanted to get a conversation going. And more than that, I wanted to play a role in helping my friends and myself live up to our full potentials.
So, alongside three friends, I gave a self-confidence empowerment workshop to a group of 8th grade girls. My friends and I shared our personal experiences with the girls, in hopes that it would inspire them. And it did – so much so, that one of the girls decided to create a MOVEment with me.
Her name is Lexie Phipps and the two of us have joined together to create MOVE (Motivate. Overcome. Value. Empower) – Together, Lexie and I spread our MOVEment across the world. MOVE is a program designed to help empower girls into body positive, confident leaders and role models. We also focus on the importance of getting help as well as preventing unhealthy relationships. We give workshops at schools and even direct a 5 day summer program. This year, we had 70 girls!! To check out a video of what happened at the summer program, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
In addition to MOVE, I’m also a TEDx speaker (https://www.youtube.com/watch
And here we are today – with a published book! I worked on Survival of the Prettiest for a little under three years. I researched, wrote, edited, revised, revised again, cited, cried over, drank lots of coffee over, and lost sleep over this book…It was a tedious yet fun, passionate yet LONG process.
I would love for you to be part of the conversation, and I'm hoping that the book will leave you inspired, empowered, and more vocal.
Check out my book, and let me know what you think
Thank you for reading & wishing you all the best!!