The Women of Innovation Summit Brings Together Female Change Makers, Visionaries, and Leaders

Suzy Batiz, Nina Vaca, and other female game-changers gathered for a full-day of girl power at Dallas Startup Week.

As Suzy Batiz recognized during her keynote speech, the energy in the room at the Women of Innovation Summit during Dallas Startup Week was electric

The space at Ross Tower was packed to the brim with female leaders in their respective industries, all eager to continue the momentum of women fueling the future. There were laughs, tears, and  connecting among the dynamic group of change makers and visionaries, all there to celebrate the overarching message: Empowered Women Empower Women.

Dallas Innovates was there throughout the day, so we highlighted a few of our favorites (it was tough—they were all full of goodness).

Nina Vaca: Raise Your Hand and be Crazy Good

The Summit kicked off with a keynote by Nina Vaca, founder of the Pinnacle Group, an IT service management company, in the living room of her Dallas apartment. Since then, Vaca—one of the few Latinas nationwide serving on corporate boards—has built it into one of the biggest workforce solutions provider in the U.S., and one of the fastest-growing women-owned companies. 

Her Crazy Good message focused on overcoming challenges, and often, unconscious bias. But she encouraged the women in the audience not to let it take them over. Because one of her absolute favorite things is to be underestimated, and prove people wrong.

“Allow people to see you. Allow people to know you,” she said. “Do not be afraid.”

Over the years, she hasn’t let the haters get her down, because typically, they’re “going to hate until they get to know you.”

Instead, Vaca reacts with what she calls “finesse”—class in the face of adversity.

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, Vaca says you have to treat it like a mindset, and find your tribe. Because when it comes to being a female entrepreneur specifically, you have to build your own community that will be there to support you and see you succeed. 

And overall, she’s just an ordinary woman living an extraordinary life.

“Bring on the pressure,” she said, “because that’s how diamonds are made.”

Attendees look on at the Women of Innovation Summit. [Photo: Cameron L. Cook]

The Women Disrupting the Status Quo

This session was rich in inspiration.

A panel of game-changers—Keisha Whaley, Laura Baldwin, Mandy Price, Michelle Lemmons-Poscente, Monica Shortino and moderator Jasmin Brand—discussed how they were breaking boundaries, blazing innovative trails, and staying true to themselves at all points.

Mandy Price is the co-founder and CEO of Kanarys, Inc., a social enterprise focused on building more inclusive cultures. She said it’s been a very difficult, but successful, year for Kanarys, as they are currently in the beta phase of the platform. She talked about how she and her team recently raised $575,000 in a pre-seed funding round, and how difficult it was. “Don’t give up. Keep following your dreams,” she said. “The ecosystem here in Dallas, I would encourage us to have more of a vision… Texas is the number one place for women entrepreneurs. We have lots of capital. I think we need to be bold and willing to take those steps.”

Michelle Lemmons-Poscente is a well-known entrepreneur and CEO at Global Leaders Organization, a community of founders, business owners, and industry leaders. She said you can’t be shy when it comes time to start your company. “Knock on every door that you know, and then ask them for people as well,” she said. “It might not be right for them, but they might have a friend or two that might be right for it.” Don’t let the no’s get you down.

Monica Shortino is the Director of Social Innovation at Capital One. She said that when she and her team think about disruption, it’s for the sake of the customers. They think about how customers are living and using their money on a daily basis, and are intentional with how they create customer experiences. “We are also very intentional about building a culture of innovation,” she said, pointing to the Capital One Garage. “In addition to the way we do business, we’re also looking at how we invest in our communities and really disrupt the way that our communities are building programming and sustainability to better the communities that we live in… To be status quo is not acceptable and I really like to think about how we move forward within our business and community.”

Suzy Batiz: Rich as S**t

Suzy Batiz is the quirky, outspoken, spunky powerhouse best known for making going to the bathroom chic with her toilet spray, Poo~Pourri.

As the founder and CEO, Batiz refuses to play by the rules, and instead taps into her own body to propel creativity and new ideas. During her talk, she discussed her many ups and downs throughout her life—things like a tough childhood and two bankruptcies—and how she overcame it all to build a multi-million dollar business. 

Batiz dazzled onstage in a blue power-suit and bare feet. She said she had so much energy running inside her body from the women (and men) in the room, she said she had to literally take her shoes off.

Then she took us on a journey of both the mind and spirit, along with five things that she called “s**t I wanted you to know.”

1. Ideas are alive.

Batiz has a theory that ideas are alive, because whenever she has one, it seems resilient, like it just keeps going. “Everything is vibration. So I understand that’s what I felt when I walked into this room today, with all of you vibrating—it is high,” she said. “I would say this is probably one of the highest by groups I’ve been in. And what that tells me is if you can carry that vibration into the world, like oh my god, you got this thing.”

2. Your business is a living, dynamic organization.

Batiz said, much to the dismay of every MBA student that would probably want to “murder her,” that she’s never had a business plan. Because instead, she focuses on the “unique, special, amazing” abilities that her organization has to offer the world. She shares that, resonates that, instead. Because that’s how you truly create a brand.

“This is a living dynamic company. Not just a product,” Batiz said. “So ask yourself right now, if you have a product of you a living brand. What is it? What are those unique qualities of your living brand? … I didn’t know that early on.”

3. Trust your gut.

“Everybody says this. Most of us don’t do it,” Batiz said. “Sometimes I don’t do it. It’s a practice.”

Batiz said that oftentimes, people try to tell her how to run Poo~Pourri. But she has deemed herself an expert, along with everyone on her poo crew. People are welcome to give her ideas, but she has to tune in to her own intuition to deem what’s right.

“Any idea you have, you can absolutely burden into the world. Because it is resonant with you and resonant with you uniquely,” she said. “The question is, are you going to spend your focus on trying to make money or trying to remove those blocks that are keeping you from your own power and your own the lightness? Right? So that’s the big question.”

4. Think less, feel more.

Batiz said that society has a problem of thinking. Instead, she tries to honor the feeling in her body that’s alive, rather than dwell on things she didn’t know before. 

It’s not about the money. “It’s the amount of energy, time, and effort that we put towards that, that we could have been putting towards an alive idea that actually would have progressed this further,” she said.

5. Business is a catalyst for personal growth. 

“I did not realize this early on—I was committed to my personal growth, because I knew what it was like making money before I had the luxury of losing everything,” Batiz said. “And I knew what I didn’t want to do. And I still got caught up in the traps of doing a lot of it.”

But what she didn’t realize is that you have to see every business situation as a growth opportunity for yourself. Then, not only will your company grow, but you, internally, will grow as well.

And she wrapped up a speech with a fitting title, Rich as S**t, with some Batiz-esque words of wisdom.

“So all of you, if you are at your at your startup phase, what I want you to know is that you can have so much more than money. So much more,” she said. “If you just go inside and realize that everything that you need is right here within you. You can stand on the stage, never having talked about any of this stuff before. You can know in your heart that all you want to do is share, because you’ve been down a road that maybe somebody else hasn’t yet. And you can live a richer than s**t life and your life will be alive as s**t.”

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