Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Alice, speaking at Circular Summit 2017

Inclusive Entrepreneurship is Her Jam

Carolyn Rodz founded Alice (that’s me!), the AI platform designed to help women, veterans, people of color, and LGBT entrepreneurs succeed

Three-time entrepreneur Carolyn Rodz is the founder and CEO of Alice. She is a passionate advocate for inclusive entrepreneurship, a mom of two young boys and a lover of cookies.

What was your biggest discovery in 2017?

I spent a lot of time in 2017 studying startup ecosystems and learned that there is so much to be gained by connecting founders, investors, and organizations from city to city. Cities, like Houston and Detroit, may not be leaders in tech, but they have much to offer business owners, in terms of industry expertise and corporate activation. Conversely, they can benefit from what Silicon Valley has done well, and integrate these best practices into their own communities. When we started, our goal was to enable Alice to bring the intellectual and financial capital from startup hubs to those on the “outside,” but what we quickly learned is that we allbenefit through a more connected small business community. Now we’re getting to work with organizations, like Kauffman Foundation and the SBA, to dig deeper into this connectivity, and apply those learnings through Alice.

What hurdles did you face in 2017, and how did you navigate those?

2017 was a tough year for me personally. I lost my father earlier this year, and he was my biggest entrepreneurial inspiration. This placed a renewed focus on the important things in life. Everyone on our team stepped up without hesitation to cover for me while I was with my family, just months before our public launch. I can’t even begin to explain what peace of mind that brought. While we’ve built a team at Alice that loves what we do and wholeheartedly believes in our mission of inclusive entrepreneurship, we’ve also built a culture that understands and is supportive of each of our personal lives as well. I am confident this will help us all stick together for the long haul and, ultimately, result in a more cohesive and successful team.

Carolyn Rodz (left) with Elizabeth Gore (right), Alice’s president and chairwoman

What is getting you pumped up for 2018?

I am so excited to get Alice back on the road in 2018. We got to pilot a few cities, like Salt Lake City and Sioux Falls, in 2017, and we’re visiting 20 more cities in 2018. I can’t wait to see business owners from so many different walks of life, across industries and geographies, building businesses that matter, and to hear what this diverse group of entrepreneurs thinks the future of Alice should be. Our team works every day to serve the most pressing needs of founders, so it’s these stories that we hear on the road and learning how business owners are currently using Alice that fuel our product pipeline.

When you’re not thinking about business, what occupies your daydreams?

My two boys are both the greatest balance and inspiration to my work and, also, a huge spark of creativity for me. I spend a lot of time with them thinking about things like space travel and robots, and “the world’s fastest” everything, which often leads to these rabbit holes of discovery. I’m a curious person by nature, so my daydreams tend to be quite random — everything from what modern education could look like to envisioning my next travel destination — but I love how these various subjects get woven into all aspects of life.

Carolyn and her husband, Oliver Rodz

What is in your “entrepreneurship” emergency kit?

  • Masters of Scale podcast
  • My circle of women who are a decade ahead of me in life and in wisdom
  • A blank notebook and a blue felt tip pen to write down everything and sort through later
  • The Pursuit of Happyness movie
  • A cofounder who complements you in business and in life
  • Champagne to celebrate the small successes that lead to the big successes