Feature

Moncton Hosts Woman Forbes Says Is ‘Changing the World of Venture Capital’

Kelly Hoey. Image: Submitted

Kelly Hoey, the author of Build Your Dream Network, will be speaking in Moncton this month.

The former lawyer who became an investor, writer, networking expert, mentor and speaker will be a keynote for a breakfast at the Delta Beausejour Hotel organized by Venn Innovation, 3+ and Canadian Digital Media Network on May 15. She’ll also lead a seminar on PR strategies the afternoon of May 16 at the Venn Centre.

Hoey, who’s based in New York City, has been described as “one of five women changing the world of venture capital and entrepreneurship” by Forbes. She’s spoken for Talks at Google and often appears as an investor panellist on CNBC’s Power Pitch, among other engagements. An advocate for women, she is a member of the global advisory board of Women in Law Empowerment Forum.

Huddle got on the phone to get to know her better:

How do you feel about your first visit to Moncton? 

I grew up in Victoria, B.C. Much of our lives are spent travelling elsewhere but we don’t see our own country. I’m ecstatic and embarrassed at the same time that this is my first trip to Moncton.

What are you expecting to see and who do you hope to meet?

The folks at Venn have been busy meeting with entrepreneurs, small business owners, startups – they’re the innovation economy eco-system. So I’ll be meeting people who are fueling the economic future, and that’s exciting.

I think all successful communities, particularly those around entrepreneurship and innovation, need everybody to come to the table. I think, particularly the startup community, we can isolate ourselves by only surrounding our businesses by people who look like and think like us. And that’s really dangerous in terms of solving problems and finding creative solutions. The more you can get everybody involved, the more successful I think they’re likely to be.

You used to be a lawyer. What made you change your career path?

I really enjoyed practicing law and a lot of what I think about networking and relationship building can be traced back to that. But it really helps if people understand who they are and where they get excited every day. I just reached a point in law where I felt the thing I’m doing every day isn’t everything I want to be doing.

What advise do you have for people who may want to switch career paths? 

First of all, be a lifelong learner and build expertise. A lot of times I meet people who are hesitant to invest in their own skillset or they’re waiting for somebody else to send them to a course or provide job training. This is your career and your life. Whatever you do in life, whatever employer you have, whatever business you have, you take that with you.

The second thing is to build your network. Opportunities come because of reputation. Opportunities spread by word of mouth. I’ve had opportunities created for me because people know what I’m capable of delivering.

And the third thing I say to people is build your bank account, both your money in the bank and the people who are willing to back you. By that I mean have you been there for other people? Where can you barter and exchange [your resources] when you don’t have cash? So you’re not using the lack of money or resources as an excuse to not get your business off the ground.

You said your network has created opportunities for you. What does networking look like to you? 

Network building is building personal relationships. And you do that day in and day out. Because every time you interact with somebody else, you’re networking, in my opinion. When you greet the person at your favourite coffee shop or when you send an invoice – how are you using all of those opportunities to connect well with other people?

In cocktail party kind of networking, what I say to people is, you’ve gotta understand why you’re in that room. Many people worry about the tactics – what’s my icebreaker, what’s my elevator pitch. If you understand why you’re doing something, you can figure it out. Go do what you have to do. You don’t have to leave with five business cards and talk to half the room.

For businesses, one of the companies that I love is the business card company Moo. The experience [they provide] from their website, to the emails I get after I place an order, to their packaging, to when I get my business cards – they’d slip an extra card in there that has a funny saying that just makes me laugh. There’s a personality. Businesses and business owners need to think about that at every touch point they have with real people.

How did you build your network?

One relationship at a time. Everybody wants a fast answer, but relationship building, whether in a digital world or otherwise, is the same thing. It’s trust. It’s reputation. It takes time.

I say to people, take a look at your network. Do you need to start building relationships with a wider and more diverse group of people in order to create more opportunities? You may be isolating your business from customers and employees and insights from seeing all the same people all the time. And you’ve got to start doing this before you need it.

What’s the most defining moment of your career so far?

I look at career and success as a journey. I’ve had various defining moments and just when you think that’s it, something else comes along. It was extraordinary for me that best-selling author Tom Peters [In Search of Excellence] wrote the foreword to my book. I’m a kid from Victoria. Like, how did that happen?

And just when I think that was a defining moment, I got an email from my literary agent, and she sold the Chinese language rights to my book.

I want networking and career to be enjoyable. For me, it’s enjoyable when there’s understanding, consideration and it’s productive for everybody, but there’s not an expectation.

My life continues to open up and evolve in interesting new ways because I keep sharing. I keep an open heart, I let people know what I’m interested in and I avoid the stuff I’m not interested in.

What’s your favourite career hat to wear?

It’s when I realized that everything I do points to the same direction and that is, how can I help people become successful? When I realized that, I said I’ll just keep wearing that hat and that’ll be the filter that I’ll use to make decisions on what my next career move is.

What should Monctonians expect from your events here?

To anyone coming to the event, bring your questions. I love nothing better than to help people walk away with something they can use immediately – either to improve their marketing or expand their business, find investors, crowdfund, connect with the right customer, or find a job.

This interview has been shortened and condensed for clarity.