Kim Walsh Speaks at Women Innovators Network Dinner

Nine-year-old Lily Gallaugher sat quietly, calmly in her chair at a banquet table in the Heights Room. Her eyes remained trained on the podium in front of her. The gold butterfly clip that held her hair back in a loose ponytail shined under the dimmed lights almost as brightly as the minuscule lights woven into her red velvet dress. Beside her, John Gallaugher, a professor in Boston College’s information systems department, nudged a shy Lily, but she was too bashful to brag about the special effects that made her dress unique. Too proud to contain, John leaned over, mentioning that the 9-year-old programmed the lights in her dress to glow herself.

Lily and John Gallaugher were only two of a roomful of attendees at the Women Innovators Network (WIN) and Shea Center for Entrepreneurship’s end-of-semester dinner. The annual event welcomes alumni, professors, an occasional burgeoning 9-year-old innovator, and BC students—both men and women, business and humanities majors—to participate in an empowering evening filled with giveaways, dinner, and a keynote speaker.

This year, WIN welcomed Kim Walsh, the global vice president of HubSpot For Startups, to speak to address the crowd of an expected 130 attendees. HubSpot is a business to help other businesses grow with marketing, sales, and service software. Walsh’s hunger for a challenge led her to create HubSpot for Startups, offering all of the same services HubSpot offers to developed businesses, but this time to startup companies.

The BC student behind speaker events like this is WIN president Lauren Michelson, CSOM ’19. Michelson has been cultivating WIN and the end-of-semester dinner since her freshman year, when then-president of WIN encouraged her to join the newly formed club. Michelson was already a member of BC women’s rowing, but she turned what little free time she had into work for WIN, growing the club until it became the flourishing organization it is today.

After joining her freshman year, Michelson continued her participation in WIN as director of speaker events her sophomore year. Her job essentially entailed reaching out to Boston-based women for speaker events, which led Michelson to putting on her very first end-of-semester dinner two years ago and assuming her current board position as president.

“Now, like two years ago, I put on the event that we’re having tonight, which is the end-of-semester dinner” Michelson said. “I would say there [were] about like 80 people in attendance. And tonight we’re expecting well over capacity. … It really [is] just a testament of how far we’ve come in the past three years.”

The end-of-semester dinner takes the entire semester to engineer, beginning with outreach to potential speakers as soon as WIN board members arrive back on campus for fall classes. Whereas some speakers are secured organically through personal connections—such as last year’s speaker, Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, the CEO of Her Campus—often times, WIN members search LinkedIn for women in the greater Boston area.

Michelson says that WIN typically looks for women who have not only started their own business, but also have experience in a range of areas, to speak at their various events throughout the year. The diversity of WIN’s members—Michelson estimates that WIN’s membership is evenly split between students in the Carroll School of Management and the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences—pushes the board to seek speakers with diverse backgrounds, such as this year’s speaker, Kim Walsh.

Walsh did not open her speech with an inspiring anecdote of her successes, but instead, she first highlighted her failures. A slideshow presentation showed the logos of a number of companies, some of which were accompanied by a green check mark. Asking the audience what the checked-off companies had in common—students guessed that they were all founded by women or were all places where Walsh has worked—she relayed that they were all failed businesses that she worked at. They weren’t branded with a red “x” to mark the failure, but instead with a green check mark—according to Walsh, failure isn’t always a bad thing. Whether it was with Spring Boost, a failed athletic shoe company, or Provisibly, Walsh’s failed customer management platform, her business ventures had to flop before she found success at HubSpot.

“I wanted to open with how many times I failed because it’s actually cool, I think,” Walsh said. “There’s a lot of failure along a career journey.”

Still, Walsh’s eagerness for success in business didn’t begin when she joined HubSpot—athletics led her to where she is today. A native of Alberta, Canada, Walsh played soccer for Team Canada before leaving her home province to attend the University of Maine on an athletic scholarship. Soccer was her strength—and capitalizing on individual strength is one of the best ways to find entrepreneurial success, according to Walsh. Although she had to leave her family and friends in Canada to further her soccer career, Walsh would not have found the success she dreamed of had she not taken the soccer scholarship that ultimately landed her in the United States.

Now, Walsh focuses her business energy on helping others, specifically career-minded women such as those she works with and WIN members. Ultimately, Walsh believes that no one should have anxiety before going to work—to her, work should be a place of healthy stress, not restlessness.

“If you guys have the Sunday Scaries, just book a meeting with me,” Walsh tells her team.

And while Walsh is currently satisfied with her position at Hubspot For Startups, her end goal is to finally create a successful business of her own. Walsh keeps a personal email folder called “Reasons Why I Want To Start My Own” dedicated to all of the annoying emails from coworkers that make her want to be her own boss.

When asked if she’ll create a business all on her own, Walsh replied, “It will probably be my biggest regret in life if I don’t.”

For young, business-minded college women like WIN members, and even 9-year-old micro-programmer Lily Gallaugher, Walsh provided reassurance that success isn’t immediate and failure is not only inevitable, but “cool.”

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff