New Head of NWEN Looks to Revamp Entrepreneur Tools, Training, and Forums

“I haven’t stopped smiling for the past week,” says Rebecca Lovell.

The new executive director of the Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN) was telling me about her career transition to the Bellevue, WA-based nonprofit organization. Lovell has been at her new post since the beginning of February, succeeding outgoing NWEN head Peter Quinn. Previously, Lovell was program director at Seattle’s Alliance of Angels, where she evaluated investment pitches from entrepreneurs and aided startups, among other duties.

In her current role, Lovell is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs—all 700-odd members of NWEN—which is a bit of a twist from her last job. “I absolutely loved the work at Alliance of Angels,” Lovell says. “What I love the most is the community. It’s been really educational and rich for me, coaching entrepreneurs on a daily basis. Moving to NWEN, I’m really focused on purely serving entrepreneurs. I’ll be all day, every day, all entrepreneur, all the time. We are a pure nonprofit organization. You’ll see much tighter connections with NWEN and angel organizations and trade associations. If I do my job right, we’ll be a resource and source of referrals if you’re just getting started.”

Lovell isn’t wasting any time before putting her own stamp on the organization. “The board is committed to listening to the community and fine-tuning programming, and to changing it up,” she says. “There are lots of things we do really well, and other things where, let’s make sure we’re a good partner. Let’s really define our playing field.”

Three focus areas where Lovell already seems to be making a difference:

—Community. “We’re really revamping our communication tools,” Lovell says. “We want to get community voices involved. We’ve got something for everyone…My main takeaway is, there’s a whole community of people who really care.” Lovell says one of her first acts was launching an NWEN Facebook page and Twitter account, and “starting to syndicate community blogs more aggressively.”

—Education and training. Lovell says NWEN has a “newly tailored curriculum” that includes new courses entrepreneurs can take if they want to learn how to become an effective C-level executive. “They need a tool kit,” she says. “We’re really focusing on specific skill sets. We have an ongoing curriculum that will be essentially available on demand. You’re going to start to see a lot more community involvement. I want to put the ‘network’ back into Northwest Entrepreneur Network.” That includes matching up entrepreneurs with appropriate mentors in the business community, Lovell says.

—Investment forums. “We’ve totally re-purposed our early-stage investment forum,” says Lovell. NWEN’s biannual First Look Forum gives companies that have never pitched to an organized angel group a chance to strut their stuff in front of potential investors. The next one is planned for the afternoon of March 24, at The Big Picture theater in Belltown. The event will have an “updated image—accessible and progressive,” Lovell says. “Investors are really interested to see bleeding-edge ideas.”

Lastly, Lovell says her networking and support duties will have her criss-crossing Lake Washington like never before. She’s splitting her time between the Eastside, downtown, and any number of other locales. “If you see me in the office, I’m not doing my job,” she says. “I’m going to be drinking a lot of coffee. And lots of lunch dates. I’ll be putting a few miles on the old Jetta.”

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