By Elizabeth Savin '25
This year, student founders participating in Propel, The Garage’s award-winning program designed to increase diversity in entrepreneurship, had the opportunity to travel to Seattle to learn more about the startup landscape in the Pacific Northwest! Over the course of the trip, the founders had a chance to speak with industry professionals working in various fields, connect with Northwestern alumni, and explore the heart of the Emerald City. Learn more about each of the selected participants here!
Each quarter, Propel selects eight women with entrepreneurial ideas to participate in a program that includes mentorship, weekly lessons, and a stipend to put towards their company goals. The entrepreneurs chosen to accompany The Garage to Seattle represented a diverse selection of majors and schools from across Northwestern. The group was joined by Elisa Mitchell, Assistant Director of Finance and Operations at The Garage, Carly Kramer, Marketing Manager at The Garage, Charlotte Oxnam, Propel program Manager, and Elizabeth Savin, Assistant Propel program Manager.
After arriving late Thursday night, the group went out to dinner to hear incredible live music and connect with the other student founders on the trip. Women from different cohorts had the chance to learn about each other's companies and backgrounds. The next morning, everyone gathered for breakfast and prepared to leave for an exciting day of company visits!
The first stop of the day was at Amazon HQ in Downtown Seattle. While on-site, students had the opportunity to see three unique Amazon office spaces, including the incredible Seattle Spheres [pictured below]. The tour ended on the roof of one of the newly renovated spaces. There, students had the opportunity to hear from two Amazonians, Jennifer Skipper and Jennifer Beall, who generously volunteered their time to speak with the group. During the conversation, Jennifer and Jennifer were very open about their experiences as women in a corporate workplace. “I have never been taught how to stand up for myself in such a straightforward manner and hearing their experiences helped me learn how to be assertive in a corporate world,” shared Jessica Li, Weinberg ‘24.
Next, the group had the opportunity to eat lunch with Rohre Titcomb, COO and Venture Partner at Graham & Walker. The women had the chance to learn more about Rohre’s background and got a better idea about the metrics venture firms look at when considering early-stage startups for investments. Sarah Talbert, founder of Flock said “[Before the trip] I knew what [being a VC] was, but not what the day-to-day job looked like or the thought processes behind decisions. I learned that it’s ok to dream big with a startup because it shows that you want to grow.”
The last office visit of the day brought the group to Redmond, WA for a visit to Microsoft’s expansive HQ campus. There, students were given a tour by Propel alum, Cheyenne Cazaubon. First, Cheyenne hosted a panel discussion featuring Northwestern alumni including Neil Misak, Niraj Patel, and Christopher Datsikas - all of whom are current Microsoft employees. The group was lucky to learn from the experiences of those on the panel, and were excited to incorporate the advice they received into their lives at Northwestern. Next, the founders had the unique opportunity to see The Garage at Microsoft, an innovation space on the Microsoft campus that closely resembled The Garage’s location in Evanston, both in technical elements and overall aesthetics. “At Microsoft, I learned how companies benefit through innovation and the importance of having a diverse team to create a product,” shared Alessandra Mariano, Bienen & Weinberg ‘25.
Later that evening, students returned to the Edgewater Hotel for a delicious dinner and the chance to connect with alumni who were involved at The Garage during their time at Northwestern. Students were joined by Cheyenne Cazaubon (19), Deanna Cook (22), Spencer Glesmann (20), Daniel Bingyou (20), and Carolina Alvarez (21). The women entrepreneurs had the chance to learn about the unique careers of each of the guests, share their ideas, and receive feedback on their startups.
The next morning, students made their way to Pike Place Market where they had the chance to receive a tour and take a cooking class from Chef Traci Calderon, founder of Atrium Kitchen. During the tour, Chef Traci pointed out different female-owned businesses throughout the market and discussed how she supports and works with each one. Additionally, Chef Traci shared about her program, Nourished Neighborhood, which provides free meals to members of the Seattle community. She discussed how important it is to give back when you are in a position to be able to do so. After a delicious lunch that everyone helped prepare, the founders were given the chance to explore Seattle.
The group has since returned to campus inspired, driven, and excited to share what they learned with other entrepreneurs at The Garage. If you are interested in the Propel program, you can learn more here.
Elizabeth Savin ’25 is a Manufacturing and Design Engineering major from Wilmette, IL. She is a student aide at The Garage, Winter 2022 Propel cohort member, and Assistant Program Manager of the Propel program. She is excited to begin her own venture while learning more about entrepreneurship.