Pitching our Zeal at the Seattle Angel Conference

Photo credit Michael Maine Photography.  

Photo credit Michael Maine Photography.  

Last week we pitched in the finals of the Seattle Angel Conference (SAC) alongside four fantastic startups we got to know during the course of the competition.  We spent the preceding weeks working closely with a team of investors performing due diligence, and the process helped us to clarify our strategy and generated even more ideas about how we could amplify Zealyst's impact.

Thursday's conference marked an important SAC milestone: after hosting five conferences over the past three years, the SAC has now "graduated" over 100 investors in Seattle.  At the beginning of each conference cycle, accredited investors pool $5,000 each toward a lump investment that will be awarded to the winning company.  We started with over 40 other startups and advanced through quarter-final and semi-final pitches.  At each stage, the SAC investors asked great questions, provided pitch critique, and gained invaluable firsthand investment experience.  The innovative SAC model aims not only to infuse the local startup ecosystem with capital directly through the competition, but also to educate and empower accredited investors to make independent angel investments after completing the conference.

Team Zebra was out in full force: Britta, Meleigha and Brandon were all in the audience, along with our advisor David Youssefnia.  I was the last presenter, and I was nearly bouncing out of my seat in excitement by the time it was our turn to pitch. It was a great pleasure to tell the Zealyst story and give the audience a preview of the beautiful new product we're preparing to launch.

We were thrilled to win the audience favorite award- thank you to everyone who supported us!  Congratulations to Discuss.io for winning the grand prize, as well as the other awesome companies that pitched: Social Glimpz, Meshfire, and Grow Plastics!


Meet Brandon, our new CTO!

As many of you know, here at Zealyst we’ve worked with some really great technologists who helped us build the first versions of our software.  Now that we’ve decided to build a new product and bring the full huddle experience online, our technology needs have increased substantially.  We’ve been keeping our eye out for a dedicated technical leader to join our Zeal and lead the development of our software.  

Enter Brandon Paddock.  We met Brandon at a pitch event facilitated by our mutual friend .  We were impressed and intrigued by the demo of the apps he had designed and built.  In the following months, we got together several times to get coffee and talking about technology.  He even attended a huddle and got a firsthand taste of what Zealyst is all about!


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Brandon hails from New York State and originally moved to Western Washington to work for Microsoft.  He spent eight years there working up to Senior SDE before leaving to start his own app development business.  We were drawn to him by his passion for building innovative solutions quickly, his agile, out-of-the-box thinking, and how willing he is to don a zebra Snuggie.  

Non-technical fun facts about the CTO of Zealyst: he loves karaoke, he has a dachshund named Callie, and he started his first company when he was 12 years old!

Welcome aboard, Brandon.  We’re thrilled to have you on our team!


The New Zeal Revealed

The New Zeal Revealed

Since the last time I wrote about the big changes happening at Zealyst, we’ve been heads down working on our new product and planning for the launch.  It’s been unlike any software project I’ve ever been a part of, largely because our team coalesced around the new vision and hit the ground running with more verve and momentum than I’ve ever experienced. 

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Venture to Vegas with Me!

One of the few things I enjoy nearly as much as working on Zealyst is learning about what other startups are doing and looking for ways to help them succeed, which is why I was delighted to join the advisory board for V2Venture.

V2Venture is a pitch competition that's part of SXSW Las Vegas in July.  Companies from five categories will be pitching: Education Technologies, Health and Wearable Technologies, Mobile and Tablet Technologies, Culture and Entertainment Technologies, and Innovative World Technologies.  If you're part of a startup that fits into one of the categories and you meet the other eligibility requirements, you should apply soon-- applications are due on April 11th!

So, who wants to join me in Vegas?



A Tale of Two Pivots

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

Last night, Britta did a dramatic reading of these opening lines from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to kick off our talk at the Seattle Tech Meetup.  We chose these words both because they fit nicely with the title of our talk (“A Tale of Two Pivots”), and because they so perfectly summarize our experience as entrepreneurs over the past few years. 

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When we cooked up the idea that we would later call Zealyst three years ago, we were determined to use technology to power face-to-face interactions.  We wanted to bring people away from their devices and back into the physical world and fundamental human socialization.  We were excited about imagining a new application of the social networking software we were working on at the time. 

A year later, we found ourselves with a modest but promising group of loyal customers, a fledgling software platform, and no business model to speak of.  We gradually accepted that the consumer approach we originally envisioned just wasn’t working.  Opportunity knocked, and knocked…and then knocked again before we realized we could build a viable business in the enterprise world .

We had a few big wins right out of the gate, which revived our enthusiasm and confidence that we could make Zealyst a big success.   Our team grew, our creative energy skyrocketed, and we settled into a groovy rhythm that made us feel unstoppable.  Yet our closest advisors were still concerned about our ability to scale, which I continually assured them would be possible with the system we’d built.

Fast-forward to this fall.  We learned the hard way that enterprise sales don’t happen as quickly as we expected, and we ran into all the hairy hurdles to scale that our advisors predicted.  Much like the gargantuan drill working its way under the Seattle waterfront, we continued to bore the course but couldn’t seem to break  through the barrier in our path.

So we started to listen- to really listen- to what our customers were telling us.  Turns out we touched on a salient need for most of the companies we talked to, but they wanted something faster, easier and scalable.  There it was again, staring us straight in the face.  But this time our customers were saying it, and we knew what to do.

Britta and I are passionate about relationships.  We want to help people discover them, build them, and enrich them.  We thought the best way to do this would be to bring people into the same room together.  I still think that’s a powerful and very important experience.  However, when we began this journey, I didn’t understand how that would limit the number of people we could reach and ultimately the scope of our work. 

We’ve learned a tremendous amount over the years, and we want to bring that to the world in a big way, which is why we announced last night that we’ll be launching a completely virtual experience in 2014.  We’ll still offer our dedicated members in Seattle the same huddle opportunities they’ve had in the past, but now they’ll be informing a different outcome.  The games we test will be available on mobile, and eventually employees all over the world will have the chance to connect with Zeal, regardless of their location.  

We're going mobile, baby!

We're going mobile, baby!

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Falling in Love with My Co-Founder (all over again)

My birthday was last week.  A fellow startuper whose birthday was earlier this month shared this courageous and lovely letter that inspired me to articulate some of the reasons I’m so grateful for my co-founder, Martina Welke.

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She pulls me up when I’m down

We all have those days.  Sometimes it’s because of bad news, other times it’s the combination of stress and lack of sleep.  I sometimes joke that in the roller coaster of life, being an entrepreneur makes the highs higher and the lows lower.  On those lower-low days, my co-founder listens to me ramble about my worries and frustrations.  She hugs me when I cry, and then calmly pulls out one of her guru statements like: “everything is as it should be,” “it couldn’t have happened any other way,” or she blasts inspirational femme rock to shake-it-out.

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She inspires me to do more

Martina has shown me that there’s no excuse for me not to do more.  It seems like every week she’s been invited, accepted, or started a group to unite leaders across geography, help the under-served, and inspire people to take the leap into entrepreneurship.  She does all of this in her “spare” time, which I know is little since we share a calendar.  What makes this robust extracurricular schedule even more impressive, is when I see her make time for herself so that she doesn't burn out.  Self care is something I see overlooked too often in the startup community, and it makes me so proud that my co-founder models respecting your limits.

She pushes me to become a better person and a better leader

This month we’ve been talking a lot about making choices based on fear, and the tragedy of making a decision we’d later regret because we were cowardly chickens.  A few weeks ago, we were invited to speak on a panel in a marketing class-- but we had to pick which one of us would attend.  My first thought was: “Martina should do this because I’m afraid of looking incompetent, and failing to showcase the splendor of Zealyst.”  Martina and I talked about it; she was willing be the speaker, but really encouraged me to face my fear, get some public speaking practice.  I did it.  It was fine.  And next time, I won’t be as scared.

This photo hails from the Pre-Zealyst days

This photo hails from the Pre-Zealyst days

Autumn makes me want to don a chunky sweater, and curl up in front of a fire with a cup of hot tea.  This yearning for warmth seems like the perfect backdrop to share those things for which we’re grateful, and the things that we love.  This fall I have realized (again) how lucky I am to have such a spectacular human as my co-founder.  She’s the yin to my yang, the mint to my chocolate chip, the black stripe next to my white.

by Britta, Zebra Tales

Hacking Creativity

Personification of Zealyst staff as Zebras gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Personification of Zealyst staff as Zebras gone terribly, terribly wrong.

We all have those days where we start work with low energy or low motivation. I dread these moments because it completely overwhelms my creativity. However, I have discovered a couple of tricks to get the creative juices pumping on days like these.

1. Learn something: I've found that new knowledge can kick start my creativity back into high gear. I like to read the tech section of the newspaper, browse design articles, or read up on a new technique or style. Or, for the days that design simply does not inspire me, I will read some lessons on CSS & HTML. Learning about other people's success and strengths inspires me to try harder and do better in my own work.

2. Copy what you admire: When I'm truly stuck nothing I do looks right. This is when, as an exercise to get out of the rut, I copy something I like. Copying forces me to pay attention to the details that make a design successful and often teaches me techniques I can apply to my own design. You won't be a copy cat as long as you understand copying as an exercise in observation. Through practicing good design, even if it's not your own, you strengthen your eye for good design.

3. Be open to failure: Being creative and inspired can sometimes produce, let's be honest, some hilariously wrong solutions (See drawing to the left). Be playful and open to looking at the problem differently. Sometimes good ideas are iterative and sometimes good ideas come from the process of elimination. The key is not to stress because forced design often is a sign that you haven't found the best solution.

How do you find motivation on slow days? Is it through input from co-workers, a change of scenery, a favorite song? I would love to hear from creatives and non-creatives alike on how you keep your work inspired.

by Meleigha, Zebra Tales

What's a Brand Anyway?

Brand anyway.jpg

3 brand lessons that will turn your customers into advocates. The past few weeks have been full of startup events in Seattle, and this typically means an insane week for us at Zealyst seeing as we're all about good parties. Unfortunately for me, I was forced to quarantine myself instead of inflicting the entire Geekwire Summit with a cold. Despite my wallowing in bed, I was able to stumble across this piece of magic while doing a cyber-cleanup of my hard drive:

"The relationships we build are our business." -- CEO, Martina Welke

A year and a half has passed since one of my first meetings as a Zealyst team member, and at a specific one Martina explained that it's our members and customers who make Zealyst real. In the spirit of that conversation, I wanted to offer up some ideas on what a brand is vs. is not:

  • Your brand is not just a logo or name. It's a story and philosophy:

When thinking through brand building, it's vital that your company become bigger than just a commodity. In a sales-driven world, the cheapest commodity always wins out. However, when you offer people an experience through your brand, the price becomes something customers are proud of if the experience is meaningful.

Customers want to be a part of your brand's story, so spend time thinking through what you're bringing folks into. When they buy into your product, your customers want to trust that their purchase is a statement to the world about the way they see the world-- this is exactly what your brand building should zone in on. Aim to be more than just a logo and name, and become a radical philosophy.

  • Your brand is not just a mission statement or tag line. It's a customer's experience and conversation:

Stop spending days upon days of brainstorming sessions to determine your 8-word byline. Instead, focus on cultivating words for the experience that you take your customers on when they purchase your product.

Present and future loyalty to your brand begins the second you meet a potential customer. Marketing strategy should begin not when a customer purchases, but from the first connection a customer has with your brand. Your brand is your relationship with your customers. An incredible product with an awful user and customer experience may stay in demand for a second, but will fall short due to its lack of brand advocates.

Brand advocates are the next stage in the evolution from customer. Through their experience, your clients should transition from solely objective users into connected and important players in your brand's story-- they should be aware of this. Take marketing steps to make your customers feel important and vital to your brand.

  • Your brand is not stagnant. It's living and can change:

Last but far from least, is my call for us all to sober up to the reality that lip service won't get our brands anywhere. If you start out with impeccable brand building and customer service, you have to put the work in to maintain that same experience for your customers. All brands are susceptible to change, and customers can only rely on that "one time" experience for so long. Your brand has to grow alongside of them, and should be a source of stability in their lives.

Don't fear the evolution or life of your brand, but do challenge yourself to see your brand as more than that 5-month design project that now sits at the bottom of your name tag.

by Fabricio, Zebra Tales

Guest Blog from Anna the Intern: "On Being Part of a Fabulous Zeal"

Guest post written by Anna Hernandez who has been interning with Zealyst this summer I have been working with Zealyst for a few weeks now, and I have already learned so much from the loving group that resembles a family more than a business. Just a little over a month ago, I moved to Seattle from Chicago (Go Bears/Cubs!) to spend the last couple of weeks before my big eight-month trip abroad with my sister and brother-in-law. But, after that first initial week of exploring and getting to know the city, I began to feel a little useless. That’s when I found Zealyst (or at least when I was connected with the wonderful Martina).  I soon set things up with her and made the trip over to Zealyst Headquarters. I walked into the colorful office to find dogs jumping around me and a overwhelming amount of zebras, ranging from pictures to coffee mugs (I hadn’t heard the story yet). Then, I met the group who makes the magic of Zealyst happen and right away, I knew I would love helping out here for the next couple of weeks.

The essential intern

The essential intern

Though I consider myself the lowly intern, they never treat me as such (Britta likes to call me the “essential” intern). I can’t even remember how many times she has apologized for tasking me with the incredibly easy job of digitizing data from their past huddles. A few weeks have passed now and I have fallen into the routine of coming to the office twice a week, chatting with whoever is there, playing with the puppies, and stretching at 11:11. I've even had the opportunity to attend a huddle and see Zealyst from the outside, the overall outcome of the brainstorming and whiteboard sessions the group puts so much effort into. My days of scanning may be over, but I have turned my attention to researching an ancient connection to the idea of networking. I am studying anthropology and archaeology in college so we figured it would be an interesting way to bring my interests into the fold.

My experience at Zealyst has truly opened my eyes to the world of startups. Previously, I had only a vague idea and I usually associated the idea with a boring world of business and making money (and Facebook, of course). I have realized there is so much more to it and just exactly how fun and enjoyable working to bring an idea or passion to life can be. Add that to my now constant curiosity about the subject and I’ve ended up asking my brother-in-law, the quintessential entrepreneur and the guy I have to thank for connecting me with Zealyst, a million questions about it all (he’s now hoping I follow in his footsteps). Britta and Martina definitely gave me the best introduction to startups that a girl could ask for and I am all the better for it. I wanted a way to be useful and I was able to do that at Zealyst. And in return, I acquired new knowledge and experience, got an inside look into the world of a startup, and got to be a part of one amazing zeal.

Zebra Tales

How to Make Your Message Stick


Zealyst Head of Design and Director of Community & Media explain how they navigate the messaging maze together. As Meleigha and I have been zoning in on messaging for the bulk of Zealyst's sales material, our minds have been flooded with synonyms, color schemes, visual metaphors, and tag lines. In fact, many of my mornings have started with a thesaurus check. To a degree, we know that this is what it takes to truly communicate the incredible value of the platform and service we both love. However, when hashing out messaging details, we've had to quickly learn to navigate what I like to call the messaging maze. By messaging maze, I mean the aimless, adjective flooded, frustrating mental state you can find yourself in when you just can't seem to put your mind on paper. In our first ever coauthored blog, Meleigha and I decided to share some tips on how to keep messaging in content and design focused:

Meleigha Holt, Head of Design:

  • Tip 1: Write it down! While my job as a designer is visual, I cannot start any project without first writing out an outline. For each task I start with a succinct sentence to guide and focus the design. This is where Fabricio is my godsend. I speak to him fragmented sentences and descriptions of what "I'm seeing" and he translates it into succinct and colloquial marketing speak.
  • Tip 2: Get on the same page. As I touched on in my last blog post, when working in teams, it is crucial to make sure you are speaking each other's languages. Writing an outline is a great way to check that you and your team are on the same page but there's a lot of back and forth clarification and collaboration that goes into that outline. Fabricio does a great job of speaking my language by making quick napkin sketches for me whenever possible. And I do my best to re-explain my ideas in different ways to make sure we're both imagining the same end result.
  • Tip 3: Give it space. When you find yourself circling the same idea for exorbitant amounts of time...take a break. It's like when you're trying really hard to remember something you forgot and as soon as you start doing something else it comes to you. A lot of times, my best ideas come in that quiet moment right before I fall asleep. Don't get pressured into a design or its message--take a break, and come back to it with fresh eyes.

Fabricio Turcios, Director of Community & Media:

  • Tip 1: Record yourself. Not just on paper. Evernote's built-in recorder has totally deconstructed my writer's block. In normal conversation, so much of our ability to empathize and understand is made possible because of factors other than our words. Especially factors like our verbal excitement, enthusiasm, and conviction. When I talk out sales messaging on a recorder, I am then able to sift through my entire pitch for the statements and soundbites that I am evidently passionate about. Those few but key pieces are what I can usually build the best material from.
  • Tip 2: Return to your values. I've quickly realized the power of our story comes back to what we value as Zealyst employees. Meleigha and I realized this lesson while building out our infographic on why "Most Americans hate their jobs." When lost in sellable industry jargon, look at the folks around you and ask them why they love your service or product. Typically it's their answers that will totally inform and reform your messaging maze into a messaging streamline. Sell what you truly love; don't fake it.
  • Tip 3: Let someone else try. As I've touched on before, startups truly are the "collective power of people who graciously allow each other to make mistakes." The neat thing about developing a marketing message in a startup is that each team member can be a resource. Some of our best content has come from me stepping back and giving Meleigha the space to put the message content together. Though she is our genius designer, it's the fresh perspective that totally can be a game changer for the collateral. The more people you let in on your message, the greater ability you have to construct a message that will appeal to all instead of only people like you.
by Fabricio, by Meleigha, Zebra Tales

5 Things I Learned at Urban Campfire

Urban Campfire is the brainchild of CRAVE founder Melody Biringer.  After a grueling year, and nearly losing her mojo, she decided to organize an event for women to tell stories, get inspired, and make s’mores together.  I had the pleasure of attending Urban Campfire this week, and here are a few of my reflections:

It’s okay to fail, and it’s good to talk about it

“If you don’t have a failure, that’s your failure.” - Melody Biringer

At our first breakout session, we gathered in small groups around mini campfires.  We had been instructed to come to the event prepared to talk about our biggest failure.  It was really special to sit down and share vulnerable stories with women I had just met.  My group also took the failures-as-opportunities-for-growth perspective, which deepened the conversation to include what we’ve learned from our mistakes and failures.

Campers roasting marshmallows for s’mores

Campers roasting marshmallows for s’mores

The Girl Scouts invented the S’more

In 1927.  Check it out.

Friendships are good for our health

Founder of GirlFriendCircles.com and author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen, Shasta Nelson urged us to reach out and ask for companionship when we’re lonely. “Like hunger tells us we need to eat,” she said, “loneliness tells us we need to connect.”  She recently wrote on her blog about how the physical effects of loneliness are similar to those of stress.

“Look to your friends to codify your accomplishments”

Moz founder talked about her long journey to seeing her strengths and accomplishments the way her friends and colleagues do.  She told a story about having a friend review her resume, and the alarming disparity between how she and her friend presented her skills and experiences.  She charged us with internalizing the lesson it had taken her so long to accept herself: don’t sell yourself short--not on paper, and especially not to yourself.

Agapi and emcee Shauna Causey

Agapi and emcee Shauna Causey

Singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” with 500 other women is really really cool

One of the two keynote speakers was Agapi Stassinopoulos.  Her whimsical talk included stories of growing up in Greece with her sister Arianna Huffington, and how she kept her chin up while trying to find the best way to use and share her talents as a performer.  She showered us great personal mantras like “the key to success is radical generosity,” “don’t leave this place without opening your heart to a stranger,” and “we’re not supposed to fit in!”  At one point in her talk she started singing the famous song from Evita and invited us to join her in the chorus.  Even though it’s not an obvious choice for a campfire sing-a-long, the experience was surreal.  We were 500 women in an airplane hangar singing the emotionally charged melody after a day of being inspired and vulnerable.  It was haunting, thrilling, and one of my favorite moments from the day.

Are you sincerely bummed that you missed out?  Melody and the CRAVE folks are cooking up another Urban Campfire event in October.  You can check it out here.

by Britta, Zebra Tales

Bringing WiT Back to Seattle

Britta and I often stand out at startup events, and it's not just because we sometimes wear our zebra snuggies in public. As women cofounders of a tech startup, we're an anomaly in a male-dominated landscape, so we're always very excited to meet other women startuppers or aspiring entrepreneurs. Recently, we helped relaunch an effort through Startup Seattle called Women in Tech (WiT) to convene and support other women in the space and welcome men into the discussion.  The WiT relaunch is happening amidst lots of positive momentum in the community, such as Paul Watts' film series on women in the tech industry (Watts also serves on the Board of WiT) and the all-women Code Fellows class this summer.


In the spirit of collaboration, the WiT Board decided to support the Code Fellows effort by raising a $10,000 scholarship for the class.  We were overwhelmed by the generosity of companies who eagerly contributed to the fund, and we'll be announcing the scholarship recipients at our relaunch event next week.

Please join us at the Columbia Tower next Wednesday, June 26th for an all-star panel on Hiring Women in Tech, some stellar networking (facilitated by a local startup you might have heard of...), and the best views in the city!

by Martina, Zebra Tales

Behind the New Design

The following post is by Meleigha Holt, the newest zebra to join the team as our design extraordinaire.    

I'm excited to announce the launch of the newly designed Zealyst member site. I've had a wonderful time earning my stripes collaborating with the women of Zealyst and their talented, detail oriented developer, Eric.

The old site provided me with a great framework of pages and features to work from. My main job was to understand the use of each of these pages and redesign them to highlight the features most essential to your huddle experience.



First I made a site map with all the pages and how they connected to one another. Outlining this not only gave the team an easy way to review all the features of the site, it also was a simple diagram of the site navigation.


The next step was to decide what the navigation looked like. Should it be on the top or on the right? If it's on the right, it is important to look at how much space the content of each page needs. I ended up liking the navigation along the top so that the space on the right could be reserved for each page's general summary information.



From there, the content of each page was already nicely decided for me by the old site. My primary goal was to make the content legible and discoverable by creating clear titles, adding more space between large chunks of text and removing some of excessive boxes within boxes so that (in the words of my graphic design professor) "the content could breathe."



by Meleigha, Zebra Tales

A New Year, A New Zeal

Hello and happy new year! We couldn't be more eager to get 2013 huddles underway- we've missed our members! Some important developments have happened during our two-month hiatus. Here's the update:

  • Slide1We've decided to focus our expansion strategy on the client work we started doing for businesses last year. We're working with corporations and medium-sized enterprises to heighten employee engagement by fostering new and stronger connections in a fun huddle setting.
  • Not to worry, we're still hosting member huddles! We've decided not to extend member huddles to other cities in the near future, but we are going to continue to host huddles in Seattle. We'll be testing new games, trying out new matches, and keep listening to your feedback in an effort to continually improve the huddle experience.
  • To cover our huddle hosting costs, we've decided to start charging $8 per huddle that will be due upon registration. We provided huddles for free for our first year in business as we were refining the concept and inviting you all to participate in our grand social experiment. Now that we have graduated to a more mature stage (or, "put on our big girl pants," as I recently announced at a meeting), we recognized the need to make the huddle both financially sustainable for us and affordable for our members. We hope the fee doesn't deter you from participating, and welcome your feedback on the change!
  • We'll no longer be offering Premium Membership. The good news: now all members will enjoy the custom messaging feature and special huddle requests that were previously reserved for only premium members.

Please let us know what you think about the changes in the comments below or at . Can't wait to see you at a huddle soon!

by Martina, Zebra Tales

Get to Know Top Stripes

Ever since the inception of Zealyst, we’ve made feedback- getting it and responding to it- a high priority.  Especially important to us is the feedback of our members, as we’re always trying to improve the Zealyst experience.  In February, we formed Top Stripes, a Member Advisory Board, and a more formal way of collecting and and analyzing feedback. We have always been really proud of how diverse our membership base is in professional and personal backgrounds and passions, and our member advisers are also quite varied in their interests.  From microfinance to cooking, education, Rubik’s cubing, dance, Frisbee, and triathlons, the interests of our Top Stripes members are incredibly eclectic.  There is also a wide body of business knowledge.  Our advisory board has seasoned entrepreneurs with experience in brick-and-mortar business, tech, non-profit, growth strategy, and so much social media.  The first time we assembled our Top Stripes I was overwhelmed with the extent of the sincere support and enthusiasm from such accomplished individuals.

We’re going to be spending the upcoming dark winter months updating and upgrading our software platform.  Our goal is to build a tool that HR professionals who are charged with organizing events for corporate groups can easily use to infuse their events with the fun and purpose of a Zealyst huddle.   Our Top Stripes members have been instrumental in building out this plan.  We’ve extensively discussed what material should be included in the curriculum, how this material should be presented, and have worked through different potential user case studies.

Looking to the future, we’ll continue leaning on our accomplished and generous member advisers for their insights and feedback.

by Britta, Zebra Tales

A Serendipitous Journey

Kenji, long time Zealyst member, is a master of spaces. As the web marketing manager at eVenues, he has the ability to see beyond the physical bounds of a meeting room and can help clients to see the endless possibilities of what could be developed in it. Kenji came to us serendipitously-- as most great things at Zealyst do. At one of our earlier huddles at the Cafe Venus and Mars Bar, Kenji ran into someone he knew that happened to be a member. It is then that he met Martina and Britta and history was made. Maybe it was the name tags, the laughs, or the crowd of good-looking people that had him sold, nevertheless we have since been proud to have such a talented member in the zeal.

Kenji's journey to his current position actually began in Tokyo, Japan.  After graduating from the University of Washington with an English Literature Creative Writing degree, Kenji set off to teach English in while exploring parts of his own culture and ancestry. Once done as a tutor, he became a professional headhunter in the Japanese corporate world. During his corporate tenure, Kenji maintained his love for writing as an author and copywriter. I have personally spent much time on his personal blog called Unready and Willing. It is a wealth of both fine writing and also mass wisdom.

Kenji's first post on his personal blog opens as "The Philosophy of Unreadiness." In it he emphasizes the need to take risks, to enjoy and even celebrate insecurity, and to run after loving your life. This is what my time with Kenji really centered on. His appreciation for the journeys that we all take as people makes him so refreshing to listen to. It also is what makes him a phenomenal part of eVenues and Zealyst.

Kenji is a reminder that business success does not have to come at the cost of joy or happiness. He is an example of the power people can have when allowing themselves to take new chances and embrace change.

You can catch Kenji in his neighborhood of First Hill enjoying a walk, maybe out at the local pub, or meditating at the Seattle Vipassana Meditation Hall. If you seem him at a huddle, ask him about his appreciation for Vipassana or his bold dance moves which I have seen first hand (They are awesome!).

Kenji maintains the eVenues company blog and also has tons of experience in entrepreneurship from his many personal ventures, one of those being Goldhat.org.



by Fabricio, Zebra Tales

Help Us Pick Our New Logo!

We’ve come a long way from where we were as a company at this time last year.  I feel the urge to get a tissue, dab at my watering eyes, and mumble: “my baby business is growing up so fast.” And like the back-to-school trip to mall where you are forced to acknowledge that you’ve outgrown your favorite pair of overalls, we’re working on an organizational shift, and re-branding.  Over the past few months we’ve realized a great opportunity for expansion.  In addition to the huddles you experience, we're now also applying the Zealyst model to existing networks (e.g., alumni groups, membership organizations, and corporations) and helping other groups of people connect meaningfully.  We will soon be launching a client website to outline these services.

With this new focus, and the one year anniversary of our official launch on the horizon, we’ve put an esteemed designer and dedicated membe to work coming up with some new logo options.  Melinda Epler of Elements in Time (also the talented person behind the design of our member dashboard) has drafted some excellent choices-- and we want you to help us decide which will be our new logo! We’ll be posting the two choices to our later this week.  To vote on a logo, leave a comment with #1 or #2 and a word that describes Zealyst that you see embodied in the logo.

Zebra Tales

Huddle with Style

In the week off of huddles, I caught up with Jeremy, a Zealyst member and lifetime advocate for art, style, and self expression, to talk about what to wear to a huddle. The idea for this post came at the end of Jeremy’s first huddle when he peeled his name tag off of a blue velvet jacket and grimaced as millions of blue pills migrated from his beautiful jacket to the back of the disposable name tag.   You have probably seen in our Code of Conduct that we don’t have a strict dress codes for huddles, but I wanted to talk to Jeremy, an expert, about the practicalities of dressing for a networking event.

Jeremy’s experience in art and  style is pretty expansive and diverse.  He studied Art History in college, and he is very involved with the Seattle Art Museum.  Jeremy is also passionate about creating fashion and style.  He has worked with local custom-vintage designer Rene Ropas, and is the owner and designer of , a men’s jewelry and fashion accessory venture.So, what does this savant of style recommend wearing to a networking event?  Jeremy advocates wearing something that tells a story: “what you wear can be a great networking tool!”

And for the pathologically pragmatic (like myself) who are wondering about specific fabrics: Avoid materials that pill (e.g., velvets, velveteens, loose woven tweeds, alpaca, angora, and cable knits).  These fabrics don’t cooperate with sticky name tags.  A nice silk won’t pill, but you wouldn’t want to punch holes in a silk garment, which could happen in the event of safety-pin backed name tags.  Jeremy’s go-to fabrics include nice cotton and wool sport coats.

I hope the next round of huddles yields throngs of members donned in story-telling-garments!
Zebra Tales

Extra Zeal: Seattle Theatre Readers TONIGHT

“Do you have any pointers on how to do an Australian accent?”  This is what Zealyst member Chip asked me at the end of a huddle.  It was my introduction to Seattle Theatre Readers, a group that assembles local talent (of the acting variety) with film and theater enthusiasts.  Once a month this group of actors performs unpublished works (plays, screen plays, and radio shows) submitted by local writers for an audience at Rendezvous Jewel Box Theater in Belltown.  Shows are open to the public (21+), and you can get tickets in advance or at the door.

The performances are usually three short plays interspersed with film trivia.  Beyond being entertaining for the audience, and a good way for actors to work on their craft (Chip was learning the Aussie accent for an STR performance earlier this year), these performances are often a test space for directors and producers.  Chip says it’s not unusual for actors who read a part for an STR performance to get cast for upcoming productions.

Chip, whose day job is a Senior Business Process Re-Engineering Specialist (Government Contractor), got involved after a series of rather serendipitous events.  At the first STR show he attended, he learned that an actor who was supposed to perform had flaked out.  A producer found out that Chip had some experience acting and asked him to read the part of the No-Show.  He’s been involved ever since.

Want to get involved?  If you have a script to submit, the website has some directions about formatting and where to send them.  If you’re an actor, take a leaf out of Chip’s book; see a show and meet the crew!  Upcoming performances are TONIGHT (March 19), and April 16th.

Zebra Tales

Extra Zeal Valentine's Edition

We had plenty to celebrate this Valentine’s Day- all the members we love! In the past few months, the number of dancers in the Zeal has grown fantastically.  Among our ranks we have members who do tap, hip-hop, ballet, modern, jazz, blues, salsa, swing, and even square dancing for fun.  We even have members who are earning Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees from Cornish College of the Arts, and this week kicks off BFA Show season!  As part of their senior thesis, Cornish Dance students, must complete two parts for the BFA Show: a solo performance, often choreographed by a faculty member, and an ensemble piece that the senior choreographs, stages, and organizes.

Zealyst member Ingrid is in Program 1 which runs this Thursday and Friday.  She choreographed a piece that portrays a love triangle comically set against an ‘80s workout scene.  Fellow Cornish student and Zealyst member Jessica’s choreography is in Program 3 (Feb 23-24) and is an abstract movement representation of the functionality of a rusty clock mechanism.

Tickets to the BFA shows are free, but reservations are suggested.  Shows run Thursday- Sunday through the 25th.  Curtain goes up at 8 pm (Sundays at 2) at the Broadway Performance Hall.  Whether you took tap class as a kid, are a regular at Century Ballroom, or are just an appreciator of performance art, this series of student performances is sure to captivate and inspire, and entertain!


A couple of weeks ago, a the founder of an online magazine called The SunBreak met a thespian with a penchant for writing at a huddle.  Within a few days, our theater aficionado had tickets to a local show that he reviewed and published in the magazine.  These are just the sort of collaborations that warm our hearts at Zealyst!  Check out his review here- the show is on for a few more days!


Zebra Tales