You know the drill. I find the smartest, edgiest, and hopefully sexiest people I know who have the characteristics of entrepreneurship to contribute advice to The Chancebending Network. Today we’re talking Entrepreneurial transformation with Karen Barnes from Venture Cafe Winston-Salem

Karen talks about Entrepreneurial Transformation and how it’s trending in the Non-profit world

“I won’t speak for the whole industry, only for the part that I work in day to day. The work of Venture Cafe Winston Salem is to align, amplify and accelerate our local innovation and entrepreneurial economy, and for a mid-sized city that’s both a joy and a challenge. We’re lucky to have had a history filled with successful entrepreneurs who created world-class companies here, but it also created a sense of complacency. Over time, we lost some of that entrepreneurial spirit and started relying on the big companies to carry the load. Today, we’re re-inventing our economy from legacy manufacturing – tobacco, furniture, textiles – to a knowledge, innovation and creative economy. And that’s a challenge. We’re building vital infrastructure and now have one of the fastest growing innovation districts, but we’re competing for resources with bigger cities like Charlotte and Raleigh for jobs and growth. We’ve invested years in building a local startup scene and now we have a handful of growth stage companies, but the startup landscape is wide and shallow. It’s time for us to be more intentional about architecting what innovation clusters we want to build here – time to go narrow and deep – and build on the assets we have. Doing that depends on crossing geographic boundaries and truly working regionally and collaboratively – something that’s not always worked here in the past – but our entrepreneurial ecosystem now shares strategic priorities, is jointly developing projects and tools. It’s our time to dig in, invest and leverage our strengths.”

Karen Barnes


A little about Karen


Karen is the founding executive director of Venture Cafe Winston Salem where she’s responsible for building and leading the organization’s growth in the Piedmont Triad. Venture Cafe Winston Salem seeks to align, amplify and accelerate the local innovation and entrepreneurship economy and since its launch, the community has enthusiastically embraced these efforts. She is a two-time Triad Business Journal Power Player, but more importantly, she is a community weaver and connector.

A Winston Salem native, Karen’s been an entrepreneur since grade school when she picked vegetables from her dad’s garden and sold them around the neighborhood from her red wagon. Prior to joining Venture Cafe, Karen worked as the founder of her own marketing and communications consulting firm, founding partner and director of operations for an artificial intelligence startup, and strategic lead for several advertising agencies working with Fortune 100 clients, including Boeing, ConAgra Foods, MillerCoors, Johnson & Johnson, Steelcase, Georgia-Pacific, Toshiba, Hanes, General Mills and Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Barnes has a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs from The American University, and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Hollins University. When she’s not building communities, you can likely find her outside with her wife and dog.


Chancebending is all about entrepreneurs like Karen

When we started The Chancebending Network, we had people like Karen in mind. Whether it’s in entrepreneurial non-profit organization or any startup, our goal is to connect entrepreneurs with the right information when they need it. We’re doing this with online coaching, access to a community of professional entrepreneurs, and business advice.


To learn more about our entrepreneurship community, check out the Chancebending Network now.

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