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Startup Stories: She Built This City

In this series, we talk to student and alumni entrepreneurs about how they are making an impact with their startups.

Venture: She Built This City is a nonprofit that encourages girls and women to enter the construction trade careers through educational opportunities and skill-building workshops.

Founder: Demi Knight Clark, participant, Yale Global Executive Leadership Program

What was the moment when you had the idea for this startup?

I can truly credit my time at Yale SOM for the “birth” of this initiative.

As a residential homebuilding industry executive my entire career, I know how it feels being “the only woman in the room.” Around 8% of our industry is comprised of women (across all labor categories), and only 3% of women make it to the C-suite. Even less serve on boards. When I arrived at Yale SOM, I had no idea how to start addressing this longstanding problem.

Conversations with my classmates got the ball rolling. They included sketching out ideas on napkins over dinners, talks with “accountability partners” who held my feet to the fire in the early stages, as well as bouncing ideas off our professors. So many people contributed.

What’s the problem you’re trying to solve or the gap that you’re trying to fill?

She Built This City is a nonprofit organizations that seeks to eliminate the gender gap in trade skills education. We’re based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Through after school programs, camps, workshops, and empowering conferences that bring women and girls together, we work to spark interest in—and mastery of—all construction trade skills, and to introduce girls to the careers available.

Equal representation matters. Girls need to see women “walking the walk” in construction environments, and vice versa. The women who have had to work so hard to get where they are in the industry have a responsibility to pay it forward in terms of knowledge, opportunity, and resources for the next generation. United, we spark!

What was the most important resource Yale SOM contributed to your startup?

Brainpower, emotional support, accountability partnerships, and resources! I can’t emphasize enough the ideas and energy that came from discussions with my classmates. This open generosity is a way of life at Yale SOM, and it’s so encouraging to have cheerleaders who are also successful and  prominent captains of industry. This was truly a team effort.

What’s the biggest milestone your startup has hit?

I received a $5,000 grant for my first camp next summer within 30 days of filing the paperwork to launch the organization. I’m also in talks with two major big-box home improvement organizations for grants to expand our 2020 initiative with a new physical location. I’m truly humbled by how this idea has inspired not only women, but men as well.