Entrepreneurial exuberance

100State’s executive director is young and in love with 100State.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Claudia Seidenberg could very well be the youngest person at 100State, and given her youthful energy, it would be difficult to find anyone more enthusiastic.

Raised in an academic household (Seidenberg’s parents are professors at UW–Madison), the voracious reader and well-traveled 23-year-old always believed she’d follow their lead until being introduced to 100State during her senior year at Madison West High School. “I will remember it until the day I die,” she states, and she explained why in a recent conversation.

IB: What was so exciting about 100State?
Seidenberg: There was art everywhere, beanbag chairs, and people running around with a ton of energy. I completely fell in love with this place! That night I was invited to a town hall meeting/dinner as people shared ideas, celebrated, and brainstormed. What really struck me, though, was their willingness to face failure head-on.

It was like coming out of a cave and into the light for me. I realized that becoming a professor was not for me.

IB: What did you study at UW?
Seidenberg: Nonprofit development and women’s studies. I’ve always been fascinated with nonprofits and building efficiencies. My friends and I volunteered at several nonprofits early on and I discovered that many — particularly larger ones — were operating inefficiently, in my opinion. I wanted to understand why.

IB: Did you answer your own question?
Seidenberg: I did. Madison has one of the highest nonprofit densities per capita in the U.S., and that’s not necessarily good for our community because they’re all competing for the same pot of money. I don’t doubt their great intentions, but sometimes I think nonprofits can create more problems than they solve.

IB: 100State is a nonprofit.
Seidenberg: It is, and occasionally we’ve been on the receiving end of that. We don’t take grant funding currently, but we do take sponsorship dollars.

IB: How did you get the 100State top job?
Seidenberg: I started volunteering here in 2015 without an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I didn’t know anything about Facebook or Twitter or launching a business. It just wasn’t on my radar, but once I came here, I learned I was actually very entrepreneurial.

So I spoke to [former Executive Director] Greg St. Fort one day and just made what I thought was the bravest, boldest statement I could make to an entrepreneur: I told him that after I graduated, I wanted his job. It worked! I was named executive director last July.



IB: What have you learned in your new role?
Seidenberg: That starting a business is hard and scary! There’s no guarantee and you need to look failure in the eye if it doesn’t work. That’s why having a space where entrepreneurs can support each other and feel excited about what they’re doing is so valuable.

IB: Tell us about 100State.
Seidenberg: 100State focuses on entrepreneurial development and engagement, community development, and equitable access to entrepreneurship to engage and attract more entrepreneurs to the area. As a membership organization, people pay on a month-to-month basis, like a gym membership, for flexible space at a reasonable rate because I strongly believe that financial status should not be a barrier to anyone’s entrepreneurial aspirations.

Our programming might include meetups, workshops, seminars, lunch-and-learns, and panel discussions. In five years, we’ve had about 1,100 people use our space.

IB: Who are your members?
Seidenberg: It runs the gamut, from entrepreneurs with great ideas to people launching a second career after 20 or 30 years in one industry. A big part of our population is remote workers and freelancers who want to be connected to the entrepreneurial community.

IB: What are your goals for 2019?
Seidenberg: We’re focused on telling our story better. In the past five years, 100State members have significantly impacted this city and beyond, so now it’s time to share our success stories, and I’m excited to do that!

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