Reno Tahoe's Inspiring Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

I used to think working for yourself meant creating your own hours, no pesky boss to answer to, and freedom.


In the past six months, I have learned that starting your own business actually has a lot more to do with 14 hour workdays, endless cups of coffee and longingly gazing out the window at beautiful summer days. Enter: reality check.

Thankfully, our businesses GEOGRAPHY CREATIVE (the agency I launched in the fall) and DRINK COFFEE DO STUFF (the coffee roastery we launched in December) are kicking ass and the hard work is beginning to pay off. It's not easy, but it's (beginning to be) worth it. Dry shampoo and wine help. Plus, we really do love what we do.

It goes without saying, but our social life has definitely taken a toll as our priorities have shifted these past six months. Thankfully, we have good people in our life, and they come to us! My dear friend/super talented photographer Victoria makes it a point to fly down from Seattle and visit every so often. We recently enjoyed a weekend together working with Reno Tahoe curating a piece produced in conjunction with EDAWN on female entrepreneurs in Reno (stay tuned!). We stayed at the Hampton; conveniently located next to the highway, this made for a perfect home base between our time in Reno and shenanigans in Tahoe.

Reno Tahoe
Reno Tahoe

As the weekend passed and we interviewed boss babes all over Reno, we were able to squeeze in some live jazz at Moody's, morning cappuccinos at Hub Coffee Roasters and oyster slurping at our favorite haunt, Centro. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Reno Tahoe is just beginning to ripen. It's so exciting to live and work in a culture that is brimming with possibility; a culture fit for entrepreneurs. I am proud to be a part of this movement.

Considering starting a business in Reno Tahoe? Here are six things I've learned over the past six months that have made this process (slightly) less confusing and overwhelming:

  1. Get involved. While this is probably true of starting a business anywhere, it's especially true in the Reno Tahoe business climate, as it's so community oriented here. Meet people, get involved, volunteer, show up to mixers and events. I would also recommend joining your local Chamber of Commerce (for me, that's Visit Truckee) if your budget can swing it.
  2. Ask for help. There are tons of FREE resources for start-ups and business owners out there, if you know where to look. In Reno, I'd recommend researching EDAWN's programming, and UNR also has some cool programs. In Truckee, Sierra Business Council has been a huge help to Nick and I these past few months.
  3. Take care of yourself. If you spend 4 seconds scrolling through Instagram, you'll see post after post about self-care and making time to meal prep and go to yoga and shit. While heaven sounds nice, let's be real: when you start a business, you will be working 12 and 14 hour days regularly with no days off. There will be things that simply fall off — it's unavoidable. So, rather than try to do all the self-care, focus on the absolute necessities and force yourself to prioritize them. For me, this is food, showering, sleep, spiritual health, doctor appointments, mental health and (usually) keeping the house clean enough to function.
  4. Hire a really good accountant. And bookkeeper, if you can afford it. This is probably already obvious, but worth mentioning as it's such a game-changer. Quickbooks is my saving grace.
  5. Learn from your mistakes. Mistakes will happen — it's a part of life, and definitely a part of running your own business — but the key is learning from them. It's all a part of that fun little thing we like to call growth journey. Keep a journal and record your progress.
  6. Learn to say no. I struggle with this one. I try to be everything to everybody, and get burnt out in the process. No bueno. I saw a post on Facebook last week about tips to relieve stress, and while things like yoga and breathing techniques certainly can help, for me, the ONLY thing that truly alleviates stress is saying no to things that will just put more stuff on my plate, in both a social and professional context. Know your limits, and respect yourself and your business enough to stick to those limits.

There are so many entrepreneurs hustlin' in this region that inspire me on the daily, but I want to give a brief shout-out to the women Victoria and I spent time with recently. It was an honor to hear more of their stories and learn how Reno Tahoe has been the perfect backdrop to achieving their dreams (stay tuned for the recap article coming soon!).

Lauren Reeser — American Duchess Shoes

Within seconds of meeting Lauren, her poise, passion for her brand, and involvement in Reno's small business community instantly stood out. Her business American Duchess Shoes fulfills a unique niche: handcrafted new old shoes. Her international customer base includes period piece TV producers, historic reenacters and opera singers. Along with a significant digital presence, Lauren credits Reno's supportive entrepreneuraial ecosystem to much of her success.

Jen Gurecki — Coalition Snow

Jen is shattering the snow sports industry with Reno-based Coalition Snow, a brand that makes skis and snowboards by women, for women. Her passion for elevating female athletes in a male-dominated industry is nothing short of inspiring. She kicks ass.

Laura Zander — Jimmy Beans Wool

Laura is both mentor and boss to her staff of 40+ employees. An unlikely American Dream story, Laura launched Jimmy Beans Wool almost 20 years ago and has steadily grown her business into the empire it is today. I admire her dedication to helping her employees achieve their dreams, as well as her endless juggling act between raising her son and stewarding her business.

Melissa Test — 10 Torr Brewery & Distillery

I can't say enough good things about Reno's bourgeoning craft brewery scene, and head brewer Melissa of 10 Torr is leading the charge! What started as a home brew hobby at Burning Man evolved into a passionate career and thriving business. 10 Torr just celebrated their one year anniversary, and I'm stoked to watch this brewery continue to crush it.

I don't know about you, but I admire anyone working tirelessly for their goals... but am especially inspired by female entrepreneurs. May you all keep showing up and making your dreams happen!

Photos: Victoria Wright unless noted otherwise.

This post is in partnership with Reno Tahoe. All opinions expressed are my own.