Interview With Entrepreneur Of The Year National Finalist Heather Ames
In case you missed it, on November 17th in Palm Springs, California, in a room filled with some of the world’s brightest and most innovative entrepreneurs, Neurala COO and Co-Founder Heather Ames was named a national finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. This is an extremely impressive accomplishment. Heather joins an elite group of business men and women that have shown they have what it takes to build and sustain a thriving enterprise.
Recently, I caught up with Heather to ask her some of the burning questions that I think we would all like to ask a nationally recognized entrepreneur.
Tell me a little bit about the journey to becoming an Entrepreneur Of The Year national finalist.
It has been a wild ride and I wouldn't expect anything less. Throughout my business career, I have devoted the majority of my time to my team and it’s a nice feeling to be recognized for the work that is often unseen. The initial application for this award was due around the same time as the product launch of Brain Builder™ as well as the due date of my fourth child, Leonardo. In fact, Leo was with me during my first interview with EY. Overall, it has been a very positive experience. I met a lot of really cool people and made a lot of great connections.
What does a nationally recognized entrepreneur do in her spare time?
Ha! Funny question. I do not have spare time. When I'm not at work I am usually spending time with my kids. You can find me at my children's soccer games, hanging with my friends, or listening to murder mystery podcasts in the car between school dropoffs and the office.
What words of advice would you give other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don't give up! There are lots of ups and downs, but I think it's sort of like raising kids. Some days you can't help but feel you failed at something, but these feelings are short lived. Every single day you will have ups and downs. Step back and look at the big picture. Don't get stuck in a single moment.
What does the future hold?
I've spent the last decade having babies and building Neurala. Now the foundation is laid and I see the future as a time of growth, challenges, wins, and excitement.
Are there currently any exciting projects you are working on?
Currently we are working on new Brain Builder developments that allow our technology to be more accessible to more people, and more applicable to more companies. This will ensure that our technology is flexible enough to solve specific customer problems and allow customers to take control of their own AI. I like to say that our technology mirrors our workplace. I believe it is crucial to have a workplace that brings minds together from different backgrounds because it promotes a unique mixture of ideas and solutions, resulting in a robust product.
How would you use being nationally recognized as an entrepreneurial leader to influence others and how does it impact your career?
There are so many brilliant women out there and it can be troublesome when we are underrepresented or looked over. It's definitely a platform for me to show people, specifically women, that if I can do it, they can too. If one young woman can see herself in me and it affirms her capabilities, I have done my job.
If you could be known for one thing in the business world, what would it be?
Commitment to my team. I think the single most important driver of successful leadership is how you treat the people around you and how you encourage others to achieve their goals no matter how big or small.
What is your proudest moment as a business owner?
After winning Entrepreneur Of The Year in New England, I was leaving the gala and before I left, I went into the ladies room. Multiple women stopped me and not only congratulated me but also expressed how important it was for them to see me on stage. It was absolutely one of my proudest moments. There are so many women out there - we are in it together and together we are unstoppable.
What motivates you to be a voice for women in STEM?
It comes from every story you hear, every girl you see, every moment where it's painfully obvious you are the only woman in the room. That's what really motivates me. It's really important for young people to have mentors that they can see themselves in. One of my mentors from high school was my calculus teacher. She was a very quirky, fun and misunderstood woman, but was successful in a male dominated field.
What three things do you need to be a successful entrepreneur?