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Women Of Color Entrepreneur Series: Kristen Ransom

“IncluDe isn’t just in it for profit, not saying every other web design company is, I think we make it very clear that our mission is to help social impact organizations succeed,” Kristen Ransom says. IncluDe is a software company that was started by 26-year-old entrepreneur Kristen Ransom. The goal of her company is to help social impact organizations with their branding, marketing, and web design. Since 2015, Ransom and her team of 11 have launched 40 websites for nonprofit organizations. She is an advocate for social justice and her company wants to be involved in making a positive change for underrepresented communities. “I know I can’t be personally involved in every movement, I can’t be at every protest, and I can’t be part of every fundraiser, but I love that my team can really make a difference,” Ransom says.

IncluDe focuses on providing software services for social impact organizations such as unique web designs, graphic designs, logos, brochures, and much more. Her company provides services to organizations who may not have the finances to get their branding designed by a huge agency. “I love doing it for people who may not have been able to afford a huge agency to build this for them, or people who aren’t necessarily ready to have it bu ilt out to upscale,” Ransom says.

Ransom was born in Long Island, New York and later attended college at Tufts University where she studied human interactive engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, and psychology. Her experiences with designing hardware helped her figure out what design considerations should be made and she loves designing for people who are left in the margins.

Her previous work experiences at Harley Davidson and Volpe National Transportation Systems Center were hardware based, so she wanted to explore doing projects involving software. IncluDe currently focuses on software services but plans to provide hardware services in the near future. “I would love for us to develop our own products. Specifically things that are used for underrepresented groups- people with special needs, women, and minorities. If it’s hardware applications that help those groups, we’re definitely open,” Ransom explains.

Before IncluDe was founded, Ransom was feeling unsatisfied with her job. She didn’t like the inflexibility and the lack of diversity within the company in terms of race, ethnicity, age, and gender. While on maternity leave with her first son, she worked on freelance projects to see if she could figure out what interested her. Initially, she helped her friends with app design. “In the beginning I was looking at friends who wanted to start things… I have design capabilities, I love to develop,” Ransom says. After a while, she realized that she loves to design software. She wanted to build her own company that would promote diversity in the engineering and computer sciences field as well as making a great social impact in communities.

Her company was founded only two years ago and has already been featured in Forbes and Boston Magazine. She discusses how her company helps nonprofit organizations and what it does to keep growing. Last year, Ransom won second place at EMBLEM’s Women and Minority Conference in Boston.  She had the opportunity to meet with many other entrepreneurs. “It was great to hear all the other organizations that have done great things and getting inspiration from them,” Ransom says. It inspires her when she attends conventions and pitch competitions and has the opportunity to meet other women of color who have started their own companies and how successful they are now.

It’s also important to have representation of women in engineering industries. Ransom representing herself at competitions and conventions is inspiring for women who want to work in STEM fields. According to a Forbes article, due to bias against women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, men are more likely to receive degrees in STEM than women. Also, only 10% of women-owned businesses in the U.S. hire staff to help their businesses. Ransom is providing opportunities for women and minorities to have opportunities in computer engineering fields, representation that is needed for the growth of the diversity in the industry.

As a woman of color entrepreneur, Ransom faces a lot of stigmas. When she walks into meetings with her white colleagues, people assume Ransom isn’t the person running the company. “People don’t expect you to be the leader,” Ransom says.

According to a Thirdway article, men make up 75% of corporate leadership positions in the U.S. (Coleman, 2017). There is not enough representation for women to start their own businesses, especially in STEM fields, and Ransom wants to change that. “I think it’s really important for women to see other women who are balancing families. I love bringing my sons to meetings and networking events. Especially because I want to break that stigma that you have to keep everything separate and that you can’t show that ‘yeah, I’m a mom’ and it’s not just all business all the time,” Ransom explains.

Her young age is another influence of how she is treated. Since she’s only 26, many clients question if she’ll get the job done, if she knows what she’s doing, if she’s capable, and if she has enough experience. Because of these stigmas, she feels like she always has to prove herself to people that she meets in networking events, meeting with clients, and in other professional settings.

She admits that she puts a lot of pressure on herself. “It can be hard to realize that it’s a step by step process. Being an entrepreneur, you wear ‘multiple hats’ and have so many responsibilities to fulfill,” Ransom explains. She takes her company very seriously and any minute she has, she’ll work on it- whether it’s getting more clients, improving her company’s process, or working with the designers.

However, her epilepsy makes it very challenging for her to put a lot of hours of work into her company. She can’t work for long hours, she can’t attend a lot of meetings, and when she’s stressed or when she doesn’t get enough sleep, she’s prone to have seizures. “Telling myself ‘look, you can’t move at the same pace as everyone else’ and that’s fine. There are so many things that are not common with the way I’m running this business in terms of running it with children, having epilepsy,” Ransom says. During IncluDe’s first year of business, she was still working her day job, which was dangerous for her health considering all the stress and pressure she was put under. She quit her day job and pursued IncluDe full time to focus on what she will do to help underrepresented communities.

Her advice for women planning on starting their own businesses is to just go with the idea you have. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work. If that’s the case, tweak it, change something, and make it work. “A perfect time is when you think of it. If you have a dream, why not make it happen?” Ransom says. She believes that there are so many reasons to just stick with a 9-5 job, but if you don’t go out of your comfort zone, you won’t experience your full potential. “If you have the passion and you have that drive, go out and try it,” Ransom explains.

If she never stepped out of her comfort zone to build IncluDe, she wouldn’t have the successful company that she runs today. She wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help more than 40 social impact organizations in her first two years of owning her own business, and she wouldn’t have been able to represent her company in Forbes and Boston Magazine. Representing her company in the media, conventions, and competitions inspires women of color to start their own businesses. She faces a lot of stigmas with illness, her young age, being a mom, and being a woman of color entrepreneur. She continues to break barriers in STEM fields by working hard in her company, representing it to communities not just in Boston, but all over New England, and helping social impact organizations make a positive change in communities.

 

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