THE BLOG
09/30/2016 11:34 am ET Updated Oct 01, 2017

Harvesting Ideas From Entrepreneurs And Innovators In My Own Backyard

Fall is in full swing and for many mompreneurs--the season brings joy, sadness, chaotic calendar days and the return of structured time as our children have returned to school. I don't think it is "Work Life Balance" we are after--I think it is a "Work Life Balancing Act." I've come to realize that juggling work and children is a high wire act, where we are always keeping our balance. Instead of answering the proverbial question at drop off of "how are you," I try to avoid spewing the answer "crazy busy" and am starting to change my narrative to "life is full" (full and happy).

In my travels around the world listening to, cheering on and supporting women entrepreneurs who live incredibly full lives, I remain amazed at how these strong women push forward. Their stories inspire me and no matter what part of the world I am in, I appreciate the unique challenges they face daily. It's their resilience, grace, grit and determination that continue to fuel me.

I sat down with Jessica Kilcullen, a fellow mompreneur, to talk about why she started a business when her youngest son went off to school. I serve on the advisory council for the Harvest Summit--an innovation summit for leaders and entrepreneurs taking place in our shared backyard of Sonoma County on Nov. 4.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur now?
When my youngest started kindergarten, I was itching to build something of my own. I wanted to set an example for my boys that I could nurture a family and also ignite meaningful change in the world. I was intellectually engaged as a tech PR consultant. I was also busy programming school assemblies, organizing birthday parties, sitting on boards, running a vineyard and managing the household. Still, I wanted to launch a new business, and decided it was time. I sent an email to my closest friends detailing my idea for Harvest Summit, and they replied with a resounding yes! The next day, I took the entrepreneurial leap.

What exactly is Harvest Summit and why did you create it?
It's an innovation field trip designed to foster new collaborations and spark deeper conversations with leaders from a diverse mix of industries--technology, media, entertainment, agriculture, food, wine and more. The simple goal is to create a community to ignite innovation. I hope the conversations and actionable ideas shared at Harvest Summit can change the world.

The idea came from my time at tech conferences, entertainment awards shows, wine and food festivals and chaperoning school field trips with my boys. I was inspired by the model of getting out to learn more, enjoying great food, tasting amazing wine, meeting smart people and the hatching of new ventures in the unscripted and unstructured times around a conference. I also wanted something in my own backyard to be more inclusive of women leaders since Sonoma County is home to the Bohemian Grove, a male only gathering documented in history books.

Why does it matter?
We have to innovate in order to begin to solve the world's greatest challenges. Research and dialogue convinced me innovation is ignited by cross-industry perspectives and collaborations. I strongly believe this model yields change. The headline of GE executive Beth Comstock's Harvard Business Review article sums it up best: "Innovation Springs from the Unexpected Meeting of Minds."

I want to get leaders out of their industry silos to engage in and have substantive dialogue around issues that matter. We're curating impactful dialogues that will take place outside in a unique setting. To solve big problems we need different perspectives, we need to share transferrable insights and I believe fresh air leads to fresh perspectives. The agenda includes highly interactive small group discussions on everything from innovation acceleration to mindfulness to the future of food to IoT, virtual reality, immigration reform and more.

It's my hope the unexpected pairings of perspectives will lead to a breakthrough ideas, deals, strategic partnerships or other "ah-ha" moments.

Why Sonoma County?

Sonoma County is not only home to award-winning wines and acclaimed culinary artisans, but it's poised to become the world's first sustainable wine growing region. Sonoma County represents innovation in agriculture, wine, the farm-to-table culinary movement and sustainable living. Innovators from Silicon Valley, Hollywood and beyond are making Sonoma County their first and second home.

I loved that I could also create something in my own backyard that would be new and different while allowing me to give back and make a difference in innovation in education here. Sonoma County is ready for a 21st century gathering of smart men and women who are setting the innovation agenda of the future.

To learn more about Harvest Summit, and nominate to attend, visit www.harvestsummit.com.