Northbound and Down

August 20, 2018
Kelli and Jen in the van, groundfloor united way of metropolitan Dallas, hand to hold

Jennifer Hayhurst (R) and Kelli Kelley in their makeshift office – Kelli’s van!

As a child of the 70s, some of my earliest movie memories are of Smokey and the Bandit. The theme song “Eastbound and Down” has served as my anthem this summer as our Development Director Jennifer Hayhurst and I made twice weekly trips to Dallas for the first seven weeks of summer to participate in the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’s GroundFloor program. This program is designed to enable new or existing organizations to apply for funding for groundbreaking ventures to expand their social impact. Throughout the program we attended classes taught by experts in a variety of fields including financial modeling, marketing, strategic planning, board development and more.

At the conclusion of GroundFloor bootcamp, we were matched with two mentors; Cory Ritthaler, Managing Director-Utilities at Accenture Consulting and a NICU father of twins, and Kolt Sarver, VP of Business Technology at Vistra Energy and a NICU uncle. These mentors will work with us for the next eight months on implementing our growth strategy in the Dallas metroplex. With the guidance of this team, we developed three milestones focusing on increasing awareness, growing our program through new hospital relationships and expanding our mission to reach all NICU families throughout the Dallas area. Achieving these milestones will ensure that every NICU family in Dallas has the support they need at the exact moment they need it the most.

Through our work with the mentors, we are aiming to secure a spot as a finalist in the program. As a finalist we will have the opportunity to participate in “One Up the Pitch,” where I will pitch our expansion program in front of thousands of community leaders in Dallas while competing for a purse of up to $200,000.

When we first told our family, friends and staff the requirements for the GroundFloor program, many told us it couldn’t be done. After 102 driving hours, 6,375 miles, countless cups of coffee and learning I-35 like the back of my hand, we made it. Or in the words of Smokey and the Bandit, we are “doing what they say can’t be done!”

I can honestly say the knowledge, relationships and opportunities gained form this experience is well worth the new set of tires I will need once this is all complete.