Chelsea Gaylord worked with entrepreneurs in Uganda through the Peace Corps before moving to Colorado Springs about a year and half ago.
“Uganda is a country the size of Oregon, but has a large population of almost 40 million people,” she said. “And 70, 80 percent of them are people 35 and younger.
“There’s a massive unemployment rate, so you have a lot of entrepreneurs.”
The Eastern Iowa native created business camps across the country to help teach Ugandan youth business skills.
“They went from camps to regional business plan competitions and then the national business plan competition,” Gaylord said. “The program has continued since I left; it’s in year three now, which is really cool.”
The 28-year-old also worked at a community health center while in the East Africa country.
Gaylord said she uses those experiences in her current job as the economic development project manager for the city of Colorado Springs.
“My broad role is to promote investment, job creation and business expansion across the city,” she said. “Two of my many focus areas are innovation and entrepreneurship. So, how can we cultivate and enhance opportunities for entrepreneurs and then working in southeast Colorado Springs as well.”
Gaylord has a bachelor’s in psychology and one in health promotion from the University of Iowa.
She serves on four local nonprofit boards, including Peak Startup, Pikes Peak Market, Solid Rock Community Development Corporation and Thrive Colorado Springs.
“Community is just a one of my core values that is important to me anywhere that I go,” Gaylord said. “I think that comes from being from Iowa where if you need anything, you can call your neighbor, you can call a friend or family member and they’re there for you immediately.
“So, it’s important to me, no matter which community I am in, that I’m involved, and not just from what I do day-to-day and get paid for it but how am I giving back and contributing to what I want to see also.”
Gaylord was humbled to learn of her 2019 Rising Star award, she said.
“It’s very humbling to get to be a part of that network of the people who have come before me — who continue to contribute to the community,” she said. “I think that we each have a valuable role to play in a community.”
In her spare time, Gaylord enjoys reading as well as hiking and camping, she said.
“I love to be outside. I live in the Cheyenne Canyon, so I’ve got the Stratton Open Space right out my door, which is amazing,” she said. “I really love living in Colorado Springs and have found there are a lot of opportunities to plug in here regardless of your interests or where you’re at in your career.
“Even if you’re new to the community, there’s a lot of opportunity to get involved.”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“I’m always seeking opportunities to try something new and maybe outside of the box — and learn by doing.”