Chelsea Pohl and Ingrid installing art at a local business. Courtesy photo

Meet Women Business Leaders in Boulder


If you’re seeking inspiration, you don’t need to look any further than the women around you. Boulder is full of powerful, motivational, intelligent female business leaders across all sectors, from art to health and far beyond.

In celebration of March, National Women’s Month, here’s a look at some of Boulder’s inspirational professional women leaders.

Nicole Gervace: Personality Assessments and People Intelligence

Nicole Gervace. Courtesy photo

Nicole Gervace, of Erie, is a behavioral consultant who says she “understands that change is not always easy.” She helps people and companies of all sizes develop “people intelligence,” through personality assessments to understand people’s behavior and motivations. This analysis helps people understand themselves, build stronger relationships, improve employee satisfaction and learn effective ways to communicate.

As Gervace puts it, “Understanding each other is the best way to improve your business, your life and the life of those around you.

Tell us about your background.

I have worked in both manufacturing and education throughout my career sometimes for small companies, sometimes for big companies and sometimes for my own company. It is through these experiences that I have been able to work with individuals and teams to create successful outcomes. During these experiences, I was often told that I am a great connector, mentor and coach. I realize coaching people is my strength and I now have the tools help others more effectively.

What motivates you professionally?

I’m a problem-solver. I’m a results-oriented individual. I care more about the bottom line than I do the road to getting there. Therefore, I have the ability to help others see things from different perspectives. And I love helping others achieve their goals. Helping others succeed makes me feel successful.

What is your professional goal?

I enjoy consulting companies that want to build their culture to increase productivity and reduce employee turnover. Sometimes people struggle in their jobs because their strengths aren’t being utilized. The tools I use to analyze people determine if the person is right for the job. The analysis is also a great tool to use when hiring new people to the team.

What advice might you have for other professionals who want to pursue their career goals?

You can be whatever you will to be. Don’t give up. Keep exploring. Find your passion.

What does “success” mean to you?

Success means finding joy in all you do. Even laundry. But really if you have the ability to be yourself in every moment, that’s a success.

Do you have a female role model who deserves a shout-out?

My role model is Brook Eddy. She is the founder of Bhakti Chai. She’s passionate about her product and company, she gives back to the community by supporting organizations that empower women and girls, and she thrives in a tough industry.

I first met Brook when she started Bhakti Chai out of her kitchen and was selling it out of the trunk of her car. The company has changed a lot over the years but she is still a determined, passionate woman with a heart of gold. If ever I were to think I can’t accomplish something, she’d be the first person to tell me that I can. And she proves that all things are possible by the way she lives her life.

Nancy Smith: Sky Dancer and Nonprofit Leader

Nancy Smith. Courtesy photo

Nancy Smith, of Boulder, is the founder and artistic director of Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance. Frequent Flyers is a nonprofit founded in 1988 with an aerial dance education program encompassing more than 43 community classes a week, summer camp and intensives, a student company with more than 40 members, outreach programming for at-risk youth and pre-professional training for teens and adults.

Frequent Flyers has taught more than 21,000 students the joy of dancing in the air. The professional performing company has won many awards and accolades, including the recently resounding success at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Frequent Flyers also created the first international Aerial Dance Festival, celebrating its 21st year in 2019. Its dedicated facility has two large studios with 23-foot ceilings and more than 4,500 square feet of training and rehearsal space. Frequent Flyers is considered the flagship aerial dance organization in the world.

Tell us a bit of your professional background that led you to this point.

I spent several years supporting myself as a dancer doing a variety of jobs that provided skills that helped me found/run this nonprofit aerial dance company: door-to-door sales, credit review, office managing, being an advertising account manager for large clients at an ad agency, being a board member for nonprofits, overseeing the first cultural plan for the city of Boulder and more.

As a child, I spent my time in trees, swinging and spinning ‘til I got dizzy and fell down. Pursuing dance as a career continued the physicality of my youth. When I discovered aerial dance, it blended my love of being in perpetual motion and being off the ground with my love of dance.

What drives you professionally?

Blowing people’s minds with aerial dance as a participant and as an audience member. Teaching people to fly and get their wings.

What is your professional goal?

Keep pushing the envelope of what’s possible for humans in flight. Help as many people as possible to get their wings and keep making performances that inspire and intrigue audiences. For Frequent Flyers: Get our own building and have an endowment and adequate resources.

What advice might you have for other professionals who want to pursue their career goals?

Seek professionals to mentor you; ask for help/advice; trust your path and persevere.

What does “success” mean to you?

Impacting the lives of others in meaningful ways/making a difference. Creating something larger than myself that will live on beyond my time.

Annie Svensen: Chronic Pain Survivor and Wellness Coach

Annie Svensen. Courtesy photo

Annie Svensen was born and raised in Boulder. Today, she helps women in chronic pain learn how to manage their pain so they can reclaim their lives. She and her clients achieve this through co-creating a personalized plan for their nutrition, supplementation, self-care and mindfulness practices that help them overcome their chronic pain. Svensen provides education, coaching, accountability, resources and a personalized, structured plan.

Tell us a bit of your background that led you to this point.

I am a chronic pain survivor who has leveraged a passion for health and wellness to create a fulfilling, positive, inspired life. I took my belief that the greatest gift you can give your loved ones is your own health and wellness and backed that with a certification as a Transformational Nutrition Coach. Now, I help other women learn how to transform their own pain so that they too can create a fulfilling, active, happy life and show up for their loved ones as their best self.

What drives you professionally?

When I work with someone in pain, my passion for helping them move past their pain lights me up. I’ve always loved helping people with their health and wellness and did so for many years as a massage therapist. My own pain journey inspired me to work specifically with women in the same boat, as nothing motivates me more than helping others find relief from something that can feel so daunting and insurmountable.

What is your professional goal?

My professional goal is to help as many women overcome chronic pain as possible. Specifically, I want to help change the narrative so people understand there are options for pain management beyond the opiates so many are prescribed.

What advice might you have for other professionals who want to pursue their career goals?

Pursuing a career goal can seem so daunting and unreachable. One of the best things I’ve done for myself is to hire a coach. When I first considered it, it felt like an expense I didn’t want to incur, but it has been worth every penny.

What does “success” mean to you?

To me, “success” means living a life you are proud of. It’s not about the money you make, where you live, the car you drive, the vacations you take. It’s about the ability to lay your head on your pillow every night and feel proud of the way you conducted yourself that day.

What’s a motivating quote, book, song or resource that you would like to share?

My favorite quote is by Jim Rohn: “I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.” Again, I think the best gift we can give others is our own health and wellness and this quote really speaks to that.

Do you have a female role model who deserves a shout-out?

I feel like I have so many female role models, but one that comes to mind right now is a woman named Ruthie Lindsey. She’s a fellow pain sufferer who has turned her pain into a beautiful way to connect to others. She does an amazing job of showing people that happiness is a choice and is possible for anyone no matter what they’re going through.

Chelsea Brooke Pohl: Contemporary Art Curator and Advocate

Chelsea Pohl and Ingrid Walsh installing art at a local business. Courtesy photo

Chelsea Pohl, of Boulder, works with Ingrid Walsh (featured below) and Sean Peuquet at CauseART, a curatorial consulting firm that advocates for contemporary art to have a meaningful impact on people’s everyday lives. In that, they treat living artists as cultural service providers and develop programs and services that expand opportunities for access to and understanding of art’s relevance in the business sector.

In short, that means they help businesses build art collections, showcase temporary or rotating exhibitions, host an artist-in-residence and design art-related experiences for employees, such as hands-on workshops, artists talks and art tours.

Tell us a bit of your professional background that led you to this point.

I have been involved in the arts community in Boulder for over a decade. My husband is a full-time working artist and his influence sparked my interest in the arts when we met. I have had my hand in many different aspects of the arts world, including entrepreneurship, teaching, consulting, project management and artist management.

What led me to form CauseART was the consulting work I did with the City of Boulder while they were crafting the Community Cultural Plan. I had the opportunity to hear from many different voices about the needs and frustrations of artists in Boulder. I wanted to design something that would give artists more opportunities to be paid for their work.

What motivates you professionally?

Artwork that give you those “ah-ha” moments. When artwork makes you pause for a second to think, or feel. Artwork that succeeds in breaking up the mundane by catching you off guard. I am motivated to bring this type of experience to more people in the world.

What is your professional goal?

My goal with CauseART is to bring these types of experiences to the people, rather than it requiring people to go out and seek them. Art should be more accessible and less commodified, and I believe that the business sector has the opportunity to utilize the arts as a way toward employee satisfaction and economic growth. Ultimately, I want to see artists valued for the work they do, and I want businesses to support that goal because they recognize the value of art in their organization.

What advice might you have for other professionals who want to pursue their career goals?

Start with what gives you joy. Continue to follow your joy. Don’t be afraid to let things go when they no longer serve you. Work hard, and stop to smell the flowers.

What does “success” mean to you?

Finding balance in all areas of my life. Having a choice about how to spend my day. Knowing that I’ll always have what I need and therefore being able to choose what I want to do. Feeling resourced and not stressed.

What’s a motivating quote, book, song or resource that you would like to share?

I currently have a stack of books on my nightstand that I dabble in reading. One is Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead.” I highly recommend it. It’s full of great advice, and I think it resonates so much because she is a woman addressing issues that women in power positions experience. I love so many of her quotes, including:

“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”

Do you have a female role model who you admire who deserves a shout-out?

Does a fictional character count? Leslie Knope, 100 percent.

Ingrid Walsh: Business Owner and Storyteller

Ingrid Walsh, of Boulder, runs CauseART with Pohl.

“We have the best team. We each bring a skill set to the work that is unique and has just the right overlap so that we can take advantage of everyone’s strengths and can speak each others’ languages in collaboration,” Walsh says. “The result is amazing shows and programming that meets our clients’ specific needs and pushes boundaries in a really exciting way that showcases the power of art in business settings.”

Tell me a bit of your professional background that led you to this point.

My background is pretty interdisciplinary, mostly because I’m drawn to so many things and can’t make up my mind. (I have big plans for my second and third lives.) I’m trained as an anthropologist, museum curator and writer for the media. I’ve worked in the traditional ad world, with Native tribes on law and policy, with Native material culture in a variety of museums, in the nonprofit social justice sector and in the brand management world with small business owners.

The thing that I think binds all of my interests and experiences together is the desire to help people tell their stories in a compelling way. That is really what curatorial work is about at its core for me. Putting together a collection of works that each have individual meaning to the artist and generate individual responses from the viewers, but also have the power to tell a great story when assembled in a specific and deliberate way. For me, CauseART is an extension of that love of storytelling combined with a desire to impact communities in a positive way. Art and business are a powerful marriage in that effort.

What inspires you professionally?

Telling a powerful story and eliciting a response with art. I totally love finding art that challenges people’s foregone conclusions about the world, or their own realities, and makes them think in a new way. That is so inspiring. Creating a macro response is just as exhilarating as creating a micro response. Art is wonderful in that it can be very communal and simultaneously very personal, depending on the viewer.

What advice might you have for other professionals who want to pursue their career goals?

I think women often get in their own way about pursuing big goals. I was totally guilty of this for a long time. I told myself there would always be a better time — when my kids were older, when I gained more skills, when I knew more of the right people, etc. Frankly, there are plenty of other barriers to women’s success in the world. We should not be creating our own. I finally came to a point in my life when I said, “Why not me? If not me, who?” It was liberating. It allowed me to try things, make mistakes, and try more things, until I figured out what truly made me happy and fulfilled.

Short answer: Get out of your own way and do it. And gather your people and create a great team. Working with Chelsea and Sean has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in my career.

What does “success” mean to you?

Professional success to me is knowing that the work I do each day has made a small impact in someone’s life. That’ I’ve created a human connection somewhere and in some way. But it also means working hard at something, and then being able to put it down at the end of the day and be present for the people I love. The second one seems harder most days. But it’s also a sign that I love what I do. The creative process doesn’t turn off easily.

What’s a motivating quote, book, song or resource that you would like to share?

I’m not much into flowery motivation. I like people who tell it like it is. This one from Emily McDowell really resonates with me lately:

“Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering of who you were before the world got its hands on you.”

Do you have a female role model who you admire who deserves a shout-out?

There are lots. My mother and my grandmother are no-brainers. They taught me some of the most important skills that I use daily — how to write, how to see beauty in almost anything, how to choose my battles. And I really miss Michelle Obama. That woman is grace and grit personified. We often talk at my dinner table about what it would be like if Michelle and Barack came over for dinner. My main hope is for better table manners from my kids. But if not, I still think we could all hang and have a great time.

One Response

  1. Great article! Do you plan to write additional pieces on business leaders in Boulder County? If so, I’d love to put you in touch with Debbie Pope, CEO, YWCA Boulder County. She’s an incredible person and leader.

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