What is essential is not ourselves; it is each other.

About the speaker

Mara Zepeda is the co-founder of Switchboard, a community-building marketplace used by Portland startups, the women’s cycling network, the Portland Meat Collective, and Willamette University, in addition to many other groups that want to help each other out and solve problems. Switchboard was part of Wieden+Kennedy’s Portland Incubator Experiment. It was profoundly influenced by Portland’s artists, makers, and culture.

Mara’s story of startup entrepreneurship is an unlikely one. The inspiration for Switchboard was drawn from her calligraphy studio, Neither Snow, and the powerful stories of her tattoo clients. It was these commissions that bootstrapped Switchboard. She has also worked with Tiffany’s, Nike, Samsung, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, and One King’s Lane. Mara’s background as a radio reporter, filing for Planet Money, Marketplace, and National Public radio, also informed the company’s creation. And lastly, serendipity had a lot to do with it. Mara will recount how this alchemical combination of people and experiences led to the creation of a simple, minimal platform that improves people’s lives.

Mara has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, with a focus on digital media, and a B.A. in Russian from Reed College.

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Our ability to give and receive and reciprocate is all that matters. It's the most pure and human impulse; to escape the excess bullshit and rediscover the essential. What is essential is not ourselves: it is each other. — Mara Zepeda

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