Community Spotlight: Vanessa Mason

Written by Sonia Parikh

Vanessa Mason is a new member of the Venture Café Community working with JustWorks to simplify our lives in the greater Phoenix area. JustWorks and Mason pioneered the term DEIB, Diversity Equity Inclusion, and Belonging to highlight their dedication to making everyone feel respected and represented. She is a senior sales manager with JustWorks with experience spanning sectors such as biotech all the way to cannabis. Vanessa encourages anyone thinking of attending Venture Café Phoenix to just bite the bullet and show up!

How did you hear about Venture Café?
We heard about Venture Café because we’re pretty tied into the venture community. It’s a target community for us as an HR provider that focuses on startups and small businesses. It’s been a great area in other markets for us.
I knew somebody who knew of Venture Café and was on the ground here. I also have heard about Venture Café just being in the community and that it was a cool place to just meet people, and learn about the venture and the startup community here in Phoenix, in the greater Phoenix area. And it’s been a blessing to really know and be a part of it.

What does Venture Café Phoenix mean to you?
It’s a community. It’s a community of innovators, thought-leaders, and folks that I would never have any access to, to really be able to understand and learn how various aspects of starting a business actually work. I can really talk to people on the ground personally about their passions, about what is making them passionate about what they’re doing. I’ve learned a ton from just the various folks that I get to meet and greet with when I’m here. And it spans the spectrum of medical devices to cannabis and to things I’ve never even thought of. So it’s been an eye-opening experience to even understand Phoenix and Arizona on a much deeper level.

Have you had any memorable connections at Venture Café Phoenix?
So obviously some of the leaders – Melissa (Lamson) has been great. Like, she is phenomenal in terms of what she does and how she connects people because it’s with such ease and grace in logic and humanness. But I’ve connected with a few business owners. Eric Luster was here a couple of weeks ago when they were doing the medical devices and I think some of what he is doing in terms of trying to prevent brain injuries within the football system was wonderful. And of course, we’re talking about how to help his business set itself up for the growth it’s about to take. He’s got quite a few businesses and do his wife and his kids. And it’s just wonderful. Especially again, I go back to the DEI part of things to see Black founders just pumping things out. And the best businesses are about solving problems.
His main one is about solving the problem of head injuries within the not Little League football. And he’s really developed something that’s amazing that I think should be an ever youth school system. So he has definitely been a memorable connection that I’ve made just to learn and to see the possibility. What he’s doing is cool. And it came from his own passion, his own kids. He was solving a problem that’s a very real and personal experience seeing his son firsthand. So that’s one memorable kind of connection that I’ve made that has spurred future conversations with us, but also just to enlighten me on possibilities and see possibilities happening is amazing.

Tell us a little more about JustWorks.
We are an HR benefits, payroll compliance platform, and management tool to make it easier for small businesses to really do all of the minutiae. We take care of so much of it and make it easier for them to really focus on their business so that they can be confident and really grow with confidence. That is one of our taglines, we allow folks to work fearlessly in their passion.
My entire team focuses on Arizona and the greater Phoenix area right now in terms of, number one, just getting to know business owners, but also being a resource. It’s great to sell business and have people come onto our platform, but my passion is being a resource for people. Yes, I want you to buy, but I also understand that not everything is a fit at every time, but being able to help people and think about things right, and understand how health insurance actually works. That’s one of my passions because I think that in our country, we have forgotten some of those fundamentals. I went well into my 30s, probably closer to 40, before I even understood how to read up my health insurance, before I understood why I got a bill in the mail, but yet I paid my doctor’s copay. Those are fundamentals that you need to know so that you can take care of yourself, utilize your resources as well as possible, and not get into an issue or spend too much money.
So that’s what my focus and what our team’s focus is, is to get out information so that people can really make the best decisions and companies can make the best decisions with their employees in mind because it’s all about the support of people.

Can you discuss your experience at Venture Café Phoenix and any impact the event has had on your organization?
We are new to Phoenix, really to have a focus on the Arizona community. So it’s been a great lens into understanding the dynamics here. I will tell you, networking in Arizona and Phoenix is so much better than it is in a lot of other places. I worked in San Francisco. That was one of the first markets that I really worked on. It was another new market for us and honestly, the networking there is tough. It’s harder. It feels a little bit in-human. Like you have to have a name.
You go into rooms and there isn’t this friendly vibe. It doesn’t feel like you can just go up to somebody and say, hi, my name is Vanessa. And they’re going to say, oh, hi. Right. It’s stiffer, it’s colder. Venture Café has opened up my eyes and given me a place where I can see that it’s different here. The tentacles that come from Venture Café. So many other networking communities are connected to Venture Cafe, which has been just also just extended conversation..

Any final thoughts on Venture Café Phoenix?

I would say bite the Bullet and come. Even if you aren’t with a company, even if you’re not a venture person, even if you’re not in a startup or a small business, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a great place to just connect with people. As I said, thought leaders, innovators, people that will just chat with you about what’s going on.
I think it’s really important to find outlets like this where you can be yourself and learn and grow. So I would say come, just come to a Thursday Gathering. They make it fun, they make it interactive. It’s low-pressure. You don’t have to worry about it at all. Somebody will say hi to you if you’re not the outgoing type. But definitely come chitchat, do your thing and you’ll be good.

To connect with Vanessa Mason on LinkedIn click here.

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