Christie Kerner is a vital piece of the Arizona entrepreneurial puzzle. Since selling her business last year, Christie has become the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU. She’s also the Phoenix City Director of Startup Grind, the Chair of Entrepreneurial Programs for Invest Southwest’s Venture Madness, and an advisory board member at Chandler Innovations. Christie still owns a consulting firm, Launch MiE, and speaks at public and private events. As she puts it, she “is a big fan of the Phoenix entrepreneur community and does all [she] can to help move it, and each individual [she meets] within it, forward . . . .” #yesphx
What part of Arizona do you call home?
I’m a big fan of living in the east Valley. But my sisters are 100 percent west side. It’s a real debate for us. Naturally, I think I’m right.
What is your favorite part about running a business? (In the past.)
To be honest, I can easily geek out on efficiency. I’ve always built very lean businesses that are able to hit profitability surprisingly quickly. I think properly leveraging technology is essential to a business’ success. But in the launch phase I can also get pretty nerdy about branding. It’s the intersection of human psychology and business—two subjects I love dearly.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I’m technically a third-generation entrepreneur, so perhaps it runs in the blood a bit. I’ve always loved solving problems through innovation and creating things that can make the world a happier place. So entrepreneurship has been a natural fit for me. “Christie’s Tulip Pre-School,” which I founded when I was 5, was just the beginning.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I’ve been in Arizona for nearly 10 years now. I have always loved helping other business owners create more success, so I’ve been popping up as a speaker at entrepreneurship events in town for about the past 7 years. There was a clear shift about two years ago when a few forces created some good momentum to unite our community here and it’s been pretty incredible to see the effects. I’m excited to see what the next couple years hold.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Hands down, it’s the people here. I’ve lived a handful of other places and never found what we have here: so many people who are authentic, down to earth, generous, passionate, and ridiculously ambitious, yet still value simple smiles and work-life balance. These are my people.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Rocks do not a yard make. Seriously. I desperately miss big, leafy, deep green trees and endless grass!
In what area(s) do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
I guess I’ll take it from the entrepreneurship angle. Ask any long-term business owner and they’ll tell you that the two-year mark is a time of transition. The initial steam is wearing a bit thin, the honeymoon period is long gone, and there is a lot of solid, normal work that needs to be done to continue growth. Oftentimes there is a strong shift that happens—those that were the launchers and lifters move over to make room for those that are amazing at sustaining things and enjoy maintaining more long term growth strategies. It can feel a bit strange as the corner is turned, but it’s also a completely natural part of “growing up.” I suspect our community is hitting that curve soon, and I’m excited to see this next wave shape up.
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
Biscuits Café. But, truth be told, I’m much happier with a simple bowl of cereal at home. Speaking of which, I just found the best cereal ever, tasty and (reasonably) healthy: Kashi 7 whole grain flakes. #cerealloversunite #itsacerealthing
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
I’m a big fan of the chicken Caesar salad at Carrabba’s. Yum.
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
That’s easy: the Persian Room. The menu is full of intimidating words, but I can promise you that you haven’t lived until you’ve had the beef (or chicken) barg and zereshk rice. And, best hummus in town (even better than the one I know you are thinking of right now—no kidding).
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
I’m super excited about the new space opening at AC Hotels Tempe. I got a sneak preview, and it’s not only set up nicely for business meetings (they welcome local entrepreneurs to freely use their space during the day—complimentary Wi-Fi, gorgeous conference rooms, conversational seating, etc), but they also have wine on tap. Yes, I said wine on tap. Nice!
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
I like to pretend I don’t live in the desert, so any chance I get I head over to Metropolis at Camelview Optima in Scottsdale. Plus, it’s a hidden gem so it’s never too noisy. Their patio is amazing.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
I think I’ll go with the day I opened my biz in Tempe. I had just remodeled the 5500 square foot building and was so excited to make things happen. Luckily, they did!
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
[ADOT] thinks they are hilarious. And sometimes, they are.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Good luck trying to leave . . . this place has a way of making you stick. And that’s a good thing!
Readers are welcome to connect with Christie and her firm via Facebook, Twitter (@ChristieKerner), and LinkedIn. Get information on her monthly events for startup founders here, and see why Christie finds Venture Madness so important for startups through Invest Southwest.