Founder, Rich and Riot
Cofounder, FemTech Collective
Hey you, welcome to The Valley Outsiders!
Come grab a drink and get comfy. You’ve probably had a long day.
The entrepreneurial road is a tiring one, and it can get pretty lonely. If you’re like us, you’re looking for stories of other entrepreneurs that can inspire and give you hope.
So why is it that all the stories of entrepreneurship sound the same, look the same—and are totally unrelatable?
Most of these stories are set in the same place too. Silicon Valley. And if you’re like us then these Silicon Valley stories aren’t much help.
Which is why we started this podcast.
We’re two Oakland-based entrepreneurs, Nicole Dahlstrom (FemTech Collective) and Kamilah Richardson (Rich and Riot, Just Be), and we’re bringing you real stories from entrepreneurs at every step of the entrepreneurial journey. Join us every week for inspiring community and game-changing resources.
We’re amplifying the voices of founders who look and sound like you—the women entrepreneurs, innovators, change-makers, and rule-breakers outside the Valley creating their own stories of success.
Start listening now, or read on to learn more about our entrepreneurial journeys and how we came together to create The Valley Outsiders.
I was born and raised in Oakland and I know I would not be where I am and who I am today if it hadn’t been for the amazing community that exists here. It’s pretty powerful!
For me, my entrepreneurial journey started after college. I studied Fashion Merchandising, and in that space there’s a lot of excitement around being a high end fashion designer, but I was actually way more interested in the apparel industry. (Apparel is where the money’s at!)
At that time, the only women’s streetwear that I saw being made was just an adaptation of men’s streetwear. These brands were literally taking the men’s designs and putting them on ill-fitting women’s t-shirts, with no thought about whether this was what women wanted to wear.
So in 2013 I started a women’s empowerment apparel line, Rich and Riot.
I was creating and screen printing my own designs and wanted to learn more about the screen printing business. I liked the behind the scenes work in the apparel industry and liked the idea of having my own print shop.
When I connected with the owner of the shop where I printed my designs, it soon turned into a mentorship relationship and we had a deal that I would take over the shop for him when the time came. I worked for him for almost four years as he trained me to take over the business.
Then the day finally came for him to pass on the shop. ...And he gave it to somebody else.
Just like that I lost everything I had put into this guy’s business. In that moment I decided that never again would I spend my time and effort building up someone else’s business.
Full-time entrepreneurship was my new goal. So I started working for a women’s sportswear company where I could gain more skills, work with a woman founder, and see what her experience as a woman in the industry was really like.
On September 11th, 2015, I walked out of my full time job and said “Okay, I’m gonna try this.”
I was banking everything on my apparel line, Rich and Riot, and I hit the vendor market scene full throttle. Oakland’s First Friday, Treasure Island’s monthly market, Jack London Square, events at tech companies in SF—anywhere I could sell, I was there!
And that’s how I started meeting other Black women entrepreneurs. Our booths would be near each other’s at a market, we would like each other’s products, and we would start asking each other “Hey, what’s working for your business? What types of content are your customers responding to? Where are you making money? What POS system are you using?”
This community of Black women entrepreneurs in the creative fields started to naturally form. Being a solopreneur can be really lonely, and in finding each other we were able to share information and stories and start supporting each other. After Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were murdered by police in 2016, we started meeting regularly as a group.
Together we co-founded Just Be, a Black women’s business community with the goal building up Black women business owners.
We had all found it so powerful to connect with others who were facing the same challenges, and with Just Be we wanted to facilitate that experience for more women. We started hosting networking events for Black women entrepreneurs including mixers, Play Days at the Exploratorium, and Business Besties Speed Dating.
We started organizing pop up market events around the Bay Area and created For the Culture, the largest all-Black Women’s holiday market in the US, which we’ve hosted annually since 2016.
This fabulous community continues to energize and inspire me as I embark on new ventures, like transitioning Rich and Riot to primarily an empowerment brand (with fewer products) and starting The Valley Outsiders podcast.
I grew up in Iowa (which, I probably don’t have to say, is totally different from the Bay Area!) and I felt the entrepreneurial spark in college when I got involved with building my school’s very first women’s ultimate frisbee team.
I joined during Freshman year and by Senior year I was president of the team. During that time I was studying Business and also working at a nonprofit, and from all these experiences I saw how if you’re scrappy and work hard you can build an organization and build revenue.
After graduating in 2013 I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wasn’t interested in a traditional career path.
I joined AmeriCorps for a year and worked as a Job Coordinator at a neighborhood center in Iowa City. The neighborhood was very diverse and I worked with a lot of people from all different backgrounds, some who were looking for jobs and some who wanted to start their own business.
There wasn’t much of a job description or agenda for my position, so I started to make my own agenda. I got organized and began building new partnerships and was able to host a convention connecting local Congolese refugees with better resources.
From all these experiences I saw how there are so many systems in place that prevent people from achieving even though they have a lot of potential. I also learned how entrepreneurship could be a way for people to leapfrog over the conditions that were making it difficult for them to get a traditional job.
I saw that anyone can be an entrepreneur, you just need resources and support.
After AmeriCorps I was even more interested in entrepreneurship and really wanted to do something that made an impact. I started doing freelance work with nonprofits, waitressing, housekeeping, and just overall hustling.
In 2014 I started working with a startup nonprofit in San Francisco focused on education around the Pacific side of World War II. They wrote plays, published books, and ran fundraisers. I was still in Iowa at the time but jumped in remotely with project management, social media, fundraising, content writing, audiobook creation, and Kickstarter campaigning.
I had a great relationship with the nonprofit’s founder and she and I were both interested in starting something in the women’s health space. In 2016 we co-founded a probiotic business to help women treat bacterial vaginosis infections, and in 2017 I moved to the Bay Area.
But building a women’s health business was tough.
Our Facebook ads and online store kept being shut down for using the word “vagina” and talking about intimate health, and at that time especially women didn’t have knowledge of how probiotics could be used to treat this type of infection.
Now that I was in the Bay I plunged headlong into the Silicon Valley hustle. I was constantly networking and I kept meeting other women’s health entrepreneurs who were having the same challenges I was. They had trouble with advertising, their sites were getting shut down, and their products weren’t familiar to their target audiences. We were like an army of people all trying to fight this battle to get our solutions to the women who needed them.
I started organizing events and panels for women’s health groups and became the Bay Area Ambassador for Women of Wearables. I realized that the probiotic startup was now holding me back from the bigger opportunity of creating a community that could find solutions for these wider industry challenges we were all facing. When capital for the probiotic venture ran out, I knew it was time to pivot.
In early 2018, FemTech Collective was born.
FemTech Collective is a central place where people who want to advance the women’s health industry can come together and find resources suited for their company. We host networking and informational events and we’re also a resource hub for people to find out what’s going on in the industry. My original goal was to improve women’s health, and pivoting to community building has allowed me to have a broader impact than I ever imagined.
So now you know a bit about Nicole and Kamilah, but how did we meet, and why did we start this podcast together?
Our paths finally crossed in 2018 at The Port Workspaces, a coworking space in Oakland. We were both doing a work trade program instead of paying for membership (#hustle) so we started bumping into each other and chatting at the front desk.
Our relationship moved pretty fast.
We kept having conversations and realized we have pretty much the same goal of bringing women, communities, and entrepreneurs together to help them grow their communities so they can be successful.
By the third time we ran into each other we were already planning on hosting events together, and not long after that we took headshots together in The Port’s media room. We were trying to get candid smiles, so we started screaming things like “Money!”, “Funding!!”, “Power!!” to get each other to laugh. We had so much fun letting our guard down, taking these pictures and investing in ourselves. We started asking “How can we create this experience for more women?”
So in May of 2019 we collaborated with a couple other entrepreneurs to host “This is What a Boss Looks Like,” a major networking, brunch, and headshot event in Oakland. We organized sponsors, vendors, giveaways, and half a day of programming (it was basically a mini conference), and wow was it a big hit.
We saw Oakland entrepreneurs’ desire for more resources and connection, and witnessed the kind of magic that could happen when we brought our communities together. Since then we’ve continued to collaborate and host both in-person and virtual events for entrepreneurs.
And in 2020 we started talking about hosting a podcast together.
Back when we were prepping for our Boss Brunch event we had a meeting with two fabulous women who are long term entrepreneurs here in Oakland. They’re successful and doing really well, but as they were talking about their journey over the years, one woman said “We know what it’s like to be there...sometimes you’re going to have insufficient funds.”
And we both audibly gasped at her statement, not because it was shocking in and of itself, but because it was such a shockingly honest statement. It struck such a deep chord with us. We both left that meeting thinking “Wow, we need to have more conversations like this!” We also realized that we would probably never hear this kind of honesty on a business podcast.
Both of us consume a lot of content, and we consume it fast (like, blow through an entire podcast season in a day or two fast). When we both listened to the first season of “StartUp” (chronicling the creation of Gimlet Media), what stood out to us the most was really how bro-y and ridiculous it all was. The “startup” story being sold there just isn’t real—not for us, and not for the vast majority of people trying to start a business. (Like, who has a direct link to Chris Saka?? Seriously??)
So there we were, quarantined during the pandemic, listening to too many podcasts, drinking way too much coffee, and getting riled up about startups. And we started thinking that we could be the ones to have honest conversations with entrepreneurs about what startup life is really like for the rest of us.
Anyone can be an entrepreneur, you just need the right support and the right resources. Which is why we’ve started The Valley Outsiders.
In this podcast we’re taking a real look at entrepreneurship and talking with founders at every stage of the journey. We’re sharing honest stories from people who look like you, sound like you, and are facing—and overcoming—the same challenges as you. It’s a wild ride for us outside the Valley, but we’ll make it through together.
Are you ready to join us on this journey? Start listening now.