Get to know Olivia Omega, the Entrepreneur in Residence for the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship and an experienced entrepreneur, branding strategist, and diversity & inclusion advocate.
By Danika Gutierrez
Entrepreneurship revolves around perseverance and creating something unique — ideally, something that improves the lives of others. As Jake Jabs said in one of his 39 Keys to Business Success, “business must have a value to society and not just [be] a profit machine for the family.”
This value of mission-driven entrepreneurship is ever-present in THE CLIMB | Jake Jabs Business Plan Competition. Every year, students from universities and colleges across Colorado pitch their most innovative business concepts to a live panel of judges in the hopes of winning cash and in-kind prizes. One former judge in particular looks forward to hearing this year’s group of student ideas.
You may have already seen or heard of Olivia Omega. Over the last six years, she’s served as the Founder Track Chair for Denver Startup Week and, for the past two, she’s served as a judge for THE CLIMB. You may have even watched her TEDx talk! Now the Entrepreneur in Residence at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, Olivia has been an entrepreneur for several years. She started her entrepreneurial journey by launching a teddy bear company at the young age of 13, for which she sewed clothes for stuffed animals she found at thrift stores and flea markets. After a thorough wash, of course.
Does that sound like something familiar? Yes, she started her business long before Build-a-Bear Workshop came into existence!
When she attended CU Boulder as an undergraduate, she created an elaborate business plan for her teddy bear company as part of the requirements for her entrepreneurship studies. Not long after, Build-a-Bear launched in St. Louis, Missouri, which she saw as validation and confirmation that she was on the right track with many amazing ideas. After graduating from CU Boulder, Olivia worked for an advertising agency for ten years before her desire to start a business took hold. Her idea? A children’s t-shirt line. Her motivation? Olivia’s one-year-old son and the realization that she needed to spend more time with her family.
Her story doesn’t stop there. Olivia pitched her children’s clothing business to Ellen DeGeneres and officially launched her business on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She worked with the producers for three years, and the rest was history. After a while, she decided to pivot to focus on PR, marketing, and advertising consulting for mothers working in the baby industry. She currently works as the Senior Director of Marketing Communications at the Denver Scholarship Foundation, as well as a mentor and accelerator facilitator for The Commons on Champa.
Now, as the Jake Jabs Center’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Olivia hopes to mentor students and offer guidance to local collegiate startups, especially those who are interested in entrepreneurship and how to balance running a small business with school. Her advice to students who are looking to participate in THE CLIMB: Be mindful of deadlines, and most of all, talk to people about your ideas! What may make sense in your mind may not translate well when you explain it to others. Feedback from others can help you sharpen your business idea and clarify its otherwise confusing aspects.
Olivia’s entrepreneurial story is nothing short of inspiring and can serve as a valuable source of experience and perspective for students at CU Denver. Are you looking for entrepreneurial advice and mentorship? Any student at CU Denver — regardless of your major, program, or year in school — can connect and meet with Olivia through the Jake Jabs Center. She is excited to answer your questions regarding entrepreneurship and provide you with motivation to continue on your entrepreneurial journey.