Speak Easy leader McDowell stepping down

Danielle McDowell, who oversaw a period of rapid growth at the Speak Easy, is leaving her role as executive director of the not-for-profit co-working organization after 2-1/2 years at the helm.

Danielle McDowell mug McDowell

McDowell will resign from the job effective April 13, the organization announced Monday. The Speak Easy board of directors has launched a search for a successor.

No reason was given for her departure, but the separation appears to be amicable. An event “commemorating McDowell’s tenure” is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 12 in the south Broad Ripple space at 5255 Winthrop Ave.

“McDowell will continue on as a member of the organization and avid supporter of its mission to grow entrepreneurship in central Indiana,” the Speak Easy said in a written statement.

Under McDowell, who became executive director in August 2015, the Speak Easy grew from one co-working space in south Broad Ripple to five throughout the area and from 125 members to more than 1,000.

It now operates Speak Easy Downtown at 47 S. Meridian St., the Tube Factory Artspace at 1125 Cruft St., Platform 24 at 12400 N. Meridian St. in Carmel and ZWorks at 85 E. Cedar St. in Zionsville.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have served the Speak Easy in this capacity, and I cannot thank the members enough for the opportunity to work with them and alongside them,” McDowell said in written comments. “This is a community of doers, and it has been so fulfilling to support the dreams of talented people.”

McDowell took over the executive director’s job from the late Denver Hutt, who had held the position since the opening of the Speak Easy in February 2012. Hutt died of ovarian cancer in 2016 at 28.

A University of Notre Dame business grad, McDowell had been a Speak Easy member since its inception when she took over leadership. She used its resources for her reviews company, MyBestFriendsHair.com. The company later became a hair products e-commerce firm called Jada Beauty (later Loxa Beauty). She sold it to Sally Beauty Holdings in August 2013.

The Speak Easy said it plans to solicit recommendations for a director from its membership.

“We wish Danielle the best in her future endeavors,” Speak Easy board chairwoman Jenny Vance said in written remarks. “This moment is bittersweet, but it presents an exciting opportunity for our community to cultivate new voices and new advocates for entrepreneurism.”

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