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Co-working haven Speak Easy names new executive director

June 11, 2018

Julie Heath has been hired as executive director of The Speak Easy, a local not-for-profit co-working organization with two primary Indianapolis locations and three otherss, in Zionsville, Carmel and the Garfield Park area, through partnerships.

After a period of rapid growth for the Speak Easy, Heath wants to refocus its energies on membership development and providing startups in central Indiana the resources necessary to grow. She replaces Danielle McDowell, who stepped down as executive director in April.

julie heath mugJulie Heath

Before joining the Speak Easy, Heath served as vice president of customer success and vice president of partnerships at Indianapolis-based Boardable, a software as a service startup that offers a platform for not-for-profit boards. Previous to that she was director of strategy and partnerships at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia.

“When I relocated from Philadelphia to Indianapolis, I looked for a way to plug into my new city,” Heath said in a statement. “The Speak Easy was my point of entry. I joined a startup that I met through this community, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to give back to this organization.”

Heath's experience as a Speak Easy member has inspired her to focus on member experience and members’ successes, Speak Easy chairwoman Jenny Vance said in a media release.

Vance called Heath "a perfect fit" for the job.

Heath, who has lived in central Indiana for 1-1/2 years brings "an outside perspective" to the Speak Easy, but she "acclimated so quickly into this community," Vance said. "That's unique," Vance added. "She can think outside our community but can re-focus it for what is best here."

Heath, a San Francisco native who spent much of her adult life in Washington, D.C., Boston and New York, told IBJ she will "focus on telling the success stories of our members."

She said that she plans to research why Speak Easy members have been successful and then "build on that" to grow the Speak Easy. Heath and Vance said they are not currently considering adding new locations, but that possibility will continue to be evaluated.

Founded in 2011, The Speak Easy is member-based, not-for-profit organization with a location in Broad Ripple and another within the Mile Square in downtown Indianapolis. Since its founding, more than 170 companies have graduated from the Speak Easy, and member companies have created over 1,500 jobs in the Indianapolis area, its operators said.

McDowell, who oversaw a period of rapid growth at the Speak Easy, departed her role as executive director in April after 2-1/2 years at the helm. She did not give a reason for her departure, but the separation appeared to be amicable.

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.

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.

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