by Jamie Carter-Logan, Dustyn Bailey, Bryan Roche and Peter Anania
When Katie Shorey graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2010, returning home to Maine wasn’t anywhere on her radar. Instead, she had her sights set on Washington, D.C.
For those who are familiar with Shorey’s drive, it shouldn’t come as a shock that she was quickly able to immerse herself in the world of public service — she had a knack for the work. And it came naturally — she just knew how to bring people together to achieve a common goal.
It’s those qualities that Shorey’s peers saw in her when they chose her as the new leader of Startup Maine. Shorey was heavily involved with the previous iteration, Maine Startup and Create Week (MSCW), but when controversy forced the former president out, she accepted the challenge her peers put before her.
Fate ended up bringing Shorey back to Maine. Her community building experience is just what the the startup community needs to move forward after a tumultuous period.
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Shorey got her start in the nation’s capital while she was still in college. Her first role was an internship with Running Start, an organization that works to inspire women to run for office and attain leadership positions. It was an experience that motivated Shorey and, most importantly, got her foot in the door for political and public service work.
Today, she sees Running Start mentioned in major national publications, recognized as a force in women’s leadership on Capitol Hill. However, when she first joined the organization as an intern, it only consisted of herself and one other woman — the founder — working out of an attic.
The experience also helped open the door to her next opportunities — first with Emily’s List and then with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Shorey stayed in Washington, D.C. for several years. She used her network of connections, including fellow St. Lawrence alumni, to her advantage. She found herself moving up the ladder of the consulting world all while helping the causes she believed in.
After working with Sen. Gillibrand, Shorey accepted her first full-time job at the Partnership for Public Service. She remained there for two years before moving to Clifton Consulting, a group that specializes in coalition building and leadership development. Shorey was Clifton’s first full-time employee.
Through Clifton, she branched out into corporate relations, working for an initiative that grew out of the White House — the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies. While there, Shorey oversaw efforts that led to 13 different tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, agreeing to take steps to better protect consumers from counterfeit prescription drugs.
Shorey’s time in D.C. set her up for a long career inside the Beltway, making major contributions and earning valuable leadership lessons at every stop. However, Shorey was still young and made the decision to give it a shot out west in San Francisco. Shorey remained out there for about a year before deciding to return back to the east coast.
This time, instead of returning to D.C., she made the decision to come back home to Maine.
Shorey admits that she first came back just because it was summer, and, as she puts it, summer in Maine is unmatched. But, while watching TV one night, she happened to see a feature on MSCW. Inspired, she decided it was an event she wanted to attend, so she signed up for the 2015 conference, and has been involved ever since. A fellow St. Lawrence alumnus was one of the event organizers, and he pulled Shorey in to help out as the fundraising chair.
Still working remotely for a D.C.-based company, Shorey settled back in to life in Maine while she considered her options. It was during this transition that she reached out to Maine Accelerates Growth, joined the advisory board of Maine Women’s Magazine, and also began working with other entrepreneurial organizations, such as SCORE.
But even though she had settled into an apartment on Portland’s East End and became involved with several local groups, Shorey felt something was amiss. Working remotely while living in Maine was isolating, and she wanted to become even more a part of Portland’s growing professional community.
Once she began looking, It didn’t take her long to find a job in her wheelhouse — People’s United Bank hired her on to head up their community relations and business development efforts.
Things were looking up for Shorey — MSCW was growing, the new job was working out well, and she had found her niche in Portland.
But in the midst of the success, Shorey had to watch as the work of her volunteer efforts came to an abrupt halt.
The founder of both MSCW and Venture Hall, a newly formed business accelerator, faced and admitted to serious allegations that resulted in his stepping down from his roles heading up the organizations. When this happened, the organization was suddenly in need of a new leader to keep MSCW going for 2018.
Shorey’s name was put forward, and she was selected as the new president.
“The group that I respect and admire thought that I could lead the charge,” said Shorey, reflecting on the vote.
Though undoubtedly a challenging transition to oversee, Shorey has attacked it head-on. She understood how valuable the previous iteration of the conference was to the community, and knew the best course of action would be to keep moving forward.
However, some major changes needed to occur, so the volunteer steering committee made some strategic decisions. They decided to rebrand to Startup Maine with the intention of hosting and collaborating on events year-round, rather than just one week during the year. They shortened the length of the conference from 5 to 2.5 days, and also reduced the price — a ticket for the June 21-23 event is only $48.
“The community wanted this to continue and saw a need for it,” she says. “Telling our story has been really invigorating and rewarding.”
As for her own future, Shorey is keeping her eyes open to what’s out there. For now, Shorey will stay on as the newly-minted non-profit Startup Maine’s president, but she knows she will eventually want to pass the torch on.
“I’m open to opportunities as they present themselves,” she says. “I just want to continue building up the people and organizations around me and see where that takes me.”
Maine wasn’t initially in Shorey’s career plan, but with her passion for leadership and development, she has become an integral part of southern Maine’s business and professional community. As she steps up as a leader during this difficult time, Shorey showcases the integrity and drive that has helped her empower herself and others. Shorey could have climbed to the top of the ladder in Washington, D.C., or any large city, but she chose Portland.
That’s why Katie Shorey is a Emerging Maine Icon.
All photos by Peter Anania