Sector67 founder receives needed support

Community donates after explosion

Before I met Chris Meyer and Heather Wentler in person nearly five years ago, their reputations were building. Meyer was founder of hackerspace Sector67, and Wentler was founder of education company Fractal and co-founder of The Doyenne Group.

Meyer’s story went like this: young, brilliant, personable, mechanical engineering grad from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who launched a nonprofit makerspace on Madison’s east side. At the time, Sector67 was slated to be a signature piece of the StartingBlock Madison entrepreneurial hub on East Washington Avenue. He and his cohort of young, male, mostly white startup founders were quickly becoming media darlings and poster children for up-and-coming millennial entrepreneurs.

What was publicly known about Wentler was that she was a young teacher and fiancee of Chris. After a little more digging, I found out this dynamic force of nature had parlayed her passion for teaching into a business called Fractal, which runs youth programs in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. She also co-founded The Doyenne Group, now a powerhouse mentoring and investing network for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. I’ll skip my views on the sexist nature of how entrepreneurs are portrayed and focus on the couple’s current journey.

Together, Meyer and Wentler make one heck of a power couple, which is why I put them on the cover of Madison Magazine in late 2013. I was editor then, and have followed their magnificent careers ever since. Each just 32 years old, they have, in their own ways, transformed our community for the better. That’s why news of Meyer’s accident–a propane tank explosion inside the soon-to-be new headquarters of Sector67, in which Meyer was injured–spread so far and wide. They’ve touched so many people with their infectious passion and energy.

Lucky for all of us, Meyer is going to be OK. And thanks to Meyer and Wentler’s circle of friends, colleagues and people they’ve affected, the work on the new Sector67 will continue with the help of a GoFundMe campaign that as of early December has raised $112,475. I think about the outpouring of support as a good old-fashioned barn raising, where members of the community step up when another member is in need.

Here are just two of the comments from the 800-plus folks who’ve donated to the Sector67 building campaign. I hope Meyer and Wentler have been taking a few moments to absorb all this goodness they so richly deserve. They’ve earned it.

For the past four years, every time I have asked for help with a project at Sector67, Chris has gone above and beyond to make my ideas become realities. He is an endlessly giving person. Sector67 is a unique and amazing resource that has made so many projects possible: projects that go on to touch many people’s lives. – Caroline Rose

Chris and Heather embody the future of Madison and the globe. Thank you for inspiring so many. – Deb Archer, president/CEO, Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Ready for marketSector67 founder receives needed support

I talk to anyone who will listen to me about the notion that you have to build diversity and inclusion into the DNA of your business. Some of the smartest, most forward-thinking entrepreneurs of our time–even millennials!–have told me the opposite. They say that once you have your venture up and running, then you can concentrate on diversity. Never have I seen it work out well that way, which is why the Madison Public Market project could be an exciting new model for launching and growing new businesses.

Thirty public market vendors–women and people of color–gathered on a beautiful fall evening to dish out their local and ethnic specialty foods to dozens of eager and curious supporters. It was called MarketReady, and ready they are. For a project nearly a decade in the making, with some frustrating fits and starts, the public market’s first public showing proved that intentional city planning with inclusivity as a strong focus can work. Kudos to the collaboration of public, private and nonprofit sector partners who’ve labored so hard to make this community dream a reality. Visit marketreadymadison.org to learn more.

Brennan Nardi is communications director at Madison Community Foundation and a former editor of Madison Magazine. Reach her at brennannardi@gmail.com.