By Thea Holtlund Jacobsen Kristin Bell is a Thousand Oaks native, though her career took her to Los Angeles, then to London, and now back to Thousand Oaks, where she’s currently finishing her MBA at California Lutheran University and leading Hub101 as its Community Manager. Bell believes entrepreneurship and resources like Hub101 are valuable for anyone because having an entrepreneurial mindset is important regardless of whether or not you want to start a business.
“Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and it’s a dream that’s never faded. I played teacher with my Barbies and made my little brother play pretend school with me so I could teach him things. I eventually decided I wanted to be a college professor, so, as an undergraduate, I pursued a degree in English,” she said.
Kristin believes that anyone can benefit from entrepreneurial knowledge, regardless of whether you are planning on starting your own business.
Bell received a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in Spanish from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. She was planning on immediately continuing on to receive her Masters of Arts in English Literature but eventually decided to go out into the working world before continuing her studies.
“I started as a content writer at a marketing agency in Los Angeles, where I wrote articles, interviews, press releases, SEO—creating all sorts of content that our clients needed. Over the years, I worked my way up to Marketing Manager in that company,” she said.
Bell then moved to London with her now-husband and did some consulting work while her visa was being processed. Once her visa was approved, she became the Head of Marketing for an insurance technology accelerator, creating and delivering the program’s marketing strategy.
“And that is the role in which I fell in love with the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. I was working with both InsurTech startups and large insurance companies, and I realized that this middle, collaborative space was an amazing place to be and that this is what I wanted to do,” she said.
Kristin with Chairman, Editor and Majority Owner of Pacific Coast Business Times, Henry Dubroff, at Hub101.
Bell’s traditional way of thinking about teaching evolved and expanded into a passion for working with entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs and helping them get to where they want to be. While in London, she worked with large insurers on their innovation strategies and with startups on building and growing their businesses. The InsurTech accelerator launched another program in Hartford, Connecticut, and Bell became the Global Head of Marketing, leading the accelerator’s marketing strategy globally, before moving back to Thousand Oaks and entering her role as Community Manager at Hub101.
Bell said she has drawn much inspiration from one of her favorite books, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The premise of the book is that everyone has their own personal legend—something they have always wanted to accomplish, something they want with all of their hearts.
“The Alchemist upholds that we’re never going to be able to escape those dreams, because they’re what our hearts ultimately desire. And because of this, it’s so important to do what you love, whatever that may be. I’m passionate about supporting and helping entrepreneurs, and instilling that entrepreneurial mindset in non-entrepreneurs, which is why I also love working with corporations who want to be more entrepreneurial and innovative but might not know how,” she said.
In her new job as Hub101’s Community Manager, Bell wants to focus on continuing to cultivate community and providing a home for members to collaborate and grow.
Bell said an entrepreneurial mindset is important for everyone because it is an approach to thinking that compels individuals to creatively and innovatively overcome challenges, solve problems, and enact change. She believes this is an important mindset to embrace because it is ultimately what will change not only industries, but also issues on a global scale.
The journey that eventually led Bell to Hub101 started when she returned from London. She knew she had found an environment that was right for her and decided to pursue her MBA as a next step. When looking for schools in the area, she decided on Cal Lutheran because of its entrepreneurship program and Hub101.
“Hub101 really stuck out to me because it’s this collaborative space that supports entrepreneurs and nurtures the community, and I knew that I had to get involved. So, about a year and a half ago, I reached out to Mike Panesis and Greg Monterrosa, sent them my resume, and told them I would love to get involved,” she said.
Shortly after, Bell became Hub101’s first graduate assistant – a support role while she was completing her studies. She continued as a graduate assistant and in December of 2019 became Hub101’s Community Manager. In her new role, Bell’s goals are to foster a strong community; provide a creative, welcoming space where members can collaborate and grow; support students, local entrepreneurs, and the community as a whole through events, mentorship, and other resources; and re-introduce educational programs.
As the Community Manager at Hub101, Kristin interacts with members, such as AJ Carralejo, listens to their ideas, challenges, and successes, and connects them with mentors, other members, and resources for collaboration and support.
“Something I’m focusing on right now is re-introducing to Hub101 an incubator program—an idea lab—to provide a place for entrepreneurs to learn the tools necessary to develop and mature their ideas, test and iterate, and turn ideas into reality. I think there is a real need to provide an educational program like that to support entrepreneurs, and it also creates an opportunity for organizations in the area to get more involved,” she said.
Bell said she loves Hub101 and all the space has to offer, and that she is particularly grateful for the team and the community that has been built over the years.
“We have such a great team to continue to make this place even more amazing. It’s an incredible feeling when you come into a new workplace and already have a supportive and talented team who are all aligned in terms of vision and values. I also love the whole community—the members, mentors, community leaders, Cal Lutheran students and staff. Hub101 just has this vibe where everyone is willing to help each other, whether that’s through making an introduction, acting as a soundboard, or suggesting workshops. I believe that’s something special about entrepreneurial communities—people identify with the struggles and the successes and are eager to help, because in this world, you could be providing help one day and seeking it the next,” she said.
Kristin with Hub101 student worker Hannah Brock, at Hub101. Bell said one of her favorite parts about her job is interacting with the student workers at the coworking space, as they are full of ideas and potential.
It is important to Bell to note that everyone and anyone can come to Hub101. She loves how people tend to stumble upon the coworking space, not really knowing what it is, and ultimately find a home there. In terms of young people who have set their minds on starting their own businesses, Bell’s best advice is to find a mentor at Hub101.
“I think the benefit of having a mentor goes for anything in life. If we want to improve our physical fitness, we seek a personal trainer. If we want to focus on personal development or mental health, we seek a therapist. I don’t think business should be any different. Mentors truly are invaluable resources who provide advice and real life experience. We have a whole network of amazing mentors, and they are eager to continue supporting our mission.”