Home with a 6-week-old baby boy and lacking sleep might not be the best time to start a tech business in the middle of the country. But no one told Kirsten Moorefield that.
“I did not grow up selling candy bars” like some sales-driven, entrepreneur-from-birth people, she said. “But I have always liked to see things where nothing exists.”
So when she re-met Darrin Murriner, with whom she had worked at a marketing firm, she was intrigued by his plan to start a business as well.
Moorefield and Murriner combined forces to create Cloverleaf (cloverleaf.me). Their high-tech product offers a platform that helps businesses coach and encourage teams that “want to come to work.” In just a few years, the company has more than 100,000 users and has expanded to include some of the nation’s largest businesses.
Moorefield said she’d found in previous jobs how important it was to “find your groove” and to enjoy being part of a good team. Cloverleaf offers tools that help organizations do that – and the company models it, starting with the relationship between the two founders.
Murriner said Moorefield is a valuable “partner in crime” because they complement one another. “She is focused on quality and details and I am focused on speed and moving faster,” he said. “This might sound like a recipe for a lot of unresolved conflict, but we are always able to find a middle ground that is best for our business.”
“We work well together because we are different,” Moorefield said. “And it doesn’t matter if we spend hundreds of hours together, we still surprise each other.”
Despite that chemistry and energy, Moorefield knew that creating Cloverleaf would be a challenge. While the product generated buzz among human resources professionals they consulted, how could such a company be launched in Cincinnati?
Tech companies are the norm in San Francisco, where they draw investors as well as a deep labor pool. In Cincinnati, there aren’t those advantages, Moorefield said. But there’s something else: potential.
Whether she is building her Cloverleaf team or reaching out to “angels” – the investors critical to start-ups – Moorefield is in the middle of a transformation in the area.
“There are now more than a dozen accelerators,” Moorefield said, referring to the programs that offer support and office space and can lead to funding opportunities. “It’s still hard but there is more talent here than there ever was and there is some capital. It’s still in early stage but … it’s on the trajectory.”
There was another challenge in creating a company: Moorefield was often the only woman in the room.
“That’s been true for most of my career,” Moorefield said. “What can hold us back is the logistics: childcare, healthcare, dinner, just nourishing the souls of your children and having a marriage. But I can see the change. It wasn’t possible a generation ago.”
Just as the fields of medicine and law now include women (more than half of the students now in those schools are female), Moorefield believes the time is coming for the same kind of diversity to come to entrepreneurship.
“I think women are finding they want more,” Moorefield said, and have ideas that belong in the marketplace too. But being an entrepreneur has been glorified and can feel unapproachable. She believes that women need encouragement, comparing it to her young son learning to pedal his bike uphill.
To create that kind of encouraging community, Moorefield asked for connections with women through a business accelerator program a few years ago. There were not many names they could share.
But the first woman she called was interested right away.
Christi Brown said it’s always been understood that when things are hard, it doesn’t mean anyone wants to give up.
“For both of us, it was a relief to get to share the good and bad, our hopes and dreams. The day I met Kirsten was life-changing.”
Brown sold her first business to start iReportSource, a collaborative data tool with users all over the world. She said the challenges for female entrepreneurs are already formidable, but in tech it is even more complicated. Female founders only raise about 2.2 percent of potential capital – and according to Forbes that hasn’t changed since 2017.
Brown shared Moorefield’s passion for strengthening female leadership and they invited others to join them, creating what they call the Female Founders.
“There are things we can talk about that others just don’t get. And we are on a journey that’s emotional. You’re dealing with rejection. And it’s a spiritual journey whether we want it to be or not,” Moorefield said. “Why not be on this roller coaster together?”
While they gather from time to time, the heart of their group is a busy text group where they ask each other for advice on an attorney, celebrate victories and share the days that don’t go well.
That encouragement, Moorefield said, helps give her strength to live “life in the arena,” part of a Theodore Roosevelt quote that motivates her.
“I really don’t like it when we talk about how hard it is to be a woman. It breeds bitterness. But we can do this. We can push through hard times,” she said. “I want more women to listen to the voice in their head” that says they can create businesses and be leaders.
Moorefield said when there’s more than she can get to in a day, and more ideas popping up to strengthen Cloverleaf, she reminds herself that “at least I’m in the race. My husband and I have this thing,” she said. “We say ‘learn and adjust.’ We make mistakes. We don’t do everything perfect. But we won’t be able to do good for other people if we are not trying.”
About Kirsten Moorefield . . .
Family: Husband Cody, son Paxton, 4, and daughter Lydia, 6 months. They live in Pleasant Ridge.
How she finds time for it all: “I’ve intentionally decided not to do social media,” she said, noting the amount of time it would take and that Instagram, in particular, can make parents feel bad when everything has piled up and you see other families at the zoo or having a perfect dinner.
Life lesson: “I know that there are things I am not good at. I recognize that others are better and I lean into them,” from her technology officer at Cloverleaf to her “awesome” baby sitter.
Great reads: “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini. Anything by Brene Brown.
The power of music: Moorefield created a playlist for “when my mood has to be flipped.” It includes everything from “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift to “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra, but also Needtobreathe’s “Hard Love” and “Working on It” by Chris Rea.
Date night go-to’s: A couple nights a year, a three-hour dinner at Sotto. Otherwise, Blind Lemon is a favorite. “It’s a good place to disappear,” and was where the couple went the night they were celebrating their engagement with a lot of other people. “We ran away from our own party and went there.”