Cultivating Women Leaders: Elyse Joins the Club

Updated: May 21

As an STLMade firm, we consistently seek opportunities to invest in and deepen our connections with the St. Louis region. From serving on nonprofit boards to volunteering with community-based organizations, our team is committed to civic leadership and public engagement. It’s no surprise, then, that FOCUS St. Louis is one of the leading organizations that we support. FOCUS St. Louis is the region’s premier civic leadership organization and plays a crucial role in preparing a diverse range of leaders to work cooperatively for a thriving St. Louis. Several of our clients and partners have been honorees of the FOCUS What’s Right with the Region Awards, including FLOURISH St. Louis, Alive and Well STL, Operation Food Search, and others. In our small and nimble team, Dorothy Carlin, Principal, is a graduate of Class 55 of Women in Leadership, and Reggi Rideout, VP of Strategy, is a graduate of Class 42 of Leadership St. Louis. Both are intensive, complementary experiences that deeply impacted how our woman-led firm operates today. When I first joined Simply Strategy, Dorothy quickly set the expectation that I should participate in a FOCUS program. She knew the value of them and made it clear that she wanted to support my enrollment. In my second year with the firm, we began looking at upcoming openings. I was hesitant about applying for a virtual cohort – between Zoom burnout and a concern it wouldn’t be as engaging, I nearly didn’t click “submit.” I am so glad that I did.

I am incredibly honored and excited to share that today marks my own graduation from Class 73 of FOCUS Women in Leadership (WIL). From a logistical perspective, FOCUS St. Louis did an astounding job of creating a user-friendly online campus. They strove to ensure we were all connecting with one another and able to fully show up in the space. This is no easy feat, and I laud them for their ingenuity and adaptability. The excellent execution of a virtual program made the rest of the experience possible.

This was a transformative program that has helped me cultivate leadership skills, identify strengths and areas for growth, develop a deeper understanding of and connection to the needs of St. Louis, and build relationships with phenomenal women leaders across a variety of sectors. I had the chance to co-moderate a panel with corporate and nonprofit executives who shared their journeys – including some non-linear career paths – as well as lessons learned and advice to women across the spectrum in their career. Other panels and roundtables included leaders from government and public services; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and community-based organizations.

In addition to the incredible roster of invited guests who shared their insights and opportunities for us to engage with their organizations, I had the chance to develop new relationships with my cohort peers who hailed from fields including finance and banking, nonprofits, pharmaceuticals, technology, entrepreneurship, health, consulting, and more. From early career professionals to seasoned senior leaders, FOCUS convened an eclectic group who were all united in our love of community and our desire to realize our own potential.

As the latest FOCUS graduate in our team, I am grateful for the privilege of participating in WIL. I feel more equipped to not only strive to improve our St. Louis community in general but to reach out and lift up other women with me.


Simply Strategy is proud to be STLMade: a movement of #stlouis area residents, organizations, and businesses that shines a light on all the reasons this region is a place where you can start up, stand out, and stay. Visit and see for yourself. #stlmade