Sterling Heights

Creating business chemistry: Q&A with Alchemist Ventures COO Patricia Lopez

Patricia "Patty" Lopez is no stranger to business leadership. The president of Rose-a-Lee Technologies has been breaking glass ceilings in the manufacturing world for years, but it's her new endeavor that has her excited about 2021. Now as the COO of Alchemist Ventures, Lopez will be part of the team at Sterling Heights' Velocity Collaboration Center assisting with entrepreneurial services as start-ups and businesses pivot to meet COVID-19 challenges. She talks to Metromode about what challenges she faces, and what Disney soundtracks perfectly emulate this year. 

Metromode: What inspired the creation of Alchemist Ventures?

Patty Lopez: Alchemist Ventures was created by our founder, Patrick Wearn, in 2017. At the time, he created it because he knew he wanted to do something disruptive and create an impact in regards to technology and economic development. It wasn’t until he retired from the government that he decided what he wanted to do with it. 

How has COVID-19 impacted Alchemist Ventures, especially as a relatively young company? 

We were established to create a community of start-ups, technology developers, entrepreneurs, and students to work together and leverage each other's successes to move the needle forward. COVID-19 has impacted our ability to meet face-to-face so we try to host engaging activities for our stakeholders and customers, while preparing the Velocity Center for when we can meet in person again. I think people have gotten somewhat used to the virtual work environment, but when you are in your own little bubble of developing your business it’s difficult to keep the momentum going and get out of your own way in doing this. Recognizing the pivot to virtual work was impacting personal and professional growth opportunities for leaders in our community, we partnered with the Bunnell Idea Group to offer complimentary business development training using their GrowBig Accelerator platform to provide a virtual training and learning environment that allows participants to build new skills, expand their networks, and continue to advance in these challenging times. . 
 
What's the biggest challenge Alchemist faces, and how do you meet (or plan to meet) that challenge?

Our biggest challenge is engagement. We took over a contract that had existed for eight years prior with the city of Sterling Heights for entrepreneurial services, so there is a brand that existed with that. Establishing a new program and delivering new and expanded services during COVID-19 certainly presented challenges, but our team is bringing industry leaders such as Bunnell Idea Group, Toffler Associates, and others to bear to not only deliver exceptional quality experiences for our customers, but also to establish a baseline for community expectations about what they can do with the Sterling Heights Entrepreneurial Services team.

What are you excited about for Alchemist for 2021, what do you have planned for the year?

A better question is what don’t we have planned. We are reigniting Manufacturers Engage this year, we have begun offering business development training, as mentioned earlier, we have launched a podcast studio that will be available for a low fee for those wanting to use it, and we are developing a STEM learning plan to engage schools and community in coding and robotics. We really want to be a full-service center for the community for all of their entrepreneurial needs. The Alchemist Ventures team is a group of seasoned entrepreneurs, we are creating content and developing resources that we wish would have been available to us with our first endeavors. We take our lessons learned, our successes, and our failures to help entrepreneurs skip over some of the mistakes we made.

What's the best and worst part about being a COO in a relatively young company? 

The answer is the same: The unknown. I have two small children, so we watch a lot of "Frozen 2" at my house, and the song “Into the Unknown” is a perfect analogy for anytime you set out into a new endeavor. It is exciting, and new. My team is amazing and there is really no idea that gets thrown out that everyone doesn’t jump in to make it a reality. But anytime you wade out into the unknown there is fear. It is the same story with any entrepreneur, you have an idea, you think it’ll work, but how do you bring it to life? And how do you know anyone else will like your idea or that it will work? The more times you enter uncharted territory the easier it gets.

You work with emerging technology and manufacturing areas and entrepreneurs - what spaces in those industries do you see growing over the next year or two, what should we be watching?

Autonomy and [artificial intelligence]. We’re going to see some tremendous growth in machine learning and artificial intelligence as they compute and data quality challenges are addressed, and autoML continues to diffuse. This technology isn’t reserved for large organizations and will enable small teams and innovators to bring serious disruption.

Also, learning and leadership. If this year has driven anything home, it has shown us how much learning can be done virtually, and how quickly younger generations are able to absorb new and technical topics. Schools are introducing coding, robotics, and other advanced technologies to elementary students, and online courses are providing similar opportunities to older generations, like us. The combination of a growing technical younger generation and an increasingly technical leadership team are going to create a culture of innovation at many companies, assuming the leadership can embrace new models of leadership, collaboration, and growth.

Read more articles by Kate Roff.

Kate Roff is a freelance writer, project editor, and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. Contact her at katewritesfreelance@gmail.com
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