Boettcher Scholar Working to Advance Black Chamber

28 Nov Boettcher Scholar Working to Advance Black Chamber

After a successful career in film production, 1970 Boettcher Scholar Lee Gash-Maxey is using her storytelling prowess to help advance black-owned businesses in the State of Colorado.

Lee is executive director of the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held since April of 2016. In her role, Lee is working to increase membership in the business organization by providing relevant programming and partnering with the business community to create opportunities for African-American students.

Lee graduated from East High School in Denver and used her Boettcher Scholarship to attend Colorado State University where she graduated with a degree in radio and television production. She started her career with KOA radio, received her first Emmy nomination at KOA-TV, then relocated to Pittsburgh to work on Evening Magazine at KDKA-TV.

Lee returned to Colorado where she began doing publications for the Governor’s Office of Energy Conservation, during the administration of Gov. Roy Romer. (“If you can write, you can work in almost any industry they’ve developed,” she said.) Eventually her role expanded to include creating and managing programs to employ young people in recycling and weatherization work.

She was soon pulled back into media, however, when a friend told her that BET was starting a Movie channel in Denver. She was hired as managing producer of BET Movies. She later launched her own media production company, Maxey Media Production Group, and was focused on that when, once again, a friend told her about the opportunity with the Colorado Black Chamber. The organization, the friend noted, could benefit from somebody with her unique skills and connections.

The position provided her with an opportunity to serve the black community and small business owners, two groups for which she has a strong affinity.

“As a Denver native, the black community is very close to my heart,” she said. “My roots in Denver go deep.”

Similarly, her own experience as a business owner gave her a deep understanding of the unique pressures faced by small business owners and the need for an organization to provide value to them.

“We need to re-establish the reputation of the chamber, and that’s definitely happening,” she said, adding that small business owners are under extreme time pressure and have little time for organizations that don’t provide value. “We need to make it so small business owners know that we can help them grow their business.”

In addition to providing training and resources for small businesses, Lee wants to provide value specifically for the younger generation of entrepreneurs while also partnering with businesses to create job opportunities for black students.

The desire to give back is something that has driven Lee, and it is a strength she sees in the Boettcher Scholar community. “I think there is an underlying goal in most Boettcher Scholars,” she said. “They know somebody had the foresight to give something back, and they are thinking about how to give something back or pay it forward – maybe not in the exact way they were helped, but in a way that matters to them.”

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