169: Charli Cooksey (WEPOWER)

Charli Cooksey on Innovation City

“We believe that the more that people activate their power, the more that we’re all better off. And if we can activate that power toward new systems (education, economic, health and justice systems), we can really create a world where everyone’s thriving.” – Charli Cooksey

Welcome to Season 3 of Innovation City, a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Charli Cooksey, the Founder & CEO of WEPOWER, a social startup that activates community power to re-design education, economic, health, and justice systems to be just and equitable for all. Charli is an accidental educator and a champion of her St. Louis community. In this episode, Charli sits down with the team to discuss colorism and representation bias, the two distinct and disparate parts of St. Louis, finding personal balance, and much more!

They discuss:

  • Growing up in the “different worlds” of St. Louis
  • Beginning her journey with inspireSTL
    • This led her to start thinking about power
  • The disparity of different parts of cities
  • Charli’s super powers – bionic senses of smell and sight
  • “Unpacking” WEPOWER
  • Often the best solutions are developed by everyday people who have experienced the problems’
  • Challenges facing local startups WEPOWER is working with at the moment
    • Simple but important challenges
    • Colorism and representation bias
  • Charli’s background as an educator with Teach for America
    • She was preparing for law school, when she got the call from TFA, and her whole life plan changed
  • The educational aspects of WEPOWER
    • The Tomorrow Builders
  • Finding balance, personal well being
    • She hasn’t gotten it right yet but she’s trying
    • Weekly meditation for team members and community
    • Journaling and meditating more often
    • Being outside
    • Taking a break when she needs one, even last-minute
  • Connect with Charli at wepowerstl.org

Lightning Round:

  1. What is a defining moment in your life and how did it impact you?
    • When I was almost robbed at gunpoint on my front porch
  2. What do you spend too much time doing?
    • Formatting Google docs
  3. What do you want to let go of?
    • Formatting Google docs
  4. What do you dream of achieving someday?
    • A totally transformed St. Louis, a place that is the Mecca of Black and LatinX culture
  5. What question would you ask a fortune teller?
    • What would be true about this country if it was still the land of indigenous folks?