This week on Everywhere Radio, a podcast of the Rural Assembly, host Whitney Kimball Coe talks with Starre Haas, a women’s leadership advocate, about her career journey, her life in Hope, Alaska, and about two new projects, both designed to elevate women everywhere.

You can listen to the episode or read the transcript below. Everywhere Radio is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple PodcastsSpotify, Google Podcasts, and more. Subscribe today to keep up with future episodes.

Note, the Rural Assembly is a program of the nonprofit Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder. The Daily Yonder is a proud media partner of Everywhere Radio.

Starre Hass (Photo submitted)

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Starre Haas: 

Because I want to be there for women on any level, and every level is important. We think, “Oh, we have to have this big career.” That might not be the path for you, and that’s more than okay. I just want to be there on every level for helping women. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

That’s Starre Haas, today’s guest on Everywhere Radio. Everywhere Radio is a production of the Rural Assembly, and I’m your host, Whitney Kimball Coe. Each episode I spotlight the good, scrappy and joyful ways rural people and their allies are building a more inclusive nation. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Starre Haas is a powerhouse of energy, ideas, adventure, and innovation. If you follow her on social media, you know what I mean. You can see her vibe is one of exuberance and a zest for adventure. On any given day, she’s growing something or baking something or leading something or traveling with her family between their home and Hope, Alaska and the contiguous United States. Always, a major theme of her life is fostering women’s leadership and empowerment. 

I first met Starre when she served as the trainer-director for VoteRunLead, a national organization that trains women how to run for office and win at every level, from city council to the US congress. Starre is now the founder and CEO of Community Connections Now, a company that focuses on empowering women through networking and leadership development. She’s also the founder of the nonprofit, The Everyday Bold Woman, which was formed to spotlight and provide leadership training and financial resources to women, particularly mothers and homemakers, women who have been suffering as a result of the pandemic. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

I’ve wanted to catch up with Starre for a while, in large part because I want to find out more about what inspires her journey through the world, where she gets all that energy, all those ideas, and I want to know what it’s like to move from Arkansas to Hope, Alaska, and I want to know why she’s so convicted about empowering women leaders, especially women in rural America. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Starre, I’m so glad you’re here with me. Thank you for saying yes. 

Starre Haas: 

Thank you so much for having me. I have been looking forward to this ever since you asked me, so I’m just thrilled. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Yay. Well, yeah, I’ve been anticipating this conversation for a while. Back in 2020, I think it was back in 2020, I was reading a blog that you wrote, or an article you wrote, for The Arkansas Times. The story you were telling was about taking your daughter somewhere in the car, and your daughter, from the back seat, asked you, “What is it you do for work?” You started to tell her all the things that you were doing then with VoteRunLead, but it’s a complex web of work that you do on behalf of women. As you were getting into it, you were like, “You know what? I’m just going to give her the simple answer, which is I help women,” is what you said. 

Starre Haas: 

Right. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

I loved that story because I’ve had that conversation with my own children in a way, trying to explain what it is that I do every day, besides sit on Zoom calls and email, and what is the meaning behind the work that I do. I wanted to ask you just right off the bat to go a little deeper into that answer you gave to your daughter about I help women, because I think that is what you do and it is who you are. I want to know a little bit more about that. 

Starre Haas: 

My story, I guess a shorter form of it, is I went to college, I fell in love with my high school sweetheart, still married today, such a wonderful and supportive husband. I got my bachelor’s in finance and was in accounting and finance for about eight years. The longer I did it, I just realized I’m an extrovert. Not that you can’t be an extrovert in that field, but I didn’t enjoy being at a desk a lot of the time. 

Starre Haas: 

I was also a really young mother. Let’s see, I had Ella when I was 23 and Scarlet when I was 25. I had never changed the diaper until I had Ella. I really went through an identity crisis of who am I, what do I want. I was a stay-at-home mother for a little while, really enjoyed that, and then when I felt like I could, I wanted to go back to school. The Clinton School of Public Service was actually in my backyard, in downtown Little Rock. It’s either one of a few, or maybe the only, grad school in the country that offers a master in public service. 

Starre Haas: 

The great thing about getting a master in public service is there’s so many people with different passions. It might be working with the homeless or education, working with rural communities. I chose to focus on women’s empowerment. I knew that through the Clinton School program, they have this awesome class where you actually go, you find an organization of your choice, and they fund you, which is incredible. You go and work with them for anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. 

Starre Haas: 

That’s how I ended up with VoteRunLead, because at the time, I was thinking about running for office, but I was really pulled towards women in politics during that time. But the more I got involved, and VoteRunLead actually says this a lot, but this really just is my heart and so I’m going to use their motto, but I believe in putting women first and politics second. That was really the mantra of VoteRunLead at that time. It was just like a glorious fit. 

Starre Haas: 

I was there for about three years, and through that, traveled the country. That’s where I met you, Whitney, like you said. I really excelled at connecting with others. To this day, where my gift that God has given me is just networking and connecting with people and women and helping them get from point A to point B, whether it’s in politics or I work with mothers who are battling, should I stay at home with my kids, should I go to work, or just time management, just anything like that. 

Starre Haas: 

That’s where that answer with my daughter really rang true with I just help women, because I want to be there for women on any level, and every level is important. We think, “Oh, we have to have this big career.” That might not be the path for you and that’s more than okay. I just want to be there on every level for helping women. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

What is it in your background, I know you grew up in rural Arkansas, was there something in your background, some relationship with your mother or your grandmother or another woman in your life, that led you to this women’s empowerment space and focus on even feminism? 

Starre Haas: 

Yes, that’s a great question. Well, I was so lucky. I was raised in a Southern family, we’re generational, our Kansan family. But the women in my family are just really strong. I was never held back from being a woman. I was blessed with always being told, “You can do whatever you want.” I was lucky to have that path. 

Starre Haas: 

But seeing the strong women in my family, my grandmother is definitely someone that I very much look up to. She had five children really young, I think she had her first kid at like 19 and just kept having them. She is the most kind woman. You know how you sometimes meet women that just everything they do is just a blessing and you’re like, “Oh, I want to just role model everything this woman does,” that’s how my grandmother is. But she also, when she wanted a career, she was a powerhouse real estate agent. She is 82 now and, I mean, people still call her. She really showed me the ability to focus on family and focus on herself, but also have a great career because she wanted one. She helped a lot. 

Starre Haas: 

Then my mother was just such a great support for me also, always said the sky’s the limit. When I went to the Clinton school, actually, I struggled with postpartum depression really bad after my first daughter and had some rough years, really struggled with depression and anxiety and kind of fell apart. My mom moved in with us for three years. During that time, I went to the Clinton school, which transformed my whole life and my career. I’m so thankful to her, because without her help with my kids during that time, I would not be here speaking to you right now. So yes, definitely have some amazing women to support me in Arkansas. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Wow. What does it look like to support, empower a company, build the leadership of women in your world? What’s your toolbox? What are you doing on a day-to-day basis? 

Starre Haas: 

When I’m working with women, my toolkit is availability, but also listening. Women give off a lot of prompts. I mentioned, I’m an extrovert, but in the work I do training women, I just did a training a few months ago where I trained women on how to network and find their purpose. It was an amazing training, it was so fun. But I deal with a lot of introverts and I really assess, I try to just listen, make myself available. I watch body language a lot, and just being able to encourage women opens up I call it the vault of women, just a little bit of encouragement will be the difference in this amazing friendship with a woman. Just my toolkit is consistency. 

Starre Haas: 

An insider tip, I set reminders on when I want to check in on the women that, I don’t even want to say working with, that I’m friends with. I think today, with all the busyness of life, it’s so easy to check on someone and then forget. I really learned that through when I lost my dad when I was 25, which really led me to really focus on what is my passion and purpose. It’s just so important to be consistent and check in with women and navigate their emotions, because some emotions could be different in a few weeks, and just be that support for them. That’s my beginner, start-out toolbox and then we dive into more on what do you want to do, how do we fund this, what does that look like, who can we connect with to make this happen. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

You’ve said several times, you’re an extrovert. I wonder if the pandemic, these pandemic years have been difficult for you at all, in terms of your ability to connect with the women you want to serve, and also, what sort of challenges you think they might have been experiencing during these two or three years. 

Starre Haas: 

Yeah, that’s a really exciting question. You saw me get excited. Yeah, the pandemic’s been really hard because, at the time, when the pandemic started, I was at VoteRunLead, which is where you met me. I loved working for them. What I loved the most was traveling all over the country and working with women and amping them up, not just amping them up, showing them that they are more than enough to run for office and to be their number one fan. When the pandemic hit, we had all of these live trainings, that was just my soul right there, that got canceled. VoteRunLead did a great job, they pivoted wonderfully with a lot of online programming, but for me, that was difficult because, like I said, it just sets my soul on fire to meet these women where they live, to be face to face. I’m a big, “Let’s meet and have coffee,” person. 

Starre Haas: 

I have pivoted from that with Community Connections Now. Our Facebook group is what really took off. It’s really funny, in my early shows, you could tell, I was just like, “Oh, I’m so sick of being home.” I just started filming these interviews on my front porch in Arkansas. They really took off in the Arkansas community, it was a lot of fun, but that’s how I pivoted. I’m always working on social media. I have a new TikTok account, which is funny. I feel kind of old on it, but I’m always playing with social media and that’s how I’ve dealt with that. 

Starre Haas: 

But when the pandemic did hit, I was working a lot, my husband works a lot, he’s a hotelier, a hotel developer, and I am just not meant to be a homeschool teacher. I’m so thrilled for those that have that calling, I do not. That’s what brought us to rural Alaska, to Hope, Alaska in 2020, is we rented a little cabin in this town of like 250 people so my kids could go to school, because at the time, like so many, we didn’t know what was going to happen. In a way, that rural community just saved me because we did see each other. We had a lot of friends and that really helped with just feeling cut off from the world during that time. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

We’ll be right back after this from The Daily Yonder. 

Xandr Brown: 

Hi, I’m Xandr Brown with The Daily Yonder. Check out The Yonder Report, a new weekly podcast rounding up the latest rural news, produced by The Daily Yonder and Public News Service. You can listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

So what’s the backstory behind moving your family to Hope, Alaska. 

Starre Haas: 

Sure, sure, of course. I met my husband in high school in Arkansas. His dad is a psychiatrist. When he was, I think, age eight to 12, his dad practiced psychiatry in Anchorage, Alaska, which is around the size of Little Rock, about 200,000 people. He loved it, he just loved it. I always heard about Alaska, he just always talked about it. 

Starre Haas: 

When we were really young, we are not big planners, we flew into Alaska. I was probably, gosh, maybe 22, and we just rented a car and we just drove, we had no plans. We were headed toward Seward on the Kenai Peninsula and it was getting late. For those who have been to Alaska, it’s beautiful, it’s just mountains, but it’s just you and your car on the road. There’s a sign for Hope, like a turnoff, and we’re like, “Well, that sounds great. We’ll spend the night there.” 

Starre Haas: 

It’s about 16 miles off the Seward Highway. It’s a dead end road, like you’re in Hope once you get there. We just loved it. It’s this teeny tiny town, it’s beautiful. It’s right off of Turnagain Arm, which is this inlet from the ocean. In the summer, there’s three restaurants now that open. In the winter time, which is of course right now, there’s one restaurant. We do not have a gas station, we do not have a grocery store. We do have a little market with some essentials, thank God, but that’s it. But even back then, my husband and I were so impressed. They had this beautiful, beautiful school, if you check out my Instagram, I should have some pictures. But it just really caught our interest. 

Starre Haas: 

Then four or five years later, we had a little popup camper and we drove back. We actually drove through the Yukon, which was the craziest drive ever. It’s like 4,000 miles from Little Rock and I swore I would never, ever, ever do it again. Then yes, when COVID hit, because everyone was hit so hard, there was a monthly rental available. We were like, “Hope has this big, incredible school, but there’s only like 25 kids, kindergarten through 12th grade.” They have this beautiful school, it was built from the oil money in the ’80s. How they do it is K through five is in one classroom, right now I have an eight and 10-year-old, they’re actually in the same classroom, and six through 12 is in another. The teachers are great. Yeah, we put our kids there. 

Starre Haas: 

Right before we came back to Arkansas, our dream house, the owners came up to us. We’ve been trying to buy real estate for like 10 years, it’s very hard to buy real estate in the community. Yeah, and it worked out. We went back to Arkansas and spent a few months and now we’re back in Hope, Alaska. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Wow, wow. Well, I follow you on social media, I mentioned that at the top, and I would encourage everybody else to as well because you do such an incredible job of documenting the place where you are now in Hope and the one restaurant that is open right now and the beautiful vistas, but also what you were just describing, the lack of a gas station, I think maybe the lack of a healthcare facility. 

Starre Haas: 

Yep. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

These lack of resources, are they barriers to the work you’re trying to do? 

Starre Haas: 

I would say yes and no. In the work that I do, you really have to be your biggest advocate. Luckily, in today’s world with technology, you really can reach so many. I am really able to share my expertise digitally and coach women digitally. Of course, we have Zoom, which I can’t imagine life without Zoom. That’s really great. When I worked for VoteRunLead, they were based, and are still based, in New York City, but I worked the whole time from Arkansas. That really gave me a strong base on working digitally. 

Starre Haas: 

As far as Hope goes, I’m just so lucky to have such wonderful friends in Hope. I remember one time, the first time we moved, I was with a friend and I was really having a moment. I was like, “All my friends and my family, my family’s a big part of my life, I just don’t know what I’m doing.” She just hugged me and she was like, “We got you.” As soon as that happened, and just another sounding board for the power of women, I just went like … and I was okay. 

Starre Haas: 

Both times, it was so funny, my husband is developing a lot of hotels in Texas so he will have to travel, we had just moved to rural Alaska and he had to leave for a week. At first, I’m like, “Oh, please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me,” but then he does and my strong woman switch gets flicked on. By the time he gets back, I’m good. If anything, I’m like, “I need some alone time. Can you give me some space?” 

Starre Haas: 

Yes, there are barriers, but there aren’t. I just look at it as a gift, because when I met you, Whitney, I came into wanting to work in the rural women’s community, but at the time I was not a rural woman, I would not have said I was. Now, I consider myself to be a rural woman. I just see it as another blessing God has given me to different types of women and sharpen my skills even more. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Yeah. What are you learning about rural women from this experience that maybe you didn’t know before? 

Starre Haas: 

Well, I don’t want to say I didn’t know this, because I wouldn’t say I didn’t know this, but I’m constantly amazed at just how strong the women are and giving, but yeah, the women are just so there for you, but in the rural community, even more. Because I had kids so young, I really didn’t have a lot of friends that are moms in Little Rock. That was always a struggle for me, it was very, very hard. Here in Hope, everyone has children. It’s wonderful because I had to drive to Anchorage every week, every two weeks, to go to Costco, get all our food. Anchorage, I’d say it’s an hour and a half, it’s really like an hour and 45 minutes. A lot of the that’s really hard for me to go to Anchorage. I have to go to two grocery stores and then, God forbid, I got to go to Target or wherever else. A lot of the times I’ll have to call one of the moms and say, “Can you get my kids from school?” That happens a lot. 

Starre Haas: 

That’s what I love about our community, is it’s like a big family. Someone might be frustrated with one another, just like a brother and sister, not that happens a lot, but something about this rural community, it’s like even if you don’t care for someone, you’re there for that person, you would drop anything to just go help that person. That’s something I’ve never seen before, living in a bigger city. It’s humbling and just so special. I’m so happy I get to experience it. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Well, coming back to the field that you’re working in, in women’s leadership and development, I’m wondering, after the pandemic, it’s not even over yet I mean, but on this end of the pandemic, if you’ve seen new trends emerge in how we can better accompany women into leadership roles, and have you seen anything that is troubling to you about where we’re headed? If anything, maybe not. 

Starre Haas: 

Over three million women have left the workforce since the pandemic. That just stops me in my tracks every time because women have worked so hard to carve their path and to be in the workforce or whatever area they want to be in. That really struck a chord with me, that number. I was one of those women. I’m no longer at VoteRunLead and I’m a mother of two daughters. I was privileged and lucky that I was able to move my family to rural Alaska, that I was able to do that, but so many women, and then of course single mothers are struggling so much right now with having to provide an income and working during this pandemic and people not having just the caring ability to realize, hey, we are still in a pandemic. 

Starre Haas: 

You’re seeing women burn out, they’re exhausted. That has really bothered me, because even in the women’s empowerment sector, I’ve seen organizations that are there to empower women and they were wonderful at the beginning and then that fades out and the women are working crazy long hours. That’s where The Everyday Bold Woman came to fruition, is I was like, “This is just not okay.” I started what’s called The Everyday Bold Mothers Fund. I did shift, the organization is for all women, training all women and communications and networking and getting you to determine your purpose and helping you get there, but The Everyday Bold Mothers Fund is specifically for mothers. 

Starre Haas: 

As I dove into the world of mothers even more, I realized that there’s many nonprofits that focus on mothers, but they tend to choose to either focus on the working mother. I took several months off where I went back to being a homemaker and I was like, “This is really hard. This is really hard.” What I wanted to do is I wanted to provide money for not only working mothers during the pandemic, but also women at home. I wanted to do that. Yeah, I set The Everyday Bold Mothers Fund. 

Starre Haas: 

We’re in just early beginning fundraising for that, but the idea is that money will go directly to help mothers. They go through an interview process, whether they’re at home or working. The money can either help you start that side gig, that side hustle that you want to do, or it can help you, I don’t know, maybe it’s homeschooling at home. It’s just the point is that everything that these women want to do is important and these women have a purpose, whatever they deem that is. I just wanted to provide that and keep the spotlight on these women that are suffering, women in general and mothers that are suffering during the pandemic, that no one seems to be focused on. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Well, you kind of answered my next question, which was going to be about what is your next big idea, big thing, that you’re working on, because it seems like you’ve always got something in the works, and is The Everyday Bold Woman that focus right now for you? 

Starre Haas: 

Yes, it is. Yeah, it definitely is. Like I said, we are fundraising and we’re a startup, so it’s very, very small, but check us out. You can go to communityconnectionsnow.com and within that, you can find The Everyday Bold Woman and how to apply to the program. But yes, fundraising for that. Then also I’m developing trainings for all women. Like I said, in October I trained at the Clinton Library in Arkansas. They flew me in, it was so fun. We focused on finding your purpose and networking to the top, so training developments and helping women through that as well. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

I always ask folks, on this podcast, what they’re reading or watching or listening to that really speaking to them or inspiring them, making them happy. I wonder what’s on your plate, what are you enjoying right now? 

Starre Haas: 

Yeah, that’s such a fun question. I’m about to go home and read all these gardening books because I’m getting really into homesteading. I love to bake and cook, which is really new for me. Two years ago I didn’t even know how to measure anything, it was so bad. But I love just providing for my family and I really bond with my daughters in the kitchen and now I’m really wanting to. Our home that we bought has this greenhouse and this amazing garden. I don’t know how to do any of it, so I have these gardening books. 

Starre Haas: 

But I’m also reading this book, I’m blanking out on the author, it’s called Detoured. It’s about a mother who has this powerhouse career and chooses to be at home, and looking through that with a Godly lens. It is a really wonderful book. This book has just allowed me to slow down. I can be my worst enemy with not feeling productive enough. I had COVID recently, which I was telling you. A part of, this sounds so weird, but a gift of that is I just relaxed and I was present. This Detoured book, you can get it off at Amazon, just does an excellent job of highlighting the everyday little things and praising God for those moments and just realizing your worth. I’m really enjoying that book right now. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Thank you for that recommendation. It kind of fits in with, I don’t know, just the way we’ve been in the world the last couple of years. I think we’re all taking slight detours, and maybe for the better for some of us, hopefully for the better. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Gosh, I’ve enjoyed hearing you talk about all of these things, all your interests, all your passions, and your move to Alaska is really inspiring. I’m going to keep following you on social media and I’ll find you on Twitter, for sure. 

Starre Haas: 

TikTok. I’m not on Twitter, but TikTok. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

TikTok, I’m sorry. Not Twitter, TikTok. 

Starre Haas: 

Yes, yes. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Yes, which has become one of my pandemic habits now, is TikTok. 

Starre Haas: 

It’s so fun. My husband is so funny. He’s going viral on my account. We do a lot of funny videos and stuff like that. So yeah, we’d love for you to follow along. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Okay. 

Starre Haas: 

A lot of bloopers, a lot of bloopers from our Alaska living. I think you’ll get a kick out of it. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Those are the best. Those are the best. 

Starre Haas: 

Yeah, yeah. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Well, Starre Haas, thank you so much for being with us. I’m really excited for folks to hear from you. 

Starre Haas: 

Thank you, Whitney. It’s always a pleasure with your organization. I’m just such a fan and I’m so happy I could [inaudible 00:30:56]. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

If you enjoyed Everywhere Radio, we’d love for you to consider subscribing to the general Rural Assembly newsletter. That’s where we promote new offerings from the assembly and we amplify the good work of our many partners across the country. We’ve also launched a new policy advocacy newsletter that comes to inboxes on Mondays to help you start each week with a quick take on the top issues that we’re tracking across the nation, everything from broadband policy to rural vaccinations. Just head over to ruralassembly.org to sign up. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

If you’re a true fan of Everywhere Radio, please let us know by rating us wherever you get your podcast. If this isn’t your cup of tea, that’s no biggie, it’s fine. We’d like to thank our media partner, The Daily Yonder. Everywhere Radio is a production of the Rural Assembly. Our senior producer is Joel Cohen and our associate producers are Xandr Brown and Teresa Collins. We’re grateful for the love and support of the whole team at the Center for Rural Strategies, love you, mean it. You can be anywhere, we’ll be everywhere. 


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