DU alumna and accomplished businesswoman Helena Karchere has a mission to ‘help families thrive’
Starting a family business is an intricate, delicate task. Maintaining and sustaining it can be complex and complicated. Leading a program that advises family enterprises can be just as challenging.
Helena Karchere is up for the task. A lifetime love of change and growth has prepared Karchere (CRTG 2015) to lead the Bailey Program for Family Enterprise (BPFE) at the Daniels College of Business. She began her role as BPFE’s director in October, after seven years of working as a corporate learning and development leader.
Karchere started her academic career by creating her own major in an integrative program, graduating with a BA in “Facilitating Personal and Organizational Transformation,” before going on to earn an MBA so that she could focus more closely on coaching and supporting business leaders. From there, she moved to the University of Denver, completing a graduate certificate in alternative dispute resolution, which further informed her ability to successfully navigate relationships in complex systems.
Such relationships are at the heart of the Bailey Program, which was established in 2019 to assist family businesses, family offices and those that work with them. To navigate the unique dynamics of family business, community members can take part in a diverse slate of programs, including workshops, roundtable events, coaching circles, courses, webinars and networking opportunities.
Part of what attracted Karchere to the resource hub, she said, is its interdisciplinary approach, with its “business, legal and psychological insights applied to family business operations and long term legacy management.”
“Business success always takes good leadership and communication, but especially with family enterprise it is critical,” Karchere explained. “Personal, lifelong relationships are on the line.”
Karchere, who prides herself on her ability to design “solutions for many people with diverse identities and perspectives,” identified two primary goals for the program: offering timely and relevant education to family enterprises and creating opportunities for those in family enterprise to build community and engage with each other while sharing best practices.
Karchere has a deep understanding of the many forms that family can take, both given and chosen. After nine years as a single parent to her young son, she is recently married—to someone who built a successful family business with his father and sister. Karchere says their partnership is built on solid communication and agreements about the balance of their personal and professional identities.
“We all have technical skills we invest in honing to be good at our work,” she said. “You can master those nuts and bolts, but if you don’t have the communication and leadership skills, it’s really hard to do great work with people. Personal development tools help us be more self-aware and empathetic in relationships, and move towards clear goals for optimal fulfillment.”
Her enthusiasm for the role and her team extends to her love of the area. After 12 years in Denver, Karchere is still thrilled to be living here. She loves how quickly she can move from the coffee shops, restaurants and art galleries of the city out into the middle of nature. Her family also greatly enjoys the many opportunities for live arts, especially Levitt Pavilion and Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
Working on the DU campus, she said, is “even better” than she imagined. She is thoroughly enjoying meeting in person with the many supporters of this program, having transitioned from a global position with mostly remote team members.
She is wholeheartedly committed to the vision of the Bailey family, which contributed generously to establish this hub for families. “My purpose,” she said, is “to make that vision a reality.”