April 2, 2018

Samantha Wanagel | General Manager, Upward Hartford

Samantha Wanagel

Samantha Wanagel, who became general manager of coworking/networking/incubator space Upward Hartford last Nov. 13 after 12 years with Costco, feels like the job was written for her.

While Costco — for which she worked in four states, including Connecticut and helped open the New Britain store in 2015 — was fabulous, Wanagel said retail wasn't her end game.

At Upward Hartford, she combines her skills, including marketing, operations, event planning and hospitality (she has dual degrees in marketing management, and hospitality and tourism management). She recently helped establish an alliance between the Hartford Hilton and Upward Hartford.

"Working for Upward Hartford is like coloring with every crayon in the box, since the scope of my role is so broad and creative," she said.

How do you explain Upward Hartford to someone who knows nothing about it?

First, I ask if they've ever seen pictures of the Google campus, which provides a visual marker. Then I explain how we brought that same innovative, creative energy to Hartford to support the entire community. I touch on the organic nature of networking in our space and how easily it leads to ingenuity, invention and progress, no matter the individual or business.

Biggest opportunity facing Upward Hartford?

There are so many ideas waiting to be born, products and services yet to launch and connections waiting to be made. Citizens we've met have voiced their desire to make Hartford the city of tomorrow. We like to call this the Upward City and see downtown Hartford as the perfect intersection for this evolution.

Biggest challenge facing Upward Hartford?

There are many people who would benefit by being here at Upward. How do you reach everyone? We rely heavily on our members and partners who serve as strong advocates for the space.

Most interesting startup idea you've encountered?

Wearable technology that identifies one's immediate nutrient levels, then sends the information to a 3D printing oven to provide the exact food and portion one should eat at that moment to satisfy what their body needs for optimal health.

Something about you many people don't know.

I am passionate about agriculture and farming. In warmer months, I grow the majority of food our family eats in my backyard.

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