On Thursday, November 19, Oregon’s startup community lost a great entrepreneur, mentor, and friend. Shelley Gunton passed away after a nearly two-year fight against brain cancer.
Says OEN’s President and Executive Director Linda Weston, “She battled cancer with such grace and courage; she was an inspiration to us all.”
Shelley first became involved in OEN through our Angel Oregon Program in 2007. At the time she and her husband, Brian Connolly, were seeking investment for Castor & Pollux, an organic pet food company that they co-founded in 2000. They won OEN’s 2007 program with a $125,000 investment.
After Castor & Pollux was acquired by Merrick Pet Care, Inc., Shelley felt it was her duty to give back – a duty she didn’t take lightly. She chaired OEN’s 2012 Angel Oregon Program, pioneered both OEN’s annual tradeshow and Entrepreneurial Summit, and led OEN’s outreach into the consumer products sector. In 2013, she won the Volunteer of the Year Award at OEN’s Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards.
Linda says, “Shelley was so generous with her time and support, and her kindness. She never said no to meeting with, and providing guidance to, an entrepreneur. She was willing to do whatever she could to help an entrepreneur along the path to success — especially consumer product and women entrepreneurs.”
The outpouring of gratitude following Shelley’s passing is a testament to her generosity. Says Heidi Lovig, founder of Heidi Ho! Organics, “She was a mentor, a dear friend, a kind soul, a passionate entrepreneur, and brilliant women. She shared so much with me and touched my heart so deeply.”
Sara Conte, founder of PrestoBox, agrees. “Shelley was a pillar of inspiration,” she says. “She spurred us onto new heights at PrestoBox as an early advisor and never hesitated to lend a helping hand.”
Angela Jackson, managing director of the Portland Seed Fund, describes how she first met Shelley when she joined Angel Oregon as an investor. Says Angela, “She embarked on her startup give-back journey with the energy and passion and focus that we have all come to know and love. It’s incredible what she accomplished for the community in such a short time.”
Please visit our Facebook page to learn more about Shelley’s significant contributions to our community and to pay your own respects.
Her time with us was too short, but as Linda acknowledges: “We were lucky to have her in our midst. She was a shining light, and I think of her every day.”