IT’S VERY POSSIBLE, Kim Lane knows, to turn a good idea into a successful business. You just need the right person to nudge you in the right direction. Someone like Kim herself. Just a few months ago, she was appointed CEO of The Conductor—a partnership between the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie Consulting—that offers free consulting services, programs and events to both established business owners and newbies. But Kim doesn’t stop there. She’s pushing The Conductor’s playbook outside the state’s borders—including communities in far-flung countries like South Africa—in hopes of getting more startups off the ground and building a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.

On what makes a good leader:

“Leadership is something that I research and think about frequently—whether or not leaders are born or created or taught. I think good leaders are cognizant of leadership as something that you hone and think about. One of my first major leadership positions was being the editor-in-chief of the newspaper at Hendrix College. Before I walked into my very first meeting, I was on the phone with my mom, and she was like, Kim, just never forget to say thank you. That really changed my entire leadership approach, honestly, because I just think that one of the absolute, most important things is to value people. I fundamentally think that every single person has value, and it’s so important to appreciate the work that people do.”

On the role entrepreneurship plays in people’s lives:

“I’m a poetry person. I was an English major, and I sort of love the intersection of literature and entrepreneurship. Henry David Thoreau in the 1800s said: ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ That’s something that I think about a lot, because even now, 80 percent of people hate their jobs. A lot of people that we are working with are people who don’t see a way to chase their passions. And a lot of times what we’re doing is sitting down with people and identifying their passions and helping them find a path to make them come true. If you think back to the industrial age, back to manufacturing facilities, assembly lines and things like that, everyone was sort of a cog in the wheel of this big game of work. That’s sort of how it’s been for a long time. But things are changing now. We’re in this more connected age, where instead of hierarchy, we’re relying more on social and professional networks. People are a lot more empowered to make their own futures come true. That’s what’s cool about entrepreneurship, because we have people who come here and they’re not in a happy place in their lives or their jobs, and we help them create their own thing or be an ‘intrapreneur’ and help innovate within their company.”

On wearing many hats:

“I think about it a lot—the whole idea of leaving it all on the field, of not holding anything back. I know that might sound cliché, but hard work is really important to me. People talk a lot about work-life balance, and to me that line is really blurred. This is my passion and my life’s mission, so it doesn’t feel like work. This is what I want to be doing all the time, so it’s all sort of meshes together really nicely.”

On making a difference in Conway:

“What we’re doing in Conway is working so well. Everything we do is free. We’re able to reach so many people. Conway is surrounded by a lot of impoverished, rural communities. I want to reach those people. We’ve been doing a lot of laying the groundwork in Conway around entrepreneurship, but I want to reach out farther into the rural communities in Arkansas and help create that paradigm shift—help revamp those communities and reinvigorate them with new jobs.”