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Helen Young Hayes

Founder & CEO

Activate Workforce Solutions

Location: Denver, CO

Founded: 2016

Industry: Recruiting & Professional Development

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. on borrowed money and full scholarships, Helen Young Hayes is a passionate believer in the American dream. She knows all about humble beginnings, something she experienced while watching her parents embrace the opportunities found uniquely in America. Both of her parents obtained PhDs, leading the way for Hayes to graduate from Yale University and launch a career as a leading global money manager.

However, Hayes said growing up in the segregated South, she saw firsthand the social and economic inequities in her hometown. “It left a profound mark on me,” she said. “My husband and I decided to make an enduring commitment to serving people in poverty.”

In 2016, while concerned with the growing inequity in the U.S. and the fading of the American Dream, Hayes turned her commitment into reality with the launch of her company Activate Workforce Solutions. As a recruiting and professional development firm, the goal of Activate is not just limited to alleviate poverty but to end poverty for people in Denver.

“A large chasm exists between people desiring to move out of poverty and employers looking for reliable, hard-working employees,” said Hayes. “There are 315,000 people living in poverty in Denver alone and 60,000 jobs are unfilled every week.”

Hayes realized that this was a social problem that her business could uniquely address. “I created Activate Workforce Solutions to solve this need and to address the gaps in the workforce development ecosystem,” she said. “We’ve created an innovative way to level the hiring field for low-income individuals.”

Her company focuses on assessing, screening and endorsing talented candidates, with the aim of ultimately presenting highly-vetted prospects to employers with job openings.

“Our employers hire talent from non-traditional backgrounds, such as young single moms, women re-entering the workforce, justice-involved individuals, immigrants and people in recovery,” said Hayes. “All individuals have demonstrated a fierce desire to improve their lives and the discipline to work hard at their success.”

The goal of the company is to also help convert great hires into great employees through post-placement individualized coaching and professional development. “On average, Activate placements go from earning $12,700 annually to earning $33,000 in their new jobs. More importantly, 90% of placements are still retained 12 months after employment,” said Hayes.

Utilizing her 20 years of experience in the financial industry, Hayes holds on to a vision to harness and catalyze the transformative power inherent in business to create a Denver that works for all.

“Authentic leadership begins with humility and effective leadership transforms lives and communities for the greater good,” said Hayes. For her authentic leadership, and desire to end poverty in Denver, Hayes has earned a spot as a Titan of industry.

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Fun Fact:

Helen is a frustrated water-sports enthusiast stuck in landlocked Colorado. Her favorite sports are surfing and wind-surfing, and her favorite pastime is whale-watching.


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