Calling All Women Founders

Next week, more than 230 institutions in 30 countries will participate in Women Entrepreneurship Week, when they will design a wide range of events to build a global community for, and inspire the next generation of, women founders.

During Montclair State’s 2018 WEW Conference, several entrepreneurs delivered short TED-style talks before coming together to answer questions from the audience. From left, Michelle Bajwa, co-founder of Domain Computer Services; Hakika DuBose, founder of Kika Stretch Studios; and Nicki Radzely, co-founder of Doddle & Company. (Photo courtesy of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation)

This October 19 to 26, Montclair State University in New Jersey will be coordinating the sixth annual Women Entrepreneurship Week (WEW), a global event that encourages higher education institutions to hold special events that recognize, support, and inspire women business founders. When Montclair State held the first WEW in 2014, it included the participation of just four New Jersey-based universities. This year, 230 universities and colleges from 30 countries and 44 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, have signed on to sponsor WEW-related events on their campuses.

“This celebration of women entrepreneurs reaches all corners of the globe to emphasize the important contributions of female founders. The hundreds of events on college campuses also motivate young women and men so that they can overcome challenges and launch themselves, like entrepreneurs do,” says Carley Graham Garcia. The former Google executive recently was named the executive director of Montclair State University’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Schools are planning everything from special speaker series to networking events to lunch-and-learn sessions, with many schools sponsoring multiple opportunities throughout the week. For example, Thammasat University in Rangsit, Thailand, will hold a seminar for women entrepreneurs featuring keynote speaker Jareeporn Jarukornsakul, CEO of warehousing and logistics firm WHA Corporation. Handelshochschule Leipzig Graduate School of Management in Germany will facilitate a panel discussion of three women founders, followed by a pitch contest in which teams with at least one female founder vie to win €500 (about US$550) from investors. EDC Paris Business School in France will host a panel discussion about obtaining startup funding.

In the U.S., Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is sponsoring Women Innovating Now Lab Venture Showcases, which provide women entrepreneurs the chance to conduct demos of their products and promote their companies; Iowa State University in Ames will host its Women Who Create Conference; and North Carolina State University in Raleigh will hold its annual Ladies Who Launch dinner.

For its part, Montclair State will be holding its signature daylong Women Entrepreneurship Week Conference, which last year attracted more than 500 women interested in starting new ventures, growing existing businesses, or becoming more entrepreneurial within larger companies. The conference will feature a dozen women entrepreneurs who will describe their experiences and offer guidance.

 

Sarah Hill talks to an audience at Montclair State about the pitfalls of selling Bookstr, the company she co-founded and where she was CEO. (Photo courtesy of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation)

 

It will culminate with Google’s 90-minute #IamRemarkable Workshop, which empowers women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond. The three-part workshop invites participants to discuss research related to self-promotion and unconscious biases, practice exercises to boost their confidence and articulate their accomplishments, and go home strong to apply what they’ve learned to their lives and careers.

For the first time, Montclair State will offer conference participants free, on-site child care, in partnership with Lightbridge Academy, a network of daycare centers. The addition of the service comes at Graham Garcia’s suggestion. “I’ve attended a lot of industry conferences in my career, and none offered childcare support for working parents,” she says. “We are committed to supporting women full-circle in their lives, through program development and mentorship.”

During the week, Montclair State is planning a second evening event, “Finding Success as Food Entrepreneurs,” which will feature perspectives from the food and restaurant industry.

This is just a sampling of the hundreds of opportunities that higher education institutions are planning for WEW, says Sharon Waters, program manager at the Feliciano Center. Other schools interested in hosting events focused on women entrepreneurs during the designated time frame can still sign on as participants.

For more information, a list of participating schools, and stories from past events, visit www.WomenEntrepreneurshipWeek.com. To be included in the list of participants, schools can email a link to or information about their relevant events to entrepreneurs@montclair.edu

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