Women’s symposium highlights entrepreneurial mindset

GVL / Brianna Olson
Carol Sanchez and Michelle Hoexum

GVL / Brianna Olson Carol Sanchez and Michelle Hoexum

Allison Ribick

Female entrepreneurs do not have as much of a presence in the business world as men do. Certain organizations in the Grand Rapids area are looking to change that through empowering young women.

The second annual Entrepreneurial Women’s Symposium occurred on March 13 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the L.V. Eberhard Center on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus. The conference was hosted by the GVSU Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at the Seidman College of Business.

CEI works with the Inforum Center for Leadership and the GVSU Women’s Center to empower women entrepreneurs by offering valuable resources and information.

Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business, helped introduce the event.

Lawson noted that the Seidman College of Business is working hard to be able to provide an educational foundation of business to all students at the university.

“The entrepreneurial mindset is going to be critical to the growth and sustainability of all types of organizations across this country,” Lawson said. “And building that entrepreneurial mindset in more and more people is going to make us as a country and us as West Michigan much more competitive in the long run.”

The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca White, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa. White discussed her background, accomplishments and the entrepreneurial mindset.

“The reality is that the idea (behind a business) is such a small percentage of entrepreneurship,” White said. “It’s really about the execution.”

The entrepreneurial mindset includes being willing to take action and searching for opportunities, even if one cannot control their resources.

“Anytime people ask me, ‘Where are the greatest opportunities?’ I say, ‘Where are the greatest problems?’ Anytime you find a problem, you find an opportunity,” White said.

An entrepreneur is multifaceted and is like a profile of various traits and abilities, White said.

White discussed her research at the University of Tampa involving defining competencies, abilities and behaviors that lead to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

The overarching competencies, which the abilities and behaviors lead into, include entrepreneurship, communication, thinking, professionalism, leadership and managing work.

White expressed her passion for entrepreneurship education and helping young women realize their potential.

Once White’s students go through the research-based curriculum, personalization and assessment follows so they can have a deeper understanding of their personality and skills.

White encouraged the audience to take personal assessments like the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile developed by Eckerd College and through DISCflex to better understand their entrepreneurial mindset to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. This will help in team settings, as people can offer their unique abilities.

Afterward, participants had the chance to listen to panels of professional entrepreneurs speak about specific topics.

Two panels focused on ways to fund startup companies, like crowdfunding through social media and creative funding sources. Crowdfunding allows businesses to network with customers and investors. Funding sources like participating in business competitions, grants and venture capital firms were also discussed.

The other panels consisted of artists and designers discussing their experiences with startup businesses, interacting with clients, getting an agent and pricing their work and the art community in West Michigan. Another panel hosted successful women entrepreneurs speaking about their experiences and personal stories.

Additionally, the conference featured ten young female students’ businesses through a student showcase. The showcase offered a chance for these young women to show their products, share their stories and network with important leaders in the business world.