This post was written by student Kristen Martinelli.
Women Entrepreneurship Week: A History
In an interview with the Program Manager of Women Entrepreneurship Week, Sharon Waters introduced the history of how Women Entrepreneurship Week (WEW) began: “In the spring of 2014, Dennis Bone [the inaugural director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University] suggested we run an event for under-represented female entrepreneurs.”
After completing some research, Waters and the Feliciano Center team found that there was, “no week-long celebration for woman entrepreneurs anywhere in the world.” To raise the visibility of female entrepreneurs, the Feliciano Center bought the domain name, WomenEntrepreneurshipWeek.com and began planning this event.
Waters shares that WEW partners well with the values of the Feliciano Center, which has ” a special mission to nurture and encourage; on the micro level, women, as students, and members in the community. We want women to get information and inspiration from WEW. Beyond the campus we want to take WEW as far as we can.”
We see the successful development of WEW from when it first took place in October of 2014. At the time, only four North Jersey colleges recognized Women Entrepreneurship Week (Montclair State, NJIT, Saint Peter’s University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University).
By 2015, WEW became a statewide event, with 20 entities (universities and nonprofits) involved all over the state.
This year, Women Entrepreneurship Week is a worldwide event.
The global scale WEW has reached is the result of networking at the International Conference of the Society for Global Business & Economic Development (SGBED), and countless emails sent to universities by the Feliciano Center’s Graduate Assistant, Melissa Tobie.
Countries with universities that are celebrating WEW this year include: Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Greece, India, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The Speakers for WEW
Waters explains that student feedback about who they want as a keynote speaker for WEW is always welcome!
“We send out surveys asking for student feedback. We want recommendations, even if it is someone famous, we will try to schedule them!” [To share your suggestions for WEW 2017, email Sharon Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org].
This year, the Feliciano Center tried to bring Sara Blakely, creator of SPANX, as the WEW keynote speaker, by having students share their, “10 Reasons Why” Sara Blakely should come to Montclair State University. [Check out the video here].
Unfortunately, Blakely could not attend. Instead, another successful entrepreneur, Jen Slaw (who quit her corporate job to become a full-time juggler) will share her insights about balancing work, school, and life – all while juggling! [RSVP for the free event on Oct. 19].
Among the other spectacular speakers, will be three-year speaker Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Laura Overdeck, who created the nonprofit, “Bedtime Math Foundation,” Adenah Bayoh who escaped civil war in Liberia, and other leaders, CEOs, and company presidents! [RSVP for the 10/18 panel discussion event].
Why You Should Attend
Waters explains that while the audience at WEW the past two years has been 90% women, men are welcomed and encouraged to attend WEW. The information at WEW applies to everyone, such as: learning how to start and grow a business, leadership skills, networking with other entrepreneurs, a “Taking Risks” panel discussion, and more.
Tobie concludes our interview with her thoughts about the importance of attending WEW: “I think that WEW is beneficial for anybody, but particularly for women to attend. You don’t hear a lot of success stories for female entrepreneurs. The stories at WEW are to inspire that, ‘If they can do it, you can do it.’ These speakers also provide information about the ins-and-outs, guidelines, and tips for starting your own business (or working in the corporate world) with the message: You can do it yourself.”
Kristen Martinelli is a senior majoring in English, and a member of the Student Publicity Committee for Women Entrepreneurship Week.