Monday, Sept. 21, marked the start of Women Entrepreneurship Week: an international week that highlights the importance of female founders. Ohio University’s Center of Entrepreneurship and Women’s Center took the lead in promoting this notable week at OU, holding a number of virtual events for hundreds of participants.

Laura Alloway, OU’s communication specialist, was more than eager to aid in the promotion and execution of the numerous Women Entrepreneurship Week events.

“Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship is excited to once again host Women Entrepreneurship Week, along with more than 242 universities and colleges in 32 countries,” Alloway said in an email. “We invite students, educators and the community to register for the virtual events and learn how women entrepreneurs are using their experiences to drive the narrative forward.”

On Monday there was a virtual screening of the film Bias, which discusses the natural biases that all humans have and how to fight back against them, especially in the professional world. After the screening, the filmmaker spoke in a panel discussion with a number of Ohio-based entrepreneurs. Tuesday included another panel discussion, this time with the Women’s Center director Geneva Murray, executive leadership coach Chitra Panjabi, Hillman entrepreneur education program founder Candice Matthews Brackeen and creator and owner of Black Girl Sunscreen Shontay Lundy.

Paul Benedict, director of the Center of Entrepreneurship, worked closely with Murray in order to coordinate these events alongside many others within the week. Wednesday’s event brought back OU alumnae Kathi Howard-Primes, the CEO of K-12 educational services company Momentuum, and Thursday introduced Shannon Keith and Lisa Flynn, the founders and CEOs of the company Sudara. 

“(Sudara makes) really super stylish and comfy pajama pants,” Benedict said. “But what is cool about their business is that they are employing at-risk women in India with living wages to make the clothes. So they’re using the commerce and money generated from sales of clothes that these women make to help them support their families.”

Benedict explained that Flynn and Keith have created an opportunity for OU students to submit T-shirt designs until Oct. 1. The winning designer will be paid, and their T-shirt will be produced and sold through Sudara with an additional portion of the proceeds going to My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence prevention and aid program.

“It’s important for any of us to see ourselves in examples,” Benedict explained, addressing the importance of weeks like Women Entrepreneurship Week. “Whether that’s women (or) people of color, I think it’s really important that we can imagine ourselves in those roles… It’s also important to note that these women entrepreneurs can be inspirational for men on campus, too… The stories that these entrepreneurs share are pretty universal.”

Benedict expressed concern for future graduates that, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, students may struggle more with finding jobs or internships after college. That is where the importance of entrepreneurship lies— students don’t have to be a business major to be an entrepreneur. Being able to innovate and get creative will help create opportunities for students, no matter what college they’re in.

Mallory Mullins, a junior studying health services administration, finds the week essential to inspiring women and people in general.

“It’s important because women are underrepresented within the business field and deserve a week to be acknowledged,” Mullins explained. “(The week) inspires young women to keep reaching for their goals and gives them a role model to look up to because (those women) were once in their position.”

For more information on OU’s Women Entrepreneurship Week, visit https://www.ohio.edu/entrepreneurship/wew, or for more information on entering the Sudara T-shirt design challenge, visit https://www.ohio.edu/entrepreneurship/wew/sudara-tee-design-challenge.

@thelilyroby

lr158117@ohio.edu