During International Women’s Day, Monday, March 8, the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno, hosted the third annual International Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium.
The virtual conference, “Innovation in a Changing World,” was inspired by female founders’ journeys to adapt, pivot and thrive during these disrupted times. The conference comes at a time when women have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19. Women have lost more jobs than men during the pandemic and funding of women-founded companies has decreased at a greater rate.
Throughout the conference, attendees had the opportunity to gain valuable insight from and network with other founders, investors and experts in entrepreneurship through a highly interactive virtual conference platform complete with a virtual Lobby, Auditorium, Exhibit Hall, Networking Lounge, gamification to earn prizes and more.
Charlene Li, New York Times best-selling author and entrepreneur, gave the opening keynote, “The Disruption Mindset: How to Be a Strong Leader in a Fast-Changing World.” Li urged attendees to build up their disruption resilience by living on the edge of their comfort zone.
“We’ve been thinking about disruption backward, as something to be avoided rather than embraced,” Li said. “With the unending crises we’ve endured over the past year, it’s essential to not only survive disruption but to learn how to thrive with it. Disruption doesn’t drive growth. Growth creates disruption.”
Alice Heiman, leading sales expert, founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC, led the first workshop, “Sales as a Driver of Growth." During her interactive, high-energy session, Heiman said, “If you’re selling to everyone, you are selling to no one.” She encouraged CEOs and founders to define and drive their sales strategy, as well as ask questions.
“It is critically important to know what you don’t know and get help,” Heiman said. “Don’t go it alone.”
In the second keynote: “Lead Through the Power of Story,” Nancy Duarte, world-renowned communications expert, founder and CEO of Duarte, Inc., talked about the science behind stories and how to use them to lead.
“Every entrepreneur needs to know and use stories for four purposes,” Duarte said. “Help others believe they should work with you or buy from you, bond hearts together, persuade by shifting action by inspiring hope and coach others who are stuck.”
Angela Lee, professor at Columbia Business School and founder of 37 Angels, an angel investing company, led the second workshop: “Fundraising, Financing and Extending Your Runway.” She discussed some of the common question’s startups have about financing and fundraising. Lee also advised attendees to understand their market sizing, indirect competitors, customers and the problem they are trying to solve.
Lee advised entrepreneurs to “Leverage your network, be very specific about your ask and make it easy for people to help you.”
In the closing keynote, Beatriz Acevedo, CEO and co-founder of SUMA Wealth and leading Latina entrepreneur, talked with Greg Mosier, Dean of the College of Business, about her journey and discussed diversity in business, female leadership and the economic impact of Latinos in America.
Acevedo encouraged the audience to “Do what you are most passionate about. Be generous with your time supporting others. Take as much room as possible when you walk in the room. Never feel small, never feel less.”
“We created this event with the mission to build a global community to support the creation and growth of women-founded companies around the world and across all industries,” Mosier said. “A culture of opportunity and inclusion is very important to us in the College and this stood out as an area where we could make a difference.”
The event hosted 40+ world-class speakers and attendees from over 50 countries. There were eight industry-based breakout sessions in entertainment, fashion and beauty, fintech, food and beverage, healthcare, social entrepreneurship, travel and tourism and women in tech, as well as workshops in social media and SEO.
“Whether you are an entrepreneur, a University student or someone just looking for inspiration, you’ve come to the right place,” Jeannie Reeth, director of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, said.