This fall, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship will be launching the Ladies First Initiative, our commitment to increasing the number of women in entrepreneurship at UMD.
by: Alison Scharman
Last week, women across Smith and their male allies gathered to watch Dream, Girl, the story of how Erin Bagwell, a young graphic designer from New York City, made a documentary. But this film wasn’t just the story of Erin and how she made a movie from inception to funding to distribution. Erin’s objective was to tell the stories of female entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds representing a variety of industries to inspire girls and women of all ages to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.
After founding the blog “Feminist Wednesday,” Erin was motivated to create a film about female entrepreneurs by all of the women she met through her storytelling endeavors. Scattered between snippets of Erin’s journey, from quitting the day job she hated to producing a film, were moving clips of other women telling their own stories about how they got involved in entrepreneurship and their adventures in that world.
Throughout the dual narrative in the film, common themes about women in entrepreneurship emerged. In addition to having supportive families and friends, many of the women featured in the film noted how important it was to have networks of strong women who could mentor them and provide advice. Many of these women make a habit of going out of their way to help other female entrepreneurs. Erin herself felt that she could not have made the film without some of the other characters featured in the film, including Komal Minhas who joined Erin to produce and distribute the film, and Joanne Wilson, who invested angel funding to help make the film happen.
It was easy for any woman at Smith to connect with at least one of the entrepreneurs in the film, as the film featured women from all sorts of backgrounds and industries: from Clara Villarosa, Founder of Villarosa Media, an 83-year old serial entrepreneur, to Annie Wang, co-Founder of Senvol a 3D industrial printing company.
In addition to showcasing the stories of entrepreneurs, the film showed different perspectives on issues facing female entrepreneurs. Some spoke to the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated industry, while others spoke about successful negotiations and navigating work environments while pregnant. The main takeaway was that girls and women currently lack examples of female entrepreneurs to look up to as role models, an issue that Erin hopes to mitigate through distributing the film far and wide.
After the screening, attendees gathered in small groups moderated by Smith faculty and staff to discuss topics ranging from financing for female entrepreneurs to work/life balance. At the end of the evening, I certainly felt inspired—entrepreneurship is very compelling to me but CEOs featured in the news typically don’t look like me. It was great to see new examples of women who had been successful at starting their own companies and to know that I could rely on an amazing network of women at Smith as I embark on future endeavors. The film certainly moved me to have the confidence to dream big!
Alison Scharman is a second-year MBA student at Smith. In addition to serving as President of the Smith Association of Women MBAs (SAWMBA), Alison is a Fellow for the Dingman Center Angels, an angel investing group supported by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. She can be contacted at email@example.com.