by: Karolyn Maynard MBA ’18
Ladies First is the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s commitment to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Sara Herald, Associate Director of Social Entrepreneurship began the Ladies First dinner with these words. The theme of the evening—‘Purpose’ and an avenue to achieving that purpose—Social Entrepreneurship.
Following Sara’s reflective introduction, I led the attendees through an exercise that asked three questions, “What do you care about?”, “What do you like to do?” and “What are your skills and abilities?” As participants pondered on these questions and later shared their responses with others, I couldn’t help but notice the passion with which they spoke on the causes they cared about, and more importantly, their strong desire to make the world better.
The second annual Ladies First dinner provided 80 young women—graduates and undergraduates—at the University of Maryland with the opportunity to learn about social entrepreneurship, to reflect on what was truly important and to listen to a founder, Ann Yang, whose vulnerability and boldness was a refreshing outlook on entrepreneurship and the reality of being a female entrepreneur.
As I sat in the audience that evening, I was impressed by and thankful for Ann’s vulnerability. As a 24-year-old entrepreneur of Misfit Juicery, she provided an honest view on her entrepreneurial journey sharing her strategies of tackling doubt, overcoming obstacles and how embracing the importance of being vulnerable helped her become a better person and leader.
Ann’s journey and associated success is one that many entrepreneurs hope to have .Yet, it was the concept of ‘dream path’ and ‘straight journey’ that Ann debunked, reminding us to stop looking at our lives and careers as a linear path; instead, we should embrace our progress, focus on learning and expose ourselves to a number of experiences, expecting only to grow.
Ann’s outlook on business, her humor and warmth, reminded me of how important events such as Ladies First Dinners were. According to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Business report, commissioned by American Express, women represent the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America. Yet research shows that almost half of female entrepreneurs cite a lack of mentors and advisers as a key factor impacting their success. (Source: https://www.inc.com/lisa-calhoun/30-surprising-facts-about-female-founders.html).
The facts above truly demonstrate why centers such as the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship are so important. Not only do they empower all entrepreneurs but they also pay attention to developing female entrepreneurs by providing the resources and networks that are critically needed.
At the Ladies First dinner, 80 ladies benefitted from Ann’s vulnerability and honesty in her journey; 4 thoughts remain with me that I will share with you:
- Purpose is in fact a journey; allow yourself to evolve as you discover and re-discover what drives you.
- Any business at any scale can have an impact. Regardless of whether you start your business or accept a role at an already established organization, always think about what kind of impact you are making
- Be vulnerable. In fact, view vulnerability as the best avenue for authenticity and lastly,
- Challenge yourself to think about how you can be a part of creating a solution that changes the world for good.
Karolyn is a second year MBA student at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Prior to B-school, she held management roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte. Karolyn is driven to combine business with purpose and believes in the importance of leveraging technology for positive impact, especially in education. https://www.linkedin.com/in/karolynmaynard/