by: Megan McPherson, Events & Marketing Manager
The Ladies First Fall Dinner is the flagship event of the Dingman Center’s Ladies First initiative to expose more female students at University of Maryland to entrepreneurship. Each year, it attracts young women from all across campus for an evening where they can explore the unique challenges and strengths shared by women as they look to launch companies or lead them post-graduation. The third annual Ladies First Fall Dinner on November 1 in Van Munching Hall focused on “role models”, introducing a room comprised solely of female undergraduate students to two inspirational female founders in the cosmetics industry: alumna and serial entrepreneur Mary Schulman ’97, co-founder of PYT Beauty; and current student Brianna Queen ’19, founder of BEEQBOX and second place winner of the 2018 Pitch Dingman Competition. In a fireside chat moderated by associate director and Ladies First leader Sara Herald, MBA ’11, Brianna and Mary shared their inspiring founder stories and imparted valuable wisdom to 65 student attendees. Below are some of the recurring themes that both entrepreneurs touched upon during the discussion.
A higher calling
Before ever acknowledging that they were entrepreneurs, both Mary and Brianna showed an entrepreneurial impulse from a young age. Mary shared a story about how her mother once gasped at finding $2,000 in her closet, collected from a childhood of lemonade stands and other scrappy endeavors. In Brianna’s founder’s story for BEEQBOX, she described that after one particularly bad birthday on a fateful night in November 2016, she felt an irrepressible urge to get out and do something, which became the impetus for the launch of her flagship product, “F*ckboy Repellent.”
Just ‘bootleg’ it
Many women may be hesitant to launch a venture until they feel like their product is just so. Both Brianna and Mary told stories about how whipping together some basic, imperfect packaging enabled them to start selling their products and spreading their brand quickly. For Brianna, assembling any kind of packaging was vital to the early success of her business, as her prototype product went viral and she needed to operate and scale quickly. Mary Schulman’s first successful company, Snikiddy, was demoed at Walmart in very basic plastic packaging, but through her tenacity and the quality of the product, she was able to eventually attract the attention of Utz to buy and distribute her snacks.
Entrepreneurship and empowerment
Both Mary and Brianna shared that in their experience, it’s liberating to be your own boss. Brianna as a student has been paying her way through college with funds from BEEQBOX, and her the strength of her brand on social media attracted potential employers. Whether your company succeeds or not, experience in entrepreneurship can not only help build confidence and resilience in the face of failure, but it can open career doors as well.
Take care of yourself
The biggest piece of wisdom that both women offered the all-female audience was to be kind to yourself and not be afraid to fail. Mary stressed that failure is a valuable learning experience, so it’s important to not to be so hard on yourself when things don’t work out. Brianna shared how she had gotten to a point where stresses from her business and personal life were taking a toll on her physical and mental health. She learned to take a step back and practice self-care, because feeling healthy would also make her better focused and prepared to take on the challenges of running her own business.
What is a ‘good’ role model?
After some Q&A and an interactive discussion about the importance of role models, one theme resonated most: authenticity. The consensus among the young women in the room was that good role models present realistic, unfiltered versions of their lives and struggles, never shying away from the failures that led to their successes. We were fortunate to have two such role models present to deliver an imperfect but compelling vision of women empowered by their experiences with entrepreneurship.