by Anisah Ingram
Ladies First at Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship is committed to increasing the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at UMD and addresses the barriers that prevent female and non-binary students from pursuing entrepreneuship.
Last week, students had the opportunity to participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week by attending a virtual panel discussion with alumni female founders, Ngozi Azubike, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of OBAN Corporation and Lauren Foundos, Founder and CEO of FORTË. Azubike’s company provides practical strategic and tactical management solutions to public and private sector clients. Foundos’ company focuses on building software for gyms to broadcast their classes. Participants had the pleasure of hearing about their different journeys in entrepreneurship and fueled an insightful discussion on being a woman in the world of business.
Azubike started off the event by describing her journey. She didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur, which she joked “I didn’t even know how to spell the word.” Originally, she saw herself as a researcher. Foundos had the same response, where she explained that she wanted to work on Wall Street before going into the field she’s in now. The first step that Azubike took to go from an idea to a company was doing her homework. It involved creating a business plan, putting together marketing collateral, and pitching herself.
Foundos explains her journey as ongoing by continuously setting goals for herself and her company to achieve. It’s the state of looking back at where she started and seeing how far she’s come, especially because very few female founded companies get funded. COVID-19 has impacted a lot of business, but FORTË has been thriving because of it. The demand due to gyms being shut down has increased tremendously.
Azubike sees our current times as an opportunity for people to reinvent themselves and pivot into something new, specifically women looking to build businesses. Women that she coaches and mentors are taking their hobbies and turning them into businesses now. Research has shown that young women are less likely to report an idea they have for a new venture. Foundos agreed with this and explained that the reason she was able to start her company was because she found a group of women that enabled and supported her to ask questions.
In the end of the event, they left us with great advice on what keeps them going in their field. Foundos explained how it’s going into any new venture or situation with conviction, even if you don’t have it all together. “Go for what you want and don’t worry about making mistakes”, she said, “It’s important to get out there and just do it”. Azubike explained how you learn from the lessons in your experience, but you can’t get stuck on them. She’s learned that in the end, you have to keep stepping onwards.
Interested in learning more about the Dingman Center’s Ladies First Initiative? Visit go.umd.edu/ladiesfirst for ways to get involved and details on BMGT 369D: Ladies First Founders, our one-credit Spring 2021 course that is now open for registration!