At its core, entrepreneurship is about sensing and reacting to the market. When an opportunity arises, the best entrepreneurs see it before others do, craft a vision for capitalizing on it, and build a company that thrives. Many times, these companies seem to pop up as “overnight success stories,” masking the hard work and sacrifice many years in the making.
Efforts to build a stronger ecosystem for women entrepreneurs must follow a similar path. Once you’ve recognized the challenge, organizations and people can come together to build programs that attract talented women who will carry their ideas through the ecosystem to emerge as the “overnight successes” we all love to see.
The greater Eugene/Springfield community is a unique place for female entrepreneurs. We have amazing success stories. The late Carolyn Chambers was a pioneer in television and media in the 1960s. Rosaria Haugland was a driving force in the development of Molecular Probes, the genesis of the regional biotech community. Today's leaders—Celeste Edman, Katie Brown, Hanna Scholz, and so many others—stand out as examples of successful women helping the next generation find its path.
At the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business, we’re helping lay the foundation that makes for a stronger ecosystem for female entrepreneurs. In our Oregon MBA program, we consistently spin out companies led by women. Red Duck Foods was cofounded by three 2013 MBA graduates who now consistently give back through mentoring and coaching. And this year, two great ideas with female-focused products have emerged from our program: Animosa, an all-female team, and TougHER, a brand founded by a woman who couldn’t be more committed to empowering females who do real work in the trades, fields, and farms of America. Our MBA program is led by women and the percentage of females in our cohorts is above national averages.
“All of these data points are wonderful. I know from talking with prospective students that our community attracts talented women to our area,” offered Nathan Lillegard, program manager for the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. “However, we’re still deep in the hard work phase of the endeavor to create a more welcoming and engaged community for female business leaders.”
As noted by recent articles, change is slow but steady.
“It starts by recognizing that good business mentorship doesn't only come from men,” said Lillegard. “And it continues with very intentional efforts to build connections between the experienced women in our community and the curious, ambitious female innovators of today.”
The Lundquist College of Business, the University of Oregon, and Eugene community look to advance a stronger ecosystem for female entrepreneurs and business leaders, and we celebrate efforts leading to entrepreneurial opportunities for women.
“It’s with sustained efforts that some day soon, we’ll look up from our work and see that the success is there for all to see and emulate,” said Lillegard.
Photo (top): Maggie Perdzock and team leader Kate Blazar display their first place trophy before a presentation at the Lundquist College. Joined by Ally MacLean, the trio is the first all-women team to win the prestigious mai Bangkok Business Challenge.