The Doherty Center’s Women in Entrepreneurship Conference provides guidance, inspiration and support to women entrepreneurs

Participants heard from successful women and student entrepreneurs at the “W.E. Do! Women Entrepreneurs and Our Stories” event.

The Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Elon University focused on empowering women entrepreneurs and female students during the “W.E. Do! Women Entrepreneurs and Our Stories” conference held April 12 on Elon’s campus.

The Center hosted the event for more than 100 attendees to provide an opportunity for women entrepreneurs and female students to expand their networks and identify resources to help them achieve their entrepreneurial aspirations and goals.

Alyssa Martina, Doherty Center director, felt that convening an event for women professional and female student entrepreneurs was important to help provide resources and support in a field where women aren’t always making the same inroads as their male counterparts. “Of all funded startups,” Martina noted, “only 17% are women-led. It’s vital to help female entrepreneurs gain a foothold in the startup and business landscape.”

The conference opened with a presentation by Kya Johnson, founder of RainbowMe, a for-profit children’s entertainment website featuring positive role models for children of color. Johnson shared stories from her journey to becoming an entrepreneur, as well as advice for success.

“You have to be passionate in order to be persistent,” Johnson said. “You have to be persistent in order to be successful.”

Participants then attended concurrent panel discussions. During the professionals panel, “Tackling the Roadblocks and Embracing Opportunities: Capital, Capacity, Confidence, Credibility, Customer Acquisition,” entrepreneurs heard from Allison London Brown of UVision360, Leah Brown of A10 Clinical Solutions, Rosanna Garcia of NC State University, Maryanne Gucciardi of Dragonwing Girl Gear, and Tiffanie Cristafulli Jackson of North Carolina Fiber and Food Accelerator. The student panel, “Entrepreneurship Throughout Your Career,” included Laurie Seiler of Seiler Services, YC Broadie of Blend Juice Boutique, Kati Donahue of The Cycle Loft, and Alexandra Britt of Sunshine Me.

The event continued with round table discussions about the successes and challenges women entrepreneurs face. The discussions were led by Melissa Bodford of uBack Inc., Jess Eckstrom of Headbands of Hope, Margaret Winslow of Elon Law, Brooke Jackson of Skin Wellness Dermatology, Megan Richbourg of Tech Talent South, Nicole Triche of Elon, Ryan Finch of HQ, and Eleanor Reid of Reid & Company.

The event concluded with a keynote session delivered by Sarah Bellos, founder of Stony Creek Colors. In partnership with farmers in Tennessee and Kentucky, Stony Creek Colors produces natural indigo dye for denim blue jeans. The company is now a leading U.S. manufacturer of bio-based dyes for the textile industry. Bellos’ efforts have led to the reintroduction of bio-based natural indigo into U.S. denim mills for the first time in more than 100 years, replacing a petroleum based dye currently made in China with a natural, U.S. grown source.

In 2015, Bellos was named the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorants Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2016, was named a Martha Stewart American Made Honoree. 

Bellos spoke about the challenges of finding partners who are used to consistency associated with chemicals to validate their natural process. She also encouraged female entrepreneurs to be confident and to build relationships with peers and mentors to achieve success. 

“W.E. Do!” was organized by the following committees:

Professional women’s committee

Emma Battle (co-chair), Lou Anne Flanders-Stec (co-chair), Chelsea Dickey, Jess Ekstrom, Rosanna Garcia, Sarah Gottfried, Tiffanie Crisafulli Jackson, Suzanne Nelson, Eleanor Reid, Rebecca Rosenblat, Annie Schaffer, Grace Ueng, and Courtney Whiting

Student committee

Claire Carroll (chair), Emiliy Dzilenski, Casey Santarpia, Juliet Zymeck, and Sydney Harris

Staff committee

Alyssa Martina, Elena Kennedy, Lindsey Interlante, Nicole Filippo, and Scott Kelly

The event was co-sponsored by the Colonial Academic Alliance, Elon University School of Law, N.C. State Poole College of Management Entrepreneurship Clinic, Market Vigo, Launch Greensboro, the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center, and Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce.