Doherty Center's WE Do! conference focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs

The WE Do! Women Entrepreneurs for the Greater Good event was hosted by the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

By Olivia Hays ’18

Entrepreneurs, students and faculty members came together on April 18 for WE Do! Women Entrepreneurs for the Greater Good hosted by the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Held at Elon University, the conference promoted a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and offered resources, advice and inspiration through speakers, panels and roundtable conversations.

“This is our second year producing an event dedicated to women and entrepreneurship,” said Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I believe that creating an event that connects students with women entrepreneurs and empowers all women to reach their highest potential is extremely important.”

Martina said students and professional women played integral roles in the conference’s success. “Student co-chairs Gabby Vance and Hannah Clifford were amazing and worked tirelessly to produce this wonderful event,” said Martina. “Our professional women co-chairs, Gizem Cetgin, Nina Martinez and Eleanor Reid represent the best of women entrepreneurs and were a tremendous asset to the conference as well.”

Elon President Connie Ledoux Book delivered opening remarks, reflecting on her time as provost of The Citadel and the challenges she faced as the first female provost and dean in the Citadel’s 175-year history. She noted the importance of taking calculated risks and navigating the underlying tension when being a “first.” She realized she was creating change not only for herself, but for other women to come.

Book pointed to the three energies of leadership: physical, emotional and intellectual. The combination of the three allows for growth, handling challenges and staying ahead with a strategic mindset, she said.

“Leaders must have their own mission statement and vision for advancing that mission in the most effective way,” Book said. “Each of us has something that compels us that we embrace in leadership work.”

Participants also heard from Marci Zaroff, an ECOlifestyle pioneer and expert. Zaroff coined the term “ECOfashion” and is an internationally recognized innovator and serial entrepreneur. She highlighted the importance of creating a business model where education is paramount. When she designed a model that brought together fashion and the environment, storytelling was key in resonating with customers and allowing them to see great design that was also socially responsible, she explained.

She advised audience members to be a constant sponge. “Ask questions, be aware and beware, and be the change,” Zaroff said. “Work is love made visible.”

The conference also included panel discussions and roundtable conversations. Panelists for the professional panel titled “Beyond Profitability: Entrepreneurship and the Double Bottom Line” were Lisbeth Arias, Dee McDougal, Carol Pulley and Kristine Sloan. Katy Bellotte, Sarah Glova, Katelin Kennedy, Olivia Murray and Cecelia Thompson served as panelists for the student panel titled “Through the Eyes of Rising Entrepreneurs.”

Keynote speaker Gabrielle Raymond McGee ’06, vice president of digital, marketing and special projects at the Tory Burch Foundation, concluded the conference sharing her professional entrepreneurial story. McGee graduated from Elon with a degree in sport and event management and has since helped numerous causes, foundations and brands, including Major League Baseball and the Tory Burch Foundation. In her talk, she emphasized the value women bring to the workforce, citing statistics such as:

  • An estimated 340,000 jobs were created by women-owned businesses between 2007 and 2015.
  • Women reinvest 90 percent of their income into family and community.
  • If women and men stood on identical footing in terms of participation in the economy through paid work and entrepreneurship, the world could see as much as $28 trillion in global growth by 2025, equivalent to the GDP of the U.S. and China combined.

The reality is, just 3 percent of women startups receive venture capital funding, $1 out of $23 loan dollars go to women-owned businesses, and only 17 percent of startups in 2017 had a female founder, a number that has not changed in five years, McGee explained.

“Are entrepreneurs born or made?” McGee asked the audience. “To me, entrepreneurship is a state of mind.”

She shared her “secret sauce” to being entrepreneurial, which included not striving for perfection, being scrappy, learning the art of negotiation, and embracing ambitions with confidence. “When it comes to embracing ambition, the key is confidence,” McGee said. She prompted audience members to identify their ambitions and to ignore the naysayers. She referred to Tory Burch’s common advice to “think of negativity as noise” and fearlessly pursue dreams.

McGee concluded her presentation with a heartwarming story about the relationships she established during her time as a student at Elon. “The greatest resource is the people in your life,” McGee said. “These friendships are the ones that will help you achieve your dreams.”

WE Do! was organized by:

Professional Women’s Committee

  • Gizmo Citgen (Co-Chair)
  • Nina Martinez (Co-Chair)
  • Eleanor Reid (Co-Chair)
  • Erin Cockman
  • Chelsea Dickey
  • Awamary Lowe-Khan
  • Daisy Magnus-Aryitey
  • Heather McDougall
  • Betsy Polk
  • Jen Riedel
  • Cindy Thompson
  • Melissa Wallace
  • Margaret Winslow

Student Committee

  • Hannah Clifford (Co-Chair)
  • Gabby Vance (Co-Chair)
  • Alyx Bean
  • Erin Donnelly
  • Maddie Reynolds
  • Megan Weintraub
  • Alyssa Xouris
  • Amy Zheng
  • Zaria Zinn

Staff Support

  • Alyssa Martina
  • Michael Spencer
  • Nicole Filippo
  • Kim Phipps

Live Tweet Team Hive Digital

  • Tripp Hamilton
  • Callie Nasholds

The Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship focuses on experiential education that encourages creative and design thinking, opportunity recognition, and plan formulation and implementation. Throughout the year, the center sponsors entrepreneurship-themed co-curricular activities open to all majors interested in developing their entrepreneurial mindset and skillset.