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  • Writer's pictureKatie Overfield-Zook

Women's Entrepreneurship Week

Last week, our Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder, Katie Overfield-Zook, celebrated Women’s Entrepreneurship Week by traveling across the Shenandoah Valley attending a Women Entrepreneurship Showcase, and engaging in thoughtful conversations with female entrepreneurs. Here’s what she took away from the week.

I recently had the opportunity to take part in two events in the Shenandoah Valley that were a part of Women's Entrepreneurship Week. WEW is a global initiative, spearheaded by the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University, NJ. The Feliciano Center has a special mission to support and nurture women entrepreneurs, and on a yearly basis over 200 universities and community organizations in almost all 50 states and 32 different countries.

This year, I was on the planning committee for a Women Entrepreneurship Showcase at James Madison University. The event included a keynote address from JMU alumna and serial entrepreneur, Tina Fox. It also featured several familiar faces to SCCF including S2V participants Harmony Harvest, Floral Genius, and Elizabeth Paige Candles.

The following day, I drove up to Shenandoah University for a fireside chat with regional accomplice Dr. Montressa Washington. The students in attendance were a mix of students from her human resources course and members of an arts entrepreneurship course from Shenandoah Conservatory. The opportunity to speak about being not only a women entrepreneur but also an arts entrepreneur was especially powerful.

My first Women Entrepreneurship Week was back in 2019 and I’ve participated every year since. Back in 2019, I hosted a panel discussion with three other women. I was in a new role, given the reins to plan and lead this new event, and even though I’d been a business owner and founder for seven years, I was still getting used to calling myself an “entrepreneur”. I remember asking “Does Women's Entrepreneurship really exist? Do we really need to be separating ourselves as something distinct?” The answer now, just as it had been then, is yes!

Less than 25% of all small businesses are owned by women - a number that got even smaller due to Covid. Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 Companies are run by women - and only two of those are women of color. Women-owned businesses also report having a much harder time getting venture capital investment - a paltry 2.3%.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! There are 114% more women entrepreneurs than there were 20 years ago and the number of BIPOC women-owned businesses has grown by over 500% in that same time! Women-owned businesses grow at a faster rate (84%) than their male counterparts (78%)! And most importantly, the world is taking notice, and both federal and private sector dollars are being set aside to specifically support women-owned startups.

So yes, it’s still important to highlight the successes, and challenges, we face as women entrepreneurs. It’s also important to keep telling the stories of women who have overcome societal obstacles with grace, confidence, and triumph while highlighting places of inequity. We have too much potential for incredible things to not celebrate our uniqueness as women and as successful business owners.

I look forward to celebrating Women's Entrepreneurship Week again next year!

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