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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Innovation Incubator Talks Women Entrepreneurs

By Natalie Broda and Web Editor

If you’ve never watched the only man in a room full of women entrepreneurs, you’re missing out. This was the scene at Assistant Professor of Management Amy Gresock’s Women Entrepreneurs workshop at the Innovation Incubator. Most of her presentation was based on dispelling misconceptions with research. She also reached out to the audience to share their stories.

“Women entrepreneurs are a hot topic in research right now. They are shown to be successful, but don’t get the same respect of financial resources,” Gresock said. “They’re also better in certain industries.”

Gresock asked what some of the common misconceptions of women in the industry were. The audience responded with keywords like young, beautiful, aggressive and advantaged. They were alight with conversation about the big names when Gresock interrupted with a question.

“Media shows us that women want big businesses and success. But what about the woman who doesn’t want her business to grow?” Gresock said.

Her main example was the childcare industry. Not every nanny wants to become a national franchise. These are called lifestyle entrepreneurs, and are the most popular type of business for women. This is followed by social entrepreneurs who are more focused on communication, while high-tech industries, the billion-dollar Bill Gates types are the least common.

Only three percent of high-tech businesses are owned by women.

“I think it’s because sometimes women put life on hold to raise children. So many issues come up with being a woman,” one audience member said.

Discussion ensued as women passed their stories around. Many cited family commitment as the first setback.

“Women entrepreneurs in the 80s were taught to act like a man, dress like a man, be cold like a man,” Gresock said. “Now we’re trying to teach it’s okay to be you, let your business speak for itself.”

According to Gresock, when it comes to rights for research, women are more likely to commercialize than men. While a man would rather go private with the endeavor, a woman is more likely to credit the team or the university that facilitated the research. Men are also more likely to ask for twice of what they need in loans, while women will only ask for half. This is one of the reasons Gresock says women tend not to be funded by venture capitalists.

“That, and 95 percent of venture capitalists are men. And who do you want to do business with? Someone like yourself,” Gresock said.

Her best advice is to always start with what you know. The best ideas come from incremental changes. Never be afraid to bootstrap, because outsourcing is expensive. Find creative solutions.

“Confidence,” Gresock said. “Is an easy word but tough to do. If you’re good enough to do it depends on a fit between your skills, yourself and your opportunities.”

Gresock set up this workshop to help women from the campus and the community. She owned her own business in the past, but in the end, decided to sell. She says after that, she did the research and learned how misinformed she was. The workshop was her way to give back.

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