New class bridges the gap for women entrepreneurs

September 2018

A new winter-term class is hoping, in part, to bridge a gap many interested in becoming entrepreneurs can face when they graduate: How to make the leap to being one.

Entrepreneurship instructor Beth Troy said most people who graduate from entrepreneurship programs don’t immediately start companies, often taking jobs with corporations until they think they’re ready to create a startup. That jump is the gap, she said.

“They know that there’s still a lot of training that they need outside of the college environment,” Troy remarked. “But again and again, what happened was, they would say, ‘I don’t know how to get over there. When I’m ready to make the move, I don’t know how to do it.’”

Helping find that path is one of the goals of the inaugural Advancing Women in Entrepreneurship: Designing Your Life class that will be offered during the January 2019 term.

The class immerses students in diverse female founder networks in Cincinnati and San Francisco, using design-thinking principles as a method for helping students envision, plan, and prototype entrepreneurial possibilities for their future through a series of onsite visits with female entrepreneurs and leaders.

The companies studied will range from corporations to small businesses, fashion and art to tech and wine making. “What are their stories? What business decisions have they made to be where they are?” Troy explained.

Troy and several students, including sophomore Lily Thaler, developed the class over the summer and had it approved much more quickly than most new classes. “I’m proud of the fact that we were able to do it so quickly and get it approved, and that the university sees its value,” Thaler said.

She pointed out that less than one in five startups are founded by women or have a woman among the founders, and that women receive only about five percent of venture capital funding in the U.S. She hopes this class is a step toward changing those numbers.

“Entrepreneurship is about changing things from the way they are and taking the initiative and risk to do it,” Thaler explained. “Which is why this program is really important -- it shows how women specifically have done that in their personal lives and businesses.”

About half of the two dozen slots have already been filled, and Troy is hoping to have students of differing backgrounds from inside and outside the Farmer School of Business.

“Diversity isn’t just a gender or race thing. Diversity is a personality thing. It’s what leads us to choose different majors. It’s what leads us to be in different colleges or careers. Some people present as extroverts, some people present as introverts,” she said. “They’re coming at this from different perspectives.”

The class is one part of an initiative that Troy has been working on to create a women’s entrepreneurship center at the Farmer School.

Advancing Women in Entrepreneurship poster