Lean In: Celebrating Women's Entrepreneurship
Each person who attended the event received a copy of Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In to serve as further inspiration in their pursuit to start their own business.
- To Educate participants about the process of new-venture development in order to improve their potential for future entrepreneurial success
- To Foster the formation and development of start-up businesses to break even cash flow or significant third-party investment support; and
- To Create an entrepreneurial community to give participants the experience of learning through mutual support, a process critical for successful entrepreneurship.
The importance of community and support was a consistent topic at the event. June West, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Darden Graduate School of Business at U.Va., congratulated the iLab participants for not only seeking out the program, but for applying, and seeing the application through. She talked about the notion of, “what if’s.” “Often we do our ‘what if’s’ in isolation, don’t we?” She commended the i.Lab for being a place where young entrepreneurs who have their “what if” in mind can come and be told, “Why not?” In this way, the i.Lab provides a very unique experience for their participants, establishing the sense of community commented on by Sommer, as well as the iLab's objectives. MJ Toms, Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Associate Director, asked the audience a simple question: What can i.Lab offer women entrepreneurs? Audience response echoed a lot of the same desires for a community and support system for young women entrepreneurs. Participants and applicants to the i.Lab, past and present, discussed the need to be in contact with those who experience the same conflicts and problems in regards to running a start-up. The challenge the i.Lab faces in helping young women entrepreneurs, is assuring that these women are not separated. Toms said that, “Women don’t want to be ghettoized.” Ultimately, members at the event commended the Women's Center “Lean In” event itself, asking for more opportunities to meet and talk with other women pursuing entrepreneurship. Founder of phoode, a mobile app which allows users to use as many credit cards as needed when ordering food, second-year at Darden and previous participant in the Incubator, Alex Becker, concluded the event with her three take-aways from her experience at i.Lab. She said, “Be uncomfortable and jump in head first, be ecstatic about what you do everyday, and be surrounded by people you can count on.” She encouraged adopting a mentality to say yes to things, to not give yourself the opportunity to let the risks deter you from trying something. Becker shared an anecdote about her time during the summer driving around town, meeting with prospective customers, being exhausted from the day and having a feeling she’d never had before. She realized that she was completely enthralled in her work and loved her job, and that is what keeps her working, to “be ecstatic about what you do every day.” In addition, she commented on the camaraderie she experienced during her summer at the i.Lab, saying that those in the program not only held her accountable for her work, but encouraged her, helped her, offered support and would be there when the going gets tough, chanting, “You’ve got to get up.” She emphasized to “be surrounded by people you can count on.” The work that both the i.Lab and the Incubator are doing is remarkable and encouraging for young women entrepreneurs at U.Va. and in the Charlottesville community.