Women entrepreneurs share stories of success

Photo courtesy of Amelia Goldstein

This weekend’s symposium, hosted by the U-Imagine Center, will offer students the opportunity to interact with women of various fields

Emily Jolly


According to Dr. Rebecca Jaroff, the U-Imagine Center at Ursinus has a saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Dr. Jaroff of the English department and Dr. Carol Cirka of the business and economics department, co-founders and directors of the U-Imagine Center, have been working closely with Maureen Cumpstone, the college’s entrepreneur-in-residence, to organize a unique kind of symposium so Ursinus students can branch out into what they don’t know.

Titled “She Works Hard for the Money: Enterprising, Entrepreneurial, and Empowered Women Tell Their Stories,” the symposium will feature a wide variety of women entrepreneurs and their stories of success. The featured women include many alumni but represent a range of interests: There’s something for every student.

The symposium is part of the U-Inspire series, which Dr. Jaroff describes as a program that both brings people to campus for students to meet and take students off-campus for experiences with alumni.

“Students come to Ursinus, they’re 18 years old, they want to get a liberal arts education, they’re busy in their classes and their clubs, they’re taking their exams, and they won’t have a lot of time left over for thinking about what’s out there in the real world,” Jaroff said.

The U-Inspire series is there to help the students do that thinking they don’t have time for and, according to Jaroff, is “meant to be a kind of bridge for students . . . to get out there and maybe meet some people [and] learn how to do networking, [all] in a safe way because it’s other Ursinus alums.”

In the past, the U-Imagine center has held two other symposiums: one last fall that was geared toward athletics and another last spring for performing arts. Jaroff described both as a success. Students who attended asked for more events in the future, and the center was happy to oblige.

“This is a little more ambitious this fall because we wanted to make it broader,” Jaroff said. “We did focus it on women, but these women come from all walks of life.”

The first event will take place Friday afternoon, Nov. 11, with Christy Barilotti ’01 giving a workshop on “Getting Dressed for Retirement.” While this first event is geared towards faculty and staff, Cumpstone assures students that everyone is welcome, for there will be information on financial skills.

Friday at 7 p.m. the keynote speaker Anupy Singla ’90 will give a talk in Bomberger Auditorium in an open community event. Among many things, Singla is a journalist, cookbook author, and entrepreneur.

“As a woman of color, she has a particular story to tell: what it was like being a woman of color growing up in white suburbia and King of Prussia, and what it was like for her here at Ursinus, and how her Ursinus education in particular helped her to make changes in her life that she couldn’t have anticipated,” said Jaroff.

“We thought that she would be inspiring to a wide group of people both inside and outside the community—students, faculty and staff and local community members,” Cumpstone added.

On Saturday at 12:00 p.m. a student-only event featuring a lunch and panel discussion with eight women entrepreneurs, several of whom are Ursinus graduates, will take place. Emilia Andrews, Lucy Beard, Kelly Becker, Dawn Chavous, Susan Winders Griste, Heather Holiday, Leigh Woolston Karsch, and Erica Schnebel are the featured guests; more information on their accomplishments can be found on the U-Imagine website.

This symposium has been half a year in the making—the idea forming in mid-May and stretching out over the summer, according to Cumpstone—with the process of gathering alumni and others who would be interested in sharing their experiences and could spark interest in everyone.

“It is geared towards students and inspiring students. So it’s with alumni and other entrepreneurs who are willing to sit down in intimate round tables with our students and share their stories, answer questions, and just have conversations to help inspire [them],” Cumpstone explained.

According to Cumpstone, the lunch will start with opening remarks from Kelly Becker. Students will then be provided information on each of the panelists so that they can decide who they will be most interested in speaking with and then they will rotate through the speakers’ individual tables.

“Some of them have their own business and are typical, traditional entrepreneurs,” explained Dr. Jaroff. “But many of them are what we call ‘intrapreneurs,’ which means that within the [companies or organizations] that they work they are affecting change. They are making a different, which is what liberal arts education can do for you.”

Cumpstone emphasized the importance of this symposium with a quotation from Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes: “Every path is easier to follow when you see someone else’s footprints already on it.”

Jaroff considers the lunch “a chance for students to see themselves in what other people are doing and say ‘I could see myself doing that.’”

While it is optional to register for all of the events ahead of time, students must register for the lunch if they wish to attend. Links to registration can be found on the U-Imagine webpage.