Inside USD

Summit Invests in Businesswomen Success

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When Felena Hanson assesses today’s business landscape, she centers on the impact of the growing “independent workforce,” that being freelancers, contractors and entrepreneurs.

“I think people are looking for more autonomy, especially Gen Y (millennials),” said Hanson, a 1995 University of San Diego undergraduate business marketing alumna and founder of Hera Hub. According to a 2013 oDesk survey, she said, “Seventy-two percent of those working in companies have a desire to be independent. The modern worker is looking for better work-life balance and control of their time. They want the ability to decide where they work, how they work and when they work, and the option to choose work that they find challenging and interesting … work that fulfills them.”

It is estimated that 30 percent of United States knowledge workers are currently untethered from the corporate workplace. A study by MBO Partners, Hanson said, projects that to rise to 60 percent by 2020.

So who is capitalizing on this mindset, this autonomy, most?

“Women are launching businesses twice as fast as men, contributing nearly $3 trillion to the economy,” said Hanson, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce statistic. “Women are looking for more control of their time as many are balancing multiple commitments outside of their business. Women are also very good at multitasking, which is a key trait of a small business owner.”

Her reasons pinpoint why attending the inaugural San Diego Women Investing in Women Summit July 18-19 at USD’s Mother Rosalie Hill Hall is a great opportunity for professional development.

Women Investing in Women, founded in 2011 by Anu Bhardwaj, is “a branded coalition and social movement of passionate individuals, united, to foster economic empowerment for women, globally.”

San Diego is the next stop on a global summit tour. Stockholm hosted it in May. Singapore (Aug. 6-7), New York (Sept. 23-24) and South Africa (Nov. 17-18) are next. An event is scheduled for the Middle East in January 2015.

San Diego’s summit brings together women investors, entrepreneurs, and community and industry partners interested in collaborating. There will be keynote speakers, including USD alumna Jayla Siciliano ’13 (MBA), (pictured, right), who founded Bon Affair, Inc., panel discussions, a pitch session with feedback and hands-on breakout sessions to teach women the basics of angel investing and entrepreneurs the tools to access capital.

“We want entrepreneurs to walk away with a better understanding of how to position their business for investment capital and make sure they avoid some key pitfalls,” Hanson said. “We want to encourage more women to explore the possibility of becoming an angel investor — now or in the future.”

Friday’s schedule, from 1-6:30 p.m., features keynote speakers Lori Steele, founder of Everyone Counts, and Our Crowd’s Audrey Jacobs, two panel discussions with experts offering their insights and a networking happy hour.

Saturday’s program, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. features a co-keynote talk by Fitzee Foods’ Michelle Weinstein and Siciliano, who appeared on the ABC-TV show “Shark Tank” in May and gained NBA owner Mark Cuban as an investor. Breakout sessions and the live pitch session follow. The program closes with final remarks and lunch.

The summit has the support of the San Diego community, including USD’s School of Business Administration, its Master of Science in Executive Leadership (MSEL) and USD’s Venture Vetting (V2) Student Competition.

Professor Michael Lawless, who researches and teaches entrepreneurship, strategy, management of technology and innovation, will attend Saturday’s part of the program.

Lawless said USD’s entrepreneurship culture is growing each year and, as such, so do the resources for female entrepreneurs. He’s been a driving force for V2, which routinely has female angel investors and female student participants. Another event Lawless is involved with, USD’s Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference, connects students to successful alumni entrepreneurs, men and women.

Furthermore, USD’s successful four-year-old Social Innovation Challenge, run by Center for Peace and Commerce Associate Director Nadia Auch, has awarded substantial seed money to female-led social entrepreneurial ideas.

Although Hanson (pictured, left) wasn’t a USD student when the current entrepreneurial competitions arrived, she appreciates the preparatory role a USD education has played for her: “It taught me so many things … professionalism, follow through and self-expression, but mostly it taught me how to learn. I may not remember the formulas from my business statistics class, but I do know I can figure almost anything out with the right tools and the right team.”

Hanson’s business venture, Hera Hub, is local but is starting to ramp up nationally with franchising opportunities. It gives female entrepreneurs the tools and space to succeed. “It is a shared, flexible work and meeting space where entrepreneurial women can create and collaborate in a professional and productive, spa-like environment.”

She’ll be present with other female businesswomen at the Women Investing in Women Summit. She’s eager to meet people, share her expertise and to continue the learning process.

Asked to name an inspiring female entrepreneur, Hanson mentions Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx.

“She was tenacious and determined to not give up. She had a job selling fax machines for seven years when she discovered, as a consumer, “there was a void between the traditional underwear and the heavy-duty girdle.” She cut the feet out of control-top pantyhose and made her own modifications to create Spanx. She was told no by dozens of suppliers before finding one company willing to take a risk on her idea. All entrepreneurs can learn a lot from her story.”

Success stories.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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