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GCU Celebrates Women Entrepreneurship Week 2019

Women Entrepreneurship Week panelists

back row, left to right: Bridget Riepl and Dean Jennifer Edmonds
front row, left to right: Tiffanie Jones Artis; Valarie Smith; Theodora Sergiou ’92, GCU internship coordinator (business), owner of Nicholas Pools, and moderator for the event; Krishna Powell; and Leah Pontani, GCU associate vice president for professional studies and business development

Did you know there are 13 million women-owned businesses in the United States? More than 280,000 of those are in New Jersey. That’s about 40 percent of businesses overall. Nationwide, these women-owned businesses generate $1.9 trillion a year . . . and nearly $55 billion was generated from New Jersey businesses.

That’s how Jennifer Edmonds, Ph.D., dean of the Georgian Court University School of Business and Digital Media, set the stage for this year’s Women Entrepreneurship Week event, a panel discussion called “Women Leading the Way,” held on Thursday, October 24, that featured regional business leaders. The event was hosted by the GCU Schools of Arts and Science, Education, and Business and Digital Media and was a part of the sixth annual international observance of Women Entrepreneurship Week (WEW).

“Georgian Court has a special concern for women,” said Dean Edmonds. “Celebrating Women Entrepreneurship Week gives us an opportunity to focus on the accomplishments of women, women in the region, women of color, and young women. While every woman is not an entrepreneur, I think every woman has it in her to be entrepreneurial.”

Entrepreneur panelists Valarie Smith, Bridget Riepl, Krishna Powell, and Tiffanie Jones Artis shared the challenges they faced along the way and how they were able to overcome those challenges to start their businesses. Ms. Smith, the lead founder and executive director of Ocean Academy Charter School in Lakewood, and Ms. Artis, president of Sitra Development, Inc., a management company that owns Howell and Gene’s Driving Schools, agreed that the best advice they could give to women starting businesses was to network and always follow through with what is said. Both will be extremely helpful when looking to start a business or get a job.

Ms. Riepl, founder of the NJ Yoga Collective and the VibeWell Yoga Festival, addressed her biggest challenge.

“Creating something out of nothing tends to make you spend a lot of time by yourself,” she said. “There were days where I would feel like I achieved something and days where I asked, ‘Why am I doing this?’ However, if you choose to be around people who are inspiring and motivating, you those challenges tend to disappear.”

First-year student Ciara Cavanagh and junior Heather Huchko, both biology majors, agreed that the Women Entrepreneurship Week panel was very informative, not only for women looking to own a business but for any woman looking for a job. Heather, who plans to open her own veterinary practice, said that she learned to never say ‘no,’ even if it is something you do not understand, and to ask for help, because learning anything may help you in the future.

Ciara, who wants to become a teacher, discovered that everyone is a potential employer, even the least expected. She determined realized that you should always treat everyone with the utmost respect because they might be able to help you in the future.

When starting a business, there are always people who might doubt its success. Krishna Powell, founder and CEO of HR 4 Your Small Biz, expressed that while people might have their doubts, they are actually helping you become a better leader by pushing you to succeed.

“The naysayers are not roadblocks,” she reminded the audience. “They are stepping stones along the way.”

Story contributed by GCU digital communication major Taylor O’Keefe ’21. To view more photos from the event, visit our Women Entrepreneurship Week photo album. Photos by GCU psychology major Joshua Tinto ’20.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,400 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2019, GCU was named a Best College for Your Money by Money Magazine and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. GCU rose more than 30 points in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report rankings due, in part, to high student retention and graduation rates, which also made GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at Hazlet, GCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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