I live in a man’s world. Football cleats and basketballs are strewn about, camouflage lunch bags stand like soldiers in the fridge, and the constant smell of sweat and dirt permeates my car. I have five boys between the ages of 10 and 26.
I have no daughters of my own. Or do I?
As a board member of the NAWBO Spirit Foundation, I guide, mentor, and delight in the growth of 12 girls — from a sixth grader to a high school senior. Each is launching their business or social movement through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.
YEA! Chicago empowers girls to not just “take a job, but make a job” as YEA! likes to say. Think of it as a nine-month, MBA-like experience for girls ages 11 to 18. Every Tuesday night at 1871 they learn from business experts and talk shop about strategy, investor pitches, P&Ls, mission statements, hiring issues, brand. Each participant is assigned a NAWBO mentor.
YEA! gives their ideas flight. We tell them: “You have something big to accomplish in this world. And you will — because you can. We will show you the way. We believe in you.”
These business “daughters” do not disappoint. They meet the challenge with leadership and blue sky vision and heart!
Like YEA! participant Daijah Pierce. What amazed me about her was her confidence. She had no fear in sharing ideas with me and other business mentors. And her business concept is fascinating!
Daijah created an app called Chronicles to give young people a secure place for communicating with others facing chronic illnesses. After being in the hospital for six months, Daijah found there was no Chatter-like, online technology that brought sick children together.
So she created one.
Wow! I remember worrying about grades and picking the right prom dress when I was a teenager. I love Daijah’s community-building, tribal-inspired tech start-up because it unites people — something I believe in wholeheartedly. When she spoke at a CEO panel event at 1871, she was incredibly excited and passionate about Chronicles and her mom was super proud of her. It inspired me so much that when Ronald McDonald House Charities made a presentation to our company, I instantly knew we had to get behind it. I understood the circumstances of sick children better. Thank you, Daijah!
Come see for yourself Tuesday, March 15, at the YEA! Chicago Investor Panel at 1871. Meet seven YEA! business leaders pitching ideas for real funding. YEA! investor panelists (there are still a few slots open) donate a minimum of $2,500 in funding and have the privilege of deciding which ideas get funded. I’m excited to be on the panel and to see what fantastic ideas the YEA! girls have this year.
Being part of YEA! has given me the gift of nurturing young women into becoming difference-makers.
It isn’t easy, but it is more than worth it.
As CEOs, we lead big lives. I travel internationally, invest endless hours in meetings, serve on multiple boards and organizations (yes, I am a card-carrying NAWBO member!), handle crises and rally teams, and, at the end of many days, stand on the sidelines of grassy fields or gymnasium floors cheering on my sons.
Some of the most poignant moments, though, happen when I give back to the young women of YEA! Financially supporting causes is important, but the time we give is the real love. Being on the Spirit Foundation board for the past three years has been fun and fulfilling. I am proud to say that David Starr, CFO of Edlong, also joined the board in 2017. YEA! has been a great way to live our corporate mission and enrich lives, not just through our work, but through service.
We know, too, that the YEA! experience has a long-term impact. It will help participants choose college majors, make life decisions, bring clarity to their careers. It will teach them to lead with confidence long after they graduate.
It’s fantastic being part of something that gives voice to young women entrepreneurs. I hope you get involved in YEA! — no matter how big or small your contribution. You won’t regret one moment, I promise you.
Someone close to me once said: “Dream big. Make big decisions. It takes risks to make big decisions, but don’t be afraid because that is what makes a strong leader.”
Join me in dreaming big for our “daughters” in business. They are our future. And, like our own children, they are making us so fantastically proud, don’t you think?
NAWBO represents the collective voice of over 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. and seeks to advance the interests of all women entrepreneurs across all industries. Visit www.nawbo.org/chicago for more information. We thank Laurette Rondenet for graciously being our guest author and sharing her passion for the YEA! program.