Kent Place School participated in the 2019 Women Entrepreneurship Week by hosting an alumnae panel on Monday, October 21 and attending the Women Entrepreneurship Conference at Montclair State University on Wednesday, October 23. The Women Entrepreneurship Week (WEW) aims to increase visibility of women entrepreneurs and inspire the next generation of female founders. This year, the week included more than 240 universities and colleges in 32 countries and 49 states, plus D.C. Kent Place School (KPS) was the only high school to participate in the celebration by holding an event on their campus.
“‘Entrepreneurship’ has become a very real career choice today for many women who want to pursue a passion or idea and bring it to the greater society,” remarked Dr. Karen Rezach, Director of The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School. She explained why KPS is involved in WEW: “I feel it's essential to introduce our students to women who have chosen this path while also challenging them to consider the outcomes of their entrepreneurial pursuits through an ethical lens. For example, what are the unintended consequences of the product or service you are creating? What are the ethical issues that are relevant in the industry you are pursuing? It's great to be an ‘entrepreneur,’ but are you equipped to become an ‘ethical entrepreneur?’"
On Monday, October 21, twenty KPS students participated in a lunch panel and discussion with four Kent Place School alumnae entrepreneurs: Schuanne Cappel ’03, Deborah Farrington ’68, Ruby Henry ’99, and Aamira Garba ’03.
Schuanne Cappel ’03 is a fashion e-commerce entrepreneur, and former financial services professional who took a chance on her creativity and love for fashion to moonlight as a stylist for New York professional women, independent designers, and magazines. In 2016, Schuanne founded Uncoverd, a women’s online store that bridges the gap between creative women who favor distinctive style and dress, and independent designers they would be hard pressed to find on their own. In sharing about her experiences at this year’s panel, Schuanne said: “I'm always impressed by Kent Place's commitment to up-leveling its student offerings of enriching courses and activities in lockstep with our changing economy and social environment. The students I've had the pleasure to meet will undoubtedly rise to the challenge of solving tomorrow's problems and leading its markets.”
Deborah Farrington ’68 is co-founder and managing partner of StarVest Partners LP, a New York City-based venture capital firm investing in technology-enabled business services with a focus on software-as-a-service, data and analytics, and internet marketing. It is one of the largest women majority-owned venture capital firms in the US and was founded in 1998. Deborah commented after the panel that “from the lively conversation and thoughtful questions of the KPS students, it was clear that there were many budding entrepreneurs in the audience that I would be proud to back some day. I could tell that we were amidst those who would be the ‘risk takers and change makers’ of the future!”
Aamira Garba ’03 is an emerging winemaker who in 2016 launched LoveLee Wine, a brand that is creating a lane for more black women to enter the wine and spirits industry. Aamira also works full time as a marketing strategist for Macy’s Inc. LoveLee currently has a portfolio of three wine labels and will be launching LoveLee Wine Travel Experiences this fall. In reflecting on the panel experience, Aamira shared: “I truly enjoyed sharing my authentic journey as an entrepreneur during WEW. It's an honor to be in a space where girls are encouraged to be fearless, self-advocate, and be impactful in the society around them. The students of KPS continue to shine so brightly.”
Ruby Henry '99 is trained in economics, econometrics and mathematics. Ruby is the CEO and Technical Founder of StaTechs. She engineered StaTechs.com, a cloud-based web application for code translation. She is the First Named Inventor for US Utility Patent App 15/856,285: “Converting Code in a First Programming Language to Code in a Second Programming Language.” Ruby’s reflection on the panel conversation was: "I loved the curiosity in the Kent Place students. It will lead these future entrepreneurs where others cannot imagine."
KPS students asked the panel of alumnae entrepreneurs about their experiences in starting a business, how to grow into successful leaders, and insights on how to navigate breaking down barriers. One student, Sophia, asked the panel members: “How did your experiences at Kent Place School help you become successful entrepreneurs?” The KPS alumnae were unanimous that KPS allowed for possibilities in developing their strengths, pursuing their interests, and challenging them to take risks. Schuaane and Aamira emphasized how her KPS peers served as important role models. Aamira said: “You are amongst leaders. You learn from them that you can achieve greatness.” Deborah mentioned how KPS taught her the importance of being dedicated to excellence, and supported the development of relationships and networks that are important for your career. Ruby talked about having access to challenging math classes that dared her to think bigger and that facilitated her higher-education in the STEM field.
Dr. Rezach asked the alumnae entrepreneurs to talk about the ethical dimensions of their work: “What are some examples of ethical dilemmas that you have faced as business leader?” Schuaane shared how she struggled with the tension between her values and the reality of the fashion industry. “The fashion industry is the second largest world polluter, and I seriously had to ask myself what this meant as someone who values sustainability and protecting the environment. I decided that the best way forward was to stay in it to change it.” Schuaane offered examples of how she is working to push the industry to be more ethically conscious, by choosing in her business to use more vintage pieces as a way of upcycling, hire independent designers who provide fair wages, buy fabrics that do not harm animals or pollute the environment, and educate customers on how to care, and select their clothing in an environmentally friendly way.
Aamira shared how she considers LoveLee Wine working on the ethics of inclusion, by creating a space for women of color to enter into the winemaking industry. Ruby spoke about how she uses the values of honesty and integrity to guide her business and interactions with her employees. Deborah explained the challenges of deciding when to stop funding a business, and how she has an ethical obligation to be transparent with investors and the entrepreneur about the probability of success.
On Wednesday, October 23, fifteen Kent Place Students attended Montclair State University’s Women Entrepreneurship Conference, where they engaged in conversations about how to become successful leaders. The conference began with short TED-style talks from women entrepreneurs on how they launched and grew their ventures. The speakers represented a range of industries, as well as ages and experience, offering attendees a variety of perspectives. Kent Place students listened to a panel of entrepreneurs discuss how they became successful in the tech space, including how they overcame challenges and thrived in a traditionally male-dominated industry. The conference culminated with a Google #IamRemarkable workshop, where attendees listened to an inspiring introduction and then participated in an exercise to list traits that made them remarkable and then shared the results with people at their table.
Dr. Rezach reflected on the WEW conference presentations: “Listening to the stories and varied experiences of these women leaders was both fascinating and informative. Each entrepreneur traveled a path that was unique to her skills, strengths and interests, but all spoke about the need to overcome obstacles, believe in yourself, and never give up in pursuit of a dream. Our students were truly inspired by the stories they heard and the example that was set by each of these women entrepreneurs.” Every year, the Women Entrepreneurship Week compiles a video of some of the participating schools.