How an 11 year old entrepreneur reminded me that my job as CEO should always be helping students design a life and career they love.
Students are the heart of my company. I love going to work knowing that My Social Canvas may inspire a student to dream big and design a career that not only looks good on the outside, but one that feels good on the inside too.
I recently had the honor of attending the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House. It was a celebration of change-makers. The three day summit hosted from June 13-15, brought together passionate, unfiltered conversations with thought leaders that are committed to gender equality and breaking the glass ceiling for women and girls globally. Part of the United State of Women Summit included a Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by the Small Business Association. At the conference, I had the privilege of hearing a keynote address by Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Maria serves on President Obama’s Cabinet as the voice for small business in America. Maria reminded me I'm only a small part of the exciting growth in women's entrepreneurship. She shared that, "From 2002 to 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2-1/2 times the national average. More than 1 in 4 U.S. companies is owned or led by a woman, and these firms employ more than 7.8 million Americans."
We know that there are many women who have great business ideas and they are now demonstrating the courage to take those ideas to the next level. And although they have already taken that first step, some are still unsure about how to sustain, expand and grow. Education and mentorship is a key component of success for women entrepreneurs. When I think about the role of education and mentorship, I'm constantly reminded that my business and our success has been possible in large part because of my access to great mentors and partners.
In reflecting on my time at the summit, I realized that what I loved so much about it was that I was in the midst of a global movement that included strong women of all ages and all industries, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah, Gloria Steinham, Amy Poehlerophia Bush, Tory Burch, and so many more.
And by all ages, I mean just that. One of the most inspiring young women that spoke at the summit was 11 year old entrepreneur, Mikaila Umer, Founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade. She may only be 11 years old, but she’s not afraid to dream big or pay her success forward. One thing I love is that Mikaila's company donates a percentage of profits to local and international organizations fighting hard to save the honeybees.
Mikaila’s time at the summit was nothing short of amazing. On Tuesday, she was asked to introduce a man that some of you may know — President Obama! When he addressed us, he went on to say, “What an amazing young lady. I will be back on the job market in seven months, so I hope [Mikaila Umer] is hiring.” Now wouldn’t that be an exciting recruit for this 11 year old CEO?
It really hit home when I heard Mikaila speak. She reminded all of us that you’re never too young to start designing a life and career you love. It reminded me of my passion for building my own company, and for keeping students at the heart of it all.
In closing, I'd love to challenge you to consider your own impact on female founders and younger generations of women and girls. Let's all join forces and give younger generations the opportunity to gain experience. We're not handing them success, we’re simply giving them the chance to prove their own merit. I'd say that's something pretty special.