Six female entrepreneurs visited the Simmons University Management Building on Tuesday night to offer advice to 25 students on business startups, networking, and finding purpose after graduating.
Among the panel of businesswomen was 21-year-old founder of non-profit organization PERIOD, Nadya Okamoto; CEO of Intern Queen Inc. and Career Queen Inc., Lauren Berger; Founder of Haute House Design Studio, Taneshia Camillo-Sheffey; Founder of Skinary and Simmons alumna, Bianca Maxwell; DOP for Fort Point Project Management and Simmons alumna, Victoria Saber; and founder of Sip Straws, Shae Riley.
“Everything I’m doing in my career, I never imagined,” said Okamoto. Her non-profit, PERIOD is the largest youth-run women’s health NGO. She decided to start PERIOD after struggling with homelessness and noticing a universal lack of menstrual resources.
The first major advice given by the panellists was opting to work for startups and how to get a foot in the door –– something Camillo-Sheffey questioned when starting her first company.
“I know I can run a business but how do I do this on my own? How do I start? What do I do?” she said.
“Work for startups right out of college […] if you guys have an opportunity to intern for a startup or get hired by a startup, say yes […] say yes to stuff, that’s the one thing I didn’t do a lot when I was younger,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell also told students how she gained the necessary skills.
“The thing that I always [said] was ‘let me start building up every single skill that I’m not good at so that one day I’m really good at all of it,’” Maxwell said.
Aside from the panel, attendees loaded up on knowledge and sugar at the two-hour long “FQ Lounge” with LinkedIn workshops, insight from the Career Education Center, free headshots, a fully stocked candy bar and more.
Several on-campus organizations hosted the event including Simmons Girl Up, the Management Liaison, the Economics Liaison, and Simmons campus ambassador for the Female Quotient, Moraya Ugwu.
For students in the audience, another major struggle was finding a passion and sticking to a path. The best way to navigate your purpose according to Riley, is making a list of what you love to do.
“I knew that I wanted to be able to love what I was doing, to be able to be creative, and to enjoy the people that I was around,” Riley said.
But Saber said figuring out your post-grad passions isn’t always so simple.
“It was really difficult the first couple of years because it was clear to me that I wasn’t making an impact, so I sort of felt like I was rotting in the spreadsheets that I was working on.”
After discovering that finance wasn’t her calling, Saber instead “started focusing on networking outside of work and getting involved in different organizations within the industry that interested me,” eventually making a connection with someone who offered her a job in her current management position.
In the middle of the Q&A, students were each given greeting cards, pens, and stamps. Berger, who attended via video chat, encouraged students to write cards to someone they hope to network with as part of a larger Hallmark campaign with Intern Queen Inc.
“The student who sends the thank-you card, gets the internship or gets the job […] if it’s down to two students and you magically get a thank-you card on your desk, who are you gonna pick?” Berger asked.
Overall, the panellists agreed that many students may not know exactly what they want to do just yet –– and that’s okay.
“We live in a world that is constantly asking young people what [they] want to be when [they] grow up and not what [they] want to do right now,” Okamoto said.
“I don’t think you can ask any seventeen-year-old what they want to do with the rest of their lives […] follow your gut, take risks, and talk to people,” Riley said.
Maxwell encouraged attendees not to “ have a‘ this is what I want to be when I grow up’” and instead “have a ‘these are my passions and this is how I’m going to feed them.’”