Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) Gains Momentum at 5th Annual Colorado Summit

Daniela Ibarra-Hernandez shares her experience attending this year’s WED Colorado Summit hosted by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship.

By Daniela Ibarra-Hernandez, student marketing assistant at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship

“If you wish to go fast, go alone. If you wish to go far, go together.” 

This was quoted by opening keynote speaker Dianne Myles at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) Colorado Summit on Friday, Nov. 10, and it appropriately kicked off a day focused on female empowerment and community.  

Doors opened right at 8:00 a.m. at the CU Business School’s Jake Jabs Event Center, and soon over 150 high school students, college students, and Colorado business leaders packed the room. Attendees spanning all ages and genders were there to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO), a grassroots movement that celebrates, supports, and uplifts women entrepreneurs worldwide. Every year on or near Nov. 19th, groups around the world celebrate WED, and this event marked the fifth year for Colorado’s summit and the second year it’s been held at the Jake Jabs Center. I had the honor of attending this year’s WED Colorado Summit and hearing the stories, insights, and advice from extremely talented and successful women in business.  

Our emcee for the day, Olivia Omega, is no stranger to CU Denver. She works as the Senior Director of Marketing Communications at the Denver Scholarship Foundation and previously served as the Jake Jabs Center’s Entrepreneurship in Residence and as emcee at many Jake Jabs Center events. Plus, Olivia just recently received the 2023 Alumni Recognition Award from CU Boulder! She immediately focused the energy in the room on the lineup of galvanizing speakers ahead (which you can view here) and how to make the most of the day’s sessions. 

Next, our opening keynote speaker—Dianne Myles, CEO of Dope Mom Life—took the stage to talk about storytelling. She spoke about how taking the time to invest in meaningful relationships can benefit you in the long run. When asked how she handles getting anxious in a networking environment, she shared how she sets a goal for herself in every room she walks into. 

“If you can find just three people in the room to share your story with, then you have done what you went there to do.”  

She shared her advice and insights from running her creative content firm over the last six years. Growing alongside her business, she experiences many trials and tribulations while trying to stay present in her children’s lives. She emphasized how valuable connections have been in navigating her business and career.  

“Building authentic relationships that do not revolve around work is key,” she said.” I don’t mention my title or what I am selling because authentic relationships are what I’m looking for; hearing your story and you hearing mine. I wish to keep you in conversation for a long time, not just to give a sales pitch.”  

I felt inspired by her focus on creating genuine connections. She then shared how being authentic and sharing your story can be pathways to success. Building credibility and impact in a person’s life is something that cannot be bought. She continues to nurture these important relationships, many of which she formed before she even started blogging, because they’re a source of strength and support as she continues her journey. Myles’s keynote made me start to question… what is my story? How can I use it to make an impact, not only in my life and relationships but in my future career? 

Afterward, four bright, young entrepreneurs took the stage for a panel on “Navigating Entrepreneurship as a Gen Zer.” I have to admit, hearing from these panelists (many of whom are still students), I couldn’t help but feel intimidated! Some were younger than me and had already launched and were running fully operational businesses. They had such a head start on understanding balance sheets, business law, and how to scale. They spoke about the advantages and challenges of being young business owners and founders.  

 “Being so young, everyone is more willing to help you,” said Gabbie Carr, owner of Gracefully Gabbie and Gabbie’s Graceful Gifts. “There are so many free resources, and people are willing to invest in you. It’s just a matter of if you are willing to jump right into it. You are never going to feel 100% ready and you will have a lot of doubt, but it is important to just jump in and act.” 

Next, we broke into smaller breakout rooms on the third floor, and I chose to attend Jennifer Samuel’s session titled “The Power of Perseverance.” I was drawn to join this option because I already had the honor of hearing Meghann Conter’s and Kami Guildner’s The Art of Connecting and Creating Collaborations at last year’s summit.  

Jennifer Samuel during her breakout session on Friday, Nov. 10.

Even though I don’t work or plan to work in the fitness industry, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I related to and took away from Jennifer’s session. She shared some of her hard-learned lessons and keys to success summarized as values. The ones that most stood out to me were stamina and endurance. While being on brand for her line of work, these principles are not only applicable to fitness but are also to how anyone can grow personally and professionally. As a fellow first-generation student, Jennifer and her session made me feel seen and understood. It was inspiring to hear her story and see how a successful business owner still faces similar challenges to what I do now. I really valued all the advice that she gave to the room of young women. She shared challenging moments in which she had to sit down with her parents and not only explain the different goals she was pursuing but also reassure them that their sacrifices as immigrants didn’t go unseen or forgotten. I’ve had similar interactions with my parents, too, and it was heartwarming to hear that I’m not the only one navigating these difficult conversations, especially from a successful self-made woman I can look up to. 

And the day was just getting started! After attendees grabbed lunch on the way back into the Jake Jabs Event Center, we were introduced to our lunch keynote speaker, Brandi (Shigley) McMichaels. She spoke about her journey into fashion and how it was not always pretty. She shared many key moments of her past, from the people she lost to the supportive relationships she gained and how she tries to represent everyone in her designs. She said she tries to see beauty in everything; she sees it wherever she goes and in everyone she meets. Her words made me realize that, at times, many women can falsely believe that they must be strong, serious, and cold-hearted to be successful. However, McMichaels’s story, her heart, and her way of seeing the world prove that success can come from being your authentic self. Her message proves that caring does not make you weak, but it can help you find your passion and to see it through.  

WED Accomplished Women Entrepreneur Panel with Barbara Brooks
The Accomplished Women Entrepreneur Panel with Barbara Brooks on Friday, Nov. 10.

Compared to the morning’s young entrepreneur panel, the afternoon’s accomplished women entrepreneurs panel provided some interesting parallels and differences. Above all, it gave me some perspective on how business strategy and structure can change in 20 years. They spoke about learning to adapt to new technology, experimenting with more efficient ways of marketing, and building their personal brand along with their businesses. But what really resonated with me was their perspectives on the significance of time.  

No matter where you are in life, you can find success and strive to build something.

The idea that you have limited time to become successful has always scared me. But as I listened, I saw eight self-made women who all achieved their success through different paths and timelines. Each of them demonstrated that passion and drive come to everyone differently, but you do so by listening to your gut and taking risks. If there is one thing that all speakers at the WED 2023 Colorado Summit have in common, it is passion.  

While I was happy to be there as a member of the Jake Jabs Center team, I was even more honored to be an attendee and participant. Being surrounded by extraordinary businesswomen was truly inspirational. The diversity of the speakers — spanning age, experience, skill sets, industries, and more — ensured there was something for everyone. There were various stories and journeys that included many different backgrounds and struggles. I have never felt more seen at an event—as a woman, student, daughter, and future business leader. As I reflect on that day, I’m honored to have been witness to such incredible Colorado women who shared their stories, lessons, and advice to the next generation of women in business. 

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