May 18, 2024

by Jess Nickels (’21)
SUMMARY: The Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship hosts second Women in Entrepreneurship Week showcase.
Women have played a pivotal role in business throughout time. During the Industrial Revolution the number of women who held paying jobs largely increased as demand for goods grew. During the World Wars non-traditional employment opportunities again rose and rapidly increased the number of women in the workforce. 
Though many were paid less than men and were less likely to receive promotions, women entrepreneurs navigated the politics of the time period and pushed forward despite the numerous challenges they faced along the way.
Harrisonburg and its surrounding areas are home to many women-owned businesses. In celebration of Women in Entrepreneurship Week, the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship (GCFE), in collaboration with Women for Madison, Shenandoah Community Capital Fund, Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, hosted a showcase and networking event.
Held in The Festival Conference and Student Center Grand Ballroom on Tuesday, October 18, 25 women-owned businesses attended from a wide range of industries, including a dance- studio owner, artists, farmers, photographers and more.
The evening began with an opportunity for vendors and guests to network, shop and exchange their stories of entrepreneurship. Many of the locally owned businesses had products and goods displayed for sale at their booths.
Although this year’s showcase was only the second in the GCFE’s history, executive director Suzanne Bergmeister explained that, with their partners’ assistance, they plan to hold a third annual Women in Entrepreneurship Week event next year.
In between networking periods, Tina Fox (’94) gave a heartwarming keynote speech about her journey moving from her 22-year corporate career, to gaining the courage to take the leap into entrepreneurship and the unknown. Now, Fox owns four different companies and businesses.
Noelle Allen (’00), last year’s Women in Entrepreneurship Week showcase keynote speaker, was in attendance again this year. “I feel so excited to be back here,” she said. Her best advice for young women who want to become entrepreneurs: “Just do it! Life is short and there’s no point waiting around for something to happen. Make it happen yourself.”
Current JMU student Julianne Pullella had her own booth at the event. She’s created a sensory toy, Tonga, that she hopes to market and sell to occupational therapists and hospitals. As a young woman striving to grow her business, she was excited to have the opportunity to showcase her invention and be able to meet so many like-minded women business-owners. Pullella said, “The best thing about being a woman entrepreneur is the connection to a group of such amazing people.”
Women entrepreneurs have come such a long way in being recognized and respected for their work and services. In her speech, Fox said the U.S. is home to 12 million women-owned businesses that employ 9 million people and generate $2 billion annually in revenue, proving that women not only have the ability to dominate the workplace, but also the drive and courage needed to take that first step into entrepreneurship and being your own boss.
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Published: Thursday, October 20, 2022
Last Updated: Monday, October 24, 2022
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