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Entrepreneurs Share Leadership Lessons at Women's Conference

Published: 2 months ago | 0 comments

On February 23, more than 50 Duke women spent their Saturday with Duke alumnae leaders in entrepreneurship.
 
This year’s “Lessons From Women Entrepreneurs,” hosted by Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship, focused on themes of mentorship, negotiation, confidence, and resilience.
 
A major benefit of the conference, according to event organizer Anna Jacobs, was its atmosphere of candor and openness. We tried to create an honest, intimate environment where students and speakers felt free to have hard discussions,” Jacobs said. “Speakers shared real situations in which they were discriminated against and underestimated because they are women, and how they handled those situations.
 
At a breakfast with Andrea Hyde ’87, former CEO of Draper James, Hyde shared that even after a highly accomplished career at companies like French Connection, Gap, and Calvin Klein, she found herself wondering what she really wanted to do. She eventually opened a consulting firm—and used her experience as a lesson to students to keep exploring, growing, and finding the right path. “After a year,” she told attendees, “you’ll know if a job is the right fit.” Hyde also highlighted the need for tech innovation in fashion, an industry that changes every three months, to get products to market quickly enough in a way that is also sustainable.
 
Tiana Horn ’17, founder of natural hair product company Flower Child Remedies, spoke about the importance of networking well. She highlighted the importance of an interaction’s tone by having attendees practice networking with each other as strangers—and then as though they were best friends. “The energy you bring to the conversation changes the conversation.”
 
Horn encouraged attendees to be bold rather than afraid or tentative, and she emphasized planning and persistence. She also advised taking advantage of the many resources Duke offers: everything from creating a “personal board of advisors” comprised of faculty and staff who’ll go to bat for you, to enrolling in skill-building workshops, to finding cofounders and teammates.
 
Sterling Ingui was born and raised in Durham and graduated from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 2007. She now heads Go To Market for Fidelity Labs, but she stressed to the women at the conference that progress could be scattered or slow (Ingui worked in sales at Tiffany, interned at American Express and McKinney, and got her gemology degree before getting her MBA), but is always valuable. “Every small step in your career makes a difference.” Ingui also stressed the value of empathy, saying she developed her product design mindset by listening to customer phone calls.
 
In a negotiation workshop with Fuqua professor Kim Wade-Benzoni, attendees took a deep dive into how to negotiate fairly and effectively, discussing why people don’t negotiate, how they negotiate poorly, and what should be discussed when it comes to negotiation. “Obsessively over-prepare before you come to the negotiating table,” Wade-Benzoni said.
 
For students, the value of the event came from both the skills they learned and the stories they heard. “One of the reasons I came to Duke was for the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative and for events like this,” said Natalie Benderly ’20. It was an unparalleled opportunity to be able to have authentic conversations with powerful Duke women, and I really appreciated how they were so candid and vulnerable in their stories.

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