A week full of events let women share their stories of success, inspiration and encouragement
This year marked the second year the Women Entrepreneurship Week has been held in Fargo. From Sept. 21-25, various virtual events were geared towards giving advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs.
Kodee Furst, a co-organizer of the event, talked about the importance of encouraging women to start their own companies and the barriers they might face along the way.
“It’s hard to be what you don’t see,” Furst said when talking about what might hold women back from starting their own businesses.
Furst said that the statistics show some harsh data concerning the number of women getting capitals and scaling their companies.
“Part of our approach to building a more inclusive community is we think it’s important to put a bunch of incredible women on the stage,” Furst said adding, “Women who are still in high school or college or are in the second half of their career can see themselves in those roles.”
Another barrier Furst talked about was the risks and working around them. “I think there’s a lot of myths around entrepreneurship,” Furst said. “Really, entrepreneurship is about calculated risks and how do you be thoughtful about what you’re building, what you’re growing, what you’re doing.”
Furst also mentioned that calculated risks can help maintain one’s comfort levels as it’s also important to surround themselves with people they know.
“We also know that women founders typically lack access to capital, to network and to practical advice on how to start, build and grow their companies.”
From knowing this, Furst said that it helps when designing how the week of events will look and what should be included.
Despite these barriers, Furst said that she sees more women wanting to start their own companies, though, the impact isn’t always “obvious and certainly isn’t quick.”
“I think, anecdotally, we’ve heard plenty of stories of women who met someone that could be helpful as they get ready to start.” Other examples include women who may not be sure whether they should quit their full-time job, but the week of sessions might encourage them to pursue entrepreneurship.
The mission of the organizing team is “We believe that our region can be the best place for anyone to start a company,” which has shaped the way the event is run.
Furst explained how they are making this happen by bringing organizations that share this idea together adding, “there’s power in numbers.”
Furst also mentioned that with COVID-19 shifting the event to be virtual, there was more emphasis on how they could receive and deliver information quickly as well as allowing women from farther away to reach out.
“We’ve had women that have called in from not just Fargo, but across the entire state and across the entire region to access the content.”
While about half of the events featured experts from the Fargo-Moorhead area, the other half of events featured women from across the state and country including the Twin Cities and from Atlanta.
Some of the “deeper practical content,” women had access to included how to negotiate and set up a negotiation, learning about what an advisory board is and how to create a virtual event for a company during the pandemic.
Some of the sessions held throughout the week included inspirational sessions called ‘Rise and Shine: Female Founder Voice Series’, skill-building ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions and leadership related presentations.
When it comes to the inspirational sessions held throughout the week, Furst said, “We feel strongly that inspiration comes from telling our stories.”
Furst talked again about how inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you to some extent and who can take an idea or concept and build from it.
“I think it’s very inspirational to recognize that no one knows what they’re doing at the beginning. Everyone is starting from the same playbook,” Furst added while saying there are many paths to entrepreneurship.
While the Women Entrepreneurship Week is one of the main events held during the year to celebrate entrepreneurial women in the region, Furst mentioned that many of the week’s partners host events as well.
Some of the partners include Labyboss Midwest which “creates a community for women,” as their website states and holds a summit every year, and the West Fargo Public Library which holds a discussion about the business of books.
“The main goal is we put a lot of energy and effort into this week to obviously accelerate that learning, but it’s also to also shine a light on the incredible organizations and companies in our market…” Furst said.