New Women in Entrepreneurship Institute Launches at DePaul

The institute will develop initiatives to support the success of women-owned businesses.

The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University is launching the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute, the nation’s first comprehensive institute for women founders that integrates academic learning, research, incubation, funding and public policy.

Supported by a committee of entrepreneurs and business leaders representing a range of fields and expertise, the institute will develop academic research, programs and initiatives that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned businesses.

Coleman Assistant Director Abigail Ingram says development of the institute began a year ago when Coleman Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board members suggested that the center create a new initiative to address the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in building and growing their businesses. Ingram and Bruce Leech, director of the Coleman Center, also saw the initiative as a way to engage more women entrepreneurs with the center’s year-round programming.

“Right now, women are getting just 2 percent of venture capital funding and less than 2 percent of women-owned businesses reach a million dollars in revenue,” Ingram says. “So we would like to change that.”

Illinois is also in the lowest 20 percent of U.S. states when it comes to the economic clout of women-owned businesses, according to the 2017 State of Women Owned Businesses Report.

In addition to increasing female founders’ access to resources, the institute will support research that explores why and how women-owned businesses are funded.

DePaul Associate Professor of Management Alyssa Westring – who serves on the institute’s committee – along with associate professors Jaclyn Jensen and Grace Lemmon are developing a research plan that will examine how bias influences individuals who fund businesses.

The Driehaus College of Business will offer a new course in women in entrepreneurship, which will feature leading women entrepreneurs from the Chicago area as speakers. The course, taught by Westring, will be open to both graduate and undergraduate students in spring 2019. The Department of Management & Entrepreneurship is also in the process of developing an entrepreneurship minor that will be offered to students in every undergraduate program in the university.

“DePaul is uniquely positioned in the business community, and we have the support of people who are able to do research as well as experts in every subject area,” Ingram says. “I can’t think of a better place than DePaul for this institute. Plus, our students already are go getters willing to do what it takes to be successful entrepreneurs with the right support and education.”

A key player in the creation of the institute, Joan Hannant serves on the Coleman Center’s advisory board and also is the CEO of the Soma Institute. Early this year, Hannant participated in the Coleman Center’s symposium “Diverse Entrepreneurs: Changing the Face of Leadership” at 1871. During a panel discussion, Hannant discussed the difficulties of starting and scaling a business as the only woman in the room during business meetings.

“The Women in Entrepreneurship Institute is very personal for me as I see it as a vehicle to provide support and programming to help female founders succeed – support I craved, but could not find when I started out,” she says.

In addition to research and academic programming, the institute will support the following initiatives:

  • Business Pitch Competition. The annual pitch competition will award merit-based funding to student businesses involved in the institute.
  • Start-up Incubator Workspace. The incubator will serve DePaul students through a cohort-driven shared co-working space within the Coleman Center.
  • Fellow in Women and Entrepreneurship. The annual fellowship will support research about entrepreneurship and gender at DePaul.

Phase two of the institute’s initiatives will include an Endowed Chair in Women and Entrepreneurship. The chair will offer research leadership, student engagement and curricular support for entrepreneurship and gender at DePaul.

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