Female Entrepreneurs are Increasingly Founding Startups, In Spite of of a Mixed Record of Colleges Supporting Female Entrepreneurs

By Ben Morrill and Peter Zhou (Row 4)

The number of female founders for startups has experienced an increase in recent years, but the track record of colleges.supporting female entrepreneurship remains mixed. Schools have provided reunion events as a means of networking with peers and discover new business opportunities. However, student loan debt has hobbled the ability of both male and female students to pursue entrepreneurship after graduating from college.

Colleges can contribute positively to Female entrepreneurship through networking events

Colleges provide students with network events that allow them to connect with students and discover new entrepreneurial opportunities. Sarah Kauss founded S'well, a company that produces eco-friendly and reusable water bottles that are also stylish. She founded the company after attending a five-year reunion for Harvard University students.

At the reunion, Kauss discovered a presentation detailing how many countries are deprived of clean water and adequate sanitation. “I had this moment of epiphany – I had the crazy idea of this better reusable bottle combined with water crisis education,” Kauss said. “It was almost like a message in a bottle.” She became motivated by the lack of solutions to this issue and created S'well, a company that now makes $40 million dollars in revenue. 

Kauss' story has inspired future generations of female entrepreneurs. At a Department of Women's Studies' Gender, Finance, and Power talk, students such as freshman finance major Gina Hyun were captivated by Kauss' experiences. “I want to be an entrepreneur,” Hyun said. “This was a good chance for me to see how a CEO thinks and how they actually started their company.”

Financial Burden of College Deters Female Entrepreneurship

However, Kauss did not always benefit from her college experience. Initially, the student loan debt from Harvard University prevented her from exploring entrepreneurship opportunities. “I remember a time I only had $2,000 in my bank account,” Kauss said. “That’s not enough to pay rent in New York.” She was forced to settle with a job in real estate.

It was her job for the real estate firm, not her school, that provided her with the experience that helped her make S'well into the successful company it is today. She acquired leadership skills and learned how to navigate a business world that is often unwelcoming to female entrepreneurs.

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