The 140 teens and 35 women who occupied the Cohen Center ballroom may have appeared to be playing games, but their intent was strictly business.
Girls Going Places, a daylong conference, brought together young women ages 12 to 18 with community businesswomen who taught them about entrepreneurship and financial independence.
The 16th annual event took place May 6 at Florida Gulf Coast University, a collaborative effort by FGCU, the Small Business Development Center and Alliance Financial Group.
“We’ve got over 40 schools participating,” Betsy Steiner, national facilitator for Girls Going Places, said of the Fort Myers event. “They’ve sent 140 girls, and these young ladies are spending the day with 35 mentors who are today’s entrepreneurs.”
Mentors included local news anchors, physicians, marketing executives and other successful professionals. The women led the teens through a board game called Hot Company, which posed business questions to the players. Later, it was the girls’ turn to ask question of the mentors about their careers, money management and other business-related issues.
“Girls at this age are not bashful about asking questions,” said Dan Regelski, the retiring director of the SBDC.
One of the day’s highlights was the Product in a Box activity, in which teams of girls received boxes full of items – pieces of plastic, tape, buttons, paper. Each team had to develop a product prototype and business plan, then market the product to those in the room. Among the products developed were a fitness system, a medical scanner, an umbrella for babies and a holographic photo viewer.
“Today has been a great experience,” said Vasy Montague, a sophomore from Gulf Coast High School in Naples. “I’ve learned that in order to succeed, first you must fail and you never lose until you quit.”
Lynne Tarman, of Alliance Financial Group and director of Girls Going Places, said, “I’ve been proud to be involved with this program for the last 16 years. These girls leave here empowered, knowing they can pursue any career they want or they can create their own job path through entrepreneurship.”