“If you can see it you can be it.” That was one of the key messages conveyed to about 140 young women at the 18th annual Girls Going Places entrepreneurship conference May 3 at FGCU.
You can be your own boss by starting a business. You can be a TV news anchor or a dermatologist or a financial planner or an executive for a nonprofit organization. You can even be a general contractor — still widely considered a “nontraditional” field for a woman.
These Girls Going Places got the chance to see all of those professional women and more, and to learn from their experiences and wisdom, during the daylong gathering for girls 12-18 years old. In addition to absorbing career inspiration, the participants engaged in activities that helped them learn about managing personal finances, career opportunities in business and other fields and the process of starting a company. Another exercise had the budding entrepreneurs develop a concept for a new product or service and devise a business plan for launching it — an introduction to the kinds of projects they might encounter in college.
“Some have never been on a college campus before,” said conference director Lynne Tarman of Alliance Financial Group, who launched the program in 1999 and interviews hundreds of professional women to find a diverse range of mentors for Girls Going Places. “We’ve had some girls that have gone on to attend and graduate from FGCU.”
Alliance Financial Group is proud to be a leader in a movement that supports and mentors tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and business leaders, as well as educating today’s youth about the advantages of business ownership and financial independence. Other sponsors are the Florida Small Business Development Center, WINK News, MLH Creative Concepts and FGCU.
Longtime mentor Annalisa Xioutas, president and CEO of FFI Contracting Services, offered the girls a unique perspective as a woman working in an industry traditionally dominated by men. She’s also a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” having bought and sold several businesses.
“No one ever told me I couldn’t do it – gender has nothing to do with it,” she said. “We want these girls to feel empowered, that there are no boundaries. It’s all about finding out what you’re passionate about.”