When Philadelphia’s leading female journalists, restaurant owners, consultants, entrepreneurs, and student leaders gathered at Temple University’s Mitten Hall, they hardly expected they’d be blowing bubbles.
Laughing as the bubbles popped, the women embraced the obvious message: Be daring, no matter the setting.
At the 16th annual League for Entrepreneurial Women’s Conference, held Oct. 20, the Greater Philadelphia region’s top female innovators came together to share stories on their respective paths to success, and honored those who have reached professional pinnacles.
Co-founders of the League for Entrepreneurial Women Dr. Elizabeth H. Barber, Associate Dean of Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management; and Betsy Leebron Tutelman, Temple’s Senior Vice Provost for Strategic Communications; with Ellen Weber, Executive Director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), hosted the event.
Temple University Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Hai-Lung Dai introduced the event, complimenting the women on setting an example for his daughter as she enters college: “I can see her, a young mind, very eagerly trying to explore knowledge,” he said. “But she needs to build confidence and that’s where I defer to you.”
A packed room of women heard from keynote speaker Lu Ann Cahn, Director for Career Services at Temple’s School of Media and Communication. The face behind the bubbles, Cahn asked the women to think about how blowing bubbles felt. The overwhelming response was empowerment and freedom from judgment. Cahn, who spent 40 years in the broadcast news industry, including 27 with Philadelphia’s NBC10, was familiar with that feeling. After surviving breast cancer, Cahn found herself at odds with her career and challenged herself to try something new each day for a year. Her book, I Dare Me, documents her experiences with rediscovering her spark of individuality and confidence.
“No matter what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve survived, sometimes you forget who you are,” Cahn said. “The hardest first to do is a first that faces a fear.”
Like blowing bubbles, doing something that might be silly or might fail is how success was made, she said.
“I’m here to dare you to go on your own adventure,” Cahn said, as women shared their desire to attempt skydiving or take a day off. “You have to tap into your best self to have the confidence to move forward.”
Cahn welcomed the conference’s panel of female entrepreneurs to share how they dare.
For Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president of Wilco Electronic Systems, her dare was to succeed as one of only a few women in the cable industry. Daniel took over her father’s cable company, Wilco Electronic Systems, after completing law school. As the only cable company serving underprivileged areas, such as public housing, Daniel learned to avoid falling prey to those who sought to diminish her power. Her nonprofit, Mogulettes, promotes that same message to 19-to-24-year-old women entrepreneurs.
“When we’re talking about business, sometimes our voices can be muffled. That’s when we most need to be heard,” Daniel said. “It’s from our stories that we create connections.”
Nicole Marquis and Linda Lightman could relate. Marquis, a Philadelphia native, is the owner of vegan restaurant chain HipCityVeg, and is planning to expand to Washington, D.C. before taking her restaurant across the country. Lightman, founder of Linda’s Stuff, an online luxury consignment boutique, saw her business grew from a few items sold on eBay to a sudden success that allowed her husband to quit his job to join her company.
The League for Entrepreneurial Women’s conference also recognized three Temple alumnae for their pioneering spirit in entrepreneurship. Director of Entrepreneurial Services for Comcast NBCUniversal, Danielle Cohn, SMC ’95; Gearing Up Founder Kristin Gavin, CPA ’09; and Factor3 Consulting Founder, Anne Nelson, FOX ’80 were inducted into the League’s Hall of Fame.
In work settings, Nelson said she often found herself the lonely female voice in an all-male conversation. But, she said, what mattered was that she had spoken up and had expected others to listen.
“Temple taught me two very important things: Think pragmatically and think two steps ahead,” said Nelson, who was inducted by Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business.
Closing the conference, Weber spoke interview-style with Emily Bittenbender, Managing Partner of Bittenbender Construction, who reiterated that being the only woman in a professional field or setting could be daunting. Bittenbender said she was able to extract inspiration from male mentors, which helped her find her place as a woman in the construction industry.
Like an adult blowing bubbles, taking that first daring step requires the most courage.