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WE Week for Women Entrepreneurs Features Guests from “Shark Tank,” “Last Chance U”

Brittany Wagner (left), a featured regular on “Last Chance U,” will speak at UM’s WE Week on Friday, Nov. 14. She is shown here in an appearance on “Nightline” with Juju Chang. Photo via Facebook

The Career Center and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will host a new week-long event to promote women working in entrepreneurship at the University of Mississippi starting on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

The event features four programs aiming to coach students in professional development areas that impact women students with entrepreneurial aspirations. Guest speakers will include Mississippians who have been featured on TV shows “Shark Tank” and “Last Chance U.”

Cobie Watkins, Director of Student and Alumni Programs at the CIE, says her department has wanted to host an event for almost two years to demonstrate to women that entrepreneurship is a vibrant pathway to a career.

“Historically, men have possessed a greater hold on the entrepreneurial market, but that’s changing now,” Watkins said. “We want women to see they can be just as successful in this field as men.”

More women are imagining themselves as business owners and entrepreneurs – almost 42 percent in 2015, up from 36 percent in 2012 – and those numbers are continuing to grow, according to Watkins.

Richard J. Gentry, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy Director, said the CIE’s goal is to have students think about starting their own businesses and broadening their opportunities to become more innovative.

“The job market today is much less stable than it was a generation ago,” Gentry said. “A primary mission of a college is to help students appreciate the range of employment opportunities in both small and large businesses. WE Week is a central part of that, and we’re so happy to be partnering with our friends across campus to present it.”

There are four programs throughout the week, each of which entails a different aspect of business.

The first program, titled “Be You: Branding Your Life,” will be presented at 12 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Overby auditorium. Regional experts will educate attendees on how to best market themselves in their careers.

At 2 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15, there will be a panel for personal branding, and small business owners will be present for the discussion.

“We believe entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial careers are going to continue to shape the economy of Mississippi and the region,” Watkins said. “The speakers and panelists at these events will be a wonderful example for our attendees.”

Juli and Richard Rhett, an entrepreneurial couple from Vicksburg, scored a big deal with billionaire Richard Branson on “Shark Tank.”

Thursday’s event, titled “Up, Up & Away: Following Your Passions Beyond Expectations,” will be held at 12 p.m., Thursday, November 16, in the Overby Auditorium. It will include Sierra Madre Research, a Mississippi-based startup from Calhoun City, Miss, and Juli and Richard Rhett, who scored a deal with Richard Branson, an entrepreneur and cast member on the television show “Shark Tank.”

The final day, Friday, November 18, will feature Brittany Wagner from Netflix’s “Last Chance U,” in which Wagner will discuss her success story. It takes place at 2 p.m. in the Overby Auditorium.

Brittany Wagner signs a deal to serve as an academic counselor for the National Scouting Report.

“I feel like these topics will offer good information to so many students who are interested in these areas for their careers,” said Casey Cockrell, Assistant Director of Employer Services at the UM’s Career Center. “There is something for everyone all week.”

Each event will include door prizes, such as two free nights at the Inn at Ole Miss, along with manicure gift cards, jewelry and an assortment of other prizes.

Watkins said a committee of six women ages 19 and up developed the programs with the goal of encouraging attendees to think about the challenges they face as women in their careers.

“We took those ideas and narrowed down the list to showcase subject areas and speakers that would represent a multitude of viewpoints of women in their careers and women as entrepreneurs,” Watkins said.

“The world of work is constantly changing and trends develop,” Cockrell said. “Right now is a good time to learn about entrepreneurship as it might be the best and most rewarding career path for a student.”


By Haley Myatt, Special to HottyToddy.com