WBENC Sets the Stage in Las Vegas for the 2017 Student Entrepreneur Program and Pitch Competition

The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is proud to announce the 20 student entrepreneurs selected for the prestigious 2017 WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP) at WBENC's National Conference & Business Fair in Las Vegas, Nevada from June 18th to 23rd.

The SEP program fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through a tailored entrepreneurial curriculum and mentoring from certified women-owned businesses and Fortune 500 Corporate Members. Since its inception in 2008, more than 150 students from 50 colleges and universities across the country have graduated from SEP.

Ya-El Mandel-Portnoy, first place winner in the 2016 EY WBENC SEP Pitch Competition, with her WBE mentor and corporate mentor.

Ya-El Mandel-Portnoy, first place winner in the 2016 EY WBENC SEP Pitch Competition, with her WBE mentor and corporate mentor.

As part of the program, the students will compete in a pitch competition. In 2016, WBENC awarded $5,000 in seed capital to Ya-El Mandel-Portnoy, founder and CEO of Cardea Sciences; the 2nd and 3rd place participants won $3,000 and $2,000 in seed capital, respectively. This year, the cohort will again compete in the EY WBENC SEP Pitch Competition on Thursday, June 22 3-5 p.m. at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino and is open to conference attendees.

To prepare for the pitch competition, students receive mentoring from Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Fortune 500 mentors who serve as Student Entrepreneur Supporters. This year’s cohort of Student Entrepreneur Supporters includes; Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company, Dell Technologies, Ericsson North America, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Macy’s Inc., Merck, Office Depot, Inc, Pfizer Inc., U.S. Postal Service, and Walmart Stores, Inc.,

The 2017 Title sponsors of the program, Allstate Insurance Company and FedEx are committed to helping to champion next generation women entrepreneurs.

Cheryl Harris, Senior Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer of Allstate Insurance Company, reflects on her experience as a mentor with SEP: “WBENC’s Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP) emboldens that entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation of women business owners. As a past mentor, I feel it is my duty to continually be a part of this developmental program. SEP fosters the brilliance of these women; empowering them to exercise their ingenuity and influence in advancing the business and local community landscapes – unleashing innovative WBEs into the economy.”

2016 SEP Student cohort at off-site experience with 2016 title sponsor FedEx.

2016 SEP Student cohort at off-site experience with 2016 title sponsor FedEx.

“FedEx is proud to support the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP).” says Sue Spence, Vice President, Sourcing and Procurement at FedEx. “This program has a proven track record of providing essential resources to help encourage the next generation of women business owners. Playing a role in the growth of small businesses is a major focus area for FedEx, and it’s even more exciting to play a role in the development of young women through the SEP program.”

This year's cohort includes students from 17 universities majoring in biomedical, engineering, computer science, business and arts degrees. Many of these students have already launched successful businesses but aim to grow their business though SEP.

Lauren Miller of Wake Forest University is co-founder of UpDog Kombucha, a popular small-batch brewing company of the healthy fermented tea founded in 2016. Parisa Soraya of University of Michigan launched Find Your Ditto to create a peer-support mobile platform for those with chronic illnesses and recently competed at SXSW Student Startup Madness.

All the student participants are passionate about their future and have incredible entrepreneurial spirits. Whether they are still in the early stages of launching their startup or looking to advance their business, SEP will give this year’s cohort the tools and resources to become proactive women entrepreneurs. Below are this year’s 20 selected participants.

{in alphabetical order}

  • Carrisa Anderson, Hofstra UniversityFlare
  • Isis Ashford, Prairie View A&M UniversityXplosion Technology
  • Jordan Banks, Wake Forest University
  • Emilee Burroughs, Berry CollegeAnointed Magazine
  • Alex Coren, University of MiamiWambi
  • Ashia Davis, Pepperdine University
  • Rebecca Duberman, University of Wisconsin-Madison Footloose
  • Queneesha Gregory, Georgia Southern University
  • Nakia Guy, Columbus State University – Financially Free by 23
  • Allison Ingle, Wright State University
  • Sharlena Luyen, Oregon State University – Happiness Calculator
  • Lauren Miller, Wake Forest University UpDog Kombucha
  • Alexa Pete, Prairie View A&M University
  • Sadie Pierce, Mississippi State University – FormIT Tech
  • Kareman Rawy, Oregon State University – MOLES
  • Rikki Rummel, University of South Florida Flashy Photos
  • Ana Sanchez, Florida State University – MyHealthyCampus
  • Parisa Soraya, University of Michigan Find Your Ditto
  • Mary Taylor Jr, University of Cincinnati
  • Rose Wong, University of Hawaii at Manoa Kolohe Ocean Gems

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of WBENC, we are welcoming ten alumnae of SEP from prior years as mentors to the current participants throughout the week and beyond. This exciting addition is made possible by our 20th Anniversary Alumni Champion Sponsor, Shell Oil Company. These ten accomplished women provide an invaluable perspective as to how SEP assisted in launching each of their enterprises. All alumnae and students will participate in the NextGen event during the National Conference, focusing on building the next generation of the women-owned business network. Below are the ten alumnae returning and their business ventures.

Mona Amin, second place winner of EY WBENC SEP Pitch Competition, will return as SEP Alumna Mentor.

Mona Amin, second place winner of EY WBENC SEP Pitch Competition, will return as SEP Alumna Mentor.

2016 SEP cohort dancing their way through a transformational week.

2016 SEP cohort dancing their way through a transformational week.

SEP is proud to not only support women entrepreneurs but also those interested in building businesses in STEAM fields. These women face another subset of challenges compared to their male counterparts, and we aim to target these challenges and create strategies to overcome them. Since 2008, SEP has built a large network of successful startups in health sciences, engineering, and computer science.

"We must be proactive about encouraging future WBEs of all backgrounds to see the possibilities in opening their own businesses,” says Pamela Prince-Eason, WBENC President and CEO. “The SEP program does this by bringing students from across the country, in different fields and with diverse backgrounds.”

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Posted on June 5, 2017 and filed under NextGen.