CIG talk urges female entrepreneurs to pursue their goals and dreams

“When purpose comes knocking, you have to answer the door,” Haley Hoffman Smith said to a room of Baldwin Wallace students, faculty, and community members at the most recent CIG talk held by the BW Center for Innovation and Growth in partnership with the School of Business.
Smith is a recent Brown University graduate who, during her time at Brown, founded the Her Big Idea Fund at the university to help support female entrepreneurs. She is the author of two books, including “Her Big Idea,” which focuses on female entrepreneurship and the power of persistence and creative thinking. In her talk, “Your Big Idea,” Smith expanded on ideas from her book to apply to all people with “an energizing vision.”
Smith’s visit to BW was made possible by Deborah Mills-Scofield, a long-time contact and friend of the CIG who also knew Smith, said Hannah Schlueter, Program Manager for LaunchNET, which functions as a part of the CIG.
“After we had heard a little bit about her story,” said Schlueter, “and knew that she was a young female entrepreneur, we thought this would be a great opportunity to bring somebody that could relate to students because she’s closer in age as well.”
In her talk, Smith focused on the value of having a driving vision and being willing to come to terms with risks, difficulty, uncertainty, and even failure. Smith said that her own first entrepreneurial effort, a nonprofit focusing on bringing literacy to girls around the world which was later expanded to have a for-profit element, ended up failing. In the years since then, she started up the Her Big Idea Fund at Brown, wrote “Her Big Idea,” began a speaking tour, and, most recently, started up a false lash brand called Her Big Lash.
“You are not a failure unless you let failure be the end of your story,” Smith said. Describing her ventures and successes since, she added, “Look what you can build on top of that failure.”
The message Smith had to share with students was a valuable one even for those not expressly desiring to embark on an entrepreneurial venture, said Schlueter.
“Haley spoke a lot about failure in her talk,” Schlueter said, “and we thought it was important that students learn it’s okay to have uncertainty, it’s okay to have failure.”
Along with her discussion of failure, how to overcome it, and having a journey that stretches far beyond it, Smith talked about the importance of creativity, intuition, bravery, determination, and innovation in the entrepreneurial mindset.
“You can’t be a vessel for something magical that can change the world if you’re stuck in old ways of thinking about what you can do,” Smith said.
CIG talks like Smith’s tie right into the mission of the CIG, said Schlueter.
“As a part of the Center for Innovation and Growth,” she said, “our mission is to infuse innovation and entrepreneurship across campus, because we believe that regardless of major or passion or career path that being an entrepreneur or having the skillset of an innovator is going to help you become more successful.”
Smith’s talk was held Feb. 19 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Kamm 214, 215, and 216—a change from the originally planned location. This was because the number of people registered to attend the talk exceeded the maximum capacity of the room it was originally going to be held in, said Schlueter, requiring the talk to be moved to a larger space across the hall.
Schlueter said she believes that the sheer amount of interest was due to the CIG’s partnership with the School of Business for the talk and, particularly for students, “the closeness in [Smith’s] age and what she’s been able to do in that time.”
After the talk, Smith opened the floor to questions and then spent some time speaking with BW students and faculty even after the official conclusion of the talk.
“She was so willing to support our students even though she’s so close in age to them,” said Schlueter, “giving back already to help support not only female entrepreneurs but any entrepreneur who’s trying to get something started on their own.”