Written by Samantha Erkkila, Digital Media Specialist at the Entrepreneur Fund
Over 100 women entrepreneurs from northern and central Minnesota gathered Thursday, April 13, in Baxter for a chance to present their business ideas, challenges and opportunities to area experts.
The second annual She Leads: Elevating Entrepreneurial Ideas event hosted by the Entrepreneur Fund, in partnership with Women’s Leadership Fund and Initiative Foundation, at Arrowwood Lodge paired women entrepreneurs with a small group of local experts in finance, legal, marketing, business management and more who gave them instant, supportive feedback on their ideas.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs to gain valuable feedback in a supportive environment from local women leaders in business,” said Sandy Voigt, Director of the Women’s Business Alliance, a program of the Entrepreneur Fund.
Jessica Huesinkveld, a new business owner in the St. Cloud area, went into the event looking to gain as much knowledge as possible. She also pitched her business plan and early goals to a panel of five experts who provided advice on areas to focus on first.
“One thing they really hammered home was to be fair with your pricing and really put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to sell out, which I’ve been a little afraid to sell out. So, it was helpful,” said Huesinkveld.
New business owners, like Huesinkveld, and veteran business owners left with new ideas, encouragement, and fresh perspectives to bring their business to the next level.
“I’m overwhelmed by the incredible feedback,” said Jaci Finneman, a veteran business owner from Saint Augusta. “I’m a one-woman show running my company and just starting to grow and expand it. I’m wearing a lot of hats right now. And so, the panelists really helped me niche down and figure out what at my next steps should be for my company.”
For Finneman, she came into the event seeking guidance on how to effectively scale her business but more specifically how to do so in terms of marketing.
“I’m good at my craft and I’m good at the work that I do, but I’m not a marketer,” she said. “So, hearing about the different ways that I can promote my company and reach investors, and what they would be needing to hear or wanting to hear in order to support the work that I’m doing, was super valuable.”
Following the small group pitch presentations and one-on-one sessions with business experts, participants heard from a panel of three successful businesswomen, Kristi Westbrock (CEO of Consolidated Telecommunications Company), Nadene Kruize (Senior Vice President/Senior Loan Officer at Minnesota Business Finance Corporation) and Clare Richards (co-owner of Impacks) who shared tips and tools on how to better manage their time, people, equipment and money for maximum efficiency in their business operations.
“The energy is palpable. It’s wonderful to see women learning, connecting, and inspiring one another,” said Voigt, who also advises entrepreneurs in Central Minnesota. “It’s a dedicated space to bring up challenges and opportunities with people who have been there and can help entrepreneurs move towards their goals.”
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She Leads was hosted by the Entrepreneur Fund, Women’s Leadership Fund and Initiative Foundation. It was sponsored by Minnesota Business Finance Corporation (MBFC), First Bank & Trust, North Central SBDC, Central Lakes College Foundation and Lakes Printing.