Starting your own business is one of the most rewarding — and challenging — undertakings in the business world. But it’s something we strongly believe in and actively foster here at the David Eccles School of Business. The Eccles School has become an official ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, meaning we promote the global initiative that has the mission to celebrate, support and empower women in business worldwide here in Utah.
With that in mind, we sat down with three female entrepreneurs to let them share their wisdom and inspire other women to start their own companies.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Tobi Yoon is a freshman studying biomedical engineering and entrepreneurship. She’s also working on her pre-med requirements. She started her company, ColoClean, in December of 2016. The business provides an alternative colonoscopy prep kit that minimizes patient discomfort and increases the likelihood of patients getting screened for colon cancer. Each kit comes with laxative tablets, a colonoscopy-friendly meal plan and anti-nausea medication.
Megan Pollard is a junior studying marketing and entrepreneurship. Her company, Foster the Children, prints artwork created by children in foster care on T-shirts, which are then sold in several different locations. The proceeds help provide higher-education opportunities for foster children.
Makayla Hendricks is a sophomore studying entrepreneurship. Her company, Off the Frame Photography, is a team of specialized photographers and videographers focus mainly on portraiture, but they have recently expanded into the real estate market, creating videos and photos for high-end homes.
Eccles School: What has your experience as a female entrepreneur been like?
Yoon: I find that onlookers often doubt that I know what I’m talking about, regardless of how much I reassure them with research. When my team still had one male, sometimes people would turn to him rather than me for information — when in reality, I was the founder.
I know these microaggressions come from a subconscious place — but when I first started my companies, they really hurt my self-esteem as an entrepreneur.
Pollard: I have attended plenty of conferences, workshops and networking events. These events have shaped me into the entrepreneur I am today, but it’s discouraging when I can count the amount of women at the event on my fingers. I am often applauded at these events for begin a women in the room of men.
Women should be in the room; it should be normal for women to be in the room. I don’t feel as though I should be applauded because of my gender, I should be applauded for the hard work I poured into my company. Women are breaking boundaries in every industry, and I am so impressed by the work we have accomplished thus far, but can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the next decade.
Hendricks: I’m an entrepreneur and I’m a woman. Nowadays I don’t think it’s any harder for me to create a business than it is for a man. I don’t get when people complain about that. Yes, my business plan will work well around my future family — because that’s important to me, so I’ve built my business around it.
Eccles School: Why is it important for women to become entrepreneurs?
Yoon: I entered ColoClean in the High School Utah Entrepreneurship Competition (HSUEC). I tabled for a few hours. A couple of freshman girls from my high school came to look at the startups, and when I pitched to them, they seemed inspired. They asked me a lot of questions on how I got involved with entrepreneurship, and how they could get involved, too.
I think that’s why it’s important for women to become entrepreneurs. We inspire other women to pursue entrepreneurship, and it creates a generational chain of innovative, successful women — what could be better? The more we facilitate an entrepreneurial mindset in women, the more we will be taken seriously and achieve greater things.
Pollard: Women have the skillset, resources and determination to create something, they just have to gather up the courage to do so. Ladies, nothing is more rewarding than looking at something you built and say “I created this.”
Hendricks: If a woman has a passion and a good idea, she should pursue it, as should a man. I don’t think it should have anything to do with our gender, it just has everything to do with our passion.
Eccles School: How have the Eccles School and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute helped support your entrepreneurial work?
Yoon: I was grateful to win the $5,000 grand prize at the High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge for ColoClean, hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. I was also thankful to receive a $1,000 Lassonde Studios housing scholarship at the challenge, which helped me decide to live at Lassonde Studios. We were also fortunate to win $500 from Bench to Bedside, supported by the David Eccles School of Business.
We are also part of the company launch program at Lassonde Studios, which has opened up a myriad of resources that have helped ColoClean grow. The combined resources from the Eccles School and Lassonde Studios have given me the resources to work with researchers across the country, spread my network and overall grow my startup in ways that wouldn’t be attainable otherwise.
Pollard: Foster the Children was created in Entrepreneurship & Society 1010 with Dr. Barclay Burns. My team and I spent six days of Spring Break in the meeting rooms of the Eccles School, from sunup to sundown. Without the Entrepreneurship Program developed in this college, I would not be where I am at today. Through our connections at the Eccles School, we sit on the Board of Directors for a foster youth success program established by Dr. Sandi Pershing, sell T-shirts at the University of Utah Campus Store, and recently received the Utah Heart & Hands Philanthropy Award from the State of Utah.
Troy D’Ambrosio and the Lassonde Entrepreneurship Institute have helped us bump and grow into the company we are today and will help us grow into the company we will be tomorrow.
Hendricks: The Lassonde Institute has been amazing. They’ve given me the professional support I’ve needed to get my business really going. Having office space in Lassonde Studios has given me more visibility on campus. I’ve met, interacted with and even hired creative students because we met in Lassonde. I know when I come here that I’m building my future.