The university’s inaugural REDe Entrepreneurship Summit focusing on women entrepreneurs began in the Union Ballroom with Shiza Shahid, a successful woman entrepreneur from Pakistan, on Thursday.
Shahid is an entrepreneur, co-founder and founding CEO of the Malala Fund, an organization that promotes women’s education and is named after Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel-Prize winning women’s education activist from Pakistan.
The summit is sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) within the Ole Miss School of Business Administration.
Professor of Management and CIE Executive Director Clay Dibrell said the summit focuses on women in order to increase opportunities for female students who are aspiring entrepreneurs.
“We discovered that women do incredibly well in our competitions. However, we don’t see them really actively involved in some of the other things that we’re doing, so we wanted to make that more apparent,” Dibrell said. “We thought we’d encourage them to try to do more.”
Dibrell said the committee, comprised of CIE staff and female students in the business school, began planning the REDe Entrepreneurship Summit in spring 2017 and ultimately decided to invite Shahid to serve as the keynote speaker.
Shahid was born and raised in Islamabad, Pakistan, and attended Stanford University. She’s had seven years of professional experience as a business analyst and entrepreneur. Since she co-founded the Malala Fund in 2012, Shahid has risen to prominence as a speaker on millennial women entrepreneurship.
Shahid credited her volunteer work in Pakistan as the most impactful years in her life. In her pre-teen and teen years, Shahid consistently volunteered with different organizations, such as a women’s prison and an earthquake relief camp.
“If we want to affect change…that truly transforms the world…we have to suspend judgement,” Shahid said. “It is the first step to solving problems through entrepreneurship.”
Dibrell said students from all over campus were invited to the summit, including women students in the business school and women STEM majors.
“We want every student to have an entrepreneurial mindset,” Dibrell said. “We want them to be a problem solver, to think of things differently and to be actively engaged in solving problems instead of just waiting for someone to come solve the problem for them.”
Sarah Cervantes, a senior marketing and corporate relations major, is currently seeking a minor in entrepreneurship and attended the summit to “gain personal knowledge about the industry and how young entrepreneurs thrive.”
“(I) currently work for Mississippi Small Business Development Center on campus. I thought by hearing (Shahid’s) story I could relate it to my life,” Cervantes said. “(Shahid) paved a path for me and other driven women to follow in their footsteps and become the future. Her story is inspiring and memorable.”
Tong Meng, CIE director of student and alumni programs, helped plan the REDe Entrepreneurship Summit. She said Women Entrepreneurship Week is October 13 through October 20, and she said “it’s a happy coincidence” that the this year’s summit happened to focus on women this week.
“We are proud to be a part of (Women Entrepreneurship Week) this year,” Meng said. “There are more than 40 states across the U.S. and more than 28 countries around the world celebrating this week, so we’re very excited.”
The two-day summit will conclude on Oct. 19 with a panel discussion of successful Mississippi women entrepreneurs student-mentoring sessions with the panelists and other local entrepreneurs.