Tag: women in business



Olin welcomed the first participants in the BOLD@Olin program last month.

The new program, BOLD—Business Opportunity and Leadership Development—was a week-long immersion for female rising high school juniors and seniors interested in learning about opportunities for women in business.

Small groups worked together to strengthen critical thinking skills.

The program ran from July 22-26, 2019, and included 23 women from 10 states. Participants applied for the program by submitting a personal statement explaining their interest in business and hopes for the program, as well as a high school transcript and letter of recommendation from a high school teacher or administrator.

Small groups worked to solve problems for a local nonprofit, Variety the Children’s Charity of St Louis. On the last day, each group presented their solutions while Variety staff and Olin faculty listened, posed questions and ultimately praised BOLD participants for their innovative insights.

Small groups collaborate and create a plan of action.

The program offered participants the chance to network with current Olin students and faculty while developing their brand, strengthening their leadership skills and collaborating with a team.

However, the program was just as much of a success for the participants.

Sydney West, a rising senior from California, was inspired to overcome obstacles in pursuit of her business career. While she acknowledged awareness of gender division in business is necessary, it will not hold her back from getting a job in business. “It is an attainable goal and you shouldn’t let gender get in the way,” she said.

Aisha Adedeyo, a rising senior from Minnesota, praised the opportunity to learn from other women in business through various sessions. “Not only were they very engaging, but they really helped you dive deeper into what your core values are… It helped me figure out… exactly I want to do.”

Emily and her team discussing their project together.

Emily Potter, a rising senior from St. Louis, gained confidence through the program. “I’ll put myself out there more just because…now I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin,” she said after learning about her brand and leadership style.

After a week of learning and growing at Olin, BOLD participants could envision their futures as leaders who will change the world, for good.

To learn more or to apply for next year’s program, visit the website.




As an alumna of Olin’s Executive MBA program, I was invited to attend this year’s 13th annual St. Louis Business Journal’s Women’s Conference on January 26. Although I had heard of Rent the Runway, I didn’t know anything about it until Jennifer Hyman, founder and CEO, gave the luncheon keynote.

Founded nine years ago with friend and fellow Harvard classmate Jennifer Fleiss, Hyman’s company has raised $190 million in venture capital funding. RTR earned $100 million in revenue in 2016. Its Series E round of $60 million that year was among the largest ever for a woman-run company.

Hyman’s message epitomizes why I love going to this conference. She talked about her idea, why it works, how it has grown, and emphasized that if she can do it, anyone can. This conference highlights successful women who want to share their stories and help other women achieve their goals.

The overall business case for RTR is compelling. In an economy where we rent everything from cars (Uber) to bedrooms (Airbnb), renting clothing makes sense. RTR grew from the concept that for special occasions in particular, women are willing to spend more than they can afford on designer clothes they won’t wear more than once.

By offering rentals of special outfits at a fraction of the cost, RTR makes high-ticket items accessible to a wider audience. The company has expanded the concept beyond special occasions to everyday fashion.

Hyman’s experience and advice applies to anyone in business, but especially to entrepreneurs. Here are the tips that caught my attention:

If she can do it, you can do it

A self-deprecating and funny Hyman explained the very basic actions she took to start her business. Hyman conceived of her idea when her younger sister bought a dress for a special event that cost more than her rent. Hyman and Fleiss brainstormed, which led to the $190 million question: “What if we could rent dresses?”

From there, they pursued an in-person, five-minute meeting with the most influential fashion icon they could think of—Diane von Furstenberg—and cold-emailed her by trying different combinations of her initials and name, until one of the attempted addresses made it through.

You don’t have to have it 100 percent figured out

Hyman and Fleiss did not have their business model worked out when they met with von Furstenberg. “We didn’t know what we were doing when we walked into her office,” Hyman said. “We just threw on von Furstenberg dresses and did it.”

They came up with the name “Rent the Runway” on the spot and pitched the idea. “I think entrepreneurs sometimes make the mistake of being secretive about their ideas, trying to get it all worked out before talking to people about it,” Hyman said.

Instead, Hyman and Fleiss could form their business plan based on conversations they had with the people they talked to about it.

If the answer is no, ask why

“By the way, she hated the idea,” Hyman said. von Furstenberg initially resisted the premise that renting clothes could be profitable, but the conversation continued. By asking questions about the resistance von Furstenberg had, Hyman learned that the von Furstenberg brand appealed mostly to women in their 50s and 60s, but that their marketing targeted a younger demographic.

The five-minute meeting extended to two hours. Hyman said the other designers with whom RTR now has great working relationships were also resistant at first. By keeping the lines of communication open, Hyman continued pursuing the conversations.

People at the top don’t always have the best ideas

At the end of their two-hour meeting with von Furstenberg, Hyman and Fleiss asked for the names of two or three other industry people they could talk to. “It’s the people on the front lines who know the most about the business,” Hyman said. Talking to von Furstenberg was a foot in the door, but great ideas can be mined among lower-level people.

Never stop dreaming bigger

With success in special occasion rentals, RTR could have continued to grow. Hyman kept pushing, however, for expanding the reach of the “Cinderella moment.”

“Women grow up believing that the only day they will feel like Cinderella is on their wedding day,” Hyman said. Believing this didn’t need to be the case, she came up with a subscription concept that would allow women to rent and exchange items for a monthly fee.

Your alma mater can be your calling card

It’s interesting to consider why von Furstenberg took the meeting with Fleiss and Hyman.  As Hyman tells it, their email to her was a one liner: “We are two Harvard business students with an idea and could we have five minutes of your time?”

Whatever her reasons, you can’t underestimate the impact of their academic credentials. In my experience, in St. Louis, a reference to Washington University can and does have a significant impact.

I’m in an older demographic than RTR’s target market—20-somethings who value wearing and being photographed regularly in a wide variety of high-end clothes.

I also wear plus sizes, which, though available on the website, are not offered in great numbers. If Hyman is thinking about this additional area of growth—older, larger women seeking Cinderella moments—I look forward to becoming a subscriber.




Note: Women’s Weekend is Nov. 10-11, 2017. Find information here.

This time last year I was flying to St. Louis for Women’s Weekend! I felt so lucky to have gone to WashU for undergrad about 5 years ago that when I heard about Women’s Weekend, I jumped at the chance to visit campus again.

It sounds cliché, but campus was just as I remembered it: gorgeous fall foliage, students playing ultimate frisbee on Mudd Field… But where I remembered a colossal, cement building from the 70’s (formerly Elliot Hall), now stood Bauer Hall, the new home of the Olin Business School.

No, really—see the atrium in person!

The new building took my breath away. (You should definitely come see it in person!) My eyes immediately rose to the glass ceiling above me, covering the atrium. Flash forward one year and that atrium is my favorite place to study under the skylight or grab coffee with friends between classes. (Thank goodness for the Starbucks on the third floor!) In my first three months as an Olin MBA candidate, Bauer Hall already feels like home.

The Olin Women In Business (OWIB) club got us off to a running start with my first MBA classes. I remember walking through my first case in a practice session at Women’s Weekend. It was quickly followed by a highly sought-after seminar on negotiation taught by Prof. Hillary Anger Elfenbein.

We also heard from amazing Olin alumnae like Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, EMBA ‘96, and Zoe Hillenmeyer, MBA ‘13. Dr. Gorman is a serial entrepreneur who founded Prosper STL, a start up accelerator for women in the St. Louis innovation ecosystem. She’s just one of the many incredible WUSTL alums who visit campus regularly. Zoe Hillenmeyer won the Forte Foundation’s Edie Hunt Award and has since gone on to IBM. At Women’s Weekend, her energy and devotion for Olin was contagious and convinced me that I could make my MBA experience exactly what I wanted it to be at Olin.

Zoe Hillenmeyer, MBA ‘13, presents to attendees at last year’s MBA Women’s Weekend.

With my first semester flying by, I know that is true. I’ve found campus to be welcoming and open to new initiatives, suggestions, and feedback. One recent example is our new OWIB initiative to involve allies on campus. Our aim is to deepen conversations on gender equity and inclusion on campus, and provide more structured ways for allies to get involved. Even before applying, I knew this was a priority for me—and from Day 1, the Olin community has found ways to support and facilitate this goal.

I can’t wait to meet women just like me a year ago at this year’s Women’s Weekend! I’m excited to tell you more about what we’re working on in OWIB and to show you more of my favorite aspects of the Olin experience!

Guest Blogger: Julie Kellman, MBA 2019




The below post was republished with permission from PluggedIN, an automated talent recruitment and matchmaking platform specifically focused on startup companies. PluggedIN was founded by Colleen Liebig, who serves as an Industry Career Specialist & Advisor at Olin, with specialization in entrepreneurship.

“The more you know about yourself, what you’re good at and what you bring the team, you can then surround yourself with people who fill in your gaps. I think that’s part of what makes up a good team.”
– Mary Jo Gorman, serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor and managing partner of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs

In this podcast, Mary Jo Gorman talks about how she got her start as an entrepreneur, what milestones and key learnings propelled her to success, and what she looks for when making investments in women-led companies through the Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Accelerator. Prosper is currently accepting applications for their Spring 2017 cohort. They are looking for early stage companies with a scalable business model in the Tech, Health Tech, and Consumer Products spaces. She shares insights on:

  • What investors look for in companies to invest in and how to use The Berkus Method to better position your company when raising capital.
  • Successful entrepreneurs tend to have great critical thinking skills. Many, many decisions get made, and you have to make more right ones than wrong ones
  • When a startup should consider going from bootstrapping to raising venture capital, and markers and milestones that serve as key indicators. Check out The Founders Dilemma.
  • Knowing when to pivot and ways to mitigate your risk at each step.
  • How hiring for the level of experience depends on our rate of growth.

Learn more and follow Prosper STL:
@ProperSTL@MaryJoGorman

Photo: Mary Jo Gorman speaks at the Knight Hall/Bauer Hall building dedication on May 3, 2014. Credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr.


In this video, Michelle Duguid, professor of organizational behavior, and Maxine Clark, founder and former CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshops, talk about the importance of mentorship for women in the workplace. These conversations are part of a four-part series on the course the two are co-teaching, Women & Leadership.

Clark: I think mentorship is really important. I think people think of it sometimes as a very static thing, like okay, I’m going to go ask somebody to be my mentor and then they’re going to be my mentor and they’re going to help me get to be successful. But it isn’t really like that. A mentorship relationship is really a give and take. And you can say, well I’m a young student, what can I give that person who’s older and more experienced? But there really is a lot that you can give.

It’s a very active relationship. It’s not something that is static, and it’s not something where you can just expect to be a sponge and not give anything in return. It won’t work that way. People that report directly to you are looking to you for an example. They are looking to you for guidance, and it may not always be some formal mentoring going on, there’s informal mentoring and you have to be aware of that. There’s just still not enough of us [women] that we’re still looked up to and still seen as an exception, which I wish wasn’t the case, but it actually gives us, you know, more chance to teach.

It’s a very active relationship. It’s not something that is static, and it’s not something where you can just expect to be a sponge and not give anything in return.

Duguid: The research is pretty clear on this. Women who have sponsors, people who have skin in the game for them that’ll put their reputation on the line saying, “Yeah, you know, this person is great. You should definitely have them on your team.” It is, for men and women, extremely important for the success of their careers, and like Maxine said, it is a give and take. It’s a relationship that has to be cultivated, and it needs to be cared for and always not in one direction. That’s one of the biggest things that I think that people need to know about mentorship and sponsorship relationships. One of the things with sponsorship is if someone puts their reputation on the line, and says, “This is the person you need,”  you just need to do a really good job as well.  That’s a big part of it.

Clark: It’s always flattering when somebody wants you to be their mentor, but you have to really help them realize, well, I’m glad to help you in any way I can.  So, I think there’s lots of ways to mentor.  Some are short term and some are longer term and lots of ways to get way more than you give in the process.