Kristi Hemmer, CEO of Academy for Women's Empowerment, speaks in the MakerSpace in the Anderson Student Center on September 25, 2017 in St. Paul. Hemmer spoke about how women's social entrepreneurship can help them make a living by putting their passions into action.

Social Entrepreneurship Focus of New Series for Women

More than two dozen people gathered at the Anderson Student Center’s create [space] (formerly the Makerspace) earlier this week to learn about embracing their passions and using them to change the world for good through business.

“I hope you start thinking about how you view good living, how you view good business,” said social entrepreneur Kristi Hemmer, founder and CEO of the Academy for Women’s Empowerment, at the first of a four-part, semester-long series “Helping Women Become Entrepreneurs for Good” on Monday.

She continued: “You can have one business that does good and you can have enough money so you don’t have to go to three jobs just to pay your bills.”

During the first installment – “Doing Good is Good for Business” – of the series, Hemmer emphasized finding a passion, which, she explained, plays a big role when creating a successful business.

“If you don’t know what the end plan is – that’s OK,” Hemmer said. “Think about what your passion is and what your next step is.”

She asked participants to embrace their “little girl passions” by identifying what they loved to do when they were children and to envision what that might look like as a business today.

“We tend to squish the little girl passions,” said Hemmer in an interview prior to the event. “I want them to reclaim their little girl passions and think: How can I make that into a career, how can I make that into my life? Instead of squishing it, how can I integrate it and actually see where my skill sets cross? Because usually where passion is, that’s where your skill set is.”

Throughout the hour-long session, Hemmer talked about being a social entrepreneur and pointed out examples of young women who had social questions and created businesses to solve them. One of the women she highlighted was St. Thomas grad Solome Tibebu '12, who won the 2011 Fowler Business Concept Challenge, created an online community for teens with mental health issues, and speaks to groups about a variety of topics including mental health and social entrepreneurship.

Student impressions

“It’s really good to have this hope that we can actually do something because sometimes we just don’t think it’s possible,” said Marcella Mandarino, a junior majoring in business, following the session. “Hearing her [Hemmer’s] stories and how she got there really inspires and motivates me.

“I’m from Brazil and my country is going through a lot of bad things right now,” said Mandarino. “It’s horrible with all the slums and poverty. I have some ideas that could maybe help those people.”

Junior Jayda Pounds said she attended the program because she’s always looking for ways to grow and challenge herself. She said it made her think about things she’d never considered before including embracing those childhood passions.

“I learned that I’m the only one stopping myself, there’s really no excuse,” said Pounds, who is majoring in entrepreneurship and said one of her passions is baking. “I usually think I’m too young, I don’t have any money right now, or I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But there are steps I can take in order to become successful.”

Sophomore Zoe Robinson, who is working on designing her own international peace studies major, said Hemmer’s talk really made an impact.

“The idea of creating a product or a business that helps others while supporting me and my lifestyle is something that’s really attractive to me,” Robinson said. “As is thinking about how as a woman I can help other women that need help in the United States and around the world.

“The biggest thing I took away from this is that I don’t have to decide if I want to make a difference or if I want to make money,” she added. “There’s a way to combine them and do both.”

Kristi Hemmer, founder and CEO of the Academy for Women's Empowerment, speaks in the Anderson Student Center's Makerspace on Sept. 25, 2017, in St. Paul. Hemmer spoke about how women can make a living by putting their passions into action.

The series is co-sponsored by the Luann Dummer Center for Women and the Social Innovation Collaboratory. Three more sessions remain including “Mind the Gap” on Friday, Oct. 20,  from noon-1 p.m. in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, Room 103; “Do Something that Matters,” on Friday, Nov. 10, (time and location, to be determined); and “The GIRLeffect” on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 1-4 p.m. in Anderson Student Center, Room 341. Get more information on the “Helping Women Become Entrepreneurs for Good” series. For more about entrepreneurship studies at the University of St. Thomas, check out the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.