In honor of Women's Entrepreneurship Week, the Darla Moore School of Business hosted a panel with four successful female entrepreneurs.
The speakers in attendance were Dianne Rushing, co-owner of AOS Speciality Contractors, Kristina Cash, founder of Bumco, Julie Shields Monroe, financial advisor and owner of Dog On It and Haley Holzworth, owner of Hermosa Jewelry. Throughout the panel, they discussed the pros and cons of their experiences as entrepreneurs and women in business.
Cash has been running her company, Bumco, for around six years, and she describes it as "game changers for diaper changers." Cash came up with the idea for her business while she was on maternity leave for the first time, and from there, her business took off.
"My shift was having that maternity leave. It's not like I put my baby in daycare and did this. I was full-time. I used my maternity leave with integrity. I was there with my child, and I was working this during the naps," Cash said.
Monroe, who owns an apparel company specially made for dog lovers, discussed how her passions for entrepreneurship and dogs materialized in her childhood.
"From the time I was in the sandbox, I was making mud pies and selling them to whatever dog was near me," Monroe said, "It's just been something that I've always wanted to come up with the idea, turn it into something that I can sell, and go from there."
Holzworth started her company in 2002 while she was still in high school. When she was around 10 years old, she inherited a box of costume jewelry from her mother's friend and this sparked her passion for jewelry-making.
“I think it was just at a young age, just really discovered my passion and it’s taken me on a long journey," Holzworth said.
Rushing described the difficulties of getting her bearings in an industry where women weren't as prominent.
“I was in a male-dominated world, and I felt like I wasn’t welcome in the club, and I probably, I might’ve been, I might not have been, but I didn’t even really try, and I think that held me back, so when I finally did start doing that, it accelerated my growth tremendously," Rushing said.
Cash also explained how she does not allow gender stereotypes to stop her from pursuing her goals.
“I definitely think that there’s pre-conceived assumptions that people make, but once again, for me and how I view business, that’s just another dynamic of this game that I’m playing," Cash said.
While Holzworth believes that attitudes towards women in business are definitely changing for the better, she notes that she still worries about juggling family life with work.
"I think the biggest thing on my mind is how do I start a family and run a business, because my business is like my child, and I don't know, with how invested and how much time I spend on that, how am I going to take time away and to be able to raise a baby," Holzworth said.
Although she agrees that traditional gender roles in the workplace are fading away, Monroe also talked about the difficulties she faced when she entered her industry.
“In the finance industry for me there’s a lot of women now entering, and that’s much more popular than when I got started 20 years ago, as a woman in a brokerage firm I was supposed to be a secretary. That’s just how it was seen. It was very much of a men’s club basically. That has changed, and medicine has changed, and legal services has changed," Monroe said.
First-year international MBA candidate Savannah Schepp attended the panel and said she was inspired by the courage and ambition exhibited by the speakers throughout their careers.
"I think what resonated the most with me was a lot of women speaking about taking risks, not being afraid to be bold, kind of go off the beaten path, and just how they all kind of had to learn through the journey,” Schepp said.
Dean Kress, the director of the Faber Entrepreneurship Center, helped to organize the event with the student-led Entrepreneurship Club. He noted that this was one of the first events in South Carolina to honor Women's Entrepreneurship Week and said USC has seen more female involvement in business over the years.
“We have way more female business students than we ever had in the past,” Kress said, “When Julie was in the IMBA program, this program, undergrad at the turn of the century probably had 20% females in it. Now it’s almost half in there, and there aren’t enough role models for the budding female entrepreneurs that are here, and I think that’s one of the great things that these four women can do for our students.”