Dr. Anne Stokes, Leah Lytle and Kim Kaupe

“Entrepreneurial spirit alive and well”

More than 200 members of the UF community shared in the journeys of some of UF’s most successful alumna entrepreneurs at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium on April 1.

The event revealed the amazing impact female entrepreneurs have had in the U.S., and the potential for further growth. It also revealed how much more needs to be done for female entrepreneurs to be given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

The Big Picture

  • According to a 2016 National Women’s Business Council study, there are almost 10 million women-owned businesses in the U.S.
  • The percentage of women-owned businesses has more than doubled in the past decade from 20.2% (in 2002) to 52.2% (2012).
  • According to Dr. Susana Correia Santos, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the College’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, she said “the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, and women’s appetite for entrepreneurship is at an all-time high.”

A Closer Look

  • Women remain underrepresented in high-growth firms. There is a significant gap between the number of women who start a venture, and the number who are able to achieve high growth.
  • Among the reasons for this disparity are women’s aspirations to maintain a healthy work-family balance, the difficulty in managing their ventures (women tend to launch “solo ownership ventures”), and women have access to less capital.
  • Santos also pointed out contextual factors that play a role in this disparity, notably a lack of institutional support, a lack of access to venture capital and an embedded gender bias.

Keys to Success

  • “Do it with passion or not at all”: That’s the mantra of Leah Lytle (BSPR ’94, MAMC ’96, MBA ’02), the Founder of Artsy Abode—a unique group of 17 gift boutiques featuring apparel and accessories from some of the world’s most popular gift lines. Lytle’s enthusiasm for her venture was palpable, but even more impressive was the way she developed Artsy Abode. Lytle’s strategic approach to carrying and promoting certain gift lines, and dealing with small, private banks for capital to retain sole ownership of Artsy Abode have been integral to her success.
  • Erasing doubts: Nearly all of the event’s speakers admitted times during their ventures when they questioned themselves. Allison Adams (BSBA ’91) thought she might have bit off more than she could chew after the opening of Oxford Exchange in Tampa. Dr. Anne Stokes (MA ’91, Ph.D. ’98) said taking the leap of faith to create SEARCH, Inc., was extremely difficult. “You have to get over your fear of failure,” said Adams, “and that feeling that you’re not good enough. You really are.”
  • Re-Invest in the company: If your venture has some early success, hold off on buying that new BMW. Dr. Stokes said having a healthy supply of working capital is crucial for both expansion and surviving lean times.
  • “Skin in the game”: Most successful ventures aren’t run by part-time entrepreneurs. It takes a personal and financial commitment to make a business successful. Kim Kaupe (BSBA ’08) left a secure career at a New York advertising agency to start ZinePak, a venture that focused on publishing when print was said to be dying. Five years later, Kaupe has worked with some of the music industry’s top performers, including Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, and has been recognized by Forbes and Inc. Magazine for her exploits.