Vera Bradley co-founder highlights Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Over 400 people from inside and outside the University of Florida community came together for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium on March 30 in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom.

The event was headlined by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, the co-founder of Vera Bradley who currently serves as the company’s Chief Creative Officer and Director. Her session was moderated by Leah Lytle (BSPR ’94, MAMC ’96, MBA ’02), and it included lunch and a conversation while speaking about topics such as Baekgaard’s background and the culture at Vera Bradley. She emphasized the importance of the company’s culture that values family and connections away from the office.

“I don’t go by titles,” Baekgaard said. “I go by relationships.”

Individual presentations included Naomi Whittel, founder of Reserveage Nutrition, delivering a talk titled “Joie De Vivre: The Entrepreneurial Life” and Jennifer Ransaw Smith, founder of Brand ID, presenting a talk titled “An Entrepreneur’s Journey.”

The event also included a three-person panel titled “Thinking and Acting as an Entrepreneur: Three Stories.” This included Michele Brewer (co-founder, Adam’s Rib Co.), Nicole Irving (founder, Irving Publications) and Kim Wilson (founder, Social News Desk).

The event is presented by the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center at the Warrington College of Business in partnership with the UF Small Business and Vendor Diversity Relations and the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research.