Last Thursday, Middle and Upper school students convened in Hearst auditorium for a Global Conversations Panel Discussion entitled “Start your Start Up.” Organized by the International Committee of the Parents Association and moderated by Mr. Sahr, this event is one of a series of panels whose goal is to highlight the stories of young, inspiring female business professionals from the DC Area. The last panel, which took place in April, focused on the role and value of journalism from the perspective of women employed by media agencies such as National Geographic, Vox, and the Washington Post. Last week’s panel featured six women who have either launched their own business or are in the process of starting a business venture. Their projects invent solutions to problems in DC area, communities abroad, and, more generally, reflect a broader search for social justice.
For Vanessa Gil, the search for a creative method to help children with autism reflected the personal struggle she faced when she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She is now developing an empowering video game for children with autism and is currently working to develop her product alongside other entrepreneurs in Georgetown’s Halcyon House, an incubator for early stage social entrepreneurs. Another panelist, Amanant Anamed, named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30, is working in the Halycon house as well to develop her product “Soapen,” a toy to help promote hygiene in South Asia.
At the local level, panelist Meghan Ogilvie is helping to improve the lives of veterans and their spouses through an education fellowship program at her bakery, Dog Tag. Moreover, a late addition to the panel was Dawn Myers, an NCS alum who is currently working to manufacture hair products for black women.
During the first portion of the panel, the panelists responded to questions posed by Mr. Sahr. During this time, the women discussed their projects, but more generally spoke about the path of their professional careers. A common thread among them was spontaneity; none of them initially intended to be entrepreneurs but found their calling when observing deficiencies in their respective communities. Lauren Biel, co-founder of DC Greens, describes how she “did a lot of meandering.” When discussing the deliberations that she made in the early stages of her career, Mrs. Biel offered a notable piece of advice: “all the doors lead to the same room, so all you have to do is walk through one.”
In the last thirty minutes of the panel, Middle and Upper school students alike were given the opportunity to ask questions. When asked by junior Jada Fife about their definitions of success, many of the panelists mentioned how they defined success by the longevity of their business and its ability to continue without them. In that same vein, a large theme of the panel was the importance of developing a network of contacts and finding, as Ms. Ogilvie puts it, “your tribe.” This conversation is continuing and each of the women has offered NCS students opportunities for internships and mentoring. If interested, please contact the International Committee.