Every entrepreneur has a story. Every entrepreneur is a story.
That’s the lesson from Day 1 of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network event, now underway in Austin, Texas. Previously held in Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, New Delhi and Istanbul, the fifth DWEN is being held near the site of Dell’s founding 30 years ago in Michael Dell’s University of Texas dorm room.
The keynote panel, moderated by Dell’s Chief Marketing Officer Karen Quintos, featured women entrepreneurs who quickly got real in a room filled entirely with other female business owners. Anasuya Gupta, chairperson and managing director of India’s CICO Technologies, a maker of construction chemicals, described the decision she had to make when her husband passed away unexpectedly.
“I was meant to be housewife, but because of a personal grief, I had to take over a three-generation business in an industry and company that was entirely male-driven. I had the option of selling out and enjoying my privileged life, but we were worried about the families of the 200 people we employed. I figured, I’m here, and I took on the business. I’m still the only woman in the room, but we’ve grown manyfold in six years and we’re the premier brand in India.”
Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica, explained that when she launched her skin care company in 1986, she had never taken a business class and was not a chemist, but she wanted to test her ideas about using natural ingredients to enhance skin’s health rather than focusing on beauty.
Gilt Groupe founder Alexis Maybank talked about her passion for New York City’s Designer Sample Sale, an event so compelling to the city’s women that they would wait for hours in a snowstorm to gain access to discounted designer goods. Maybank thought the experience might be a little more pleasant online. “What started as a business for ourselves and friends of friends has grown to eight million customers shopping globally. It’s a tremendous experience in rapid growth.”
The entrepreneurs will meet for two more days of speeches, panels and networking in and around Austin.