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        College, Entrepreneurship

        New endeavor helps aspiring women entrepreneurs take flight and soar

        April 4, 2024 By Laura Schmitt

        All News


        Nay speaking to women entrepreneurs luncheon

        The Women's Entrepreneurship Collaborative, founded by Jennifer Nay (at podium), provides its memebers with training, mentoring, networking and funding opportunities and is located at the Auburn New Venture Accelerator.

        The Auburn University New Venture Accelerator (NVA) formally announced the launch of its Women’s Entrepreneurship Collaborative (WEC) March 29. The collaborative’s goal is to empower more women to pursue entrepreneurship by providing them with training, mentoring, networking and funding opportunities.

        "Studies show that female entrepreneurs can improve their venture performance by getting more entrepreneurial experience, setting higher expectations and networking more,” said Jennifer Nay, WEC founder and an entrepreneur-in-residence at NVA. “Here at Auburn’s NVA, we aim to ensure that our female entrepreneurs have ample resources to start and build their businesses.”

        According to a 2023 U.S. senate report on entrepreneurship, women created about half of all new businesses for three consecutive years (2020-23), however they reported challenges such as gaining access to venture capital and a lack of mentoring opportunities.

        WEC addresses those challenges by being the conduit between aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned business professionals drawn from the campus community and Auburn’s vast alumni ranks.

        “The WEC was founded based on [the campus] culture, where Auburn people love to help Auburn people,” said Nay, who hosts a monthly lunch at the NVA for the two groups to network.

        These luncheons also provide an opportunity for student, faculty and local entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas in an informal setting, receive constructive feedback, learn about funding opportunities and make valuable professional connections.

        “The monthly lunch meetings allow all the entrepreneurs we support to network and connect with seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals, who can advise them and help them on their journey,” Nay said. “It’s important for female students to know that if they choose Auburn and have an interest in entrepreneurship, they will receive extra support.”

        Already the WEC has 100 members who are engaging with the new entrepreneurs each month, and Nay envisions those members will take advantage of other engagement opportunities, such as serving as judges at the NVA’s popular Tiger Cage pitch competition, contributing to AU’s Kickstarter Fund, or becoming mentors to the budding entrepreneurs.

        "The Women's Entrepreneurship Collaborative resonated within my spirit a powerful message that gender is not a barrier to achieving success in my business,” said Chera Howard, a master’s degree candidate in crop, soil & environmental sciences and founder of startup Mammoth Super Sod.  

        “Becoming a part of this collaboration has improved my confidence in speaking. Seeing women in leadership has inspired and empowered me to pursue my career ambitions."

        Chera Howard, WEC participant

        A former stockbroker, Nay co-founded two companies with her husband and Auburn alumnus Marc (doctor of veterinary medicine ‘88) before earning her MBA from Auburn in 2021. She joined the NVA as its first woman entrepreneur-in-residence and is the driving force behind the WEC.


        Learn more about the Auburn Women’s Entrepreneurship Collaborative.

        The Harbert College of Business which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Raymond and Kathryn Harbert's transformational naming gift, is a nationally ranked hub of undergraduate, graduate and continuing business education that is inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our world-class faculty deliver unparalleled academic rigor in the classroom, while our research-driven scholarship advances thought leadership and best practice across business disciplines. The largest college on Auburn's campus, Harbert enrolls more than 6,900 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.

        The New Venture Accelerator (NVA) is jointly managed by Auburn’s Harbert College of Business and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation to help aspiring business owners get their start. Located on campus, NVA includes, in addition to office space, various workshops and a team of entrepreneurs-in-residence who share real-world experience for the benefit of Auburn students, faculty and the local community through coaching, counseling and mentoring.