EnterCircle Summit Celebrates Women Entrepreneurs
For three days in mid-November the focal point of entrepreneurship was not Silicon Valley or New York City or some other major metropolis, but Nocatee, Florida and the second annual EnterCircle Summit.
Created by Raghu Misra and his wife, Gurpreet, co-founders of the innovation and activity hub known as the link, the event featured panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-ups from all over Northeast Florida.
Over the three days, the summit focused on young entrepreneurs, start-ups and new businesses and culminated with a celebration of women entrepreneurs in conjunction with Women Entrepreneur Day.
The connection to women entrepreneurs is a main aspect to the event and was the spark that led to the creation of the summit, according to Misra.
“That is how it started,” he said. “When my wife was thinking about what we can do to energize women entrepreneurs last year, it started as something to do for Women Entrepreneur Day.”
From there, the idea grew into a three-day event set to coincide with the annual celebration of Entrepreneur Week.
Kicking off the final day, Gurpreet Misra made it clear where the focus was.
“Let’s make it fun. It’s all for us women entrepreneurs,” she said to the nearly three dozen women in attendance. “We want to support, elevate and energize people to move forward. My hope is that many connections will be made today.”
With an overall theme of Resilient Leadership, the women entrepreneur day began with remarks from Joy Andrews, deputy county administrator for St. Johns County.
“It is so important to remember why we are having these conversations,” she said. “We want to be at the table to make our opinions known.”
The morning’s keynote address was given by Snowden McFall, president of Fired Up! Professional Speaking and Coaching, who offered tips and tools for women entrepreneurs in her address which designed to motivate and inspire women in the business world to succeed and thrive.
With sessions on Women in Politics, Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Sports and Women in Architecture, Construction and Engineering, the day’s agenda was filled with information and advice from a wide variety of perspectives and industries.
The Women Entrepreneurs session featured an expert panel including Isabelle Renault, president of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce; Monica Hernandez, president of the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; social entrepreneur Margo Jordan; and Annie Erstling, COO at Forcura, a healthcare industry company.
Renault began the session with a comparison of the business climate here in the United States versus her native France.
“We are in the best country in the world to start a business,” she said.
For Hernandez, one of the biggest challenges facing women entrepreneurs is access to capital, with most female start-ups relying on their personal savings and family and friends for financial support.
“The odds are even heavier on us,” she said.
Much of that stems from a lack of information about funding sources for women entrepreneurs, according to Hernandez.
“There is a lack of awareness of what they need to have to gain access,” she said.
That idea was echoed by Jordan, who talked about her own entrepreneurial journey and the hurdles she faced as a woman entrepreneur.
“The struggle is getting the information to people who otherwise would not have it,” she said. “If I didn’t have access to certain kinds of information, I would not have made it this far.”
With the success of EnterCircle Summit 2022, Raghu Misra said plans are in the works for a series of “micro-summits” at the link.
“A big aspect of what we do at the link is to create an ecosystem for start-ups,” he said. “The whole idea is how do we connect everybody in the ecosystem under the same roof so there is a lot of interaction and cross-pollination of ideas.”
The micro-summit idea would offer entrepreneurs and start-up founders more access to information and networking than the annual EnterCircle event, Misra said.
“What we want to do is to bring and create more avenues for these entrepreneurs in various stages of their lives and industries to learn from each other and see how we can help them grow,” he said.