An online learning journey for women entrepreneurs

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Oklahoma City entrepreneur Ronda White says her conferencing strategy business received a big boost from the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell. Bank of America has enrolled 50,000 people in the program since its launch in 2018. It is now opening the opportunity to another 50,000. (Courtesy Photo/Ronda White)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ronda White started her conference strategy business four years ago before she was fully equipped to handle all the challenges involved.

“I’m good at organizing things and I’m a great administrator,” White said. “I was receiving clients, but I was still trying to understand the day-to-day operations.”

Two years into the adventure, she enrolled at the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell and found the answers.

“I learned so much from that,” White said. “It was a full-fledged college course with discussions, assignments and projects.”

White, now 60, is one of 130 Oklahoma women who have signed up for the online program. Courses from Cornell University faculty cover topics such as customer discovery techniques, legal considerations, financing options, product development, digital marketing, and communication skills.

Since its launch in 2018, the institute has enrolled 50,000 people from the United States and 120 other countries, mostly women of color. Bank of America announced in March that it was opening another 50,000 slot machines to help more female entrepreneurs advance their businesses at no cost.

This comes at a time when women in the United States are starting and growing their own businesses at record pace. According to research by Bank of America Private Bank, they own about 13 million businesses, employ more than 9 million people, and generate $1.9 trillion in annual revenue, nearly five times the national average.

Oklahoma is in the top 10 states for female entrepreneurs, according to Incfile, an online provider of business creation and startup services.

The firm looked at 2020 data on 330,000 entrepreneurs and found that the number of women pursuing their own businesses was up 48% year-over-year, outpacing their male counterparts by 22%. While women aged 25-34 accounted for the strongest growth, strong growth was also identified among women aged 18-24 and women over 65.

“It’s great to see such significant and continued growth in female entrepreneurs in particular – they’re busy, carving out their niche, some starting new ventures, others transforming side hustles. And you know what we hear most often? “I wish I had done it sooner,” said Incfile co-CEO Dustin Ray.

Nevada ranked first state for women entrepreneurs in 2020, followed by Louisiana, Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Iowa and Virginia.

“We know women entrepreneurs don’t have access to the resources they need to run and grow a successful business — an even more acute need for women of color,” said Sheri Bronstein, chief human resources officer at Bank of America. “We continue to receive feedback from participants on how the skills they learned are propelling them forward – it benefits them, their families, their businesses and employees, and their communities – and we are thrilled to further expand the program to reach more women small business owners.”

White highly recommends the 12-week program, but warns it’s not easy. “You have to put in some serious time to be successful in this course,” she said.

His company, The RAW Group, is named after his initials. She goes on behalf of Conference Architects to clearly identify what her team does – planning, logistics and managing events and conferences.

White has planned and managed events in the Nation’s Capital, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Atlanta, Las Vegas and more. In addition to live events, the company can organize virtual and hybrid events or can provide a conference plan for low budgets.

White says the conference strategy career “just found me” after years of working in other jobs and people telling her she’d be good at it.

Other female entrepreneurship program participants have had businesses in retail, publishing, education, arts, real estate, marketing, software and wellness. Go to https://bofainstitute.cornell.edu/program.php for more information.

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