WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program Advances Diversity in Upcoming Cohort

WASHINGTON -- The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is proud to announce the 2015 student entrepreneur cohort selected from 14 universities for the prestigious WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP).

The program fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through tailored curriculum, mentoring from certified WBEs and Fortune 500 Corporate Members, a pitch competition set at WBENC's National Conference & Business Fair in Austin, Texas from June 23 to 25, and off-site visits to corporations and accelerators supported by the program's title sponsor, Shell.

WBENC and Shell are committed to enriching the future for all women-owned businesses. In 2015, WBENC broadened the application from the former focus on STEM to include the Arts, including creativity and design. By centering on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math [STEAM], the program underscores the importance of bringing diverse women from various academic interests together at the developmental stages of their career to build a support network for future women business owners and leaders.

"Let's collaborate to connect tomorrow's WBE innovators with today's leading corporations, better positioning suppliers to develop solutions for future industry challenges," said Debra C. Stewart, Director, Supplier Diversity & Diversity Outreach, Shell Oil Company.

In addition to industry and geographical diversity, this year's cohort includes students who identify as Black or African American; Asian or Pacific Islander; Hispanic or Latina; or Caucasian.

  1. Arizona State UniversityCourtney Van Bussum, Sophomore, Major: Biomedical Engineering
  2. Cornell UniversityFon Powell, PhD Student at Weill Cornell Medical College, Jasmine Curtis, Senior, Major: Biology and Society, and Jerica Huang, Freshman, Major: Computer Science
  3. Grambling State UniversityAlexa Robinson, Junior, Major: Chemistry, Helen Ayim, Sophomore, Major: Computer Information Systems, and Monique Hill, Sophomore, Major: Computer Information Systems
  4. Louisiana State UniversityDevon Keese, Sophomore, Major: Petroleum Engineering
  5. Loyola University New OrleansAshley Garcia, Junior, Major: International Business
  6. Nicholls State UniversityRachel Howie, Junior, Major: Pre-Med Biology
  7. Prairie View A&M UniversityJontia Brown, Senior, Major: Mechanical Engineering, and Mariah James, Junior, Major: Computer Engineering
  8. Rice UniversityMijin Han, Senior, Major: English Literature
  9. SUNY Binghamton UniversityAastha Kataky, Sophomore, Major: Economics
  10. Syracuse UniversityMaryann Akinboyewa, Senior, Major: Marketing & Writing and Rhetoric
  11. University of HoustonArsheen Memon, Junior, Major: Finance, Chloe Stagner, Senior, Major: Entrepreneurship, and Kendra Atkins, Junior, Major: Marketing
  12. University of North Carolina at GreensboroNaomi Thomas, Sophomore, Major: Computer Science, Business Administration Double Major
  13. University of Texas at El PasoBrenda Simental, Sophomore, Major: Financial Analyst
  14. University of Texas-Pan AmericanGabriela Hernandez, Junior, Major: Management, and Rebecca Reyes, Junior, Major: Management

"We must be proactive about encouraging future WBEs of all backgrounds see the possibilities in opening their own businesses. The SEP program does this by bringing students from across the country, in different fields and with diverse backgrounds. It is important throughout the WBENC community that we are intentional in the development of young women," said Prince-Eason.

Since its inception in 2008, more than 120 students have graduated from the program. WBENC is proud to support women-owned businesses at all levels of success. According to the 2014 State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express, there were more than 9.1 million women-owned businesses operating in 2014. Almost 3 million of those businesses are owned by a woman of color. This surging-growth pace in women-owned businesses, which has doubled in three years, has helped to generate nearly $1.5 trillion in revenues for women-owned businesses. www.wbenc.org/student-entrepreneur-program/