Managing the Girls Track for the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) Summit last year was the highlight of 2016 for me. What a journey—from the two days and two overnight flights it took to get from Austin to Cape Town, to seeing some of the girls present their business ideas to the entire adult DWEN delegation.
Each of those 20 teens, who came from South Africa, Australia and the U.S., brought their talents and enthusiasm to the conference—making it a special event for the girls and adults alike. I’ll never forget them.
Girls Track and Dell’s annual DWEN Summit will take place this year in San Francisco, July 17-18. In response to the disparities faced by women in starting and growing their businesses, Dell founded DWEN in 2010. The program is focused on creating and fostering a community of like-minded women founders who are looking for ways to grow—primarily by expanding into fast-growth, emerging countries—and who need a venue to exchange ideas, learn and do business with one another to make it happen.
Through DWEN’s Girls Track, I know I have the power within me to achieve my dreams and excel in whatever I do if I put my mind to it.
- Zahrah Alias, Grade 9, 15-years-old, Girls Track Dolphin Tank Runner-up
Just as DWEN aims to connect female entrepreneurs with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, the Girls Track is investing in girls, ages 13 – 18, so that their path to entrepreneurship can be a guided one. At Girls Track, girls hone their entrepreneurial instincts and grow their technology skills with the help of their peers and DWEN attendees.
So what are last year’s participants up to now and what Girls Track meant to them?
I had the opportunity to touch base recently with some of the girls who joined us for Girls Track. Each one I spoke to is a student at Christel House, a school for K-12 grade students outside of Cape Town that is focused on educating the most underprivileged children in its community. Christel House is also an important Youth Learning partner with Dell. Since 2009, Dell has provided the school with technology and funding, enabling Christel House to use innovative teaching methods to assist students in maximizing their academic and employability potential.
While back at school and busy with their studies, the memories, friendships and skills the girls gained at DWEN will stay with them as they graduate, launch their careers and, perhaps, new businesses.
Below are some of their comments about their Girls Track experience.
“My experience at the Girls Track event was life-changing. It expanded my knowledge and makes me believe that one day I’ll be able to be a successful businesswoman. Girls Track taught me lifelong lessons. It also gave me the ability to think creatively; voice my opinion or suggestions to an idea.”
- Jessie Stellmacher, Grade 10, 16-years-old
“It was inspiring to see so many business professionals all in one room sharing their business knowledge. My favorite session was the website design session. It capitalized on how technology is now, how it is enabling organizations, and what we can expect from technology in the future.”
- Vuyolwethu Blaai, Grade 12, 17-years-old
“Initiatives like DWEN make it easy for girls like me to aspire to have their own businesses. I will never forget the experience and will forever be grateful to my school, Christel House, and to Dell for the opportunity. Thank you!”
- Vuyolwethu Blaai, Grade 12, 17-years-old
“Being part of the DWEN event was a huge opportunity for me. I have never been interested in becoming an entrepreneur, but after the summit I changed my mind! Today, I know more about web design, public speaking and budgeting. I was very nervous when I first arrived at Girls Track, but I started gaining confidence soon while listening to all the powerful women around us. What inspired me the most was Mikaila Ulmer’s business success story. I never came across and got to work with a successful business girl who was just 11-years-old—wow!”
- Aneeqa Philander, Grade 9, 15-years-old
If you were a DWEN attendee and participated in our volunteer event at the Christel House, have you kept in touch with any of the Christel House entrepreneurs you met and mentored? Did you bring a teen to Girls Track and would like to share her story with us? Please let us know in the comments, below.
I’m really looking forward to meeting this year’s participants very soon– a mix of girls from the U.S., India, China, and Europe. Our Youth Learning partner this year is the Girls Scouts of Northern California. I’ll tell you all about it after the event!