Helping Girls Step Up to Entrepreneurship

It’s been a hit with her friends, too: “The ultrasonic sensors look like eyes; it’s really cute.”

Through the initial stage of the program, called the Academy, Neha has filed for a patent and is working on upgrading the technology to include voice commands. What she has found most helpful is the mentorship. After completing the initial program, she became eligible for the Boardroom, a more involved mentoring program to help participants continue to develop their idea.

But not everyone is an entrepreneur, so Girls With Impact has added a series of programs it calls future-ready workshops. They include hourlong seminars on innovation, money and email etiquette, as well as a primer on entrepreneurship that may direct girls to its flagship program. They cost $15 to $20 each.

“We’re very upfront with the girls that the end goal for everyone may not be running a business,” said Liz Czepiel, an instructor for Girls With Impact and a business coach who has worked with executives at Bain, Spotify and United Rentals. “But this is a taste of what that might entail. Success definitely centers around building confidence.”

About three weeks before the stay-at-home orders were put in place, Ms. Openshaw addressed a group of women packed onto a veranda at a fund-raiser at a home in Greenwich, Conn. Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor who was instrumental in the #MeToo movement, spoke about the challenges she faced.

But it was the young women who talked about their ventures who brought the affluent women to consider making donations. One of them, Kellie Taylor, 19 and a Girls With Impact participant, started her business two years ago as a senior in high school. Her company, named Cleo after her grandmother, is building an app to find beauty and fashion resources for African-American women and girls.

Ms. Taylor, who grew up in Stratford, Conn., said her business was inspired by her braids. “I had the hardest time finding someone in Stratford or Bridgeport to do my hair,” she said.

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