Founder of Athena Erie gives talk on campus, advocates for women

Linda Stevenson, the founder of Athena Erie, has been an advocate for women in business throughout her career. Stevenson gave a presentation on Oct. 19 titled “Empowering Women, Changing Lives.”

“Women are charging full steam ahead and venturing in the realm of business ownership,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson highlighted women in business, and specifically women in service sectors of various careers.

“The highest concentration of women-owned firms is in the service sector of health care, social assistance, education, administration and waste management,” Stevenson said. “However, women are now breaking into male dominated industries at an all-time high.”

Stevenson went on to discuss the adversity women can face in the business world, such as a difficulty getting funding. However, Stevenson acknowledged things are changing.

“The financial institutions in the Erie area support the women’s efforts in building businesses,”  Stevenson said. “These financial organizations understand that doing business with women is not only the right thing to do, it is just good business.”

Stevenson acknowledged changes to the ways in which women are succeeding in the business world. Her advice to entrepreneurs was to be prepared.

“Do your homework, make sure you have a good business plan. Research it, make sure you are aware,” Stevenson said. “Women as owners and managers are more proactively customer focused, they make friends, help customers, they create a positive work environment, pay employees better and make employees feel like part of their team.”

Women are starting businesses in a variety of industries, from technology to coffee shops as well as in a variety of locations, according to Stevenson.

In places like Kansas City, collaboration is key, said Stevenson. Groups such as KC Source Link and the Kauffman Foundation are providing opportunities and resources for entrepreneurship. At Kauffman every Wednesday morning, local startups present their ideas to a diverse room of mentors. Local governments are developing innovative public, private sector partnerships.

In New York, former mayor Michael Bloomberg passed monumental legislation in 2005 to help increase opportunity for minorities and women who own small businesses.

[It was] an inspiration not only for women, but for all entrepreneurs. She fostered the idea that each one of us can be a successful business person, no matter the gender.

— Adam Deltrick, Class of 2019

Women are catching up to men in the world of business, according to Stevenson. They are creating ventures at a higher rate than men. Stevenson continued to emphasize the importance of entrepreneurship and societal advancement.

“Probably more of you are going to be entrepreneurs than you think, do your homework and find sponsors,” Stevenson said.

Troy Elphinstone, ’19, reiterated Stevenson’s idea of the importance of men and women and praised Stevenson for her presentation.

“It is important to have both men and women in the business world,” Troy Elphinstone said. “She did a great job showing how women have advanced as entrepreneurs.”

Adam Deitrick, ’19, said he found the presentation inspirational.

“[It was] an inspiration not only for women, but for all entrepreneurs,” Deitrick said. “She fostered the idea that each one of us can be a successful business person, no matter the gender.”