West Chester University and SCORE Celebrate Women Entrepreneurs: 2020 Conference


Entrepreneurs solve problems, often dedicating their entire careers to get it right.

Women-owned small businesses and startups are particularly focused on solving problems that help others.

You might ask: what kind of businesses are they?

Here in Chester and Delaware Counties, they cover the entire range—from childcare services and low-income housing programs, to digital marketing and social media agencies, to mechanics shops and hi-tech patented dental and medical products.

Now, SCORE and the West Chester University Cottrell Entrepreneurship Center are bringing this group of business women together, linked by a common goal:  making their businesses more successful.

Women, who are natural networkers, can crowdsource new ideas and get real-world feedback from others who face the same challenges, especially important in the 2020 pandemic crisis.

Annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day 2020 will be celebrated nationally Nov. 19 to empower and support women in business worldwide.

Locally, on Nov. 17, the West Chester University Cottrell Center and SCORE will honor this mission with their annual West Chester University Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference.

The conference has gained local and national recognition as a benchmark for “women helping women.”

This year’s conference, “Challenge 2020: Stay the Course & Seize the Opportunities” will take place virtually Nov. 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

You can register here.

SCORE initiated the first women’s conference in 2014 supporting the significant growth of female business clients, representing 50% of the SCORE client base at that time.

Almost 90 local women gathered at the West Chester University Graduate Center to get updated on social media strategies and to ask questions of women business leaders about how they were using social media programs.

Pattie Diggin

Pattie Diggin  and Dr. Monica Zimmerman from the Cottrell Center were panelists in this first program.

Jerry Francis, SCORE Mentor and Event Coordinator remembers, It was energizing. The women – from SCORE, the SBA (Small Business Administration), local colleges and all the local business women – networked at round tables sharing their stories, learning from each other, connecting over coffee, a light breakfast and lunch. We decided this was worth doing again!”

Since then, hundreds of women professionals have gathered annually to join a growing audience from the greater Philadelphia region.

In 2019, attendance reached capacity at the University Foundation Center at just under 200 when all events were still ‘live and in person.’

Respecting the health and safety of our communities, the 2020 conference will be broadcast using a state-of-the-art virtual platform.

Women and men – startups, business leaders, mentors, coaches, students – will come together to learn from women experts “who lived in the shoes of small business owners and founders,” in the words of Pattie Diggin, director of the Cottrell Center. “With the use of online networking and breakout rooms, sponsor halls and interactive Q&A, we expect the remote event to be as close to a live-in person experience as possible.”

Learning from Successful Women Entrepreneurs

This year Harvard professor, Laura Huang, will share her insights on how to find a competitive edge when you feel the world is against you.

Ms. Huang was recognized in 2016 as a Best 40 under 40 Professor for her ‘extremely impactful research on female entrepreneurship’ while at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

A free copy of her book, “The Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage” will be sent to the first 75 registrants.

Karen Underwood

Karin Underwood, an honors graduate of Henderson High School in West Chester and Stanford Business School, is returning home to tell her story about the tech nonprofit she founded in 2020, established in San Francisco, California.

Karin launched CoachMe after realizing that the biggest gap in chronic disease management is providing quality support to people who need to build healthy behaviors.

Remote health coaches help low-income Americans with diabetes and high blood pressure to make changes to their health regimen while remaining safe at home.

Karin admitted, “The decision to start a tech nonprofit after graduating wasn’t easy, but I knew it was right…”  Women focus on doing good for others!

The Bigger Picture

Growth of women-owned startups vs. overall small business is exploding in the US.

In 2019, women-owned businesses represented 42% of all American businesses, nearly 13 million of them, employing 9.4 million workers and generating revenues of $1.9 trillion.*

Over the last five years, more and more women are operating ‘side gigs,’ expanding at a rate of 39% compared to 21% for all female entrepreneurships.

Minority women account for much of this growth where ‘side-preneurships’ represent well over half of all businesses.

Success builds confidence. Young women have witnessed the achievements of female founders before them.  They have learned they can be successful business leaders and good Moms.  Over time, more affordable quality child care programs have been added.

*State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express. 2019

 The Trends

As the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors, SCORE is committed to helping any startup, small business or organization succeed.

Based on 2019 SCORE client data, over 60% are women.  This trend is consistent with US and local small business trends.

Free mentoring and business education are offered by SCORE to help startups open new businesses and grow.

More formal education programs are evolving. West Chester University School of Business recently added an Entrepreneurship minor, with women making up more than 50% of the enrollment.

On the other hand, the pandemic crisis has hurt the female business target.

Pattie Diggin noted, “There are setbacks for working mothers who have young children at home in virtual classes without alternative childcare options. Business organizations and capital funding that help women-owned enterprises – chambers, women business networks and foundations – have scaled back.  Pivoting, especially for brick and mortar business models, has been particularly challenging.”

An abundance of women-founded venture capital and funding programs have emerged in recent years to address the issue directly.  Examples are: Female Founders Fund, Grants for Women.org, SoGal Ventures, Tory Burch Foundation.

Dr. Monica Zimmerman, executive director of the Cottrell Center, recently moderated the panel, “Raising Capital: Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Experiences,” which was part of the Fourth Women Founders and Funders: Accessing Capital event, hosted by Fox Rothschild Women’s Initiative and the Private Investors Forum. Women helping women!

“With more than 12 million American companies owned or co-owned by women, the impact of women-owned businesses is crucial to economies all over the country. However, women-owned businesses have historically lacked access to funding.

Research shows that less than 5% of venture capital funding went to startups solely owned by women as recently as 2018…”   SEPT. 11, 2020 US Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Zimmerman tells us: “Challenges remain for women entrepreneurs in funding their businesses. While women entrepreneurs may have equal access to funding, for many women entrepreneurs the path to accessing that funding may not be as clear as for men entrepreneurs, the dollar amounts raised may be lower, and their desire for outside investors may be less.”

What’s Next?

It will be interesting to observe how the pandemic crisis motivates women entrepreneurs.

There are some early statistics that suggest a growing number of women are quitting their traditional jobs with employers.

Will we see a surge in new female startups as women juggle children’s school schedules, responsibilities in the home and find a path that gives them more flexibility and control over their lives?

Time will tell. Either way, the future is bright for women in business.

Whether you want to start or grow your business, SCORE can help. Find a mentor today.


 Join SCORE and Volunteer. Share your expertise to help the small business community.


 Reference the SCORE Women Business Leaders’ Resource Center.


 The State of Women Entrepreneurs by Rieva Lesonsky


SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business experts, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals. Since 1964, we have provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs nationwide. SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties has been operating since 1985, with 100 dedicated volunteers today who provide confidential mentoring at no charge and offer business seminars, workshops and webinars to benefit the local community.

SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). https://chesterdelco.score.org/


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