by Mimi Montgomery
photographs by Joseph Rafferty
An enthusiastic group of 210 Triangle area women (and three men) gathered at the Umstead Hotel and Spa Sept. 9 for Walter’s second-annual WINnovation event, sponsored by Bank of America and the Umstead. Celebrating women and entrepreneurism in the Triangle, the sold-out luncheon featured TED-talk-inspired “WIN” talks by five local female innovators: Cindy Whitehead, co-founder of Sprout Pharmaceuticals and founder and CEO of The Pink Ceiling; Tashni-Ann Dubroy, president of Shaw University and co-owner of Tea and Honey Blends; Maura Horton, founder of MagnaReady; Isa Watson, founder and CEO of Envested; and Jamie Meares, blogger and founder and creative director of Furbish Studio.
“Don’t run from the word no. This is where mere innovation is born.”
–Maura Horton, founder of MagnaReady
Each woman shared stories from her own entrepreneurial journey, covering everything from resilience to ingenuity; how to overcome boundaries; the importance of confidence; and how to lean into change and move past failure.
“There’s always something significant that you’ve achieved time and time again when the odds were stacked against you – when you’re looking to do something bold, I think it’s really important to just block out all the noise.”
–Isa Watson, founder and CEO of Envested
Following the talks, the group gathered together on the stage to answer questions from the audience. Then, guests separated into groups to participate in breakout conversations focused on how to execute ideas, how to leverage local resources, how to return to work after a career break, and how to work entrepreneurially in any setting. These discussions were led by Gab Smith, executive director of CAM Raleigh, Teresa Monteiro, founder and CEO of Her Leap, Jenny Hwa, executive director of Innovate Raleigh, and Robin Costello, corporate relations director of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.
“You can’t be your biggest hater. There are tons of people in the world to do that for you. You’ve got to be your biggest promoter … be sure you maintain a level of confidence that will take you beyond the stars.”
–Tashni-Ann Dubroy, president of Shaw University and co-owner of Tea and Honey Blends
“(Be) daring enough to not be afraid of change, and to not even give the word failure any meaning to you. I dare you to fail – try it.”
–Jamie Meares, blogger and founder
and creative director of Furbish Studio
Throughout the day, a networking area sponsored by e51 and HQ Raleigh allowed attendees to create connections and exchange ideas, propelling the power of WINnovation beyond the day itself. This forward momentum was further evidenced in an invitation from Gab Smith for all attendees to reconvene in six months at CAM. A cocktail hour closed the day. Guests mingled with new contacts and the event speakers, reflecting the camaraderie and community spirit that makes Triangle entrepreneurship flourish.
“Put the women at the center of any conversation, walk a mile in their shoes, and you can make pretty remarkable change.”
–Cindy Whitehead, co-founder of Sprout Pharmaceuticals
and founder and CEO of The Pink Ceiling