Chatham Views

CWE 10TH ANNIVERSARY: Q AND A WITH REBECCA HARRIS

harris 1Rebecca Harris is the Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University. 2015 marks the Center’s 10th anniversary.

What changes have you noticed in the entrepreneurial climate for women?

In Pittsburgh, we’ve noticed more women starting businesses, especially younger women, and an increase in the diversity of industries. At the same time, there has been an incredible increase of support for these businesses within the Center and the Chatham community as well as in the greater Pittsburgh region. And we’ve noticed a shift from need-based entrepreneurs to desire-based entrepreneurs, as pressures from the recession decrease.

Are there any Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs or start-ups that you think have been particularly successful?

We’ve worked with many exceptional women, some of whom launched their businesses with our programs ten years ago and have now circled back to mentor other members. Most of the women who take our entrepreneurial training programs have been referred by a client of the Center, which is a testament to the success of the businesses who have participated in our offerings.

What would you say are the biggest changes the CWE has gone through in the past 10 years?

Over the past 10 years, the Center has developed a continuum of services, from start-up programs like our proprietary MyBusiness Startup to those that allow us to work with more established businesses, such as MyBusiness Growth and MyBoard. We’re bringing in a wider variety of local and national speakers, offering more events, and spending more time in the community, doing presentations and workshops.  Finally, we have formed strong connections with other universities, entrepreneurial support organizations in Pittsburgh, and a wide variety of departments at Chatham University.

What Center accomplishments are you most proud of?

Over the past two years, we’ve developed a customized curriculum specifically for women in MyBusiness Startup and MyBusiness Growth.  We’re extremely proud of the success that we’ve had developing our own programming, including the MyConsulting Corner program, which combines a field-study experience for MBA students with hands-on assistance for women business owners in the community. Prior to that, the Center began one of Pittsburgh’s first morning networking events for women with our Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series and we’re proud to have such a successful program still happening today. This year we also celebrate ten years of our annual Think Big Forum.

What’s on the horizon for the CWE?

We look forward to continuing to support women as part of the Women’s Institute, as they start and grow their businesses through our programs, mentoring and networking opportunities, and we’re excited to continue working with the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to provide opportunities for our members.