Apr 272011
Authors: Rachel Childs

Kim Jordan just didn’t wake up and become the CEO of New Belgium Brewery.

After her husband, New Belgium co-founder Jeff Lebesch, returned from Belgium with the dream of opening a brewery, she jumped on board with the idea, eventually taking out a second mortgage on her home and brewing beer in her basement.

“It’s important to do something that you love and it’s important to be really clear how you want to show up in that business, what it stands for,” Jordan said.

Jordan and more than 130 people, mostly women, crowded the CSU Business Building North on West Laurel Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday for the Women Entrepreneurs’ Leadership Summit to hear powerful business women explore what it means to own a business as a female and get ahead in life.

“This is something that I hold near and dear to my heart, which is helping women get their own businesses,” said Charisse McAuliffe, WELS creator and owner of company GenGreenlife.

McAuliffe and CSU associate marketing professor Dawn DeTienne worked on an entrepreneur task force and worried about the lack of female students in the classes. They decided to gather prominent business owners from across the state to speak and give guidance to aspiring self-made business owners.

“We just dove in like entrepreneurs do and just started putting things together,” DeTienne said.

Networking was also a key point during the conference. A network reception was held at 5 p.m. to allow business owners to mingle and answer questions about how to get ahead professionally.

Several students sat in the back of the room to listen and seek out potential mentors for their future start-ups.

“This is a great opportunity to see what women have to say about business and the challenges they face and if they’re the same that I will face when I go into the business world,” said senior marketing and art major Chelsea Rump.

The conference featured 22 speakers on topics of gender in the industry, the best way to fund a company and how to advance in a business career.

One session discussed the often referenced “boys club,” wherein male coworkers segregate female colleagues from after-work activities or undermine them due to their gender.

Speaker and founder of the Catalyst Institute Anita Burke described how she was once offered the job of CEO of Texaco Inc., but her boss required that she get married first.

“Sexism in the corporate workplace as far as advancement and the like hasn’t gone away,” she said. “It’s just become more insidious. “

Prue Kaley and Mike Levy, the founders of northerncoloradorental.com, said they chose each other due to their complementary skills, not for equal gender representation. While Levy knew of the discrepancy while working at Hewlett-Packard, it was not tolerated.

“There isn’t a boys or a girls club. We’re all partners and support each other and help each other out,” Kaley said.

Staff writer Rachel Childs at news@collegian.com.

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