My Story: From Girl Scout to CEO

Then, for the Gold Award, my troop and I made a free book closet for children in the Hamburg community. So we probably collected around 5,000 to 10,000 books, raising money through a recycling drive and simply asking the community to put books out on their doorstep. We picked them up and made a free book closet, so that kids could come and take them.

I decided to go to business school because I knew that someday I wanted to run a business, but I wasn’t exactly sure what business that would be. I thought that Wharton would be the appropriate place to develop the right skills, especially as an undergrad, since the classes offer such a breadth of material, and you really have to learn about everything – from marketing to accounting to finance. I thought it would be a great place to hone my skills and sort of get a toolkit that I could apply to any venture that I wanted to start.

I think the most important thing I’ll take away from Wharton though, is outside-the-classroom experience. The Wharton network is so expansive that there is always someone in some corner of the world who’s willing to help you. I’ve gotten to meet the top executives at companies, politicians, and venture capitalists. I’ve talked to marketing professors about optimization, and I’ve talked to management professors about how to structure a company. The people, and my involvement with Wharton entrepreneurship, that’s how I’ve raised almost all of my money. I’ve found some of the most valuable mentors that I’m ever going to have in my life here, and I’m really thankful that I have this opportunity.

GenHERation is my current startup. I’ve been working on it since last summer. We provide girls with the opportunity to work with nonprofits and corporations in advocacy campaigns. Companies will pose a challenge, and girls submit their ideas. Then the girls will vote among themselves, and the winner will get to work with the company to implement her project.

I always knew I wanted to start a business – I actually thought of this one when I was going into my senior year in high school. I was applying to college, and I knew that I wanted to pursue business, but I realized that there was a lack of female role models. I had been Googling “women business leaders,” and there were so few I started wondering, “Who can I even talk to, to get advice?” You know there are women business leaders who are CEOs of their companies, but what about someone in her 20s who would be more relatable?

So I wanted to have some type of platform, but then I was turning my applications in, and then my freshman year came around, and I was interested in trying to figure out Wharton and what it had to offer. My sophomore year is when things really got implemented. During the fall and spring I started talking to just anyone and everyone about entrepreneurship. I talked to over 60 professors. I talked to local women business leaders – anyone who would take 10 or 15 minutes and give me their advice.

And then I met a woman who had graduated from the Wharton MBA program, her name’s Keya Dannembaum, and she has a company called Versa. She said, “You’re going to have to put something together, some product, test it, and move on from there. You can talk to a lot of people, but in the end you have to learn in an experimental fashion.” So she was really helpful in putting me on that path, and I started conducting research over the summer on leadership development in high school girls. Keya said that if I wanted my company to be member-driven, since I’m not selling a hard-and-tangible product, then I have to understand what need I’m going to fill in young people’s lives.