In a series of TED-style talks on Friday, a lineup of seven seasoned entrepreneurs talked risk-taking and innovation as part of an annual conference to promote the University’s entrepreneurially minded organizations and departments.

Friday’s event, Entrepalooza, featured a keynote address by Katty Kay, the lead anchor for BBC World News America. Kay’s speech focused on women in the workforce and devoted special attention to taking entrepreneurial risks.  

Aaron Dworkin, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, delivered a TED-style talk about social entrepreneurship and preparing graduating students for meaningful careers. Other speakers included Jill Ford, a special adviser to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and several startup founders, many of them University alums.

Kay presented her speech as a fireside chat, and emphasized the importance of raising girls to take risks, which she said play a major role in successful entrepreneurship.

“I had to be pushed out of my comfort zone, into something that felt like a risk for me, in order to learn that I had the ability to learn,” Kay said. “Our young women are such stars and they’re working so hard and they’re being so perfect, but they’re kind of missing out on some skill-learning that would actually equip them better.”

Reflecting on her own experience, Kay urged the next generation of women to not let gender stereotypes confine them.

“Let’s encourage our girls to be bad girls,” she said. “Rather, not to be inherently good girls all the time. This stereotype — girls who are good girls, who are perfect — is not healthy.”

After her speech, Kay said she is particularly interested in finding ways to “get more women to the top” — not only in business, but in politics, the military and other organizations.  

“What an event like this does is encouraging women to take risks, to set up ventures, to be prepared to fail at them,” Kay said. “And that’s really a lot of what we’re doing is with confidence. How do we encourage women to go as far as their talents mean they deserve to go, but that they perhaps don’t have that self-belief?”

During his talk later in the day, Dworkin discussed diversity in the arts and emphasized educational opportunities where students can make tangible contributions to their fields of study.

“We need to educate and train our students to be relevant to their field of study, which means having a demonstrable, significant impact on their field of study.”

Dworkin also underlined the importance of helping students find work they’re enjoy and find fulfilling.

“Our graduates will be excited, they will get jobs, they will be well paid,” he said. “But most importantly, they will wake up every day doing the work that we helped empower them to feel passionately about.”

Tommy Jakubiec, an Eastern Michigan University freshman who attended Friday’s event, said he appreciated the opportunity to learn from experienced entrepreneurs, particularly because he can use their advice in running the online business he created several years ago.

“I want to get some more inspiration,” he said. “Sitting in keynotes of people that have been through the same thing that I’m trying to pursue, they always offer goals and tips and techniques.”

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