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A new conference geared toward female entrepreneurs takes root downtown



"Women changing the world, one venture at a time."

That's the slogan and the overall theme for the Women Entrepreneurs Inspire Conference, presented by the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. The conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Cox Convention Center.

This is the 10th year for the program in general, but the first to be held in Oklahoma City. Organizers of the event are committed to "an entrepreneurial revolution in the state of Oklahoma."

As women represent one of the fastest growing sectors of new business in the country, Riata Center officials wanted to be able to provide entrepreneurial tools and skills for this expanding demographic.

"As a minority group in the business world, women don't have access to the same networks or resources that many men would have. We feel it is critical to support women entrepreneurs, because they represent a tremendous opportunity for economic growth and development," said Nola Miyasaki, Norman C. Stevenson chair and director with the Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises program at OSU.

The conference is targeted at all women in the community, although Miyasaki expects many OSU students to attend as well.

Michael Morris, professor at OSU's Spears School of Business and organizer of the event, believes in the importance of women entrepreneurs in a rapidly evolving business world.

 "We have incredibly high-impact speakers that will make this an amazing day, top to bottom," he said. "There is a mix of incredibly inspiring and motivating people, along with subject-matter experts such as CPAs and social-networking leaders."

For breakout sessions, attendees can choose between such topics as "Why the Business Plan Actually Matters" and "Using Social Media Networks to Grow Your Business."

More than a dozen speakers are scheduled to address the attendees, including Maxine Clark, founder of Build-a-Bear Workshop; Cordia Harrington, founder of Tennessee Bun Company; and Susan Lacz, CEO of Ridgewells Catering in Washington, D.C.

"We've developed a strong network of women entrepreneurs over the past decade. In addition to inviting back some of the best presenters, we stay on top of knowing some of the women around the country who are doing the most incredible things, overcoming unusual obstacles or otherwise standing out," Morris said.

The conference will include a networking lunch with guest entrepreneurs, followed by the presentation of several awards. The day will end with a reception.

 "This is the first annual event, and we anticipate that this will continue to grow each year," Miyasaki said. "Over time, we hope to contribute to the development of a stronger network among women entrepreneurs which will in turn contribute to the development of a more vibrant culture of entrepreneurship in Oklahoma."

Visit www.entrepreneurship.okstate. edu/inspire for information."Emily Hopkins

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