Women’s Business Center Entrepreneurial Summit Showcases Partnerships

“There is no such thing as failure,” said former-City Council Member and current Zone Project Director Amber Waldref, “only learning experiences.”

On July 11, 75 local entrepreneurs and aspiring business leaders gathered at Gonzaga University for the inaugural Entrepreneurial Summit hosted by SNAP’s Women’s Business Center. Waldref delivered the keynote address, finishing with a final reassurance, “Follow your path and follow your course, and I know you’ll be successful.” In partnership with Power Partner and Title Sponsor, Umpqua Bank, SNAP’s Women’s Business Center hosted this summit with the success of the guests in mind – 75% of whom were women. The day began with a panel discussion of business experts, transitioned into lunch and Waldref’s keynote address, before concluding with a BECU Pitch Competition and networking opportunities.

Insightful discussions and personalized coaching were on display for the guests. To broader audiences, however, what was evident was SNAP’s breadth of community partners that are committed to SNAP’s mission in diverse ways.

“Our partners gave an extremely authentic look at the possibilities Spokane has to offer for entrepreneurs,” said Nicolle Hansen, Women’s Business Center Manager. “It was both humbling and heartening to see.”

Umpqua Bank acted as an example of partnership-in-action. Not only did they donate funds that made the event possible, but they also donated 121 volunteer hours – more than 80% of all volunteer hours dedicated toward this event.  

Other community partners followed suit. Between the panel discussion and the Pitch Competition judging, the Entrepreneurial Summit received the expertise of business professionals from five different financial institutions (Umpqua Bank, BECU, US Bank, Mountain West, and First Interstate Bank), along with Whitworth University, Associated Industries, Milepost 42, and community members-at-large

On the panel discussion, these committed community partners took the time to offer genuine insights and address client questions with candor. Hansen states, “The thing that came across to me as being the most impactful was that the discussion panel brought such a wide range of knowledge right to our clients.”

The Entrepreneurial Summit ended on a high note, with BECU awarding the $2,000 SNAP-Forward Grant to the winner of the Pitch Competition. Representatives from all five partnering financial institutions served as judges. All told, eight semi-finalists prepared business plans, and four finalists moved forward to deliver 10-minute presentations.

“The pitch competition really showcased the unique skills and ideas our neighbors have,” says Hansen. “Any of the competing businesses in the Pitch Competition could have been excellent stewards of our mission.”

Still, the competition could only have one winner, and the judges chose Margie Bensching, CEO and Founder of GoldenSherpa. Bensching’s business empowers consumers and providers in the eldercare industry with unbiased and easy-to-understand information enabling informed decisions.

When asked to offer her advice for burgeoning entrepreneurs, Bensching echoed Waldref’s advice from earlier in the Summit. “Show up,” said Bensching, “and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

SNAP is grateful to our community partners for offering help in such unique and innovative ways to allow our clients to follow their path, follow their course, and ultimately be successful.

SNAP’s Women’s Business Center plans to host the Second Annual Entrepreneurial Summit in the summer of 2020.