More than 3,000 greater Bay Area girls of all ages were empowered to dream big — even to swim with the sharks — at the 3rd Annual WorldWideWomen Girls’ Festival on Oct. 6, held this year at Santa Clara University.
“It’s a day of power and possibility for the girls, thousands of girls and their families,” said Maureen Broderick, founder and CEO of WorldWideWomen, the global resource center for women and girls that hosted the festival.
The campus was abuzz from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with inspiring, empowering experiences — from auditioning to be an ABC7 TV weather anchor to entering Kaiser Permanente’s public service announcement video contest.
On the Louis B. Mayer Theatre stage, seven “girlpreneurs” participated in the nonprofit BizWorld’s version of the hit reality TV show Shark Tank, in which millionaire and billionaire “sharks” decide which start-up to fund.
The girlpreneurs shined in the spotlight before the theater audience and the four business-savvy judges (AKA sharks), making it difficult to decide which one of their five very real businesses to fund.
Sisters Katelyn, 14, and Ashley, 11 — who had to stand on a box to see over the podium — pitched Malaysian batik fabric art kits and sand art projects, which they call “the art of joy” (www.colorcruiser.com). Anvi Vasa, 13, introduced Bee You, her line of trendy bottom wear designed to fit tall teens and juniors.
Shruthkiril Shankar, 12, pitched NatureousBiz, her all-natural line of homemade, guilt-free (not tested on animals), vegan beauty products. Lizzie Allison, 17, pitched Team Celebrate (www.teamcelebrate.org), a nonprofit which recruits volunteers to fill birthday boxes for foster and refugee foster children.
Melissa Mercado and Karina Moreno, both 18 and freshmen business majors at Cal State University Dominguez Hills, pitched Sol Power. Their business, now in the prototype stage, will make a solar-powered phone case that charges cell phones using sunlight and indoor light.
And the winners? The people’s choice winner of $500 was Team Celebrate. The judges’ choice first-place winner of $1,000 was Sol Power.
“We’re shocked [to win] and very happy to be here,” said Mercado. “Keep dreaming.”
Jordan Smith from Franklin Middle School in Vallejo was one of about 300 girls bused to Santa Clara from outlying cities. She felt confident that she, too, could start a business.
“I’ve been empowered by watching other girls my age who are starting their own businesses,” said Smith, who wants to start a chef business.
Other festival activities included an outdoor makerspace, STEM workshops, speakers and career panel discussions, sports and fitness activities, song and dance performances, and a fashion show.
And, not to perpetuate a stereotype, but what girl doesn’t like to shop? Girlpreneurs as young as seven sold their own products at a marketplace organized by the nonprofit Girls Crushing It (www.girlscrushingit.org).
“This festival is phenomenal,” said San Jose resident Lynn Nickles, attending in support of her girlpreneur neighbors Katelyn and Ashley. “I’m retired. If only this was around when I was a girl. Girl power is coming!”
The daunting mission of WorldWideWomen (www.worldwidewomen.co) is to move not just the U.S. but the world towards gender parity.
“There has never been a central place for women to connect, collaborate and share resources,” said Broderick. “Can you just imagine the power of half the world finally having a place to share their voice — it will change the world.”
WorldWideWomen already offers resources for 23 cities in 13 countries and continues to expand. Broderick wants to take the girls’ festival on the road beyond the Bay Area.
“Girls all over the world should experience the local resources that support their lives,” said Broderick.