Jennifer Iannolo is an engaging, animated speaker who has inspired young women from undergraduates at Harvard University to activists at the United Nations. She is the founder & CEO of The Concordia Project, a company focused on creating global conversations around women’s empowerment. A global speaker on women’s entrepreneurship, she is featured by the U.S. Department of State on speaking tours around the world, including Nepal and India. Recently, she spoke at the American Centre, Kolkata. Abhijit Ganguly speaks with Jennifer Iannolo.
How would you define true entrepreneurship?
I believe that true entrepreneurship is seeing a new way to do something, even in the most mundane of tasks. It is by making small changes to big problems that industries and countries are shifted. I mentored a young woman in India who created a social good project to increase the income of women in rural villages. She found a local artisan group producing jewellery, helped them to upgrade the quality of their products, eliminated the middle man, and provided distribution through a high-end website. She increased their income 700% in one month. Simple adjustments can change a life.
How does entrepreneurship empower women?
There is no true empowerment without economic empowerment. When a woman can provide for herself, the dynamic of the household changes. Suddenly she has a voice, and a choice. She is not beholden to someone else’s purse strings. This is absolutely critical to women’s empowerment.
How would you describe the small business landscape for women in America today?
Female founders are thriving in terms of the numbers of businesses being started. However, access to capital is still difficult, particularly in the tech sector. There are female funding groups being established to address this, including organizations like Ellevest and Golden Seeds.
To what extent women entrepreneurs fuel social change and economic growth?
I think women tend to lead with putting people first, which fuels social change at a more rapid rate. Until we have more access to capital, however, we cannot make huge strides in economic growth, so the scales are not yet balanced.