During the school year, hundreds of students at Girls Preparatory School are taught that opportunities for women are infinite, and the proof of that mindset lies in those who walked the halls before them. Even in 1906, the founders of GPS believed girls deserved access to the same education available to boys and pooled their resources to create a school for girls. In this spirit of social and business entrepreneurship, Head of School Dr. Autumn A. Graves first introduced Mad, Bad, and Dangerous (MBD) to Chattanooga in 2015 as a women’s entrepreneurial summit.
“By introducing girls and young women to the concepts and skills related to entrepreneurship, we are opening doors of opportunity they'll use throughout their lives,” Dr. Graves says. “Entrepreneurship skills can drive success in corporate positions, nonprofit leadership roles, and in managing busy careers and home life. As women cycle in and out of careers, entrepreneurship provides income options with added lifestyle flexibility.”
Like most business startups, MBD has experienced its own timeline of transition and growth. This year, GPS hosted MBD: Girl Edition on March 10-11, transforming the campus into a venue where girls could put into practice their small business acumen as well as learn from mentors about how to solve real business problems in a 24-Hour Generator.
Juniors and seniors in schools (and homeschools) across Chattanooga and North Georgia were offered the opportunity to apply to the Generator, where they would spend 24 hours in teams to come up with a solution to a real-world business challenge. The winners of the competition split a $1000 cash prize funded by First Tennessee. Using the Co.Lab model and supported by Public Education Foundation, the girls worked with mentors and facilitators through the night to brainstorm options and then perfect their reverse pitches.
Ultimately Alisia Lindsey from The Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, Diala Abdalkarim from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, and Taylor Jefferson from Tyner Academy, won for their pitch to help Aegle Gear increase sales of their athletic-inspired medical scrubs. The girls were mentored by Jennifer Skjellum with ThreatAdvice and facilitated by Toyin Lanade with The Enterprise Center.
In addition to the 24-Hour Generator, the Girls’ Marketplace, open for five hours the afternoon of March 11, proved to be a popular venue for middle and high school girls to sell their goods and services. From bath bombs and plants to self-published books of poetry and hand-knitted hats, the variety and quality of merchandise was impressive. And so were their booth setups and sales techniques.
Prior to MBD: Girl Edition, the Chattanooga Public Library offered free workshops to help the girls prepare for the event. Topics such as targeting your audience, booth display, and branding basics were covered so the girls could confidently open for business and turn a profit.
While the girls were busy making money, their parents and and others who attended MBD: Girl Edition took advantage of the seminars offered to help them learn how to best support their girlpreneurs.
Alexis Willis, Director of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and emcee of the event, says MBD has been important to her as a GPS alumna, entrepreneur, and mother. When her daughter has a business idea, Willis says, “I tell her ‘Let's think it through’ and, with the training I've received in Chattanooga's entrepreneurial ecosystem, I help her discover whether or not the idea is feasible. We are still searching for the right one.”