Villanova Alumna Honored at Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs Gala and Pitch Competition

The Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is an organization that supports advancement for local women high-growth entrepreneurs. As a student volunteer I was able to attend AWE’s Emerging Entrepreneur Pitch Competition and 2016 Gala. Nine women pitched their ideas ranging in industries from healthcare and cosmetics to transportation and technology.

The winner of the pitch competition was Rachel Benyola founder of AnneeLondon. AnneeLondon is a company that has designed a fashionable, safe, and collapsible bike helmet. Given the recent increase in bike riding her mission is to increase the use of bike helmets by providing one that is both fun to wear and easy to carry around. The first runner up was revoLOOtion. Nidhi Shah Co-Founder and CEO created a less expensive, water-less toilet for low income houses in India. Her mission was to bring dignity and sanitation to those who are unable to afford plumbing.The second runner up was breast cancer survivor Dana Donofree who has created a fashionable and comfortable line of underwear for breast cancer survivors post-surgery. Her company Ana Ono provides women with comfort while still allowing them to feel beautiful with their new bodies.

Overall, the women (and men) that presented all came from various backgrounds but had ideas that can change the lives of others in unique and positive ways. There was an overwhelming feeling of support for the women that were presenting their ideas. Everyone was there to give feedback and make connections.

AWE President Joan Lau touched on the fact that just 20 years ago 4 women joined forces just to get help and advice on being entrepreneurs. Lau was able to tell this story to an audience of over 100 people. It was easy to see that what was once a small network of support has grown to become a significant resource for women in the community.

The winner of AWE’s Iris Newman Award was Villanova Alumna Denise Devine. Denise was one of the original founders of AWE and is the Founder and CEO of FNB Holdings, LLC. Denise is able to combine her experience with entrepreneurial start-ups and Fortune 100 corporations to increase the number of innovative women on the boards of public companies. Devine has said, “Having someone with an entrepreneurial mindset is essential now for innovation.”

Devine receiving the Iris Newman Award is a testament to her dedication to the advancement of women entrepreneurs. It is inspirational to see a small group of friends help one another to become successful. However, what is more inspirational is seeing women who have achieved that success to become a resource to the women in their community and help them succeed as well.