East Hardin Middle School seventh-grader Grace Lowther didn’t expect to pitch an idea to a panel of local women entrepreneurs Friday.
But after watching a film and hearing the women speak, she walked up to the microphone and asked for their advice on getting her idea off the ground.
“I want to start an idea for the school system on missing the bus, so students don’t miss the bus every day,” she said.
Grace said she’s had the idea since fifth grade and was motivated to make it happen after Friday’s event focused on women and entrepreneurship.
The Kentucky Innovation Network teamed up with Boss Lady Coaching and local schools to host the event at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School. Seventh-grade girls from Hardin County Schools and Elizabethtown Independent Schools attended.
“It made me feel good that I’m going to be able to do it,” she said.
Grace said she’s known many students who were absent from school because they missed the bus. She’s envisioning either a mobile app or tracking system to help students.
Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton was one of seven panelists. She advised Grace to find someone who can help her brainstorm the idea.
Grace said her favorite part of the event was watching “She Started It,” a documentary that follows five female entrepreneurs as they work to start their companies.
Lisa Boone, a regional director with the Kentucky Innovation Network, said the network has worked to reach out to area youth to encourage entrepreneurship. Last week’s session is the latest example of that outreach.
“We’re planting the seeds right here,” she said.
Boone said she intends to host similar events in the future.
“We think this was a successful day,” she said.
After the film, Hampton and other local women entrepreneurs participated in the panel discussion. Hollie Sexton, co-founder of Boss Lady Coaching, moderated the discussion. She asked the women to give advice, talk about challenges and share how they started their companies, among other speaking points.
Michelle Harmon, owner of Family Fun Cafe and Ice Cream, said she had to learn to silence negative voices inside of her that said she wasn’t good enough.
“The most challenging obstacle has been myself,” she said.
Radcliff City Councilwoman Tanya Seabrooks encouraged students to find internal motivation rather than letting what others think drive them.
“Don’t let anybody define you,” she said.
Seabrooks added that girls need to start celebrating each other.
“We’re all awesome,” she said. “When you are a boss lady, you don’t have the time to entertain foolishness.”
During the question-and-answer portion, students lined up to ask about the panelists’ journeys and how to start a career or a program.
A Bluegrass Middle School student overcame her nerves and asked the panelists for tips on how to start a program for victims of bullying.
“I doubt myself a lot and want advice on how to feel better,” she said.
The panelists applauded her for standing up to speak and advised she put herself in an encouraging environment.
“Seek out mentors or adults to help out on projects,” Seabrooks said. “Trust me, every last person up here can help you. We got your back.”
Hampton wrapped up the event by encouraging girls to leave their comfort zones, such as taking a challenging class or one outside their interest area.
“You never know where it’s going to lead,” she said.