Acorns and Entrepreneurship (Results From Our Investigation)

acorn on the ground

Recently, we put a question** out to the Institute participants and got dozens of interesting answers.  Using the analogy of an acorn, we asked who or what has provided you with “nourishment, water and sunlight” and how have you dealt with competition. 

Part 1: Nourishment, Water and Sunlight

Constant support and encouragement is especially important for entrepreneurs because, as one woman put it,  “to be honest, it is quite a lonely road”. When writing about their core source of encouragement, family was mentioned more than any other source. Some talked about spouses, others mentioned children, grandchildren and grandparents.  As one woman put it “they are my motivational engine.”  In addition to inspiration, family also provided practical help, helping with childcare and other responsibilities in response to what one respondent called the “unorthodox schedule” associated with running your own business.  Another woman mentioned that her sister helped her with “education and wardrobe.”  

Friends also figured heavily in the responses, especially those who are also entrepreneurs, which one woman called her “business besties.”  Previous bosses and co-workers were mentioned as sources of “water and sunlight.”  Many of the business friendships grew out of participation in programs like “Tide Risers” and other networking groups.  Finding support in the voices and actions of other women was commonly mentioned.  As one woman put it, “there is so much beauty and power in women coming together to uplift and inspire one another,” as a means to deal with self-doubt and discouragement. 

Although most mentioned some source of inspiration as an ongoing “pull” to entrepreneurship, others felt pushed into it.  For example, one woman mentioned the “abject reality” that her previous job would not continue, and others mentioned the paucity of other job opportunities.  In these cases, it was the economic reality that provided the push. Still, once they “made the choice to go forward believing” in themselves, there were still forces that helped them grow and survive.  

There were sources mentioned that may help you think about additional places to find support for your entrepreneurial “acorn” to grow and thrive:  business coaches and mentors, non-profit groups supporting women, personal boards of directors, incubator programs (Chobani Food Incubator was mentioned specifically), social media influencers, role models (e.g., Oprah), Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), SCORE. Another woman mentioned the work of Barbara Stewart Smith and her work on “rich thinking.”   

Help can also be found in unexpected places from people who are strangers.  One particular impactful story was relayed about an entrepreneur who was roaming the Internet to find help and stumbled across a website for a similar product.  When she reached out to the (female) founder, she ended up getting an 8-hour training session which “literally recharged my battery.” 

Finally it is worth mentioning that many individuals found that, like an acorn, they carried some “nutrition” from within, citing their individual motivation, belief in the mission of the business, their personal faith, and their self-care and healing activities, providing the “vigor” needed to push forward.  Many mentioned the need for ongoing self awareness, noting things like vision boards and other activities to help stay focused to meet the “fiercest winds of adversity” and to “keep check on ego and emotions.” Personal savings provided help, as did a well of self-confidence and “knowing you can push through any challenge or endeavor.”  Also mentioned was the need to be honest when you see things are not working and you need the courage to pull the plug. One woman wrote “facing the truth was my water.” Echoing this thought another said,  “Not all of your ‘acorns’ are going to make it, but they’ll all make you stronger and wiser, if you allow it.”

What did these sources of sunshine and nourishment provide? Of course, financial resources were mentioned many times.  But equally important was moral support, especially from those who can see the best in the person and help to “stop the negative chatter” and encourage a positive mindset.  Valuable information and knowledge from mentors, was also mentioned, along with the advice that helped protect the entrepreneurs from bad choices, bad partnerships or from pursuing the wrong customers.

Part 2: Handling Competition

When it came to competition, it was often mentioned that there is “room enough for everyone to eat” so competitive forces were not too worrisome. More than one respondent mentioned that they were not in a “scarcity market” and that they prefer to focus on their own unique offerings. “Nobody can be me,” as one woman put it.  Others felt more pressure from the competitive landscape and used a variety of tactics to differentiate themselves and their business, such as: focusing on a specific niche, finding a powerful partner, thinking like a “specialist vs. a generalist,” creating a high level of service, offering customization and staying focused on the mission.  One interesting example of niche marketing came from someone who is actually in the “water and sunlight business,” working on solar water pumping systems for purification, with a specific outreach focus on women, who are the first adversely affected in a crisis involving water shortage. She mentioned that her competitive advantage was doing customer discovery to understand “what works and doesn’t work specifically for women in the marketplace.”

Other things that were mentioned as helpful in dealing with competition included: a willingness to learn and grow from others, understanding strategic marketing, maintaining an attitude of gratefulness, positivity and patience, keeping a focus on people (especially the customer), remaining nimble and flexible.  One response that interested us was an entrepreneur who said she has a “bless-and-release mantra” when it came to losing a customer.  She felt that when she lost out to a competitor, perhaps that meant it was not the right customer after all.  Using a “bless and release” approach she avoids wasting time on regrets and stays focused on future opportunities.  This was echoed in a comment that you must “know what you control and what you don’t.” Similar advice was to “stop paying attention to others and focus on differentiation.”

There were two very interesting extensions of the acorn metaphor.  One said “too few people focus on the acorn, a lot of people are focused on the tree.”  She sees the tree as the business model, investment and brand, while the seed is the “inner leadership and capabilities of the individual.”  If you can figure out what kind of seed you have, she argues, you’ll be able to find the right conditions under which you will flourish.  “People first need to know what seed they are.”

Another woman shared some wisdom she heard from a fellow mother:  “Shed yourself like a maple tree in autumn, in the colors of your life to rival the colors of the rainbow.  Share your time, talent and treasure to bring meaning to lives, knowing that you have brought to bear so many positive fruits that will nourish mind, body and soul.”

Thanks to everyone for shedding your wisdom on our community!

** Question: As many of you know, Cornell University is located in Upstate New York.  Fall is a stunning time here with all the leaves changing color – but it is also the time when thousands and thousands of acorns fall out of the oak trees and litter the ground. Only a very few of those thousands of acorns will ever grow into mature oak trees.  To become a tree, the acorn has to escape being eaten, be buried deep in the ground by an animal, and then get enough water and fertile soil to grow above the ground to sunlight.   Even then, the tree will face competition from other plants and many threats of nature to its survival.  Only a few will make the full journey.   What do acorns have to do with entrepreneurship?  Well, millions of people have ideas, but only some (like you!!!) actually take the steps to launch a business.  The questions that we would like to know more about are: 1) Who or what has provided you with the metaphorical nourishment, water and sunlight to push through and start your venture?  (or begin the work needed to start your venture) 2) How have you survived the competitive threats? (or how do you hope to survive them?)

Finding, Attracting and Using a Sponsor (Results from Our Investigation)

handprints on burlap that look like a tree

We asked students enrolled in the Institute a question** about your experiences with sponsors, those individuals who take actions to “pull you along,” helping you in specific ways to reach your entrepreneurial goals, as distinct from mentors, who help guide you and advise you about your business.    The most common answer (30%) was either “I didn’t know about sponsors” or “I haven’t been able to attract sponsors.  To help those who have not yet benefited from sponsorship, we share here the ideas from the rest of the respondents about 1) how they found a sponsor, 2) how they positioned themselves for sponsorship, and 3) benefits they received from their sponsors.

How To Be a Great Protégé

The person seeking a sponsor is called a protégé.  Many women wrote about the important factors in becoming a protégé who is useful to the sponsor.  It is critical to think about the needs and issues facing the prospective sponsor, so that you can highlight the ways in which the relationship can be beneficial to both parties.  A sponsor seeks credible, talented protégés whose accomplishments will shine light on him/her. One respondent described this as “being value-creating.”  Respondents said that to be identified as a promising protégé, you must ask the right questions, which will lead you to better understand the context and needs of the other individual.  As one respondent put it, “your path and the potential sponsor’s path must be able to align.”   Another woman wrote about the importance of being intentional about building relationships before you need it, or as she said “make deposits before withdrawals.”  

On the topic of credibility, several wrote about the need for the entrepreneur to express with clarity their vision, mission, outcomes and needs/goals.  As one put it, you need to speak “in clear, concise, and simple language with authority and enthusiasm in a manner that carries conviction.” Many also focused on being oneself to convey authenticity so that you as a protégé come across as genuine. Sponsors look for signs that a prospective protégé has a strong work ethic, exhibits loyalty, has useful expertise and can be of reciprocal value. Reputation matters – as one person put it: “attitude will always impact your altitude.”  

Finally, several emphasized the importance of going out of your comfort zone and asking someone.  This can be difficult for women, if they have been socialized with the idea that asking for something for oneself is selfish, pushy, or as one woman called it “being a gold-digger.”  To make the ask more justifiable, one woman wrote: “one way to ensure I am attracting what I need is to make sure I am aware of what my top three needs are in the first place.”  Other entrepreneurs mentioned the gender issues as well, saying that, “when women are seeking help from men, there is this subtle attitude that women should be giving up something in return.”  The same respondent went on to say that in her experience, women in leadership roles were not as inclined to help her as a woman.  Another comment came from someone who thinks sponsorship is “an edge men have over women in the business space.”  She attributed this to the idea that women “see ourselves as competitors instead of collaborators.”

Where To Find Prospective Sponsors

The women who responded suggested a wide variety of options for finding a sponsor.  One said “start with a mentor,” as a sort of building block of support.  Another suggested joining business forums and networking events as the first step in identifying someone who one might develop as a sponsor.  Regional business incubators, small business/entrepreneurship organizations and business owner groups are other places to network for prospective sponsors.  

Another option is to look among your customers.  For example, one woman said that her success at providing high level service to her clients led to them opening doors to another set of clients that she otherwise could not access from a position external to their companies. 

Benefits of Sponsorship

If you conquer your hesitation, find the mutual alignment of goals and project credibility and capability, the rewards of sponsorship are many.  Benefits that were mentioned included:

  • Introductions and invitations to dinners or other events.
  • Providing access otherwise not available.
  • Nominations for roles (she would not have applied for).
  • Motivation when the sponsor holds the entrepreneur accountable.
  • Cross-promotion opportunities.
  • Deferred costs.
  • Free media coverage.
  • Help with a business plan and/or pitch.
  • Recommendation for bigger opportunities.
  • Introductions to new clients/customers.

In conclusion, here are some references to other resources that can be helpful. Dr. Streeter recommends the book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Although the book focuses more on corporate life, the concepts and strategies are equally applicable to entrepreneurs.  If you don’t have time to read, here’s quick video of Sylvia.

One respondent, Stacy Cassio, Founder and CEO of Pink Mentor, also shared a podcast called “Work-It, Girl!” where Stacy was interviewed on networking and sponsorship. You can hear it here.


**Question sent to Institute Participants: Does your network as an entrepreneur include both mentors and sponsors? The distinction is important.  Mentors can help guide you and advise you about your business but sponsors are those individuals who take actions to “pull you along,” helping you in specific ways to reach your entrepreneurial goals. 

In a recent article, Alison Koplar Wyatt, president of Girlboss was quoted saying “Women have a tendency to collect mentors….Men go after sponsors.”   In many entrepreneurial ecosystems, potential sponsors (those with the power to take action to help) are male (and white), so it can be challenging for female entrepreneurs to build a network with the right sponsorship power.  

Our questions to you:  

  1. What is your best strategy for attracting sponsors who are “above you” in your business ecosystem?  
  2. How have sponsors helped you in your entrepreneurial efforts?

Code Switching: Your Voices (Results from Our Investigation)

Dahlia flower with two colors - yellow and red

A few weeks ago, we asked Institute participants some questions about “code switching,” including:  Have you found it necessary (or important) at times to use code-switching in certain parts of your entrepreneurial journey?   Do you make conscious decisions to code-switch (or not) in certain settings? How does code-switching impact your feeling of authenticity? The answers surprised and intrigued us.  Below is a summary of some of the themes.

Everyone uses “code switching” (but for different reasons!)

Virtually every respondent said that she uses code switching, although the term was new to some.   The main difference in what people wrote about was whether a) they see code switching as an option they can choose to employ or b) they feel code switching is a mandatory activity,  thrust upon them as a necessary technique for survival.

As an example of the first group (mostly Caucasian), one woman wrote that she simply sees code switching as good business practice:   “If you’ve got high EQ, you’re going to try to make your message resonate with your listeners… I believe you can still be authentic and who you are really are and, at the same time, adjust the way you’re saying whatever it is you are saying so that the other person can hear it and use it.”  In this way of seeing things, code switching can be a sort of secret weapon to put into use when one is in a selling mode, relating to clients, dealing with co-workers or trying to reach another group. 

In contrast, the comments from women of color (about 85% of our respondents) indicated that code switching is less an optional strategy than a mandated way of life. As one woman put it, “For a black female entrepreneur, code switching is not an option, it’s a necessity for survival.”     This was echoed by many other comments that indicated that they were taught to code switch by their families and through their experiences: “Code switching is and has been a part of the African American experience for a very long time. We were taught it is more important to make others feel comfortable with us than it is to actually be comfortable with ourselves.”  

In particular, black women learned that fitting in with the majority culture was particularly important in order to combat racial stereotypes, such as the “angry black woman.”  Respondents shared stories of how this was reinforced through life experiences: “I didn’t even know what code-switching was on a conscious level until undergrad and my professor explicitly said you’re black you need to smile more so you come across less threatening and it’s very important for you to do this so that you’re perceived as less threatening. ” As one woman expressed it,  “When we are working in spaces that are not designed for us we understand that there is a responsibility to speak in a way that makes others comfortable and is seen as non-threatening or confrontational.“  Another woman pointed out that people often have a preconceived notion of black women “in regards to our attitudes and level of intelligence. I was once told by a white man that I wasn’t ‘like he thought I would be’ before he met me. I asked what he meant by that and he said that I was ‘a sharp tack, and not like normal black girls.’ The respondent was proud to have her ideas and intelligence respected, but irritated by the concept of ‘normal black girls.’  She went on, “I feel like we do have to mask a piece of who we are upon trying to get our foot in the door and to be respected on a certain level.”  A similar response portrayed the stress created by the pressure to code switch: “I’ve also been told that I’m different from other black people because I speak well. It all takes a toll on your self-identity, self-esteem, and idea of self-worth. It causes stress in daily life that those of the majority culture are privileged not to experience.”

Several women wrote that code-switching extends beyond language to encompass issues of appearance, including dress and hairstyles: “Switching language, clothing, hairstyles is a common practice. I once worked for a major organization where I was told that I looked ghetto for wearing braids.”

Women of color expressed exhaustion with the task of code-switching: “I code switch my entire work shift every day, seven days a week…The only time I don’t do this is during my lunch break.” And someone even commented: “Even now, while scribing this email, I code switch.” Another respondent offered a sardonic take, comparing the need to adapt to the white majority culture to taking a trip to France: “We grow up in these pods with our own dialects. So when we intermingle… it requires a shift to be heard and understood. And yes, generally it’s with the white majority because like in Paris… they prefer you speak their language.” 

Some women found it less necessary to adapt as they gain experience: “As I mature and become more confident I find myself code switching less.” Connections over time also seemed to matter:  “in the long run I do not need to code switch as our relationship grows.”  Others said they found code-switching less necessary as an entrepreneur and even felt that having their own business gave them freedom to be themselves as compared to other professional settings.  Entrepreneurship has provided an “escape hatch” to the need to assimilate to the dominant culture in corporate settings in order to be accepted/trusted.   “And honestly, it was this understanding that ultimately led to me quitting my corporate career and becoming an entrepreneur. I now own a business in an industry that allows for individuality and even requires it. I can be true to myself and easily attract my clients. I said all that to say, No. I don’t code-switch. Not anymore!”   A similar comment: “Most become entrepreneurs to do things ‘their way.’  When that’s taken away you might as well go back to corporate.”

Code Switching and Authenticity

Many women (especially African American respondents) wrote that the practice of code-switching impacted their sense of authenticity.  “Code switching can sometimes feel like it completely conflicts with who I believe my authentic self is. I often find myself desiring more authentic interactions and relationships.” Others said they felt inauthentic when code switching: “I may be telling the truth, but it’s my not ‘my’ truth. It’s not coming from my heart, it’s coming from my brains.”

As a result of the conflict between code-switching and authenticity, many women wrote about resisting the need to adapt. “I do find myself code switching way too often. It is actually something that I am struggling to quit.”  Others managed to use code switching without threatened their sense of self, ”I never lost myself in trying to seek approval… I simply saw it as part of being professional…” and “I would say a key with this approach is to let the person you’re interacting with lead and you follow suit (to an extent). The goal is to always present yourself in a way that you would be proud of later.” 

One woman experienced interactions in the workplace that led her to believe, “no level of code-switching made me appear less combative, less cooperative…less Black. So I stopped. My entrepreneurial brand is authentic and me. I am professional in all business but I do not lighten my presence and try to take up less space than my very Black self requires. If a business opportunity requires me to be someone other than who I am, I do not want it.”

The International Take on Code Switching

Markedly different responses to our questions came from women from other countries or cultures.  These women felt that switching from one language to another was just a natural way of life. If anything, they expressed a sort of wry fascination with why this act of code-switching would even be a subject for debate.  As one European woman pointed out, doing business with other European countries means she and others routinely code switch, even with friends and family. “Communicating in another language is fundamental at times, even when you can use the more neutral English, because each language has specific words and nuances that don’t exist in others, and cannot be replaced by translations. Conveying the perfect message, is often key to successfully closing a deal or forming a better human relationship, which translates in more trust, better workflow and eventually better business. Languages are part of our history, culture and every-day lives, therefore we, as Europeans, don’t feel less authentic by using different languages, if anything we feel more connected.”  Other respondents gave stories and examples of how being able to code switch to another language was beneficial, including knowing how to interact (ie bowing down to vs. hugging a relative) was practiced in different parts of Uganda

To end on a humorous note, we’ll share an anecdote about the advantages of code switching.  A woman who speaks several different languages told us this story:  “One day, my daughter and I went to get our nails done and we were speaking English and picking the colors.  While the nail technicians were working on our nails, they started talking about my daughter’s born-deformed toe and started laughing about her toe. Little did they know that I have the ability to speak 5 languages, I immediately confronting them that I was not pleased about them talking and laughing at my daughter’s toe, I asked them if it was normal for them to talk about people and make fun of them in their language?”  Touché!


In asking about code switching, we expected to hear about how women operate in environments dominated by men.  Instead, respondents fell roughly into three groups with three different reasons and perspectives on the topic.  It is fair to say that every entrepreneur has to communicate effectively with her investors, clients and co-workers.  No one would argue with the need for the entrepreneur to see things from the customer perspective, so that type of code switching is likely to be necessary and beneficial to everyone.  Furthermore, if code switching is actually based on different languages in order to establish trust and relationships,  it seems to make sense.  However, by placing code switching in a larger cultural context, we can see that sometimes it happens as a result of the majority culture imposing its communication styles on others.  This can threaten the feelings of authenticity of those who must adapt to fit in to gain access to opportunities.  Perhaps entrepreneurship provides a unique way to resolve the situation, providing both an escape from less inclusive corporate structures and also a means of staying true to oneself while still working to communicate in an effective way with customers, investors and co-workers.      

Do You Use the Term “Side Hustle?” (Results from Our Investigation)

Recently Program Director Kirsten Barker and Faculty Director Deborah Streeter asked students in the program for their thoughts about the concept of “side hustle.” Thanks to the student replies via voicemail, text and email, we learned a lot and wanted to share the aggregate results. 

Defining “side hustle”

Coffee cup with word "side hustle" written on it

There was broad agreement among respondents about the meaning of the word as an activity that is a side business and not the primary source of income.  But one response stood out to us. Although the question was posed in the context of gender (do men and women use this term equally?) this student discussed the origin of “side hustle.” Coming as we do from places of privilege (white, educated, born into middle-class families), we were unaware of an important historical context for this phrase.   The writer, a 3-way millennial minority (Black, woman, LGBT) helped catch us up.    She said that the term “side hustle” has been used for decades by people of color, as an expression of  “the struggle to piece together multiple jobs to make a living. It was less about having multiple interests and passion projects, as this was not an opportunity that was available to us – it was for survival in a systematically disproportionate society.”  She points out that other underrepresented communities and even those in the majority have adopted the term, but that the distinction between passion vs. survival is essential.  Many other respondents mentioned that they use the term “side hustle” to talk about a dream that has to be supported by other full-time revenue-generating activities. 

Anti “side hustle”

About half (55%) of those who responded saw “side hustle” (SH) as a negative term and said they do not use it to describe their entrepreneurial ventures.  The most common complaint was that SH can be interpreted by others as “being scattered or not committed” and using it to describe their business “downplays its value and how seriously I’m involved.”  When answering the question of how you interpret SH when others use it, one participant said, “The term leaves me with a feeling that the person’s initiative is merely a hobby. In order for others to take our businesses seriously (side or not) we have to refer to them in ways that encourage potential clients to comfortably do business with us.” Another woman who does not use SH said: “I really do not care for the phrase ‘Side Hustle’. It almost makes me cringe as much as Lady Boss, Mom Boss or Momprenuer.”  To her and others, the use of SH conveys a “temporary, quick way to make a buck rather than a serious business venture.”

Pro “side hustle

The remaining 45% of respondents were split between those who saw it as positive and those who were more neutral on the expression.  Of the roughly 22% that put a positive spin on SH, the focus was on the way the term communicates grit and hard work.   “It lets me know that they’re ‘grinding.’ Meaning working hard to again add value to themselves, create a better life, and be an asset to their community.”  Another woman wrote, “I’m trying to convey that I’m open to exploring new ideas, am fairly daring in my initiatives and am always willing to work on something new.” A similar comment:  “When I think of hustling I know it’s either do or die, so I take it very seriously and I wouldn’t start a side hustle until I am retired so that I can devote the time and energy required for its success.” And still others said they see having a side hustle as a necessity for women:  “women very often do not have the luxury that men have to begin an enterprise and quickly raise enough capital to focus on their businesses full time without financial pressures.”

Side Hustle…For Now

Most who said they do use the term SH hope to evolve their entrepreneurial hustles to their main activity over time.  For example: SH is “just simply a way of saying it’s not my full-time work yet, but potentially one day.”  Another woman  gave her personal example:  “…my then side hustle turned into my full entrepreneurial goal once my ‘why’ shifted. My why now has purpose and offers a clear solution to a problem.”  But one respondent said that using SH might actually delay the transition: “if an entrepreneur wants to be serious and move it to a full-time job, the psychology of using a term like side hustle, primarily the word side, may psychologically imply that you are not or do not need to put as much time, effort and resources towards it.  So my main concern with the term has always been is it subconsciously holding the entrepreneur back from turning it from a side hustle into a full-time hustle.”


Not many respondents thought about side hustle as a gendered term.  Instead, it seemed to be associated with generational change and the gig economy: “the increase in ‘side hustle’ is more so a reflection of my (millennial) generation and not so much specifically gender-based…  When I hear other people say it, men and women, I see a reflection of myself and identify with the struggle and offer words of encouragement.  It is a sign of time times, the gig economy.” 

At the same time, several noted that having an entrepreneurial SH can be a result of how life is divided up for women.  Many felt that a woman runs her entrepreneurial activities “alongside all of the other responsibilities in her life – in spite of inequities in investment and very often with less time due to familial responsibilities – and that is very admirable.” Another interesting perspective: “I think we minimize these things for ourselves because we tend to have our own wants, needs, desires come dead last in our lives. Who are we to have a side hustle when there’s a household to run, a full-time job to nurture, committees, etc.?” Another interesting perspective from someone who does not use SH, but shares: “I never hesitated to emphasize that my role was simply as a ‘helper’ and that my husband was the ‘real’ leader of our business. I think as a Southern woman, it’s almost expected that the man is the business leader. If a woman is the ‘owner,’ then there’s something odd in her life—maybe she’s a widow and she inherited the business, or maybe her father left her the business. I hope that mindset is changing with this new generation.”

Alternatives to SH

Some respondents said they simply talked about their company by saying “I’m working on my own venture,” or “I’m launching my own company”  rather than use SH as a descriptor.   Others preferred the term “passion project” but several thought that term is “one that we hear almost exclusively from women.   One can only imagine the reasons why – does the language sound softer?… men feel less comfortable talking about ‘passion’ in a professional setting?”  Several women said they wished women would stop using these terms because it is a result of pressure to “downplay their goals and ambitions to avoid looking like they’re bragging/ cover up for a lack of confidence/ to fit in and sound ‘cool’.”  One person made an interesting comparison between SH and “side gig”:  “I’ve noticed that by using ‘side gig’ in conversation, others aren’t as intrigued as they are when I use the term ‘side hustle.’ Perhaps, using the word ‘gig’ could indicate a lesser level of importance?”


*Original Question Posed by Kirsten Barker and Dr. Deborah Streeter (over 70 students replied)

Recently, the Institute’s Faculty Director, Dr. Deborah Streeter has been asked: “What will you do when you retire from academia?”  (Although she has many ongoing professional activities, she is stepping down from her full-time faculty position this summer.) She often replies, “Oh, I have a several side hustles, including continuing my work on women’s empowerment.”   This led to a conversation between Deb and Kirsten around the term “side hustle” (since we see a lot of you use the term as well!) Are terms like “side hustle,” “side gig,” and “passion project” words women use more often than men?  And if so, why?    One possible explanation is the tendency for women to downplay their ambitions given that we are socialized to temper any boastfulness.  Or perhaps “side hustle” makes us proud because it is simply signaling that a passion is not yet a full time pursuit?  We don’t know!  But we would love get your thoughts on this topic.  

  • Do you use “side hustle” to describe the business you are nurturing?   
  • What do you hope to communicate with the term?  
  • When you hear others use terms like this, does it alter the way you see that entrepreneur?

Congratulations To Our First Group of Graduates

Two women - Deborah Streeter and Kirsten Barker on a staircase
Institute Faculty Director, Dr. Deborah Streeter and Institute Program Director, Kirsten Barker

On March 5, 2019, the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell graduated the inaugural class of women who began the program on November 7, 2018. We are so proud of these women and appreciate their commitment to continuing education! This article in the Cornell Chronicle shares more about the program.