We just wrapped up 2011′s Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) event in Rio de Janeiro. Dell partnered with Endeavor Brazil, as well as ForbesWoman publisher Moira Forbes and Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women to host the conference, themed “Building the Power of Your Business.”
With 150 entrepreneurial women in attendance (as well as a few courageous men!), participants attended panel discussions, hands-on workshops, and informal chats. DWEN was a serious place for us to talk business, “girl-talk” style. We dug deep into the challenges facing entrepreneurs today and heard from top female entrepreneurs from around the world.
Endeavor Entrepreneur Leila Velez, president of Brazilian beauty chain Beleza Natural, participated in a spotlighted interview with Moira Forbes. Leila reminisced about the early days, when she and her partners launched their unique business to handle unruly, curly hair not by straightening it (like most products on the market) but by enhancing it. Leila explained how Beleza Natural identified a real market need felt strongly by the majority of Brazilian women, especially those at the base of the pyramid. She noted how the company overcame initial skepticism to open 26 salons in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, which currently serve up to 1,000 customers per day. Leila also joked about earning her “McDonalds MBA” as an employee at the fast food chain, which Forbes remarked is quite common for emerging market entrepreneurs who often learn everything they know about business from previous employers.
Immediately following the interview, Endeavor Entrepreneur Ilana Braun spoke on a panel called “The Business of Beauty.” Drawing on her experience building a market-leading cosmetic brand, Dermage, she contributed insights about the growth of the ‘lipstick economy’ and how it has harnessed the buying power of women during the global recession. Additional notable speakers and panelists included:
- Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief AOL Huffington Post Media Group
- Carley Roney, founder of popular wedding planning resource, The Knot
- Judith Clegg, founder and CEO of Veturing Unlimed and The Glasshouse
- Sarah Prevette, CEO of Sprouter and recipient of Inc.com’s 30 Under 30 honor
- Neetu Bhatia, founder of India’s Ticketmaster, KyaZoonga
- Amy Millman, president and co-founder of entrepreneur incubator Springboard Enterprises
- Reina Otsuka, founder and CEO of leading Japanese eco-friendly export company Ecotwaza
- Luiza Helena Trajano, founder of the third largest retail chain in Brazil
DWEN provided fertile grounds for networking with some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurial women. Though they came from many different businesses, cultures and life experiences, they were united by their desire to help one another through sharing information and being transparent in voicing their needs.
The tone was set from the beginning, when all participants sat in a semi-circle and were instructed: “Here is a card for you to write down what you need, and what you can offer.” DWEN used these cards to match our “hands” to ensure everyone walked out with a Royal Flush.