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Carolina Women in Business Conference brings graduates and students together

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UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School is home to a new health and business program. 

From Dropbox Inc. Chief Marketing Officer Carolyn Feinstein to Clean Juice Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer Kat Eckles, the Carolina Women in Business Conference brought female leaders in the industry together on Friday.

Held annually and run by students, the Carolina Women in Business Conference aims to be informative and provide networking opportunities for women interested in business careers.

Throughout the day, participants could attend panels and discussions led by women in business.

Christy Shaffer, who currently serves on five corporate boards and is a partner at Hatteras, spoke on a panel titled, “Gender Imbalance in the Boardroom.”

Shaffer and three other panelists found a commonality in their work: On most of the boards they served on, they were usually the only woman or one of two women total. 

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we have some ideas we can share and get some of your ideas, too, about how we can all change that,” said Stewart Parker, a biotech consultant who currently serves on several biotech boards, nonprofit boards and co-founded the company Targeted Genetics.

In addition to discussions with women in business, the conference brought in entrepreneurs to speak about their success. This year’s Entrepreneur Spotlight at the conference was on the founders of Clean Juice, Kat and Landon Eckles.

“Our mission really is to improve each community we go into,” Landon Eckles said. “We really truly believe that we’re benefitting every community we go into by bringing in organic, great taste, fun atmosphere and great hospitality and just being able to serve that community better.”

Kat Eckles, who serves as the Chief Branding Officer for the company, spoke of the importance in keeping the brand fresh and offering new items.

“I think it’s been shocking for me, you know we only opened our first store in June of 2015 and I walk into our stores now and I’m like ‘these look like they're 20 years old.’” Eckles said. “You can get stagnant so quickly.”

Before starting work on Clean Juice, Kat Eckles spent seven years at home with her children. During this time, she developed a passion for learning about health and wellness. She spoke about the flexibility that business ownership has brought the family.

“We just kind of juggle,” Eckles said. “It’s chaos, but it’s good chaos, and we feel lucky to have that flexibility in our schedule and a great team, too.”

Vanessa Wittman, director and former chief financial officer of Oath, Dropbox, Motorola and Marsh & McLennan, also addressed the intersection between professional and personal life in her talk, the “She-Suite Fireside Chat.”

“I think — and I’ve said this to my kids many times — you don’t get to choose what happens, you get to choose how you react,” Wittman said. “I think you figure out how you’re going to respond and then resilience is a muscle that we can all build. And that’s something that if you build it, it actually has broad applicability.”

Attendees of the conference appreciated the advice that panelists gave.

“I think that having really good role models and people to look up to is really helpful,” said second-year MBA student Julie McAloon. “A lot of them shared things that they wish they knew so hearing successful people say ‘I wish I had known this’ and keeping that in the back of my mind and thinking ‘Okay, as I move forward in my career, these are things that I want to do and these are things that I want to avoid’ was really important.”

For Caroline Dai, a junior at Wake Forest University, the conference was a chance to learn from a majority of women in business.

“It’s very rare for me to walk into a room that’s mostly women or all women because the business school that I go to is mostly men,” Dai said. “To have female leaders telling you to be assertive and network with other women and men in the industry to get to the next level, I think it’s really powerful.”

Throughout the conference, the speakers reiterated the importance of women interested in business to be true to themselves.

“And I would say the last thing is a little squishier, but it’s definitely my number one piece of advice for people on my own teams,” Feinstein said. “It’s just to be authentically yourself.”

@praveenasoma

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