Otis Baker

The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute held its debut Yale Women Innovators breakfast Tuesday morning, as part of a new bimonthly series geared toward providing a supportive space for female entrepreneurs.

Around 70 students, alumni and faculty engaged in discussion over coffee and pastries at the YEI headquarters on 254 Elm St. Attendees ranged from seasoned entrepreneurs to students who had no experience in business but were interested in leveraging the YEI’s expertise. The breakfast comes amidst growing female interest in entrepreneurship: last month, the YEI’s summer fellowship drew a record number of female applicants.

“We hope the women attending will gain a sense of community with others interested in entrepreneurship,” YEI Deputy Director Erika Smith said. She added that she envisioned the breakfast series as a space for questions, support and empowerment necessary for turning “big ideas into viable businesses.”

The event began with networking and progressed into collective brainstorming, during which participants put forth ideas for future guest speakers and expressed what they hoped to gain from the events.

Tuesday’s debut event did not feature a guest speaker, as it was intended to be an icebreaker for the women involved, Smith said. Future breakfasts will feature neuroscientist and “Venture Capital for Dummies” author Nicole Gravagna, as well as Anne MacDonald, a marketing and business development executive who has worked with Citigroup and Macy’s.

Smith said she aims to attract a diverse range of women and perspectives to these events, drawing professionals from a variety of industries and career fields.

Alicia Borja Alvarez ’17, president of the undergraduate Yale Leadership Institute, said she attended the event to explore the ways in which her organization can collaborate with YEI. She said she was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the attendees.

“I expected to see more undergraduates and a smaller variety of people and interests,” she said, highlighting the many graduate students and alumni in attendance.

Olivia Loucks ’17 echoed this sentiment, saying she attended the event because of her existing interest in social entrepreneurship, but walked away with a range of diverse perspectives from the women in attendance.

“Regardless of field, we all shared an enthusiasm for making an impact through innovation,” she said, expressing her excitement to continue developing connections and relationships among the women involved in the breakfast series.

Borja Alvarez added that she hopes future events would remain truly interactive and a mutual learning experience, rather than becoming simply a speaker series without participants’ input.

Stephanie Loeb GRD ’20 said she was looking for an introduction to entrepreneurship at Yale and was pleased to discover a relaxed atmosphere amidst a wealth of resources for entrepreneurs.

The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute was founded in 2007.