On Friday, May 6, from 5:30 to 8:45 p.m., the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (SOE) Foundation will be hosting its 7th annual Awards Dinner at the Bacara Resort & Spa. The dinner is the foundation’s raison d’etre, for the night fulfills its dual mission of “honoring women and benefiting students” in one fell swoop.
Cathy Feldman and Melissa Moreno cooked up the idea of the SOE awards over a ladies lunch in 2010. Feldman was keen on finding more ways to support women entrepreneurs. Moreno, who is Santa Barbara City College’s (SBCC) Dean of Educational Programs, was keen on finding a way to support high school and college entrepreneurs. They decided they could do both.
It works like this. On April 29, students from Santa Barbara high schools and colleges will pitch their ideas at the SBCC Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge business plan competition. Pre-eminent businesswomen will judge the pitches, declare the winners, and award seed funding and scholarships using proceeds from last year’s SOE awards dinner. Exactly one week later, at this year’s SOE Awards Dinner, the finalists will showcase their entrepreneurial visions and formally accept their awards.
Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com, will be the night’s mistress of ceremonies. Along with drawing upon her own experiences to provide advice and inspiration to attendees, Weinman will introduce the night’s guests of honor, including the recipient of the Rock Star: Life Achievement award, Sara Miller McCune, who founded Sage Publications at the age of 24, and 30 female entrepreneurs selected as finalists for this year’s Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards. By the end of the night, 10 of them will be honored as winners.
New on this year’s menu, the SOE will be awarding over $9,000 to one female entrepreneur who has been in business for less than five years. The importance of adding a cash prize is clear to Feldman. “Women-owned businesses tend to be smaller, [have] few employees, and less access to capital,” she said. “Especially in their growth phase, that’s when they need it.”
The SOE Awards Dinner is open to the public. Tickets are available online (http://www.soefoundation.org/) until May 1st. All proceeds support student entrepreneurs with seed money and scholarships.