Minnesota State Community and Technical College marketing instructor Bryan Christensen hopes to “open up a world of opportunity” for young women by opening doors in the Detroit Lakes business community.
Christensen, who also directs the college’s Business & Entrepreneurial Services, is using a grant to fund visits by girls to female business leaders in Detroit Lakes, with the goal of showing girls their many career options.
The girlsBEST grant – which stands for girls Building Economic Success Together – is funded by The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota to introduce girls ages 10-18 to entrepreneurism, business development and leadership.
In late April, Christensen took a dozen 7th and 8th graders from Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School to meet with women at four Detroit Lakes businesses – Bell State Bank, the retail boutique The Nines, the Ecumen senior housing facility and the Lakeshirts custom t-shirt manufacturer. In mid-May, more than 120 4th grade girls from Detroit Lakes will visit those businesses and ERA Northland Realty.
“We wanted to give women in business a chance to tell their stories to these young girls,” Christensen said. “There are a lot of careers available to them that these girls probably haven’t even considered. This opens up a world of opportunities that they never knew existed.”
What messages did the businesswomen share with the 7th and 8th graders during their visits in April? Maybe most important, Christensen said, is that “it’s important to be passionate and follow your dream – and that it’s ok to step outside the box.”
Their other advice? Go to college. Never quit learning. Don’t be afraid of change. Volunteer as much as possible to gain experience and open up opportunities. Be ready as more leadership roles are open to women in the workplace.
After the grant ends this year, Christensen hopes to continue the project through local funding. The women he initially contacted were eager to participate, and after the local newspaper ran a story about the program he was contacted by the female director of another local company who’d be willing to talk with girls in the future.
“I think we’ll have people lining up to offer to participate,” Christensen said.