4/18/2014 6:53:18 AM

Siena Professor Gives Students an EDGE

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

By Mary Barrett '14

Siena College Professor of Management and Sociology Andrea Smith-Hunter, Ph.D. dreamed of running a program to educate girls about starting their own businesses while they are young, as opposed to waiting until after they graduated from college to teach them about it.

While doing research on entrepreneurial women across racial lines, Smith-Hunter found that these women faced many difficulties. Smith-Hunter said they were less likely to be mentored, less likely to have acquired skills and less likely to have financial knowledge. “Because of that, compared to white counter parts, their businesses were likely to go under,” Smith-Hunter said.

Smith-Hunter began applying for grants to start the program she envisioned but did not receive the support she hoped for, until recently.

The Albany Times Union Fund gave Smith-Hunter a small grant and using that money, she started the Educating Dynamic Girl Entrepreneurs Program. The EDGE Program works with girls from the Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls, a school where students come primarily from low-income families.

The EDGE Program’s goal “is to teach the young ladies at a very early age about what is actually involved in owning your own business,” said Smith-Hunter, who added that young people don’t necessarily realize how much goes into owning a business. Smith-Hunter’s program is helping her students prepare for all that is involved. It also introduces them to successful women entrepreneurs. She hopes that the girls will continue visualizing and thinking about their business plans as they graduate from high school and go to college.

Smith-Hunter also wants the girls to realize that they can have careers and own businesses at the same time. “Owning a business and having a career is not mutually exclusive,” she said. This idea is particularly useful to EDGE Program student Gulsuma Sarpas who hopes to one day start her own architectural firm. She said that the EDGE program has been beneficial to this process. “I’ve learned a lot and it has been really helpful. It has given me a head start into my business plan,” Sapras said.

EDGE Program student Azjunique Gibson hopes to start a business called Azja Jay’s Handmade Accessories Shoppe. She joined the EDGE Program because she wanted to explore the different opportunities open to her. “I learned that you don’t have to have a lot of money to open a business and you have to put 100 percent effort in,” said Gibson.

Amanda Urena ’15, a political science major and business minor who helps out with Smith-Hunter’s EDGE Program, said that the experience has taught her how to interact with and teach a group of girls. It’s also given her a better understanding of business and entrepreneurship. “It is benefitting both them and me and giving me skills I wouldn’t have had outside of this program,” said Urena.

Smith-Hunter’s program seems to be benefiting everyone involved. “It has been a dream realized,” she said. In pursuing her own dreams, Smith-Hunter is opening doors for her students and giving them the EDGE they’ll need to pursue dreams of their own.

Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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