EmBe CEO: Women can ‘create work environments … set their own rules’

This piece is presented by Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship recently welcomed several new board members, including EmBe CEO Laurie Knutson.

She shared more with us about her vision for her role on the board and how her organization can support entrepreneurship.

What attracted you to want to help guide entrepreneurship as part of the Zeal board?

Personally, I’m rooted with an entrepreneurial spirit. My grandparents and parents were all small-business owners, and I’ve always admired the 200 percent dedication and the risk-taking that is required to be a successful entrepreneur. As a chamber board member, I sit on the Small Business Council. To be a representative on the Zeal board is another opportunity to be engaged on the front end of conversations that can promote and support the development of new startup and small businesses in our community. I think it’s critical for our community to have a strong infrastructure for new business development.

It seems like Sioux Falls has a growing number of entrepreneurial women. Do you see that in your work? Why do you think it is?

As I look at it, I think we’re at a time in the business world where women’s natural talents and leadership skills are greatly contributing to business success. Women’s abilities to bring people together collaboratively, to be more agile and responsive to market changes, more innovative in problem-solving and being able to do more with less, are all skills contributing to success in business. Recognizing this, women are also seeing it as an opportunity to go out on their own and create work environments that allow them to set their own rules and possibly create a work model that accommodates being a wife and mother as well as a businesswoman.

Do you offer programs or services directed at female entrepreneurs through EmBe?

Through our Women’s Leadership Program, we allow participants to explore their possibilities and identify a pathway to achieve their personal and professional goals. For some women, it includes being an entrepreneur. In addition to that program, we hold an annual event called Ink Your Dreams, where women thinking about being an entrepreneur or who are early in the entrepreneurial journey can come together to learn and hear from established successful entrepreneurs. That event is normally held in October each year.

What are some of the most common questions you receive from women seeking professional or leadership development?

More than questions I get the comments “I’m just not really sure what I want to do” or “I’m not sure this is where I want to be,”  which leads to a larger conversation about what is important to them. More than our male colleagues, women struggle with finding balance between their personal lives and their professional lives – there’s a conflict they deal with which keeps them questioning the path they are on. Especially as women become more successful in their work and the demands of their work require more of their time, women begin to evaluate where they are headed and where they want to make their contributions each day. This balance question will always be present for women who strive for both work and home success.

How do you see yourself personally becoming involved at Zeal?

I see my contribution being more focused towards women and entrepreneurialism. As you’ve noted, this is a growing area that deserves attention. The work that we’re doing at EmBe and the work that Zeal is doing brings opportunity for collaborative conversation and work that can more effectively impact women and overall entrepreneurial development within our community.

EmBe CEO: Women can ‘create work environments … set their own rules’

EmBe CEO Laurie Knutson is the newest member of the Zeal board and plans to focus on women and entrepreneurship.

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