Changing young lives through entrepreneurship
Monday, July 22, 2019
OSU Ph.D. alum brings young girls to OSU to learn business fundamentals
When asked why dozens of middle school and high school girls were sitting in a classroom on the Oklahoma State University campus on a hot July morning, one voice rang out loud and clear, “to learn to be girl bosses.”
When young Alexis from Kansas City called out the answer to Angela Reddix’s question, the classroom full of girls cheered and the Envision Lead Grow Summer Immersion Camp was underway. As the founder of the Envision Lead Grow program, Reddix welcomed the all-girl audience to OSU for a week of entrepreneurship training designed to teach the girls in 6thgrade through high school how to start businesses with the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty that impacts many of their lives.
Reddix, who founded a healthcare management and IT consulting firm in Virginia before graduating with a doctorate from the Spears School of Business, started Envision Lead Grow in 2016. The idea for the program became the subject of her dissertation in the Spears’ Ph.D. in Business for Executives program. As someone who started a highly successful business, Reddix said entrepreneurs have the power to change lives and communities, even if those entrepreneurs are barely teenagers.
“We’re working to help young girls see the possibilities through entrepreneurship by creating a community to support their success,” Reddix said.
Reddix, program staff and volunteer councilors brought nearly 80 girls to the OSU campus recently from 10 states, including Oklahoma for the first time, to dive into the fundamentals of starting a business. While at OSU, the girls took classes in business basics while working on business plans and idea “pitches” to be presented to judges at the end of the week.
Many of the girls come from difficult circumstances in their home lives and in their communities where poverty and a lack of opportunity is often the reality. Based on her own story of growing up with little money, Reddix said she recognized the ability entrepreneurship training has to change how young girls think about themselves and their futures and ultimately to change their circumstances.
“Unfortunately, their childhoods have been stolen from them in many cases,” said Reddix, “but, if you can tap into their hearts and minds and allow them to dream and see possibilities then the value of reprograming the narrative in their head is just tremendous.”
In 2015, Reddix began the Ph.D. in Business for Executives program where participants are challenged to leave a corporate mindset and work to solve a problem of their choosing through research, which becomes their dissertation. She decided to study transforming communities affected by poverty through entrepreneurship.
“I just kept thinking that I wanted to study something about the urban culture because that’s my life,” Reddix said. “In reading the (research) literature it resonated with me that I wasn’t reading about someone like me who started in an area of poverty and how I was able to transform my world through entrepreneurship.”
A business graduate of James Madison University with a master’s degree in organizational development from Bowie State University, Reddix worked for several years in corporate positions in Washington, D.C., before returning home to Virginia Beach in 2006 where she launched her company, ARDX. The company, a management and IT consulting firm that contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, employs on average more than 100 people.
With her own story as inspiration, Reddix launched into her OSU dissertation research by studying the experiences of more than 400 girls who were the first participants in entrepreneurship training through the Envision Lead Grow program. Since completing her Ph.D. in 2017, she has expanded the reach of the program and the study to include the summer camp at Oklahoma State and other locations. The OSU camp is sponsored by the OSU School of Entrepreneurship and Riata Center for Entrepreneurship. The Envision Lead Grow program now includes more than 600 girls from 30 states with Reddix hoping to expand to 1,000 girls by 2020.
At the end of their week at OSU, camp participants pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges who awarded winners $500 in seed money to start their companies. In the second phase of program, the girls are paired with mentors back home where they continue their training through regular webinars and assignments. The girls who continue to participate in the program have a chance to earn an all-expense paid trip to the annual Envision Lead Grow Entrepreneurship Institute in Washington, D.C., where they will work with Fortune 500 female executives and entrepreneurs to continue to build their businesses.
And for those girls who don’t end up starting a business, the training and experiences they’re going through will be invaluable in their lives, Reddix said.
“These young ladies are going to make phenomenal employees because they’ll have an entrepreneurial mindset. They’re problem solvers,” she said. “They have potential, we just have to tap into the potential and believe in them.”
Reddix said she has come full circle by returning to the OSU campus and bringing with her participants in the program that started here as her dissertation.
“I had no idea that being a part of the Spears Ph.D. in Business for Executives program would lead me to this place that I’m in right now working with all these girls. That’s more rewarding than any company I could own,” she said. “I’ve been able to personally touch the lives of over 600 girls.”
Media contact: Jeff Joiner | Communications Coordinator | 405.744.2700 | firstname.lastname@example.org