OSU grad helps girls use entrepreneurship to shape their future
Angela Reddix said she had no idea what she was in for when she arrived on Oklahoma State University’s Stillwater campus in 2015 to pursue a doctorate at the Spears School of Business. Accepted into Spears’ Ph.D. in Business for Executives Program, the Virginia native found herself immersed in the program’s research-heavy curricula while searching for a dissertation topic. The only thing she knew was she wanted her dissertation to make a difference.
“I just kept thinking that I wanted to study something about the urban culture because that’s my life,” she said. “In reading the (research) literature, it resonated with me that I wasn’t reading about someone like me and how I was able to transform my world through entrepreneurship.”
The Ph.D. in Business for Executives Program at Spears Business is an accredited program for working professionals that focuses on developing leadership and innovation guided by advanced business research. Participants are challenged to select dissertations that solve problems. Reddix decided to study using entrepreneurship to transform the lives of young girls.
With her own story as a template, Reddix launched a study to see if girls facing poverty can use entrepreneurship training to take control of their lives. Her Spears dissertation led her to start the Envision Lead Grow program, which teaches girls in the sixth grade through high school how to start their own businesses.
Reddix began by studying the experiences of more than 400 girls. Since completing her doctorate in 2017, she has continued her study and expanded the program to include summer camps, including one this year at OSU that brought 80 girls from 10 states to Stillwater to learn business fundamentals. The OSU camp was sponsored by the School of Entrepreneurship and Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at Spears Business.
Envision Lead Grow now includes more than 600 girls from 30 states, with Reddix hoping to expand it to 1,000 “girl bosses,” as she calls her participants, by 2020.
"We’re working to help young girls change their circumstances."
Reddix grew up in Virginia, witnessing the difficult lives of young girls trapped in poor communities with few opportunities. She was able to dictate her own path through education and ultimately starting her own business.
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. There, she launched ARDX, a health care management and IT consulting firm that contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and employs more than 100 people.
She said she sees the impact of entrepreneur training nearly every day in the lives of girls who are empowered to think about themselves and their potential differently. Entrepreneurs have power to change lives and communities — even if they’re barely teenagers, Reddix said.
“Unfortunately, their childhoods have been stolen from them in many cases, but if you can tap into their hearts and minds and allow them to dream and see possibilities then the value of reprogramming the narrative in their head is just tremendous,” she said.
At the end of their week at OSU this summer, camp participants pitched their business ideas to judges who awarded winners $500 in seed money to start businesses. In the second phase of the program, the girls are paired with mentors back home, where they continue their training through regular webinars and assignments. The girls who continue in the program can earn trips to the annual Envision Lead Grow Entrepreneurship Institute in Washington, D.C., where they work with Fortune 500 female executives and entrepreneurs.
To date, girls in the program have started businesses ranging from designing and making jewelry and creating a fashion line to one girl boss who wants to start summer camps exclusively for young girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Reddix said she came full circle when she returned to the OSU campus this summer with girls who participated in the program that started as the subject of her dissertation here.
“I had no idea that being a part of the Spears Ph.D. program for executives would lead me to where I am right now working with all these girls,” Reddix said. “This is more rewarding than any company I could own.”