Young Women in Business (YWiB) is a non-profit society aimed at promoting the success and community engagement of “emerging female leaders.” According to their website, the SFU chapter of YWiB “provides the resources and support to bring passionate young women together to make a positive impact in their own lives and the lives of others. Focusing primarily on mentorship, networking and facilitated growth, YWiB SFU is committed to bringing members closer to front-line executives who are professionals in their specific areas of expertise.” In addition to its mentorship programs, events, and resources, YWiB SFU also facilitates a Philanthropy program, helping young women to engage and give back to their communities.
Lucia Pecnikova, VP Philanthropy for SFU YWiB, was kind enough to agree to an interview about her experiences with YWiB Philanthropy, and how an interested young woman can get involved.
First off, you! What are you studying at SFU?
I am completing a Bachelor of General Studies with a Minor in English and History as I have been working full time and studying part time for the past 4 years. As I was about to graduate, I took a Sustainable Communities Development class and I decided that I just had to pursue my passion in that program. Therefore, I will be at SFU for a little longer while I complete my SCD Certificate
Why did you get involved in YWiB, and how did you become the VP Philanthropy?
I was lucky enough to get involved with YWiB 3 years ago when they first launched Project GIVE (Generating Innovative Visions of Entrepreneurship) which is one of the first programs focused on social entrepreneurship. I received an email one day from my advisor about the project with a headline “would you like to change the world” or something similar [to that]. Then I learned more details about the program which provide participants with amazing mentors and educational workshops, giving us all the tools to become agents of social change. Being a member of the first Project GIVE cohort was an invaluable experience and it opened my eyes to how much good you can do as an individual without waiting for someone else to figure out all the answers to pressing social issues for you. I still have a strong relationship with my mentor Loretta and many of the program participants. I believe that my passion for social innovation was one of the reasons why I was selected to be the Project GIVE Coordinator in the next term. This was again an amazing experience as I was able to support a new cohort of Project GIVE participants on their own journey of starting a social venture. After ending my term as VP Social Entrepreneurship I was still not ready to say good-bye to YWiB SFU. As I am also very passionate about Philanthropy, I applied for the position of VP Philanthropy last year...and here I am!
Project Give looks like an incredible opportunity for a young woman interested in social change. Could you tell me a little more about that initiative?
I can honestly say that participating in Project GIVE and becoming a member of YWiB SFU has been one of the best decisions I have ever made! Project GIVE is a 6 month program that supports women to create their own social ventures focused on any social issue they choose to address. In order to do this you are divided into small 3-4 person teams and matched with a mentor. There are several educational workshops throughout the year that provide detailed information on the scope of social entrepreneurship, on writing the business plan for your venture, and on marketing later on. These workshops and your mentor are what make the program very accessible for students that are not in Business (just like me) as you receive sufficient support in starting your own social enterprise. The program ends with a big finale where all the teams present their projects and I cannot even describe how proud I was last year when I watched my cohort present. If you give students the motivation and tools they need they will come up with such amazing things!!
On a personal level, what do you think your work with YWiB Philanthropy has brought you? What about on a professional level?
Personally, it has allowed me to pursue my passion full force. We had a very busy 2012: playing street hockey to support Five Hole for Food, organizing a fiesta fundraiser to support Education Generation, organizing a two day workshop series, “Find Your Passion,” with Loretta Cella from the Passion Foundation, and we ended the year with raising donations for the Beauty Night Society campaign in an event called the “12 Days of Xmas.” On a professional level I am gaining invaluable volunteer work experience in event coordination, project management, volunteer recruitment and marketing so that one day I could devote even more of time to doing what I love.
In a nutshell, what is the mission of YWiB Philanthropy? How do you fulfill that mission?
The mission is simply to provide diverse opportunities for all our amazing members to get more involved in the community, getting them to devote their time and use their skills to support organizations that they see value in. As you can see from our past events, I facilitate events with many different organizations and I have been really happy with the high interest from our members to get involved and give back. The need to give back and help others is something we want to nurture and support through our Philanthropy events.
What has been your most rewarding experience with YWiB Philanthropy and what is your FAVOURITE part of what you do in this role?
The most rewarding part is definitely seeing how much our members want to get involved! I am always overwhelmed with the high level of interest for all the events we have organized so far! It is amazing to see how many people genuinely want to give back and help others. I think my favorite part is creating opportunities for people and seeing them grow on a personal as well as professional level. I was working with a great Project Manager, Betty, for “Find Your Passion,” and it was really rewarding to see her grow more and more confident in her role towards the end of the workshop series.
And finally, I understand that membership applications for YWiB will not be available until September 2013. What can an interested SFU student do in the meantime? Anything you suggest to test the waters, or any way to get involved with your philanthropic initiatives without yet being a member of YWiB?
Most of our events and philanthropy initiatives are open to non-members as well and we would love to have you join us! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about upcoming Philanthropy events. You can see our latest updates on our Facebook page or twitter account @ywibsfu