The women of Binghamton University are learning to take on the world of entrepreneurship.

“The whole message of being bold and brave feels silly when you first hear it,” Molly Alexander said, “but when you try to internalize it, it becomes important.”

Alexander, a freshman from Westchester, NY, is taking Kenneth McLeod’s class, “Women in Entrepreneurship.” McLeod, the University’s Entrepreneur in Residence, is teaching the class to empower the next wave of female entrepreneurs.

“I think the problem isn’t that women can’t be entrepreneurs, it’s that they’re scared to,” Alexander said. “So the mission of the class is to encourage women that they can do it just as well as men can.”

Ava Prochna, a freshman from Skaneateles, NY, took McLeod’s class to marry her interest in business with her artistic abilities. Learning new skills and hearing from speakers, students in the class begin to think outside of the box.

“He’ll talk to us about mindsets on Tuesdays, focusing on things that he thinks are important to become an entrepreneur,” Prochna said. “He’ll talk about things like building your network, and he’s focused on building skills.”

After learning new mindsets, the students get to hear from local entrepreneurs. Every Thursday, McLeod invites successful female entrepreneurs to speak to the class.

“I really like the speakers because they bring in different types of women doing different things,” Prochna said. “Everybody can find someone that interests them.”

Prochna and Alexander both distinctly remembered the day that Ewelina Zajac-Holdrege, the CEO of Idea Kraft, spoke to the class.

Founding Idea Kraft back in 2011, Zajac-Holdrege created a full-service creative studio with a presence in Binghamton and New Orleans that specializes in branding, digital marketing, packaging, and website design.

Speaking to McLeod’s class, Zajac-Holdrege addressed issues that she struggled with starting her business, focusing on fear, doubt, procrastination, distractions, and perfectionism.

“I think the failures are the most interesting part of the business,” she said. “We don’t talk about failures in the light — on social media or in public.”

Zajac-Holdrege was open about the obstacles she faced, sharing how she overcame her own fears to further her business.

“We’ve been rejected numerous times,” she said. “We’ve been marketing ourselves since day one and we were rejected maybe 25 times in the beginning, but then the big jobs started coming.”

Zajac-Holdrege learned from her mistakes, and her vision for Idea Kraft grew stronger.

“We never quit, we always learned what we could do better, and then we received our first two major contracts,” Zajac-Holdrege said. “All of those times we were rejected helped us get better.”

As she spoke to McLeod’s class, Zajac-Holdrege inspired students to work beyond their fears and join the entrepreneurial community.

“Binghamton is a great environment for entrepreneurship,” Prochna said. “The class promotes diversity and equality, so if you’re a woman and trying to get into business, this is a great place to do it.”

by Julia Carmel