Wednesday Wisdom from Jamie Sears Executive Director, Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility at ‎UBS

We’re halfway through the week, and it’s time for a boost of inspiration to keep us going. Our #MidWeekPivot blog series taps into the minds of industry leaders and disruptive visionaries who are working to build the future of entrepreneurship.

We sat down with Jamie Sears, Executive Director, Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility at ‎UBS, to discuss the 2017/18 Project Entrepreneur Intensive, common traits among the most successful founders and more.

You were a part of the design and creation of Project Entrepreneur since day one to help women entrepreneurs build high-growth, high impact businesses and provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Tell us about a highlight from the past two years that stands out to you.
The Project Entrepreneur Intensive! Every year, we select 200 female founders of early stage companies from every corner of the country (131 cities from 34 states and counting!) for a free, two-day convening in New York City. They get to learn from successful entrepreneurs, investors and experts, and build a community with one another. The energy and camaraderie blows me away. I love hearing their amazing stories; it’s always a great reminder of why I do this work.

Entering into its third year, how are you hoping to see Project Entrepreneur expand?
We want to up our game — build on our strengths and grow the program to support even more female founders. In addition to being an on-ramp into entrepreneurship for women across the country, I’m especially proud of the ethnic diversity of our participants – over 50% at our events and in our applicant pool. We want to continue to maintain and increase this. Last year we had 635 applications to the venture competition (an increase of 35%) and given the talent we’re seeing in the pipeline, we’ve expanded the number of winning companies to five and will be introducing a number of programmatic enhancements for PE participants and alumni this year. Our goal is that PE continues to be a high-value resource for today’s most promising female founders.

Having spent the past decade working to support entrepreneurs, particularly focused on leveling the playing field for those from underrepresented and/or under resourced backgrounds, have you noticed any common traits among the most successful founders?
While no two entrepreneurs or companies are the same, there are a few patterns I’ve seen over the years that also play out in Project Entrepreneur. I think a big part of their successes can be attributed to their ability to accept that they don’t have all the answers, and thus are not afraid to ask for help. They understand that done is better than perfect in the early stages of their companies, and it’s more important to put out the best product possible and learn from mistakes along the way. Lastly, they refuse to be discouraged by the tough stuff; they’re persistent and have an incredible work ethic.

You and your team at UBS focus on inclusive entrepreneurship programming. In what ways do you see these efforts as catalysts for change?
I think the private sector has a really important role to play in all of this. Through our Elevating Entrepreneurs program, we’re focused on greater shared economic growth and developing a more inclusive landscape for entrepreneurs everywhere. We do this through partnerships with organizations like Venture for America, and efforts such as Case Foundation’s #FacesofFounders campaign. We’re committed to being a part of changing the narrative and popular perception around who is, and could be, entrepreneurs in this country. This is essential to our ability to innovate and continue bringing the best ideas to life, and products and services to market.

Speaking of equipping entrepreneurs, PE’s 2017/18 Venture Competition kicks off this week! What would you like to tell women who want to apply?
Apply! Join our community. Even if you’re not sure your business is ready, by answering the questions in the PE application, you might gain an even better understanding of your business. It’s also a good opportunity to perfect and refine your pitch. Plus we would love for you to potentially join us in New York City in April.

Before you go, what’s the best advice you’ve learned over the years that you’d like to pass along to female founders starting companies?
Be patient (and not complacent). Know that all of the successful entrepreneurs that you read about and hear speak at events started where you are. It’s easy for their founding stories to sound like over-night successes or sure things, but there were a lot of times when the outcome was not so clear. So long as you are driving towards your goals, utilizing the network around you, and asking for support and advice when needed, you are doing all you can to actualize your business dreams.

Still looking to #pivot? Read our interview with ‎Adam Quinton, Founder & CEO of Lucas Point Ventures.