Summer Entrepreneurship Program Kicks-off as Girls Unveil Ventures from “Uber for Make-up” to Helping Cambodian Kids

Stamford, CT –  A packed room of parents and educators this weekend watched in awe as 25 Girls with Impact graduates from Connecticut and New York unveiled their business ventures, ranging from Countless Cares for Cambodia inspired by the death of relatives to Cleo, an app to find and secure makeup experts on-demand.

The gathering brings to 65 the total who’ve completed Girls With Impact, the nation’s only digital entrepreneurship program just for girls, delivered live from the home or road.

The organization celebrated its success by kicking-off application season for its Summer Intensive, a six-week program to “turn Summer into career and college prep success,” said CEO Jennifer Openshaw.

Joined by her Cambodian father and a survivor of the mass genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge, 13-year-old Emily Kong of Trumbull, CT described the genesis of her idea, recalling the story her father told her early on: “My starving brother and sister passed away in my arms. They would have been an amazing aunt and uncle to you, Emily.”

She plans to partner with Aspire Training & Education, created by a Cambodian native, to deliver her pencil pouches containing critical school supplies.

Emily Kong, 13, shares story of Khmer Rouge killing aunt, uncle inspiring her venture, Countless Cares for Cambodia, to support kids education in Cambodia.

Renata Ponchitesta, 17, of Cos Cob, CT, is working on Hunger Bar, an app to better facilitate food donations and support such local organizations as Neighbor to Neighbor.

Greenwich High sophomore Cathy Senyonjo, 16, is working on Plait Please, a device to facilitate braiding of black hair given the “four to six hours” it takes, while Kellie Taylor, 17, of Stratford, is building Cleo, an Uber-like app to find makeup help in your area.

Greenwich High’s Cathy Senjoyo presents Plait Please, a hair braiding device, that will be less toy-like than other devices.

“I never thought I could do this, but I feel more confidence, powerful,” said Megan Ardiles, 14 of New Rochelle High, who participated with her sister Grecia, 16. “We would check in with each other and give each other feedback.”

The “mini-MBA” guides teens from idea to a business plan and prepares them to launch a real business, nonprofit or community project while giving them a leg-up in college and career.

“The power of tech – with good guidance – can put these girls at the forefront of tomorrow’s workplace,” said Jennifer Openshaw, among the few female CEOs in Silicon Valley when she founded and later sold Women’s Financial Network.

Educator Sheryl Hewitt of Stratford High, in attendance, said about the extra-curricular academic program: “This is beyond ‘wow!’  Girls can use this as their capstone project.”

The six-week Summer intensive, starting June 18, features classes twice per week coupled with one-to-one coaching and two in-person events. Applications are being taken now.


Megan Ardilles (New Rochelle, NY) reviews Save & Gain to ensure young people build good financial habits.

Aspiring neurologist Mia Gerghis, 15 (NYC), shows a mock-up of DocDiscovery, an app to facilitate learning about various medical professions.

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Quick stats on women:

  • Under-representation – 6% CEOs, 14% engineers, 37% entrepreneurs.
  • Confidence in teen girls – 50% of girls fear failure during puberty
  • Unequal access: girls are just 15% of students in technical training
  • New research on strengths of young women – just 18% participate in college entrepreneurship competitions, but they are 40% of winning CEOs
  • Early results of Girls With Impact including growth in confidence, business skills, team management, tech and more (details here).