Laura Owen Talks Up Women Entrepeneurs

By Kelly Flynn
The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Laura Owen concedes she didn’t always believe she could make an impact. But at a time when the Bucks County native lacked confidence in herself, her professors at Delaware Valley College showed her she could make a difference.

Thirty-five years after graduating, Owen, 57, now president and CEO of the networking company Ponscio, was selected by the U.S. State Department to speak to an international audience at the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which brings together leaders from around the world to discuss the impact of technology on entrepreneurship.

The summit, held in Marrakech, Morocco, two weeks ago, was organized in 2009 by President Obama to give entrepreneurs the resources they need to succeed. Owen’s speech on Nov. 21, “Accelerating Success: Mentoring Workshop for Women Entrepreneurs,” discussed the value of establishing a relationship with a business mentor to improve business performance.

Owen, a 1975 graduate of Council Rock High School, had said she wasn’t sure how her presentation would be received. She said she includes opportunities for audience participation when she speaks, and she feared people might be unresponsive. She said afterward she was relieved to find that wasn’t the case.

“It was a packed house. There was a real hunger to learn,” Owen said. “The women here are like sponges.”

Attendees were eager to ask questions, Owen said. And when she found herself lost after her speech, she said two Moroccan women steered her to a taxi and insisted on paying her fare because they were moved by her words.

At the summit, Owen served as a judge on a panel that reviewed pitches from female entrepreneurs. She said that officials from the State Department and the government of Morocco sorted through hundreds of pitches, and that Jill Biden, a community college professor and wife of Vice President Biden, presented the award to the winner.

On Nov. 20, Owen was gratified to see that the State Department had announced a new online site for its Global Innovation Through Science and Technology.

The program encourages international networking, and the new platform is to help entrepreneurs find business mentors, discover business opportunities, and fund the businesses. Owen’s company serves as an adviser to the network and is expected to contribute content to the site.

There is no fee to access the sites of the State Department’s network or Ponscio, Owen’s company.
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Ponscio is a social-networking site where female entrepreneurs can get access to education, mentoring, and partnerships.

“Mentoring can help to ignite a business and serve as its compass to optimize an entrepreneur’s success,” Owen said.
Owen, who lives in Olathe, Kan., was also cofounder, president, and chief operating officer of ICOP Digital Inc. She served as the Kansas secretary of commerce in the 1990s and was a regional branch manager for Stephens Inc., before starting Ponscio.

Even with all her travels, Owen said her success can be traced back to Delaware Valley College, from which she graduated in 1979.

She said her mother, Sally Smith, working as one of the first female professors at Delaware Valley, inspired her to empower women, and Owen remains committed to her alma mater.

Art Goon, vice president of enrollment management at Delaware Valley, serves on the board of trustees with Owen, and he said she had been a big motivator and driving force behind a number of initiatives at the college, including reaching out to international students.

“She lives in Kansas, and she never misses a vote,” Goon said. “She comes to all of our meetings. She’s very active and cares very deeply.”

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