This is the first full year that Glenbrook North has had a Women in Business club, and what a year it has been.
“We get together regularly to talk about all sorts of initiatives, including fundraisers to help women buy business clothes during difficult times,” senior Keena Du said.
Du and about 40 other students attended GBN’s first Women in Business Breakfast on December 6th. It was an opportunity for students to listen and learn from a panel of successful businesswomen such as GBN alumna Jane Kim (HR/Music Industry), Lisa Jericho (Feeding America) and P.J. Weiland (ActionCOACH). The keynote speaker was Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods.
Business teacher Mindy Ingersoll said she loves “bringing real-world experiences into the school.”
“Our students have been really inspired by networking with professionals,” Ingersoll said. “It leads to amazing opportunities.”
Smolyansky, who immigrated with her parents from Ukraine, shared her life’s story with the audience. She told the students how her parents opened a small deli in Chicago which grew into an eastern European food distribution business, and how they ultimately founded Lifeway Foods in 1986. Smolyansky became the youngest CEO of a publicly held firm when she took over the business in 2002 at age 27.
“My parents were my greatest role models,” she said, before offering the students some tips for success.
“It’s important that you see your ability and focus on what you’re really good at,” Smolyansky said. “Harness your power because entrepreneurship really gives you the power to make a positive change in the world.”
Several of the women agreed that their passion for leadership started in high school.
“GBN offers a ton of extracurriculars,” Kim said. “I think it’s important that people are pushed to pursue their passions outside of academics.”
Du said she enjoyed listening to the guest speakers.
“It’s so amazing to hear their stories,” Du said. “My parents are both immigrants so Julie’s story really resonated with me… It’s also encouraging to hear that there’s no ‘one path’ to a successful business career.”
Senior Michelle Rogoff said she helped co-start the Women in Business club last year after realizing she was one of the only girls in the GBN Startup Incubator class.
"Mrs. Ingersoll was completely supportive of my efforts," Rogoff said. "I immediately began inviting powerful women in business to come speak to the club. It was very uplifting to get feedback from many of my peers, thanking me for giving them a safe and inspiring place to come together and share common interests."
Rogoff added that Smolyansky's success has always been an inspiration to her.
"I've read about her story and her achievements many times," she said. "All of the panelists were very inspirational but what stuck out to me the most was Julie's story, and how she explained that we should be resilient and can persevere no matter our backgrounds or what happens in life."
The Women in Business Breakfast was presented by the GBN Startup Incubator class, Career and Technical Education department, and the Women in Business club. It was supported by Fisher Cohen Waldman Shapiro, LLP in Glenview.