Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
As a scientist, engineer, CEO, and mother, Cristal Glangchai knows the necessity of building confidence in young girls to create a workforce of strong female entrepreneurs. She founded her own startup as a doctoral student at the University of Texas in Austin and noticed that women were not well represented in meetings with investors and other CEOs.
"It had me look around and think, where are all the women in leadership positions?" she said. "Where are all the women CEOs?"
This observation evolved into a passion of its own, and Glangchai created the nonprofit VentureLab in 2013 to offer entrepreneurship classes to children and young people. The nonprofit offers classes that teach both the skillset and foster the mindset of an entrepreneur.
Glangchai said VentureLab has worked with students throughout San Antonio including children from Bonham Academy, Anne Frank Inspire Academy, and St. Anthony's Catholic School.
For the last two years, Glangchai took a hiatus from conducting classes to develop free curriculum for parents and teachers. She plans to resume classes in 2019.
"I felt like [the classes] weren't necessarily enough, so I wanted to offer a book that could train parents and teachers and give them some background to break down the steps of entrepreneurship for girls," she told the Rivard Report.
Her new book, VentureGirls, contains the work from these two years. It explains the challenges women face in today's world, a potential solution – to learn entrepreneurial skills at a young age, and how parents can raise a "VentureGirl."
Glangchai hopes the book will act as a guide to parents and teachers to help them instill confidence in young girls, and she wants this confidence to translate to more women entering the STEM field as leaders.
For this to work, Glangchai said kids should be introduced to entrepreneurship as early as possible. Her book suggests initiating an entrepreneurial education as young as age 5.
Growing up, Glangchai watched as her dad put in work to start a soccer camp – she watched as he silk screened his shirts, printed flyers, hired camp counselors, and developed what the camp would eventually look like.
This was an influential experience for the author, allowing her to see the effort required and the rewards gained that come from starting a business from nothing.
Glangchai said she has seen entrepreneurial lessons develop her own children. As she began creating curriculum for VentureLab and VentureGirls, she used her own daughters as guinea pigs. Soon, her daughters' teachers reported greater confidence in the classroom.
"My daughters' teachers told me they were speaking up in class and leading discussions," she said.
Many of her students have also come to appreciate the same lesson. In her book, Glangchai tells the stories of many former students who, once exposed to entrepreneurship, developed a passion for their own business and greater confidence overall.
She said there are countless former students who come away from VentureLab classes eager to use their new skills.
"I still have one kid who will not stop selling things," she said. "It is just really cool to know that I helped her gain that confidence. And now, I can see her growing up to become a CEO."
Another student, Norma, underwent a transformation during her time at VentureLab. Norma worked on a group project with other students from Seton Home, a nonprofit devoted to serving teen moms who have been removed from their homes.
Glangchai described Norma when she first came to VentureLab as lacking confidence and hunched over in her seat. She said Norma's group set out to tackle one of their common problems: having one pair of shoes that doesn't match all of their outfits.
The group developed a solution – creating a pair of sandals with interchangeable straps in different colors – and pitched the idea in front of an audience. The education coordinator at Seton Home was in disbelief at seeing Norma's growth. She remarked that Norma resembled a "different girl."
In the book, Glangchai writes that Norma's story represents the "extraordinary power of entrepreneurial education to transform the attitudes of a young person."
VentureGirls also contains activities parents and teachers can use with children. Each activity comes with an outline that details what parents will need, directions, and what a child will get from participating.
One of Glangchai's favorite activities is what she calls a "startup challenge." In this exercise, Glangchai gives three random words to kids and has them develop a company and business strategy around it.
"Say you get green, bicycle, and mix," she said. "It is really fun because you get to come up with all kinds of creative ideas. Maybe a bicycle that mixes salad for you or a biking class that mixes green smoothies."
The book ends with tips on raising a "VentureBoy" and an index of resources to continue a VentureGirl's education. Glangchai hopes readers walk away empowered to educate girls on how to become "confident, resilient, creative, and smart, no matter what fields of endeavor they may choose to enter as adults."
Glangchai will officially launch VentureGirls at an event at the Mays Family Center at the Witte Museum on Tuesday, May 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. She will be present to sign books and talk about her passion for the work.
Opening remarks will be given by Rivard Report publisher Robert Rivard, and the 2018 Chairwoman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Erika Prosper will deliver closing remarks.
Books will be available for purchase on May 8.