JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A kickoff event on Thursday drew Arkansas First Lady Susan Hutchinson to Arkansas State University.
A luncheon dedication for the Women's Business Leadership Center took place on campus at the Fowler Center.
"I'm speaking to this group of women who are very interested in seeing more young women follow in their footsteps and expand businesses," Hutchinson said. "Also increase the number of women who are self-made entrepreneurs. I think it's great."
The Women's Business Leadership Center is a program focusing on young women.
Kathy White Loyd, the executive director of the Women's Business Leadership Center, said it's about investing in the future.
"The mission of the center is really to reach out to young women," Loyd said. "Help build their confidence and capabilities with using accomplished women as mentors to them."
Loyd said this is a program they have long-term goals for.
"It is a comprehensive program as we get it rolled out," Loyd said. "It's called the Step Up and Reach Back Leadership Initiative. And so, our vision in five years is from middle school STEM program, high school students and our young college women on this campus. They will have had an opportunity to be mentored and then act as near peers to their younger ones coming along."
The First Lady said this new program is an important one.
"It's absolutely important," Hutchinson said. "Of course we're an agricultural state and our sight-seeing and tourism is second. But to have a really good economy you need to be more diversified and we need good paying jobs, as well. This is critical to what Asa is trying to get done and getting more businesses. The creativity of women is essential, as well, so we need them involved."
Loyd said she's thrilled for the opportunity to go to the young ladies they're trying to reach.
"One of the most exciting things for me is it's a center without walls," Loyd said. "We are going to multiple locations in the summer with our leadership institutes and have already planned one in Mountain Home. We are looking at West Memphis. So, it's going to be outreach and reach as many young women as we can to help them set goals, gain confidence and dare to dream big dreams."
Loyd said they want to pair the young ladies with mentors they can relate to who will encourage and inspire them.
"Accomplished women that are committed," Loyd said. "To reaching back and caring and bringing along young women to success."
Hutchinson said she hopes others will follow.
"Hopefully, it's taking the leadership," Hutchinson said. "And other communities will emulate what they're doing and perhaps nationwide. But what's important is Arkansas is full of innovators and idea makers and people who follow through on those ideas. This is just marvelous. There's nothing like one on one mentoring and showing the possibilities of what women can do when we pull together and practice good business principles."
Both the program and the center will be launched in January.
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