Mindy Kole can scarcely contain her excitement when she talks about today’s possibilities for entrepreneurial women. “I see entrepreneurship as a wonderful opportunity for women in this economy, and going forward to bring our economy back,” she says.
After working for Citibank and climbing the ranks to vice president of marketing, Kole became a marketing director for Frisco Bay, a company based in Canada — although she worked out of their New York office. She then started her own marketing and advertising company, serving small businesses in the Hudson Valley. It suited her well as she raised her children. “I could work when my kids went to bed, before they got up in the morning — I did all of the above,” she says of this time. “So starting the company was challenging, but it was wonderful in that respect.”
She then transitioned to academia, part-time at first, teaching business, marketing, advertising, and entrepreneurship at SUNY Ulster. She was asked to head up its new Darlene L. Pfeiffer Center for Entrepreneurial Studies when it opened about a year ago. “I was so honored,” she recalls, “because I knew this would be so good for our school.”
The Pfeiffer Center offers classes, puts on events, brings in speakers, and maintains a library with relevant literature for SUNY Ulster students. But entrepreneurs from the community can also take advantage of the center by attending seminars or taking their business problems to a class, which will try to create a marketing plan to fit their needs, free of charge. “What’s great about the center is that, even though I’m the director and sort of look after it, it’s very much a collaborative effort between the campus and the local business community,” says Kole. “It’s like a wonderful orchestra.”
Increasingly, women are aware of the benefits that the center and studying entrepreneurship itself can offer. Kole has noticed an uptick in members of the fairer sex enrolling in her classes. “I see a lot of women,” she says. “Close to half our business club is women. Women are realizing that they can be successful business owners too.”
The center’s biggest project is the opening of an on-campus and online boutique. The store will be entirely run by entrepreneurship students focused on selling hand-crafted goods; the idea is to give the students relevant work experience. “The students are in charge. They’re the bosses, the board of directors,” says a proud Kole. For her, this project is the manifestation of the center’s hard work. “Seeing it work is so rewarding for me. I just love my job.”