Editor’s Note: We at BRAVA were devastated to hear of the death of Amy Gannon, a 2019 Woman to Watch, along with her daughter and several other victims in a helicopter crash in Hawaii. Our hearts go out to her family.
By Rachel Werner
There’s no ‘I’ in team when it comes to Doyenne Group creators Amy Gannon and Heather Wentler. Founding a nonprofit to develop funding and training opportunities for novice female entrepreneurs was a daunting task, which this duo dived into six years ago with little more than each other to rely on.
“Doyenne’s initial goal when we launched was twofold: create opportunities for women to connect with each other, because it wasn’t happening at the existing entrepreneurial events, and to eliminate any excuses for women to not be represented as speakers and panelists,” shares Gannon. “Our mission became clear—build ecosystems where women entrepreneurs from all backgrounds can thrive. We also have a painful history of division within the women’s movement. It is critical that we own that history fully and that we find ways to work together to advance all women.”
Buzz of their personal success in these initial endeavors did not take long to spread. They became inundated with requests from around the country to pilot programs in other communities, leading Gannon and Wentler to expand programming to Milwaukee last year and to commit to starting up near Appleton in 2019. “Part of Doyenne’s mission is to make Wisconsin a nationally recognized leading state for women entrepreneurs to launch, grow and run their businesses and be able to receive the support necessary to do so,” states Wentler.
Even with Doyenne’s impact rapidly gaining momentum, their local influence is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. “Now when you look at our city and entrepreneurial community, you see women not only at the table, but they’ve taken over the table. Women are in the majority on organizing committees and speaking at conferences like Forward Fest; running co-working spaces like StartingBlock and Synergy; and taking the lead on business development organizations like the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the Monona East Side Business Alliance,” explains 2018 W2W alum and leadership development coach Laura Gmeinder. “Before I met Heather and Amy, I had a hard time finding the right words to explain my professional journey, but now I proudly claim the title ‘entrepreneur’ like a badge of honor. Having these women as mentors—and friends—has been life-changing.”