Katharine DeRosa, Contributing Writer
What started as an entrepreneurial women’s group at the University of Southern California has grown into an organization with more than 100,000 members in five continents. Richmond is home to the newest chapter, which focuses on VCU students.
The Richmond chapter of SoGal is pioneered by Kendra Cabler, who received a doctorate in philosophy from VCU and is now the assistant director for access, inclusion and community at the da Vinci center.
“Being in Richmond these past few years, there’s been so many opportunities for conversations around entrepreneurship or innovation,” Cabler said. “I think students are often left out of that experience, which is a bit odd because we have lots of universities right here in the city.”
A SoGal event centered around incorporating personal values into business ventures drew women with a variety of interests to the VCU da Vinci center on Friday, including electrical engineering major Nadajah Knight.
“I’m doing an entrepreneurship minor on top of my major, so I’m just hoping to meet other women who are interested in getting their ideas out there,” said Knight, who expects to graduate in 2023.
SoGal’s nonprofit started its Richmond branch last semester. The group hopes to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and venture capital, according to its website.
“I think if you can think about your values, you can be more confident in the decisions that you’re making,” said VCUarts professor Jennie Cook, who gave a speech on combining personal values and business, and led activities on personal values at the event.
Sierra Pollard, a student at the da Vinci center working toward a master’s degree in product innovation, attended the SoGal event in hopes of building a community.
“I’m new to Richmond,” Pollard said. “I thought this would be a good way to meet other women who are motivated and determined to build a network.”
Pollard said she joined SoGal last semester and was present at the group’s first event at the Institute for Contemporary Art in October.
SoGal was co-founded by College of William & Mary alumni Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut around the same time that Cabler attended the college in 2016. The community now spans five continents with more than 40 chapters.
The group has two sectors: SoGal Foundation, a nonprofit platform for the empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors, and SoGal Ventures, a venture capital firm.
Cabler said she wanted to use the Richmond branch to focus more on “the student lens” of SoGal’s mission of diversity, equity and access. She said since starting the group, the membership has doubled to more than 10 people.
“A lot of the chapters have more broad member bases. Certainly folks might be students, but I think the majority are full-time entrepreneurs,” Cabler said. “So for us, I think it was an opportunity to think about ‘how do we create this community right here and right now as students are preparing to go out into the world?’”
Cabler hopes to increase the role that students play in the organization.
“Our hope is certainly that at some point it can function because of students,” she said.
SoGal Richmond plans to hold monthly meetups on Fridays at 4 p.m. at locations Cabler said will be within walking distance of campus. The schedule of events can be found at the da Vinci Center website.