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The top 12 women shaping Delaware’s tech scene in 2014

Women are doing big things in Delaware. Meet a dozen who are leading the way in the First State's innovation ecosystem.

Second Lady of the United States Jill Biden, left, speaking at a Great Dames event. (Photo by Paul Pruitt)
Disclosure: Several Technical.ly Delaware founding sponsors are mentioned in this story, including the University of Delaware Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, Start It Up Delaware and 1313 Innovation.
We’ve all seen the headlines:

Well, we’re doing something about it.
We decided to look back at 2014 for Delaware’s most inspiring female stories. Here’s who we covered in our first few months:

  1. Rysheema Dixon, 27, works to better Delaware’s communities through her consulting business, which focuses on healthcare, education, crime, youth and entrepreneurship. In 2011, the University of Delaware graduate formed her own business — RD Innovative Planning — aimed at providing various services to community organizations.
  2. After a career in finance, Linda Farquhar is finally pursuing her passion project. With some serious tech in tow, she’s now winning national acclaim for her Wilmington clothing boutique, entreDonovan, which utilizes 3D scanning technology to provide accurate, custom sizes and recommendations.
  3. Tanya N. Whye of Wilmington won the Great Dames’ Remarkable Ideas “Shark Tank” pitch competition. Whye’s concept, “Delaware Green Mattress Disassembling & Recycling,” earned her a $25,000 award.
    Tanya Whye, left, the "Remarkable Ideas" competition winner, with CEO Sharon Hake and Delaware First Lady Carla Markell.

    Tanya Whye, left, the “Remarkable Ideas” competition winner, with Great Dames CEO Sharon Hake and Delaware First Lady Carla Markell.

  4. Now in its third year, the Diamond Challenge, a real-world business concept competition run by the University of Delaware’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, seeks to expose young people to starting businesses. Julie Frieswyk, the Horn Program’s external programs coordinator, helps to make it all happen. “The goal of the Diamond Challenge — it’s an educational program looking to inspire and empower youth to look at entrepreneurship as a full-time career path,” she said.
  5. Middletown, a rapidly growing town between Dover and Wilmington is getting in on the coworking and incubator craze. “We’re really excited. The need is here. Below the canal, there is nothing down here in Kent or Sussex County. It’s in our best interest to fill this need,” said Roxane Ferguson, executive director of the Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce, which is planning to open the space early next year.
    Middletown Chamber of Commerce members visit Walnut Street Labs in West Chester, Pa.

    Middletown Chamber of Commerce members visit Walnut Street Labs in West Chester, Pa.

  6. ITWorks recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. It’s a 16-week program — in Philadelphia and Delaware — for high school graduates ages 18 to 26. “Many students prefer hands-on learning, not traditional college. The program is free to those students,” said ITWorks instructor Alix Davis Cummin. At the luncheon, Delaware First Lady Carla Markell told the story of a young boy she mentored and his older friend. When she found out the friend was interested in computers, she connected him with the ITWorks team. “He feels confident, he feels successful, he feels accountable. He’s got this incredible sense of hope that he did not have two years ago,” Markell said.
  7. Five years ago, Sharon Hake formed Great Dames, Inc. with her two daughters, Heather and Deirdre. The organization soon expanded into other areas of the Delaware Valley, and even crossed continents, with global outreach through blogging and webinars. “We have women leadership circles, social media consultation, business development support and pitch support,” Hake said. “Our greatest impact on women comes from our events, where women from all kinds of backgrounds and careers come in and inspire us.”
  8. 1313 Innovation in Wilmington wants to be more than just known for solid work in the technology field; it hopes its creativity will help revitalize Wilmington by attracting more tech-savvy individuals to Delaware. Megan Anthony, 1313 Innovation’s community manager, wants to do just that. She helped launch the first Tech2Gether event, a two-day tech conference in Wilmington.
  9. After attending Startup Weekend in March, Priya Bhutani received enough positive feedback about her startup concept that she decided to go for it. RegDesk, which eases the overseas compliance process for new medical devices and pharmaceutical supplies, was launched in beta soon after. RegDesk participated in DreamIt Ventures’ accelerator this fall and plans to stay in Philly, for now.
  10. Earlier this year, we reported on the planned renovations at The Loft, Wilmington’s leading coworking space. Now the space is managed by Start It Up Delaware, a state-backed project championed by Gov. Jack Markell and a well-connected board. The managing director, however, has been Mona Parikh, whose goal is to boost startups, connect entrepreneurs to resources, and foster a self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem in Delaware.
  11. It took Kiersten Jones Schwendeman a year to build up the courage to share her startup idea. Now, just two weeks after she pitched her concept at Startup Battle: Delaware, she’s been going nonstop — setting up meetings, talking with mentors, working with designers and developers, and so on. Her concept — the Aster Center, which would help bridge the gap for people with eating disorders — won the most votes at the pitch-style competition event.
    The Startup Battle team behind the Aster Center.

    The Startup Battle team behind the Aster Center.

  12. In 2005, a husband-and-wife team (Vess and Tanya Bakalov) cofounded SevOne. Now the performance monitoring platform employs more than 400 people across the globe, making sure your iPhone activates, for example. “The day we came back from our honeymoon, he decided to resign from his full-time job and start the company,” Tanya said. “We had UD interns, who are still with us. He hired them as juniors in college and now they’re running the organization. We had an office [in Wilmington] — a garage office. They started working on the product and several months later had the prototype. Then, Vess convinced me I should leave my job and I should join him in the garage as a salesperson.” The company recently signed a lease to set up shop at UD’s STAR Campus.
Companies: Aster Center / Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce / RD Innovatie Planning / 1313 Innovation / RegDesk / entreDonovan / Start It Up Delaware / The Loft / SevOne / University of Delaware
People: Kiersten Jones Schwendeman / Roxane Ferguson / Tanya Bakalov / Rysheema Dixon / Priya Bhutani / Megan Anthony / Linda Farquhar / Mona Parikh
Projects: Horn Program in Entrepreneurship

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