Jehanne Dufresne did not choose to be a businesswoman, but she was not afraid when the profession chose her. Around her full-time job as an IT Specialist at Wright Patterson Airforce Base, Jehanne balances her social life and runs her own business, Women Encouraging Women!: Living life with an excalamation, which is hosting its annual conference this Saturday, April 17.
Jehanne is a member of the current Early Risers Academy cohort, powered by Launch Dayton partner Parallax Advanced Research. We recently caught up with Jehanne to learn more about her experience and her company. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Launch Dayton: How did WEW! start?
Jehanne: It started back in 2013 with a small group of women. After I saw how it impacted women – going after their dreams, pursing their goals – and when I realized it had a positive impact, I decided to expand it to Dayton.
Why this idea?
I believe the idea chose me; I didn’t choose it. I never envisioned myself as a businessperson or as someone who would have my own business. Currently, I’m working full time. It was like, “Oh, I would love for women to come together and encourage each other, since I’ve done it before let me expand it” and later I realized, “We need a business behind this.” So, the business idea came after the fact.
So you fell into this business path, but are there any identities you brought to WEW! that helped you prepare for this lifestyle?
The one thing I’m bringing in is “Ignorance is bliss.” I didn’t know what I was signing up for – if I had known I probably wouldn’t have pursued it – but not knowing was beneficial because it allows me to be so creative and do certain things that are outside of the box.
What is the biggest barrier you have faced in entrepreneurship?
My biggest barrier, on the flip side, is not knowing enough and lack of experience. I have experience in bringing women together. The business side, I have no experience. I’m grateful for Launch Dayton because they give me a point of reference. A challenge is building a team because everything is new so I’m working on getting things off the ground.
Tell us more about your conference with WEW!
It was supposed to be in person, but because of COVID we’ve had to make it virtual for everybody’s safety. We wanted to make it tangible and bring speakers who are experienced in self-worth and leadership. I wanted to create an atmosphere for any woman to be encouraged. I want each person, by the end of the day, to think “I can handle the craziness that is waiting for me at home,” now since it’s virtual, “I can handle it once I log-off.” It’s like a place where you get a break from life.
It’s really important for mental health to be able to connect with others, hear inspiration, and be able to think about new ideas and use them as tools. It’s a great place to realize that “even though life brought me down, I can get back up.”
Why do you love what you do?
I know what it’s like to be depressed and lonely because I used to be that person. I found a way to get out of it, and I want to share with other women who are willing to listen how to do it.
I didn’t think this was something I wanted to do, but it’s my passion. I always find myself encouraging women, I love seeing women win.
How has your experience been with the Early Riser’s Academy?
My Early Riser’s Academy experience has been great. Every week they bring a subject matter expert to talk about a particular topic. Often times, the speakers are business owners who were previously in the program, and of course their businesses are thriving. So, the shared experience is very, very appreciated. The communication is clear. They send out your weekly assignments and tell you what you need to do. There is a lot of stuff to read through, and there are modules you have to complete. It includes just practical things. It makes you question yourself, but they’re good questions – things you haven’t thought of before. In a nutshell, it is like going back to school, but in a nice environment that wants to see you win.