Fireside chat evokes business ideas

Orenstein lectures students on how to start a business. (Photo courtesy of Lorraine Allen)

“A Fireside Chat with Katie Orenstein,” founder and director of the OpEd Project, took place in the Brower Student Center on Tuesday, Oct. 23 as the last part of the Women’s Leadership Summit.

The OpEd Project’s goal is to increase the number of women “thought leaders contributing to key commentary forums.” According to Orenstein, it is “a project about who gets to narrate the world.”

Students play a major role in the project. They are able to run training all over the U.S., run mentoring programs, and intern with the group.

The OpEd Project offers programs for organizations and the public, according to their website. Their goal is to help others realize the potential they have to change the world.

Katie Orenstein has contributed to the opinion pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Miami Herald. She has also appeared on a variety of television shows and NPR’s All Things Considered. Her novel, “Little Red Riding Hood, Uncloaked: Sex Morality & the Evolution of a Fairy Tale,” is comprised of 500 years of stories of women from different continents and addresses how these stories shape our lives today.

Orenstein discussed how her business with the OpEd Project took off. Her first step was to start with a plan that didn’t work. Orenstein said the experimental nature of the project is a main reason why it became successful.

Her next step was to give herself about six to eight months. At first she went around with an idea and no one wanted to invest in it or help her. This led her to believe that she did not need anyone to believe in her, but herself.

The New York Times and Katie Couric covered one of her events and gave her great publicity.

From that, Orenstein said she rapidly used the platform she had. Some may call Orenstein lucky that The Times covered her event.

Her definition of luck is “what you do when something happens, to use the opportunities.”

Although it may be frightening at first to dive head first into a project that no one supports, Orenstein has many words of wisdom for the self-doubters.

“It’s important to choose power. If we don’t put ourselves in the driver’s seat, we never grow up,” she said.

Orenstein said that before people begin to think of ideas they must realize the relationship between failure and success: “When you try to fail, you often succeed.” Although this mentality does seem different than the norm, Orenstein said, “Double your failure rate, fail early, fail often.”

“I loved how realistic she was. There was less talk of ‘If you believe in yourself, you can do anything you want in life’ and more of ‘You will try hard and you will fail, but this is not a terrible thing,’” said Stephanie Cervino, junior biology and women’s and gender studies double major. “I thought her discussion of the importance of failure to success and her advice to fail early and often was a refreshing change.”

However, some students did not feel that she presented her ideas in an unbiased way. Andrew Miller, sophomore physics major said, “I disliked how she was projecting her opinions on us. But I admire her ability to make a business.”