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Women in Entrepreneurship Week Featured Female Founders: Maria Lida Foundation

Nancy Nigh
October 20, 2021

To celebrate the 2021 Women in Entrepreneurship Week, Oct. 18-22, The Skandalaris Center is highlighting five female-founded ventures and sharing their startup stories.

Today’s Featured Entrepreneur is Shannon Turner (MBA ’18) of the Maria Lida Foundation.

Shannon Turner started the Maria Lida Foundation in May 2018 and now employs 9 people. The Maria Lida Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting self-sustaining economic development in Alausí, Ecuador through tourism, education, and training programs. Shannon Turner received Honors in Entrepreneurship from the Skandalaris Center in 2018.

Tell us your startup story – how did you get to where you are now?

My father and his family emigrated from Ecuador to the United States. My dream is to use the education I’ve been blessed with for social impact. The idea for my organization, the Maria Lida Foundation, was conceived through an Olin Entrepreneurship course. In this class, I was able to pitch my social venture idea and explore its feasibility. It also helped me to focus on this idea and use the tools afforded to me as a student. This eventually led me to launch the Maria Lida Foundation post-MBA.

As a female-identifying entrepreneur, what challenges did you face? What tactics did you use to overcome those challenges?

I am blessed to say that I thus far have not experienced many challenges as a female entrepreneur. Many people from all walks of life have been avid supporters of my entrepreneurial journey and I choose to focus on that. However, there have been some occasions in which I have had to find my voice in meetings. To overcome this, I began setting expectations (including an agenda) before meetings to ensure that my comments would be heard.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

I would say one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey thus far is that many opportunities will arise, but that does not mean that you should commit to all of them. Not all funding and partnership options are the right fit for you and your enterprise. Although I am always grateful for potential opportunities, it is important for me to use discernment, determine what is best for the organization long-term, and stick to my core values while considering them.

What advice would you give to women considering creating a startup or entering a career in entrepreneurship?

A career in entrepreneurship is an exciting adventure! Although you will experience many ups and downs, if you continue to passionately pursue this path, it is likely that many great things will happen. It is also a guarantee that you will never be bored or stop learning on this journey. Everyone may not be excited about your venture, but there are many who will be and eager to help. I would recommend using your valuable time and energy focusing on that and creating something phenomenal.

If applicable, what activities, groups, etc. were you involved with at WashU? What student groups, professors, classes had the biggest impact on you during your time at WashU?

As an Olin student, I focused my studies on Entrepreneurship including Intro to Entrepreneurship, Hatchery, Board Fellows, and CEL Practicum courses. I also got involved in other school opportunities such as EVCA, the Skandalaris Center, and IdeaBounce®. St. Louis also has an expansive entrepreneurial community, so I got involved with Venture Café, St. Louis Arch Angels, and Arch Grants. I am very grateful for each experience as it helped me gain skills to launch a social enterprise post-MBA.

Visit and support the Maria Lida Foundation at

Follow the Maria Lida Foundation on Instagram @marialidafoundation and on Facebook at