Skandalaris Center

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The Simon Initiative

Andrew and Andrea Simon

Andrew and Andrea Simon at the launch of the Simon Initiative in May 2018.
Photo by Sid Hastings / Washington University

Minority and women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges. These challenges include a lack of access to: funding, marketing, work-life balance, building a network, and so much more. Thanks to the philanthropic support of Andrew Simon (LA63) and Andrea Simon, Washington University's Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation & Entrepreneurship launched a multi-stage collaborative initiative designed to develop a more diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs, inventors, advisors, mentors, and investors.


This initiative aims to broaden the diversity of entrepreneurial activity to include more women and under-represented populations across a broad spectrum of disciplinary sectors (liberal arts, humanities, creative arts, social as well as tech, medicine and life sciences). As part of the "Simon Initiative", the Skandalaris Center hosts a variety of events and programs that support key pillars of the center's strategy to encourage and celebrate diversity in entrepreneurship.

  • ACCESS facilitated through resources, materials, and events that give women and minority entrepreneurs the information needed to take their ideas and businesses to the next level.
  • CONNECT women and minority entrepreneurs with mentors who are experts in areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, advising and investing to build a diverse community.
  • TRAIN minority and women entrepreneurs to be confident in their ideas and explore opportunities.


Driven by multiple conversations and requests for tangible outcomes, the Simon Initiative hosted the Making Capital Friendly (and Accessible) Roundtable. Moderated by Andi Simon, the discussion featured Heather Cameron, PhD, from the Brown School of Social Work, Keisha Mabry Haymore, from WEPower, Jill Johnson, founder of IFEL, and Judith Goldkrand, of Wells Fargo. Watch the discussion »

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Simon Initiative hosted a panel of diverse founders for a virtual discussion focused on funding, mentorship, resilience. The panel held on November 18, 2020, featured the founder of daph. Daphne Benzaquen (MBA '17), the founder of Babyation Samantha Rudolph, the founder of Sparo Labs Abby Cohen (BS '13), and the founder of BRAND STL Phillip Sangokoya (BSBA '11). Watch the panel »

The second annual HER Summit was held on Saturday, October 19, 2019. This year's summit brought together local entrepreneurs for a day of networking and resources. Read the recap » To keep the momentum going all summer, the Simon Initiative presented a mini HER Summit panel on July 10, 2019, followed by a networking session. Read the recap »

To celebrate a year of Helping Entrepreneurs Rise, we held a HER ReUnion Reception as part of WashU’s ReUnion Weekend on April 12, 2019! Participants from past HER initiatives attended, as did several female alumni from the innovation and entrepreneurship fieldRead the recap »

As a follow on event from HER Summit, the Simon Initiative hosted Power HER Pitch on Friday, February 1, 2019. This interactive opportunity helped people find their voice and improve their pitch. This workshop was led by Theresa Carrington of Ten by Three. Read the recap »

The first Simon Initiative event was HER Summit: Helping Entrepreneurs Rise, held on Saturday, November 3rd, 2018. The all-day summit brought together female innovators and entrepreneurs from the WashU and St. Louis communities. Attendees heard from successful female entrepreneurs, brainstormed solutions to their business challenges, and networked to build their community of like-minded, fearless women. Read the recap »

Simon Initiative Kickoff Luncheon, May 8, 2018. The Skandalaris Center hosted a lunch with Andrew and Andrea Simon to announce and celebrate the start of the Simon Initiative. There was also a listening session and opportunity for the women in attendance to provide input on what kind of programs and resources would be most valuable to them. Read the recap » 

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