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The Female Founders Program: Q & A with Allyson (Jennings) McKinney

Atlanta, GA
Allyson (Jennings) McKinney

Allyson (Jennings) McKinney

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The Female Founders Program was launched in 2020 by VentureLab program directors Melissa Heffner and Sara Henderson after they realized that the Institute’s entrepreneurship ecosystem could benefit from a female perspective. They set about creating a 4-week introductory program geared toward female entrepreneurs or female-led entrepreneurial teams in the Georgia Tech community. The program introduces participants to The Lean Startup methodology and principles of customer discovery. The program boasts a teaching team, guest speakers, and mentors who are all successful female entrepreneurs.

ECE Ph.D. student Allyson (Jennings) McKinney participated in the first cohort this past fall. Below she answers some questions about her experience in the program.


Why did you decide to participate in the Female Founders program?

I decided to participate in Female Founders because I did not have any female leaders to look up to and advise me in my day-to-day work. ECE, as well as venture capital, can be very male dominated fields. It can be intimidating to be the only female in the room. I wanted to hear how being a female may affect my road to creating a company and be prepared to capitalize on my differences, as a female, which may benefit me in my entrepreneurial pursuits.


What did you hope to get out of it?

I hoped to get three things out of the program. First, I wanted to develop relationships with professionals who have experience in starting businesses. I wanted to find mentors that I trusted to answer the seemingly endless list of questions I have. Second, I also was looking for female mentors. Third, I wanted a general “road map” for what my next steps should be in starting my company.


What was your favorite part of the program?

One of my favorite parts of the program was seeing an entirely different discipline. My eyes were opened to an entire new realm of potential learning opportunities in business development. Getting to learn from incredibly intelligent and professional females was empowering and exciting.

My other favorite part was how the leaders of this program managed to create a safe learning environment during the pandemic while also pushing participants out of their comfort zones. There was a lot of constructive criticism, encouragement, and community that was built.


Would you encourage other female ECE students to participate in future cohorts?

I would absolutely recommend the program to any female ECE student. Regardless of whether you have an idea in mind to start a company with, Female Founders provides a great basis for any woman interested in becoming involved in entrepreneurship. If you do have an idea you will gain a lot from this program and get tremendous feedback from the wonderful women who run it.


To learn more about the Female Founders Program, visit the program website.

Last revised February 3, 2021