Winter Graduate Emma Wagner on Entrepreneurship, Inclusion, and Kindness
WCU winter graduate Emma Wagner of Downingtown, PA, is on her way to becoming a serial entrepreneur. She was one of the student speakers for winter commencement, having earned her liberal studies: professional studies bachelor of science degree with minors in media & culture and entrepreneurship. She addressed the University College graduates on Sunday, Dec. 19.
Wagner, who was the spring 2021 entrepreneurship fellow at WCU's Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center, knew she wanted to help other women stay connected as the pandemic shutdown began. With friends in such disparate paces as Australia, Denmark, Japan, Morocco, Thailand, and Spain, she created the Women Supporting Women Global Empowerment Group for mutual emotional support and open discussion. She has led weekly Zoom sessions since March 2020 that connect women around the world along such commonalities as “mental health, … issues like sexual assault/harassment, goals/ambitions, life's purpose, self-awareness, relationships, communication, school, self-esteem, and so much more.” Currently, she is working to launch a website and create brand partnerships.
“I continued to run it because people felt like it was a safe space to share all their troubles and challenges,” she said.
In August 2020, Wagner created the online business Live Better For Yourself, which she continues to manage. She established it during the pandemic to educate, inform, and support women around the world, developing and designing products to improve their lives.
She was also a finalist in this year’s State System Startup Challenge with her business idea for Wear To Go, a clothing service that provides information on what to where when traveling (fourth place, five-minute pitch presentation); and a semifinalist with Ever Décor, a rental service for home accessories and seasonal decorations (third place, one-minute fast pitch presentation).
“In the past four years, West Chester has helped build up who I am today by tearing down the walls of my comfort zone and insecurities,” she says.
Wagner stepped out of her comfort zone first when she took a gap year after graduating high school and joined a program to do service work in Guatemala. She recalls the isolation of knowing no one else on the trip, helping her cultivate a sense of self preservation. She opted to cut her trip short after encountering several dangerous situations, saying, “I learned more about myself in those few difficult months than I ever had before — until I came to West Chester University and learned even more.”
Joining an Outdoor Adventure Pursuits camping trip offered her an opportunity to meet like-minded students and become a trip guide. She was one of the first Sustainability Peer Educators for the University’s Office of Sustainability. In January 2020, Wagner and a WCU friend went to Spain for a semester, but the pandemic shut down that program and international borders. She and the other students were all deported.
Despite the Covid-19-imposed seclusion, Wagner found ways to stay connected by using her entrepreneurial skills for her Zoom and online ventures. It’s not difficult to make a positive impact on the world, she says. “It takes one conversation, one outstretched hand, one moment of inclusion to change someone’s world. And from there, your small act of kindness can touch the lives of countless people.”