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LaunchBox Ladies Event Highlights ‘Women in Sports and Beyond’

By Colin McEvoy on September 30, 2019

Mandy Marquardt (left) and Joetta Clark (center) were the speakers at the LaunchBox Ladies event at Penn State Lehigh Valley on Sept. 26.

Four-time Olympian and businesswoman Joetta Clark thought she would just run track for one year after she graduated college and call it a day.

But the industry had other plans for her.

The fall of Germany’s Berlin Wall in 1989 changed the playing field for Clark and suddenly, her 1.58 time for the 800 meter was the best in the world. Clark was launched into a 25-year career during which she would represent the United States at the 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics games.

Though her racing days are behind her, the lessons she learned during her career stay with her and help inform her new career as an inspirational speaker, businesswoman, and author.

“Through sports I am able to make a difference in the life of others,” Clark said. “I enjoy watching and hearing the dreams and giving people confidence in sports and in business so that’s my ‘gotta do’ now to inspire women to thrive and to grow.”

Penn State Lehigh Valley Chancellor Dr. Tina Richardson speaking at the LaunchBox Ladies event.

Clark, along with Mandy Marquardt, a track sprint cyclist for Team Novo Nordisk and the USA Cycling National Team, spoke to a crowd of entrepreneurs on Sept. 26 at a Lehigh Valley LaunchBox event titled “LaunchBox Ladies: From Passion to Profit.”

The Lehigh Valley LaunchBox is Penn State Lehigh Valley’s business accelerator for early stage entrepreneurs, aimed at spurring economic development, job creation, and student career success through academic programs, training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and university-community collaborations.

The event was part of a series organized by the LaunchBox Ladies Council and both Marquardt and Clark showcased how involvement in sports can give woman entrepreneurs the toolkit for success in business.

“We know that entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart, and female athletes have a unique combination of qualities such as resilience, leadership, focus and passion,” Penn State Lehigh Valley Chancellor Dr. Tina Richardson said. “Playing sports is recognized as an important characteristic and skill building opportunity for girls. It positively impacts their long-term development.”

According to Richardson, women-owned businesses are on the rise. In the past 20 years, women-owned businesses in the United States have increased by 114%, which is 2.5 times higher than national growth rate of 44% for all businesses.

Additionally, 94% women in the C-suites played sports and 52% of those women played university level. Involvement in sports gives athletes the experience of seeing projects all the way through to completion and gives them the skills to motivate others and build strong teams, Richardson said.

For Marquardt, who is a 2014 Penn State graduate and competes while managing her Type 1 Diabetes, her time as an athlete has sharpened her communication and planning skills. Cycling has also shown her the importance of balance and support systems.

“Through this entire process, it has really been important to me to have that balance in sport, life and education,” Marquardt said.

Not only are life lessons such as creating a support team and learning organizational skills key takeaways from a career in sports, studies also show involvement in sports can also mean more money, too.

“Women who play sports have seven percent higher annual wage vs. non athletes – which might ultimately be a significant increase,” Richardson said.

The event was moderated by Lorie Khalil, Penn State Lehigh Valley’s Coordinator of Athletic Programs, Athletics and Head Women’s Basketball Coach.

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