Marissa Hagler on Harvard campus
Marissa Hagler ’25 was invited to visit Harvard University in April to share her experience as a female business founder. 
Marissa Hagler in wood-paneled room at Harvard giving a presentation
Marissa Hagler ’25 participated in a pitch competition during the inaugural Female Founder Circle in April, hosted by Harvard Women in Entrepreneurship. 

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Through an exclusive invitation, Marissa Hagler ’25 traveled to Harvard University in April to participate in the inaugural Female Founder’s Circle.

Hosted by the student organization Harvard Women in Entrepreneurship, Hagler was among 25 female college students from the Northeast and Midwest invited to attend. The conference was tailored to students interested in growing their business ventures or becoming leaders in the field. Attendees participated in skill building and networking through interactive workshops and discussions with women in national business leadership roles. 

“I am so grateful for this opportunity and to have met some incredibly strong, independent, and powerful women,” said Hagler. “I learned what it was like to be a woman in business, the hardships, as well as the rewards.”

Hagler, an elementary education major, is the founder of a business and podcast focused on raising mental health awareness called Hurdling Through Hard Times. She has earned funding through IWU’s Titan New Venture Challenge and her podcast was ranked in the top 10 mental health podcasts of Illinois in April 2024.

The conference informed the entrepreneurs about the importance of confidence in the workplace, how to deal with investors and techniques for improving marketing and advertising. Hagler also participated in a pitch competition where she received valuable feedback on her business operations from the visiting CEOs. Meeting keynote speaker Cindy Gallop — who has more than 30 years of experience in brand-building, marketing and advertising — was a highlight of the trip, said Hagler. 

“Realizing that I am doing the work to be at the same level as these incredible women was a milestone I never knew I would hit. Representing IWU at a national level was a dream I had no idea would come true. Spreading my message, my love for my school and my love for business has only grown since this experience,” she said. 

Hagler noted that the business world remains a male-dominated field, causing many women to feel unheard or judged unfairly for speaking their mind about business strategies. 

“When a woman speaks out she’s aggressive, but if a man does it he is seen as confident. Having women represent such a powerful role in business debunks these myths and ideas,” said Hager. “Women are so powerful and passionate, yet displayed as ‘too emotional,’ when in fact, our ideas and goals bring alternative viewpoints to businesses.”