10 years of supporting women in business

Canisius center celebrating a decade of encouraging small-business ventures.

When Dolly Michelle Randle opened her business in 2010, she hit the ground running.

Armed with skills learned at the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College and support from mentors there, Randle’s professional services company has since grown to the point that she’s looking to hire full-time employees and expand into Rochester.

“The center really helps and supports women in business,” said Randle, whose Buffalo-based company, Compliance and Administrative Services of New York, employs five part-timers. Her business includes consulting on diversity compliance with companies getting government contracts and general diversity training. “I really went running with my business when I got the information and business advice from them.”

Randle is among the 21,703 participants in the center’s program since it opened in 2003. Her business is one of 218 the center has helped start.

The center will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a reception Thursday in the Montante Cultural Center on the college campus on Main Street in Buffalo.

“We’ve had a lot of program participants, and we’ve seen positive outcomes,” said Melinda Rath Sanderson, executive director of the center. “Small businesses are the economic engine behind job growth.”

She said the center’s mission has been to launch new ventures and assist existing ones, along with providing a “link between our local educational institutions and the economic centers of our community.”

The center, housed in Demerly Hall at 2365 Main St., near Jewett Avenue, was created to provide networking, technical training and support to female entrepreneurs. Sanderson said the center’s programs are also open to men. A five-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration helped establish the center.

The center offers training seminars and workshops in areas such as coaching; education, which gives participants access to the college’s business courses; counseling, including a yearlong program where entrepreneurs receive advice from business coaches; and a forum series, which gives women in noncompeting businesses ideas and strategies. The seminars can be daylong or run a semester or a year, like the Women in Networking and coaching programs.

Women and minorities are still not fully represented in world of business, prompting the need for the center.

“Women are not comfortable taking a seat at the table; they haven’t been in the game that long,” Sanderson said, adding that the center’s programs can provide them with the business acumen and confidence to succeed.

For Randle, the services helped her succeed.

“I didn’t know they’d be so phenomenal,” she said. She also received assistance from SCORE counselors and business mentors.

“I would go there every day to meet with counselors and use the computer,” Randle said. “I didn’t have a computer at home. So I would do research and type up my business plan.”

Randle, who has 20 years of administrative experience in diversity and compliance monitoring, now has 11 major contracts with companies.

“It was all done with a plan,” Randle said.

Source: The Buffalo News

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