The Women’s Business Center at Canisius College Hosts the Ignite Awards Honoring Local Women-Owned Businesses

This afternoon, the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College will host the second annual Ignite Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Science Hall Commons at Canisius College, 2001 Main St., Buffalo, NY. The event looks to celebrate local women business owners, as well as celebrate a business community that supports women-owned businesses looking to grow.

The Ignite Awards is said to “offer a telling visual of support combining business resources, corporate services that serve businesses joined at each table with our local small business owners.”

“We bring WBC resources, our connections in the community, those support systems that exist and match them up at each table with small business owners,” said Sara Vescio, Executive Director of the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College. “Our focus at the Women’s Business Center is to help women-owned businesses learn to grow by giving them the tools and connections they need to achieve the success they desire. The sense of community built at each WBC program is empowering and exciting as everyone participating learns from one another and shares business connections to further all growth, not just their own. It really is amazing to be a part of it!”

Today’s event will host more than 115 attendees across all industries, and businesses of various sizes and stages of growth. Over half of the attendees are small business owners or companies in a growth phase. The event’s sponsors, who are all sending representatives, include Evans Bank, Brock Schechter & Polakoff, Northwest Savings Bank, Lake Shore Savings Bank, Kirisits & Associates, ECIDA, M&T Bank, Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, Empire Merchants North, The Bonadio Group, PathStone Enterprise Center, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Excelsior Growth Fund.

On the success of last year’s event, Diana Cihak, owner of Upper Edge Consulting and WBC Board president said, “last year’s Ignite Awards were so successful because everyone benefited. The small business owners were able to access professionals who were willing to answer their questions on things from finance to marketing to insurance and much more. The professionals I spoke with very much enjoyed sharing their knowledge and learning about the women entrepreneurs who are growing Buffalo.”

The Women’s Business Center has been hosted by Canisius College in Buffalo since 2003. It is also part of the Small Business Administration (SBA) which established the Women’s Business Center Program through out the U.S. in 1988 to “better help women overcome continuing barriers to success.” Currently, the SBA funds in part over 100 WBC’s nationally. Jointly, the WBC’s served over 140,000 clients last year across every major industry and offered service in many different languages. The WBC at Canisius is the only center serving all of WNY and clients come from all over: Lewiston to South Wales, Rochester to Buffalo and everything in between.

Through the WBC’s 150+ programs and individual business counseling sessions held last year they saw over 780 participants. The participants that come through the WBC range from women who are employed but thinking about starting their own venture, to women who run companies with multi-million annual revenues. Through these efforts, the WBC’s economic impact resulted in helping 13 new businesses launch; 21 new jobs created within businesses served and over $1.4 Million in increased profits of our assisted businesses.

“Whether it’s creating a business plan competition to teach our clients how to be competitive in the larger competition arena; or holding a Contracting Series specifically for M/WBE’s to help them navigate the difficult government processes; or hosting a luncheon that brings together the corporate world with the small business world; the WBC is consistently innovative in our approach to furthering the opportunities and success of our local women-owned businesses,” said Vescio.

It is estimated that in 2016 women-owned businesses employ nearly 9 million employees and generated over $1.6 trillion in annual revenues, according to the America Express OPEN 2016 report. The report also states that women-owned businesses saw a 35% increase in revenues since 2007, compared to the national average of all firms which was 27%. NYS is doing well as the 4th state in the nation with most woman-owned firms. All indications are that these numbers will continue to grow across both NYS and the US.

2018 Ignite Award recipients:
SHANTHY JAYAKUMAR, Harisa Ayurvedic Wellness Center, Shanthy received her Diploma in Ayurvedic Medicine (DAM) in Sri Lanka. Once in the US, she became a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Practitioner (NCTMB). She uses a unique combination of disciplines to determine a holistic treatment for her clients. In 2011 Shanthy started her own center, Harisa Ayurvedic Wellness center, and has been growing that business ever since.

JAN MALOF, Prentice Office Environments, a Buffalo resident for almost 30 years, Jan was originally recruited as a sales associate to launch a new division of Prentice. In 2006, she saw NY State’s WBE certification as an opportunity, and pitched the creation of a new division and partnership, with Prentice as majority owner. Eventually, she bought out all other owners and partners. Jan has run Prentice as the sole owner since 2014.

JOAN SCHUBRING, Arrow Sheet Metal Works, Inc., after spending 25 years in the construction industry as a Controller, Joan saw an opportunity to run her own company when her husband’s employer was offering his business for sale. Arrow Sheet Metal Works had been in business for 50 years, and with Joan’s leadership the business continues to see tremendous growth. As a co-owner and CEO, Joan brings a level of drive and strategy to the team that has brought the business to great new heights.

By Buffalo Rising: March 28, 2018

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