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Syracuse University to hold event to inspire women entrepreneurs

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

A resource fair will follow the talk with 16 business organizations on- and off-campus being represented. Among them is the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Women’s Business Center, the South Side Innovation Center and the Syracuse Student Sandbox.

Betsey Johnson, Emme and Gabriela Escalante. These names have three things in common: they are women, they graduated from Syracuse University and they went on to become entrepreneurs.

They were not the first and will not be the last. The next generation is preparing to join them.

“Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs” will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. in E.S. Bird Library on Thursday. The event will start with a networking session in the Blackstone LaunchPad, followed by the keynote speaker, Tameka Montgomery, and a panel of student, faculty and local entrepreneurs in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons. The Blackstone LaunchPad is a new entrepreneurship center that is open to students of all colleges and majors at SU.

The event will wrap up with a resource fair, which will represent 16 business organizations on- and off-campus, including the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Women’s Business Center, the South Side Innovation Center and the Syracuse Student Sandbox.

Montgomery is associate administrator at the United States Small Business Administration, and leads the Office of Entrepreneurial Development. Her job includes directing programs at the association that support entrepreneurial training and education. In her speech, she plans on informing the audience of the resources available to entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as offering stories and advice for female entrepreneurs.

“I see my role as making sure that individuals who are under-resourced are aware of what we have to offer them, so they don’t feel that they have to go about it alone,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery’s message comes from personal experience. Her mother was a single parent who started a business to help make ends meet. She said she thinks if her mother were in the loop about resources, like those offered by the Small Business Administration, she could have taken her business to another level.

She said her speech will remind women to focus and be bold and courageous in the face of fear.

“Remind them to focus, and what I mean by focus is by entrepreneurs we often have lots of ideas but we can’t do everything,” Montgomery said. “Oftentimes it’s all of those ideas that prevent us from moving forward because we’re afraid to pick the wrong ones.”

Seniors Kristina Taylor and Kyla Brown, information and technology majors who are the cofounders of Melux, LLC, will be the student venture on the panel. Melux is a company that sells beauty products that cater to women of color.

Taylor said she saw a need for Melux as a beauty junkie, walking down the aisles of Target and cruising through Sephora seeing that many products weren’t for women with deeper melanin skin tones. After reaching out to many beauty brands and beauty bloggers, Taylor and Brown have 55 potential brands they’ll be selling through Melux.

Brown said one of the challenges they faced during the journey of creating Melux was staying true to themselves. Everyone around them was giving them suggestions about what type of business would and wouldn’t work, but at the end of the day, Brown and Taylor returned to their original idea.

“Even though it seems like it’s just makeup, it’s not just makeup — it’s bigger than that,” Brown said. “We want to empower women of color and empower women entrepreneurs.”

Taylor added, “You may look at us and say, ‘You don’t have revenue streams, you haven’t launched yet,’ but this is an empowering feeling that I want to share with other people … with this event you could be sitting on an idea you have and with us talking you could say if they can do it, I can do it too.”

Liz Liddy, dean of the School of Information Studies, will also be on the panel, discussing Small Business Innovation Research grants, which she considers an under-utilized resource.

When she first started the company TextWise, Liddy said she noticed that when entrepreneurs receiving funding were brought together, there were about 97 men to three women in the room. Now, she said the ratio is becoming more even, and she’s hopeful it will continue to do so.

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