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Syracuse University hosts entrepreneurship event for women in Bird Library

Sam Ogozalek | Staff Writer

Syracuse University students, faculty members and local businesswomen on a panel spoke in front of a crowd of 100 people.

Local, aspiring women entrepreneurs met for a free networking and information event at the Blackstone LaunchPad, a local entrepreneurial hub, in Syracuse University’s E.S. Bird Library on Thursday.

The event included a resource fair, reception and panel of speakers discussing different business startup tips, while offering encouragement to women entrepreneurs looking for their big breakthrough.

The event was open to the public, and was sponsored by the LaunchPad, the New York Business Development Corporation, United States Small Business Administration, Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Women’s Business Center and the Syracuse Technology Garden.

SU students, faculty members and other local businesswomen served on the panel, speaking before an audience of 100 people.

Tameka Montgomery, the evening’s keynote speaker, preceded the panel’s informal discussion. Montgomery is the associate administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA is an independent agency of the federal government that was created in 1953, with a focus on small business concerns.

Montgomery read a speech, recalling her mother’s failures at starting new, successful businesses.

“And while she had a desire, to be a successful business owner … she didn’t know where to go,” Montgomery said. “She didn’t have a network of people to help her. She didn’t know how to and where to access the resources that she needed to build a sustainable and reliable business.”

The associate administrator went on to say how, decades later, she now has the opportunity to help small business owners and entrepreneurs acquire the resources her mother could never find.

Near the end of her remarks, Montgomery recommended that to be successful, young women entrepreneurs should focus, exercise their “risk muscles,” have courage and take full advantage of the resources around them — resources including the SBA’s assistance programs.

Historically underrepresented, women have recently begun to make inroads in ensuring small businesses and successful entrepreneurship are more gender-equal, Montgomery said.

“From 2002 to 2012, the number of women-owned businesses increased at a rate of two and a half times the national average. And, women are launching more than 1,100 business, every day,” Montgomery said. “And women of color are actually the fastest growing segment of new business owners.”

According to a report published by the Kauffman Foundation in July 2015, however, women are half as likely as men to start a business, despite an “influx of women into the labor force.” This is the reason why Montgomery travels across the country, speaking at different events similar to the one held Thursday at SU.

“You know, entrepreneurship, it’s a journey. And there’s a lot of scary things that go along with that journey,” Montgomery said. “But we have a choice in this, and I think that’s the exciting thing.”

Throughout the discussion, panelists addressed startup issues, giving emotional and financial advice.

Gabriela Escalante, a Class of 2016 SU alumna and the current South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) Entrepreneur in Residence, said one of the most inspiring entrepreneurial traits is courage.

Liz Liddy, founder of the business TextWise and the dean of SU’s School of Information Studies, urged women entrepreneurs to apply for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards. When creating TextWise, Liddy said her team successfully applied for and received dozens of SBIR awards.

Trudi Antoine, a graduate student in the College of Visual and Performing Art’s museum studies program who attended the Thursday event, said she was happy with the advice given and the entrepreneurs’ personal stories.

Linda Dickerson Hartsock, the executive director of the LaunchPad, was the event’s main organizer and the panel’s moderator. Hartsock spoke intermittently throughout the discussion, encouraging women entrepreneurs to be bold.

“We want you to reach out, we want you to take that risk,” Hartsock said.

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