WISE Women's Business Center
Supporting women entrepreneurs as they dream, launch, and grow their businesses in CNY.
How you can tap into our services
Our team supports women entrepreneurs at any stage of their business journey, from exploring the idea of entrepreneurship to growing a mature company -- and everything in between. We provide a range of valuable services including providing quick answers to your small business related questions, training on small business topics, connection and networking, and free, in-depth, 1:1 business counseling. See below for more.
Get one-on-one support from our expert business counselors
Learn and grow from our programming and online courses
Connect and network with other local women business owners
Reach out for quick answers to business-related questions
WISE Client Spotlight
Diana Jaramillo, Kin Architecture
When Diana Jaramillo looked around at the many entrepreneurs she met at a WISE symposium, she thought, "These people are amazing. But that's not me." However, a couple of years later, with her daughter starting school and her full-time job unable to provide the flexibility she needed...Click to read more
Kelly Davis, Wo-manly
Kelly, founder and CEO of Wo-manly, started her company with one thing in mind: women deserve to thrive in male-dominated interests and career fields. They deserve a support system and network of fierce women to better them and encourage them to grow. Too often are women discouraged from succeeding in male-dominated spaces due to gender pressures and a lack of support.
That's when Wo-manly was born. Wo-manly is a free online platform of female-centric communities focused on providing resources, a space to connect with other women, and tools to elevate them in their male-dominated spaces, hobbies and interests. Their advantage comes from exploring a vast range of communities that celebrate the intersectionality of female identities in a way that elevates user experience and functionality.
Donna Glassberg - OrangeHousing.com
Donna Glassberg founded OrangeHousing.com in 1997 as a way for area students to find housing, and her business is still going strong 23 years on. Part of what's fueled her on-going success is her ability to tap local resources, including WISE WBC, and her commitment to self-development.
From the EXITO! Program, Donna learned how to overcome her aversion to sales by reframing it as communicating with potential customers about how she can meet their needs. Other recent virtual sessions have taught her how to leverage social media to promote her business. One-on-one meetings with Barb, one of WISE's three business counselors, have helped Donna become confident in asking for what she needs and requesting help. "As a solopreneur, I feel like I have to do everything myself. As I zig and zag around new challenges, it's helpful to have someone to listen and give me guidance about how I’m moving forward."
Beyond training programs and counseling, though, what Donna values most from WISE is the connection to other local women business owners. "It's not just networking -- it's a family of women with common interests. We look out for each other, make suggestions. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. WISE has been extremely beneficial to me while I continue to run my business during Covid."
Me'Shae Rolling - Executive Director of UMEA
When she relocated to CNY in 2007, Me'Shae Brooks-Rolling became the Director of Special Events & Public Relations at The Burton Blatt Institute and later the Director of Special Events and Conferences at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, both at Syracuse University. Soon after she relocated to Syracuse, Me'Shae also founded Just the Basics Financial Literacy.
Me'Shae has been a WISE client for over 10 years, attending networking events, training programs, and business counseling. Her twin passions of event organizing and financial literacy have persisted throughout her growth as an entrepreneur, and, now, in addition to her financial literacy company, Me'Shae is also a successful franchisee of EventPrep, Inc. She's also become an established leader in our community, sitting on the boards of numerous local organizations and recently named Executive Director of the Upstate Minority Economic Alliance.
Her twin passions of event organizing and financial literacy have persisted throughout her growth as an entrepreneur; and now, in addition to her financial literacy company, Me'Shae is also a successful franchisee of EventPrep, Inc.
Me'Shae has also come full circle with WISE Women's Business Center - she's an active member of the advisory board and serves as a trainer on financial literacy topics. "It gives me an enormous sense of gratitude to be able to give back to the organizations that have supported me."
Kerry Heckman - Knitty Gritty Yarns
Kerry Heckman, owner of Knitty Gritty Yarns, decided to leave her career in higher education to build something of her own. She spent a year researching, finding resources, and honing her business idea, and, in doing so, came across WISE WBC. Through one-on-one business counseling, Kerry created a business plan that, when she shopped it around to banks, said it was one of the best they'd ever seen.
Since she opened the doors to Knitty Gritty Yarns in 2017, Kerry has continued working with her business counselor. "Having someone with experience looking at my plans and giving me critical feedback was really important in my process."
The Syracuse crafting community has also played a big part in Knitty Gritty Yarn's success. "When I started the shop, I wanted it to be a center for the community, a place for people to meet and also give back to the city," Kerry says. "People really showed up for that, embracing me and all my flaws." During the pandemic, the crafting crowd has continued to show up for Knitty Gritty Yarn. Some of her customers call to check in on her, volunteer their time, and even offer extra financial support. "They want to make sure that when this is all over, the shop is still here."
Seema Sureshkumar - Anjani Dance Academy
Seema Sureshkumar works at Syracuse University as a database administrator, and, on the side, runs a dance academy which is highly technical in its own way. Indian dance has a curriculum just like traditional school, and, every year, dance students take an exam and must pass before moving on to the next level. Many students study for 10 years or more.
Seema herself learned Indian dance for over 17 years, including while studying for her Masters' degree. When she felt overwhelmed, it was her father who urged her to continue and taught her how to manage her time. That's why she named her business, Anjani Dance Company, after him. "When people come to learn from me, they're also learning from my father. They get his blessing."
While Anjani Dance Academy is thriving today, Seema didn't intend to ever be a small business owner. After a performance a few years ago, though, she started getting calls. "The Indian community here in Syracuse is huge. Many people didn't have time to learn when they were younger and studying, so they want to get back into it now, or want their kids to learn," Seema explained. "They wouldn't leave me alone. What was I supposed to say?"
After years of resisting, Seema eventually embraced the idea and opened the academy in January of 2019. Reflecting on her passion, Seema left me with this: “I find teaching dance to be an ideal mechanism to instill confidence and a sense of purpose amongst the young. For adults, practicing dance is an outlet for relaxation and rejuvenation. Overall, our activities help build a sense of community rooted in the universal values of love, devotion, and beauty."
Claire McKenney - Right Mind Syracuse
Claire McKenney, an artist with a gift for connecting people through creative projects, decided to go it on her own after a few years working with PaintNite, based in Boston. "I always told people who said they weren't creative that they just hadn't found their thing yet. I started thinking about how to offer a bigger variety of those creative projects."
And that's exactly what Claire's new business offers - a variety of creative, hands-on crafts. After meeting with her WISE counselor, Maria, and doing deep research through the SBA and NYS, Claire launched Right Mind Syracuse in September 2019. It began with in-person workshops at bars and restaurants, and by March, business was good. However, the pandemic forced Claire and her team to change their approach.
"Probably the biggest thing Maria taught me was to always look to what's next." Claire credits that lesson as part of the reason Right Mind has been able to successfully adapt. Starting in March, they offered DIY kits for people to do at home, as well as virtual workshops. As summer came around, Right Mind began hosting socially distanced outdoor events. Now, as cases rise once again, Claire and her team are transitioning back to virtual workshops. "That's another thing Maria always said - don't stop hosting the events yourself," Claire reflected. "I do still host them, even with everything else going on. That's my favorite part -- connecting with people."
Eileen Collins - Admin on Call
When she was living in Virginia, Eileen Collins helped an entrepreneur friend organize her paperwork and create systems to stay on top of it. Eileen did such a good job that her friend encouraged her to start a business out of it. She did, and Admin-On-Call was born in 1999. Working nights and weekends to help support her sister's Consignment Boutique, Eileen eventually stepped into her business full time when she moved to Syracuse and left her corporate job in 2012.
"The first year was challenging for me. I learned a lot through failures - it was all trial and error," Eileen said. "I almost went back to a full time job." Instead, she made a determined effort to leverage local resources, including SBDC, WISE, and WOC (Women's Opportunity Center). Of her first meeting with WISE's former director Joanne Lenweaver, Eileen recalls, "The welcome that she gave me- you would think she knew me for a long time. She introduced me to everyone, and everyone made me feel so welcome. That was it from there, full steam ahead." Eileen went on to do 1:1 business counseling, networking events, and training programs - even attending some courses twice to make sure she absorbed it all.
This dedication to self-development and relationship-building has served her well. Admin-On-Call is going into its 8th year, and Eileen received the WOC's Woman of the Year Award for 2020. She still learns from many local agencies, and also gives back by giving presentations and participating in WOC's mentoring program. "I like to be a resource for people who are coming up this path I've been on," Eileen reflected.
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