The Women’s Business Center held a luncheon on May 13th to celebrate the winners of the 5th Annual Ignite Awards! The awards were created to bring the business community together with women entrepreneurs to support their business growth and foster a thriving economy. There is a real need for the greater business community in WNY to come together to celebrate and support Women-Owned Businesses. According to research done by the WBC, since 2016, the annual growth rate for the number of women-owned firms has doubled annually and now make up more than 42% of all businesses in the U.S. However, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the diverse challenges that working women and female entrepreneurs face daily. Last year, during the pandemic, the WBC served nearly 350 unique individuals/businesses which resulted in: 12 new businesses launched, access to 29 new business loans, and over $29 million in gross revenues. With a focus on inclusion, 43% of WBC businesses are self-described as Black or minority-owned.
This year the WBC honored 5 women for their dedication and hardwork as female entrepreneurs, business owners, and self-sarters: Rosanna Berardi, Robbie Raugh, Carley J. Hill, Nakiea S. Cook, and Gaitrie Subryan.
Stepping out of her comfort zone is not something Rosanna Berardi shirks away from. Rather, the immigration lawyer from Buffalo, NY, dives in head-first to new endeavors. A first-generation Italian-American, Rosanna did the unthinkable in 2005: she left a highly-coveted big-firm job to hang a shingle for herself in the legal world. After fifteen years, Berardi Immigration Law is now a multi-million dollar company that proudly helps companies navigate the employment-based immigration system and foreign professionals achieve the American dream. Berardi Immigration Law is one of the few immigration law firms in the country to hold both federal and New York state certifications as a woman-owned business enterprise.
A wife, mother, lawyer, and entrepreneur, Rosanna grew tired of feeling as though she could not “get it all done” and developed solutions and systems that helped her find balance as a working woman. And she started it all from her kitchen table. After years of perfecting her tips and tricks, Rosanna is ready to share her insights with others through Hire Wire Woman. She is passionate about women in business, especially fellow entrepreneurs of businesses operating from inception to six-figure companies.
Berardi offers some insight to those who may be nervous to take the leap of faith. While it will be the hardest work you ever do, it is most definitely worth the pain, “It’s not as easy as it looks and while it’s great to have freedom and flexibility with your schedule, you’ll never work harder, but the reward is great. It’s okay to start slow- very few businesses come out of the gates, making millions of dollars. Take your time, be methodical, be strategic, and really understand your process before you try to make it something enormous.”
Robbie’s sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after being misdiagnosed for 2 years with what doctors thought was a blocked milk duct. That was the tipping point for Robbie. She wanted to change the focus from sick care to health care – first, to help her sister and then ultimately others.
Robbie Raugh is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Integrative Health, Fitness & Nutrition Practitioner. She draws on her 35+ years of experience in health and wellness and is the President of The Raugh Truth LLC – Integrative Health, and Creator and Instructor of Fitness & Nutrition Raw NRG Exercise Video Series. She is the author of The Raw Truth Recharge Book – 7 Truths for Total Health and Fitness. She also reaches out to communities around the country in speaking engagements. She hosts her own weekly Raw Truth Radio Show and presents Health & Nutrition segments regularly on ABC TV, ESPN TV, Podcasting and Zoom. She is a Nutritionist & Fitness Instructor for Catalyst Fitness; is a featured instructor in the Kinetic Workout “Live” International Video, and the Raw NRG Exercise Videos; Former National Aerobic Champion Judge; Former Trainer of the Trainers and National Group Exercise Director for Bally Total Fitness for 5000 Instructors and 430 Clubs Internationally.
Robbie is passionate not only about health and fitness, but also about motivating and encouraging people to do things surrounding their passions,
“ I do tell people that you need to find out what your purpose is and the way to find out what your purpose is I say, is to draw three circles on a piece of paper and in the middle of those, have those three circles intersect each other. In one circle you put what you’re good at. In the other circle you put what the world needs more of, and in the third circle you put what you’re passionate about- at the center of those three circles is your purpose.”
Choreographer, dancer, yoga instructor, and podcast host, Gaitrie Subryan started Devi Bollywood in 2013 to serve the community by offering something new and exciting to Buffalo. When she began offering Bollywood classes, workshops and programs to individuals from all backgrounds, she noticed that people were genuinely interested and excited about learning about Indian culture and traditions. This year, Gaitrie was awarded a grant from NYS to work on a project that is titled “Speak Up, Speak Out”. It is a collaborative movement-based project that focuses on bringing the issue of domestic violence out of the shadows while encouraging healing conversations through the transformative power of dance, music and storytelling. She’s constantly motivated by the people and the community, and encourages others to be brave, follow their passion, and believe that hard work pays off.
“ Some of the things that I have learned over the years of being a female entrepreneur is that you need to take risks even though they are challenging and scary. Stepping outside of your box can be one of the scariest things you’ve ever experienced, but it could also be one of the most amazing things you can experience. My time is so precious. Everyone’s time is so precious and we need to make sure that we’re using that time accordingly to be productive, to be efficient, but also to give ourselves the care that we need, so we can continue to move forward.”
Nakiea Cook, owner of NC county and consulting solutions, originally started a business with a mission in mind of helping the next generation. She set off to show teens the importance of understanding cash flow, how money moves and how financial literacy is extremely important in order to navigate life efficiently and effectively. Then word spread about her knowledge and expertise. Her business grew to teaching the teens parents, and then it grew again to business owners. Being a Black-owned business and a female accountant, Nakiea feels that the odds are sometimes stacked against her being successful but that actually drives her. She wants to break those barriers on what an accountant should look like or how they should function. She’s proudly unconventional!
She says sometimes we let our own mindsets place barriers on our success, but success can be whatever you set out to achieve. Nakiea’s advice to up-and-coming women-owned businesses is
“ Don’t let anyone else’s fears be projected upon you. So try your hardest to make sure that you’re doing what you want to do, and if you are passionate about it, then it will fully succeed. Just try to overcome those fears by speaking positive affirmations into yourself every single day and being goal oriented. So write out what it is you want to do, how you want to do it, and then how you’re going to carry it forward to help someone else do it. That way you’ll be able to succeed further than you could ever imagine. Take that fear out of it and just do it- just be like Nike- just do it.”
Carley started with 15 years working in her family’s concrete business, had an executive MBA and saw an opportunity. She saw a need to educate the next generation of construction workers with the same knowledge she was lucky enough to gain throughout her experience with her family’s business. She thought she would capture and deliver that incredible knowledge and expertise that was shared with her to young laborers through a medium they’re familiar with – short videos played through an app on their phone. And a great business was born- CAHill TECH Inc.
No entrepreneurial journey is easy and it can be especially difficult if your business is in a male-dominated industry. Carley often felt as though she had to work twice as hard as her male coworkers to prove that she could not just do the job, but do it well. Gaining the respect of seasoned construction workers wasn’t easy…but she persevered, made connections and friendships.
“ No matter where you’re at in your stage of your career it’s important to recognize that I don’t know everything and it’s good to be open to hearing what other people know so that I can expand what I do, and really resonate with people who come from different walks of life. At the same time, I have to be able to know myself and be able to stay true to the mission of our company.”
Congratulations to these incredible entrepreneurs on their very well deserved awards! To learn more about resources available for women in business, vist https://thewomensbusinesscenter.com