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Welcome to the WISE newsletter, a program of
The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

Friday, April 15, 2005

WISE in the Post-Standard -- The Morning After

Kiwi got a great write up in the context of WISE in the Post-Standard this morning:
Shared Wisdom
At WISE, women entrepreneurs share tales of success
Friday, April 15, 2005
By Tim Knauss
Staff writer

A woman named Kiwi sat on the floor in a small conference room at the Oncenter in Syracuse. She was one of about 90 women who had packed into a room with enough chairs for 50. The topic was "guerrilla marketing," one of 15 workshops offered Thursday during the daylong Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship conference. When the workshop leaders asked participants to share their creative marketing tricks, hands shot up all over the room. Kiwi, who does not use a last name, told this story: Her business, Kiwi Kollectibles, sells artistic note cards, refrigerator magnets, clothes and other items for kids. At a Maryland jazz festival, she walked around giving away kiwi fruits and green balloons along with some of her magnets. Later, one of the magnets turned up on the TV show "American Idol" when a contestant from Maryland flashed it at the camera. The day after the show aired, Kiwi Kollectibles got 52 orders, she said. Kiwi's was one of many impromptu tales shared Thursday at the WISE conference, which brought together more than 500 women and a handful of men to share ideas, swap business cards and learn from experts. They learned how environmental scientist Deborah Sawyer, of Chicago, started 14 years ago with a $20,000 loan from her mother to launch a hazardous waste management company. Today, Environmental Design International employs 70 people and does a variety of environmental and engineering work. "Success has been the best revenge for all the people out there who said a black chick couldn't have a $10 million engineering firm," she said. They learned how Wendy Newmeyer and her husband left suburban New Jersey in the late 1970s to "live off the land." The couple bought 111 acres of woods in Maine. After several years, Wendy evolved a business making aromatic pillows stuffed with ground-up balsam needles. Newmeyer said Maine Balsam Fir Products has sales of about $250,000 a year. The agenda which included speakers, workshops and time for socializing was designed to give participants a mix of inspiration, how-to information and networking opportunities. This was the third annual WISE conference, and it pulled in the most participants yet, said Craig Watters, acting director of the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, which organizes the event. "Isn't it wonderful to look around and see so many women?" asked Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Syracuse University, in her opening remarks. She said entrepreneurs are "heroines . . . creating a better quality of life for all of us." Keynote speaker Myra Hart, a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard University, said 10.6 million private U.S. companies are at least half-owned by women, employing more people than the Fortune 500 companies. The number of women-owned businesses has grown 17 percent since 1997, compared with 9 percent growth in total companies. But companies owned by women average less than half the revenues of companies owned by men, she said. Hart, who helped found Staples Inc. before joining the Harvard faculty, said women entrepreneurs are rapidly improving the statistics. "If I were to come back for the seventh or the eighth (WISE conference), these numbers are going to be really different," she said. Maria Coyne, a senior vice president at KeyBank, said women-owned businesses are growing not only in number but in sophistication. To help fuel that growth, KeyBank recently said it would lend at least $1 billion during the next three years to women-owned businesses.


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