Small Business, Big Impact: Women Entrepreneurs are Driving Innovation and Job Growth in New York City and Beyond

Contact: Ilene Greenfield
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Women’s Entrepreneurship Week 2016 

Women Entrepreneurs are Driving Innovation and Job Growth
in New York City and Beyond, Says Kellie LeDet of U.S. Small Business Administration



Berkeley WomenJoin the Conversation on Social Media: @BerkeleyCollege #WEW2016 

Counsel, Capital Access, and Contracting. Those are the three Cs that add up to small business success and will help level the playing field for women entrepreneurs, according to Kellie LeDet, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

On October 18, 2016, Ms. LeDet addressed more than 100 small business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs and high school and college students at Berkeley College in Midtown Manhattan, during a special event titled “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in a Global Economy.” The event, which continued with two panel discussions, is part of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week, which is being observed locally and nationally this week. 

Ms. LeDet described the United States as ripe for business, contracting $500 billion in goods and services each year. She encouraged minority- and women-owned businesses to take advantage of the resources available in both mentorship and capital. 

Ms. LeDet also directed her advice to the young people in the audience, including 20 students from St. Joseph’s High School in Brooklyn, NY.

“Let’s not just talk about the glass ceiling,” Ms. LeDet said. “Let’s see what we can do about it globally. There are so many opportunities. It is ours for the asking.” 

Beth Goldberg, District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration, also spoke with the audience about the resources available to business owners through her organization.

Photo Caption A (Right): Kellie LeDet, Regional Director, U.S. Small Business Administration, encourages women in business during a special event titled “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in a Global Economy” at Berkeley College.   

Panel One: The Growing Impact of Women-Owned Businesses

Speakers on the first panel, titled “The Growing Impact of Women-Owned Businesses,” shared the stories of their businesses, from inception through challenges and ultimately success in industries such as construction, media and cosmetics. 

Elizabeth Velez, President of the Velez Organization, spoke about the challenges of being a woman and a Latina in the male-dominated construction industry. 

“I am such an anomaly, which I love,” she said. “It empowers me and makes me even stronger.” 

Vera Moore, President/CEO of Vera Moore Cosmetics, said she began her business because there was a void in the market for quality makeup for women of color. She encouraged budding entrepreneurs to be committed and to share their success. 

“Motivation is a starter. Habit is a finisher,” she said. “It’s important that we support each other – women helping women. It’s not all about you. It’s important to look around and see who you can help.” 

Jill Kaplan, Vice President and Publisher of Crain’s New York Business, advised attendees to invest in themselves. 

“Follow your passion,” she said. “You will be surprised by how many people there are who want to support you.” 

Rachel Van Tosh, Deputy Commissioner, Business Services Division, New York City Department of Small Business Services, encouraged women entrepreneurs to bridge the gap between themselves and their male counterparts, adding that male-owned businesses make four times as much revenue as women-owned companies. 

“We believe if you support women entrepreneurs it uplifts not only them and their families, but entire communities,” she said. 

Elana Zolfo, EdD, Berkeley College Dean, Larry L. Luing School of Business®, said students at Berkeley College take a hands-on approach to learning through internships and employment, which can lead to valuable contacts in the industry. 

“You have to get out there. That’s part of the education. It’s not just in the classroom,” she said. “Sometimes mentorship comes when you don’t expect it.” 

The panel was moderated by Angela Harrington, Berkeley College Assistant Vice President, Communications and External Relations.

“Government and education are at the intersection of global women’s enterprise and entrepreneurship,” said Ms. Harrington. “At Berkeley College we strive to be a resource for women and the economies of the communities we serve. We want to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs.” 


Photo Caption B: Elizabeth Velez, President, the Velez Organization (second from left), answers a question from the audience during a special event titled “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in a Global Economy” at Berkeley College.   

Panel Two: Women-Owned Start-ups: Incubating the Future 

The second panel, moderated by Joanna Gagis, Host of the FiOS1 and NJTV broadcast program Life & Living, focused on initiatives like theBROOKLYNfashionincubator, a partnership between Berkeley College and Macy’s that supports and mentors a small group of entrepreneurs as they establish and expand their brands. 

Maria Barraza, Owner of BARRAZAStyle, imparted some of the wisdom she has shared with young entrepreneurs as Director of theBROOKLYNfashionincubator. 

“Big is not always better,” she said. “The most important thing is profitability.” 

She also advised entrepreneurs to know everything they can about their businesses, but to delegate in order to free up time for creativity and planning. 

Monika Mantilla, President/CEO of Altura Capital and Managing Partner of Small Business Community Capital, spoke about the importance of having a plan to fund business endeavors. 

“Capital is the blood of our system,” she said. “No entrepreneur can be successful without the right capital structure. You can’t just work hard. You have to be very purposeful in writing your business plan.” 

Although it can be intimidating, Tendai Ndoro, Regional Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Rutgers University and CEO/Founder of SLIPPA (Strategy Leadership Institute in Private & Public Affairs), encouraged entrepreneurs to grow their businesses globally. 

“When you start your business, think with a global framework in mind,” she said. “Your global strategy should be part of your conception.” 

Phumelele Kunene, President/Designer of BlackPhumelele Designs, is a Berkeley College student and one of the inaugural entrepreneurs-in-residence at theBROOKLYNfashionincubator. She said that through mentoring, she has explored new opportunities in global business, social media marketing, and crowd-funding for her business. 

“If you’re going to crowd-fund, put yourself out there and go after it wholeheartedly,” she said, encouraging a personal approach when seeking capital. 

Jessica Walker, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, encouraged attendees to use the resources available to them to build a business in New York. 

“No matter what your background, this is a great time to be an entrepreneur in New York City,” she said. 

Speaking from the moderator’s point of view, Ms. Gagis noted, “The discussions were informative and enlightening. It was exciting to be part of such an important event that no doubt impacted the many aspiring young women entrepreneurs in attendance.”


Photo Caption C (L to R): Elana Zolfo, EdD, Berkeley College Dean, Larry L. Luing School of Business; Phumelele Kunene, President/Designer of BlackPhumelele Designs; Rachel Van Tosh, Deputy Commissioner, Business Services Division, New York City Department of Small Business Services; Vera Moore, President/CEO, Vera Moore Cosmetics; Elizabeth Velez, President, Velez Organization; Kellie LeDet, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration; Jill Kaplan, Vice President/Publisher, Crain’s New York Business, Angela Harrington, Berkeley College Assistant Vice President, Communications and External Relations; Tendai Ndoro, Regional Director, New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Rutgers University; Beth Goldberg, District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration; and Maria Barraza, Owner, BARRAZA Style and Director, theBROOKLYNfashionincubator, pose during a Women’s Entrepreneurship Week event at Berkeley College in Midtown Manhattan. 

About Berkeley College

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls approximately 8,300 students – including more than 700 international students – in its Baccalaureate and Associate degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies, and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers a Master of Business Administration degree in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ. 

Berkeley College has five New Jersey campuses – Dover, Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. In New York there are three campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. In 2016, U.S. News & World Report named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, both for the third consecutive year. The website address is

Berkeley Women

Photo Caption D (Top): Joanna Gagis, Host, Life & Living (right), leads the discussion with (L to R) Ms. Barraza; Ms. Kunene; Ms. Ndoro; Monika Mantilla, President/CEO, Altura Capital and Managing Partner, Small Business Community Capital; and Jessica Walker, President, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

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