Lisa Hairston Price, Founder of Carol’s Daughter speaks at the 8th Annual NYS MWBE Forum in Albany

Women-owned Businesses: Finding Support and Success in New York State

What do a Western New York-based traffic safety business, an Albany IT staffing and recruiting firm and a New York City catering and food service company have in common?

They’re among the thousands of businesses owned and run by women across New York. Over the past eight years New York State has focused on supporting businesses like these through a network of economic development programs that help small business grow by giving them access to financing, training and mentorship, and through certification that increases opportunities to participate in state contracts. Overall, New York has built a strong network where women-owned businesses can launch, grow, and thrive.

This work is happening every day in New York State, where women-owned businesses are as varied as the opportunities their owners create; reflecting New York’s rich diversity of ideas and innovation.

Nicole Beringer founded Tonawanda-based US Traffic Control Inc. in 2012 and grew the business with help from one of the state’s Entrepreneurship Assistance Centers (EAC) which offer training and support throughout New York State. The IBERO Center in Buffalo gave Beringer the guidance she needed to launch her business which manufactures and rents out signs and safety equipment for Western New York construction projects. The company’s client list has been wide-ranging, from Fortune 500 companies to local utilities, and Beringer has said Traffic Control’s designation as a New York State Certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) helped lead “…the charge in our success.”

GENESYS CEO Cathy Bruschi accepts the Carey Gabay Excellence and Innovation Award for MWBEs in Albany.

GENESYS CEO Cathy Bruschi (second from left) accepts the Carey Gabay Excellence and Innovation Award at the 8th Annual NYS MWBE Forum in Albany

These businesses are the backbone of our economy. That’s why at the start of Women’s History Month, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited Albany-based GENESYS Consulting Services which provides IT staffing and recruiting services to private and public sector businesses and cites pride in being “one of the few woman-owned businesses in our field.”

Last fall, GENESYS was one of the businesses featured at the annual MWBE Forum in Albany, which highlighted New York State’s nation-leading rates of MWBE utilization. In 2014, Governor Cuomo set the goal of MWBE participation to reach 30 percent of all state contracting procurements – the highest rate in the country. Today, the state is nearly there reaching 28.6 participation in 2018. In hard dollar figures, that means MWBEs secured $2.5 billion in state contracts last year, and women-owned businesses account for more than $1.3 billion of that total.

At the October 2018 NYS MWBE Forum, GENESYS CEO Cathy Bruschi accepted the Carey Gabay Excellence and Innovation Award for Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, one of three recipients of the award, which honors MWBEs   for their entrepreneurial spirit, creative vision and success with NYS contracting opportunities. A featured speaker at the Forum was Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price, a pioneer in the natural hair care products renaissance who launched the multicultural hair, body and skincare brand in her Brooklyn kitchen in 1993 – and ultimately grew it to a $27 million dollar business when it was acquired by L’Oréal.

Great Performances caterers working at an event.

Great Performances caterers working at an event. 

Women-owned businesses are continuing to launch and expand in every corner of New York State. Great Performances, New York City’s largest woman-owned catering and food service company, was founded in 1980 as a flexible way for women in the arts to supplement their income. Earlier this month, the company—which serves clients including the Plaza Hotel, Apollo Theater and Brooklyn Museum—announced it would invest $4.4 million to relocate from Manhattan to the South Bronx. As part of this relocation, which was made possible by a $880,000 grant from Empire State Development, the firm will outfit a facility with 40,000+ square feet to house everything from new kitchens and new warehouse space to a non-profit that will teach cooking and nutrition to neighborhood children. Founder and CEO Liz Neumark, whose company will create 181 new jobs and retain 451 as part of the move, said she looks forward to “being active community members and growing together with our new neighbors.”

Despite the differences in regions, services and clientele, the owners of these businesses are all sharing in the growth and opportunity that New York State offers female entrepreneurs – and all have been supported on their journey by New York State’s economic development programs.

If you want to follow in their footsteps, click here for more information about launching a business in New York State and here for more information about MWBE certification.