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Saint Peter’s University Hosts Sixth Annual “Women Entrepreneurship Week” Symposium

In celebration of “Women Entrepreneurship Week,” the Ignite Institute at Saint Peter’s University, in partnership with the Hudson County Office of Business Opportunity and sponsored by The Provident Bank Foundation, hosted a Symposium on Women Owned Business Resources. Founded six years ago by Montclair State University, with Saint Peter’s as one of the original four participating universities, Women Entrepreneurship Week is now a global movement with more than 200 universities and colleges in 30 countries and more than 40 states in the U.S. hosting events on their respective campuses this year.

This Ignite Institute’s Women Entrepreneurship Symposium was the first of three prominent public events to be supported by The Provident Bank Foundation Signature grant. Awarded to the Ignite Institute of Saint Peter’s University in 2019, the grant seeks to support the newly launched Urban Social Impact Incubator and spur economic development and entrepreneurial empowerment both on campus and in the local community. More specifically, the grant will support socially impactful businesses and nonprofit organizations in accelerating their outcomes and impact while also pairing talented Saint Peter’s Social Impact Student Interns with socially impactful organizations, helping to accelerate the students’ professional development and complementing the business knowledge learned in their classroom curriculum.

Mary Kate Naatus, KPMG dean of the Frank J. Guarini School of Business, reflects that “Each year, Women Entrepreneurship Week provides a platform for strong and inspiring women leaders to connect and support each other as well as the next generation of student leaders and entrepreneurs. This year’s event was a powerful forum promoting business growth through specific certifications to better access new markets.”

Carlos Gutierrez, director of the Ignite Institute, added “We are thankful to The Provident Bank Foundation for their support. Their recent grant to the Ignite Institute will allow the Ignite Institute to greatly further its mission to encourage local and regional entrepreneurship and economic development.”

As sponsors of the symposium, The Provident Bank Foundation and Provident Bank were an important component of the day’s events. Josephine Moran, executive vice president and head of retail for Provident Bank, remarked on the importance of the small business community and nonprofit organizations to economic development and the building of dynamic communities and neighborhoods and underscored the importance of empowering women entrepreneurs. Jane Kurek, executive director of The Provident Bank Foundation added, “We truly value the longstanding relationship we’ve had with Saint Peter’s University and are thrilled to take part in Ignite’s forward-facing mission.”

Given the symposium’s important focus on women entrepreneurship, a broad cross section of local business, civic and academic leaders attended the symposium. Additionally, more than 100 students and their professors were in attendance. Panelists included Bertha C. Robinson, vice president of membership at the NJ Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) and founder of Star One Professional Services; Claribel Cortes, vice chair of the Board of the NJ Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and president and co-founder of The Sectroc Group, Inc., a media company; Vicky Llerena, CEO of Social Vibes Media, a branding and digital agency; Ashlee Sullivan, community development manager and leasing associate of Kearny Point; and Keisha Blake Harp, executive director of the Women Presidents’ Education Organization WPEO-NY, which is a dynamic community of certified women-owned businesses. Kymberlee Norsworthy, adjunct professor of public relations at Saint Peter’s University and public relations entrepreneur, moderated the dynamic discussion, which focused on strategies for successful business launch and growth as well as specific resources available to women entrepreneurs, who may face unique challenges in accessing funding and resources in the startup and growth phases.

Ahmed Shehata ’21, who attended the forum with his class, summed up his experience saying “I found it truly inspiring to be among powerful women who are leaders in our community.”