As a founder and the executive director of the nonprofit Women’s Enterprise Development Center in White Plains, Anne Janiak offers training programs to help Lower Hudson Valley women start and expand their small businesses. Janiak is a former mayor of Scarsdale, and works part-time as executive director of the Westchester Municipal Officials Association. We sat down with her on a quick coffee break (“black!”), to discuss the Center and what it does, as well as being a female entrepreneur in Westchester.
How have things changed for female entrepreneurs in the past 10 years?
Women are still starting businesses at a higher rate—twice as high from 1997 until 2007—than men.
Are there any barriers that still exist for female entrepreneurs?
Women business owners, by and large, don’t think big. They want to start a small business but don’t really think about it growing. So what we need to do as a women’s business center, through our training programs and our soon-to-be-launched online community, is to help people focus on growth.
What are some of your favorite recent projects the WEDC has been involved with?
Last June, IBM invited us to participate in a speed-mentoring project in conjunction with their centennial celebration. So we had 130 IBM employee volunteers and 130 of our clients meet for an evening of speed mentoring. Each person was assigned three people to meet with that evening for about 15 to 20 minutes each, and then, in recognition of the 100th anniversary, they continued to meet with one of their mentors for 100 days thereafter. The follow-up stories we had and the connections that were made were fabulous.
And then, on Veteran’s Day, we were awarded a grant to help female veterans start small businesses—and that’s a population that really does need our assistance.
What Westchester businesswomen do you admire?
There are so many here in Westchester. We have Eileen Fisher, Martha Stewart, Abigail Kirsch…
Is there anyone you admire who hasn’t gotten their due recognition?
So many of our graduates are in that situation because they are struggling with their businesses—especially with this economy—but they’re passionate about what they want to do and then they want to give back to WEDC. There are so many of them out there wanting to succeed and persevering and doing the best they can in these difficult economic times.