SYRACUSE — Lunchtime at this year’s Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Symposium will span nine decades.
That is, women in nine different decades of life will take part in a roundtable discussion starting at 12:30 p.m. at the April 3 symposium. Ages represented in the discussion will range from the 10s — a Girl Scout, Madelyn Rhinehart, who sold more than 1,200 boxes of cookies last year — to the 90s — Dorris Montour of the Kahnawake Mohawk First Nations Territory in Canada, who is translating books into the native Mohawk language.
“We’re telling the whole story of how you don’t have to be a certain age to be an entrepreneur,” says Lindsay Wickham, events and communications manager for the WISE Symposium. “It happens throughout your lifetime. And it could mean different things, but it centers on the fact that you’re dreaming, you’re believing, you’re pursuing — you’re actually making your dreams come true.”
This is the 10th year for the annual symposium. Wickham says that the event isn’t just for entrepreneurs — it is for everyone in the business community, from the corporate world to business owners to those who are considering starting a company.
“It’s not limited to just women, although we cater it specifically toward the unique challenges that women face,” Wickham says. “Anyone can attend, and we do have men in attendance as well.”
This year’s symposium is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 3. It returns to the Oncenter in downtown Syracuse after a year away while the facility hosted the 2011 United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships.
Last year, the WISE Symposium took place at the Holiday Inn Syracuse-Liverpool. Space constraints forced organizers to limit the event to 850 preregistrations and about 900 attendees, according to Wickham. But, this year’s symposium in the larger Oncenter will have no attendance limit, she says.
Registration for an all-day ticket costs $85, or attendees can register for just the afternoon exposition for $30. Full-time student registration is $20.
Wickham encouraged attendees to register before the event, as admission at the door will cost $100. Anyone who wants to register can do so at http://wiseconference.com/register or by contacting Wickham at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (315) 443-3550.
Attendees will have access to an expanded WISE Women’s Business Center Connections Café, which is an onsite version of the WISE Women’s Business Center, offering one-on-one counseling sessions. This is the café’s third year, and it will be offering more specialized advice than in the past, according to Joanne Lenweaver, WISE Women’s Business Center director.
“This year we’re going to have experts like [an] attorney and a person who understands exporting,” she says. “All kinds of things that are unique, very pointed topics where women may need just a little more information.”
The WISE Symposium will also host about 50 speakers covering a variety of topics, from social media to business planning. The morning keynote speaker will be Nell Merlino, the founder and president of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, a New York City–based not-for-profit organization that says it helps women grow small businesses into large enterprises.
“She’s going to be speaking to the women who are in the Women Presidents’ Organization in town,” Lenweaver says. “How can they grow and make an economic impact in our community? You need to grow your business, pass that plateau that a lot of women get stuck at.”
The afternoon keynote speaker will be Barbara Corcoran, who started The Corcoran Group real-estate firm in New York City in 1973 with a loan of $1,000. She sold that company in 2001 for almost $70 million.
Corcoran currently is the real-estate contributor to NBC’s TODAY Show, where she comments weekly on trends in the real-estate market. She is also an investor (“shark”) on ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank,” now in its third season. Corcoran bought 11 new businesses on the show, which she’s now helping to lead. She is also the author of three books including her most recent, “Shark Tales,” detailing her story and her best advice for anyone starting a business.
“The most amazing thing about Barbara is she is rags to riches, truly,” Lenweaver says. “This is her 19th job. She went through 18 different iterations of a career.”
Another notable speaker at the WISE Symposium is the founder of Chobani, Inc., Hamdi Ulukaya. Ulukaya will speak about founding the South Edmeston yogurt company.