After hosting a successful women’s networking event two years in a row, Mary Ricci decided to take it a step further.
She said it is her unwavering belief that young, aspiring entrepreneurs need better access to advice from seasoned professionals within their field. That’s why Ricci launched the Women Promoting Women’s Mentoring Program for Young Women in Business.
According to Ricci, the new mentoring program—officially launched earlier this month—will match local high school and college-age women entrepreneurs or business-oriented students with successful women business owners from Bedford and Katonah.
The goal is to “educate, encourage and inspire them” through the mentoring relationship, said Ricci.
Among the established business owners who have already agreed to become mentors are Christine Salazar of Happiness Is catering services, Tatianna Ferraro, an artist, Geri Brewster, a holistic nutritionist, Ellen Fisher of College 4 U consulting and counseling services, author Debra Battermann, Julie Vosler, faux painter, and Danielle Ricci, a performance artist and model.
Ricci was motivated to create the program based on her own difficult experience making it in business without contacts or support.
“My mom wanted to be a dress designer and she was so talented, but we lived in South Bend, Indiana, and back then women didn’t pursue these things without help,” she said. “She had no one to encourage her.”
When Ricci was just 13 years old, her mother died. The fact that her mom never realized her dream left a lasting impression on Ricci.
“I always thought what a shame that she died without reaching her potential. What if someone told my mom not to give up, or advised her to enter competitions, or directed her to go to Chicago?”
Ricci moved to New York and went on to study interior design and then began working as a designer after graduation. But after a nightmarish experience with her first client, Ricci made the decision to stop working and focus on her family here in Katonah.
Then three years ago, Frank Oliveri of Katonah Paint and Hardware encouraged Ricci to start her own business as a color and design consultant. “Frank became my mentor. He told me after seeing what I did for friends, I should do it for real.”
And he gave her tips on getting started, Ricci remembered. “I was 51 years old. What if I had a mentor when I first started off?”
Beginning this month, Ricci plans to bring her program into the local schools, with a goal of having mentors and aspiring entrepreneurs matched up and in the field by June.
Dr. Christopher Griffin, director of counseling for John Jay High School, said that while he has not yet spoken with Ricci about the program, the concept of providing mentoring opportunities for high school women interested in business is unique and could provide valuable opportunities for John Jay students.
“Any opportunity to engage students in experiential learning such as mentoring and internships is usually extremely valuable. While we do have internship components included in some of our business courses, we do not have a business mentoring program and we don’t have anything which specifically promotes women’s entrepreneurship,” Griffin said.
Similarly, Joy Rosenzweig, Associate Director of the Women’s Enterprise Development Center said that this mentoring program seems unlike any of the services provided by WEDC and could be used to complement its programs.
Based in White Plains, WEDC provides vital business counseling and training for women business owners, including a 15-week entrepreneurial training program, a peer exchange program, one-on-one counseling, networking opportunities, and information on gaining access to capital. Most recently WEDC launched a microloan program providing some clients with $500 to $50,000 small business loans. microloans for their small business.
“We do training, but I think young women need both the training and the support. This mentoring component might be a great supplement to our programs,” Rosenzweig said.
If you are a high school or college-aged aspiring entrepreneur interested in being mentored, or if you are seasoned woman business owners interested in becoming a business mentor, contact Mary Ricci at (917)833-0886.
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Katonah Businesswoman Launches New Mentoring Program for Young Entrepreneurs – Bedford-Katonah, NY Patch
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