06.18.20

Sarah Lance and Jennifer Romano to lead NIIC EmPWR Program, guide women business owners in the post-COVID-19 pandemic economy

Tammy Allen, Director | Marketing & Programs, The NIIC

Sarah Lance (on the left), EmPWR Project Manager; Jennifer Romano, EmPWR Community Engagement Coordinator

For Immediate Release

June 18, 2020, Fort Wayne, Ind.— The NIIC is thrilled to announce two northeast Indiana leaders joined the organization to support women-owned businesses as they adapt to a post-COVID-19 pandemic economy. Sarah Lance, EmPWR Project Manager, and Jennifer Romano, EmPWR Community Engagement Coordinator, recently started in newly created positions for the EmPWR (Equity & Prosperity for Women Reimagining) Their Businesses Program. See additional information or apply at https://theniic.org/empwr.

“We are very pleased to have Sarah and Jennifer, who are accomplished leaders, join our WEOC team. Both of them are entrepreneurs in their own rights. Each brings a unique skillset and remarkable insight for her new role. Their commitment to women businesses and knowledge of our community will get the EmPWR Program off to the very best possible start,” said Karl LaPan, President and CEO, The NIIC. The NIIC serves as WEOC’s host organization, providing supplemental funding and resources.

The EmPWR Program is a 12-month initiative funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Women’s Business Ownership. EmPWR Program guides businesswomen to innovate, reimagine business models, and gain resiliency, so they thrive and prosper.  The program is available to business owners living in all Indiana counties except the 11 served by the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center.

EmPWR is an extended program of the SBA Women’s Business Center (WEOC) located at its host organization The NIIC. Both programs serve women, with EmPWR focused directly on female founders impacted by COVID-19. “It’s exciting to see SBA grant funding at work,” said SBA Indiana District Director Stacey Poynter. “The Coronavirus pandemic has small businesses focusing on their business models and making critical decisions on how their business operates in the future. SBA is grateful for resource partners like the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) at The NIIC who use funding to create innovative programs like EmPWR to help guide small businesses through these unchartered waters.”

Lance most recently served as Sari Bari Director of Brand and Strategy. Sari Bari is a social enterprise she co-founded in 2006 to help women in India escape or avoid human trafficking. Lance grew the company to 130 employees and artisans and established Sari Bari’s retail space in downtown Fort Wayne. Lance developed the company’s wholesale market for creative handmade products, growing the distributor base from zero to more than 100. She raised more than $500,000 for the non-profit through annual fundraising campaigns, social media, and special events. Lance is the 2016 Opus Prize Laureate and managed the $1 million Opus Prize Foundation Award for Sari Bari.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of The NIIC community through the new EmPWR Program and specifically to be able to serve women-run businesses who are facing the challenges of COVID-19,” said Lance.

Romano serves as the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. She also was elected in 2015 as a City Councilwoman in Columbia City, Indiana — a role in which she continues to serve.  Romano is also the owner and publisher of Talk of the Town of Whitley County, a digital news service featuring positive news and discussion of community issues. Her career also includes roles at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber, Parkview Health, the YWCA of Fort Wayne, the Columbia City Post & Mail newspaper, and other regional publications.

“Having met with many business owners in recent weeks, I have seen a lot of uncertainty and a real need for support of our region’s entrepreneurs as they face one of the biggest crises we have seen in a very long time,” said Romano. “I am excited and energized to share the tools and resources developed by The NIIC through the EmPWR Program with not only Northeast Indiana’s businesses and entrepreneurs but also across our state. This program provides an incredible bridge of support and guidance to assist Hoosier businesses through COVID-19 and beyond.”

For more information about the EmPWR Program or to apply to participate, visit theniic.org/empwr/.

About The NIIC

467 new products launched, 189 patent applications submitted or granted, and 2,290 jobs created—that is what entrepreneurs have achieved through The NIIC since its inception two decades ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to attract $91 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community designed to advise entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program. TheNIIC.org. Click here for The NIIC press kit. 

About WEOC

2,354 women and immigrants served, trained, and counseled—since WEOC’s formation five years ago. The Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) serves Northeast Indiana women at all stages of their business ventures. WEOC responds to the unique needs of women entrepreneurs through business growth coaching, training, and entrepreneurial education, connectivity, and access to capital. WEOC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. As the Host organization, The NIIC also provides supplemental funding and complementary resources. WEOC is an SBA designated Women’s Business Center—one of two in Indiana. For more information, visit www.inweoc.com.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster.  It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.

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