New E-Network program seeks to connect entrepreneurs from diverse environments

Entrepreneurs in Niagara County have their own individual needs and challenges, and a new program through the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College seeks to provide support for female business owners in that area.

Twice per month, beginning March 14, the WBC program “E-Network - Niagara” will provide training, networking opportunities, and support, led by entrepreneur and Niagara County native Lisa Churakos.

“Small businesses can grow faster and farther if they learn to find synergistic relationships,” WBC executive director Sara Vescio said. Because of Niagara County’s diverse entrepreneurial environment–from downtown Niagara Falls to small-town Lewiston and rural Sanborn–sometimes business owners aren’t connecting with one another as frequently as they should, she added.

Supported by Yahoo!, Vescio first reached out to local business development institutions in Niagara County, like the Greater Lockport Development Corp., the Niagara Chamber of Commerce, and the Small Business Development Center at Niagara County Community College, to identify the need for the E-Network program there.

Churakos, a Niagara County entrepreneur and consultant who ran a restaurant at age 19, led a rebranding for local Goodwill stores, and spent time as a vice president of sales for a global software company, will teach the course, which will be offered at participants’ businesses in Lockport, Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and North Tonawanda, initially.

“The whole program is in the framework of accountability,” Churakos said. “We set goals on what (the entrepreneurs) want to achieve, then look at referrals and networking. When you understand who is in the room, you begin to realize how we can help each other.”

That networking element, Churakos said, is an important part of the program for women business owners in Niagara County, because it can lead to cross-marketing or referral opportunities down the road. Churakos, herself, is a WBC member and a vendor liaison for several food festivals in Niagara County.

The E-Network program in Erie County, Vescio said, has evolved over its approximately seven years of existence, but it has proven to be an asset for women business owners. She added she’s confident the Niagara E-Network course will also meet the participants’ needs.

Women with businesses in every stage of development and scale are welcome, Vescio said. And the values of the course are aligned with Canisius College’s lifelong learning mission.

Interested women entrepreneurs and business owners can find out more information about the course at, or by calling 716-888-8280. The course, which runs from March to July for 10 meetings, costs $150.

Read more articles by Joel Lehman.

After spending 15 years in northern Vermont where he worked as managing editor for a daily publication, Western New York native Joel Lehman returned to Buffalo this summer to be part of the city’s renaissance. He lives with his girlfriend and his goldendoodle, Wilson, and he enjoys running, skiing and cooking for his family.
Signup for Email Alerts