Expo aims to share expertise, empower women

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Mary Bisbee-Burrows is bringing back her Economic Empowerment & Entrepreneur Expo, an event designed for women to connect and gain insights into building wealth and expanding businesses. This year, the expo also features a panel discussion, creating the Women’s Empowerment Weekend.

An entrepreneur and health and human services professional, Bisbee-Burrows hosted her first Economic Empowerment & Entrepreneur Expo last year, intending it to be a one-time event. 

“My hope was that attendees would take away the spirit of collaboration and a belief that when working together, more is accomplished,” says Bisbee-Burrows. “I wanted attendees to be  inspired to bring their financial goals to fruition, whether that’s investing money strategically or opening a business.”

After seeking feedback from last year’s attendees, she decided to revive the event for a second year.

“The attendees were waiting for this event; an event that not only focused on their financial success, but also specifically focused on Black women,” says Bisbee-Burrows. “There is a strength in being able to connect with others that look like you. It makes your goals more tangible.”

When building the catalog of events, Bisbee Burrows followed her formula for success: “Let it be educational, let it be empowering, and let it be entertaining.”

The weekend kicks off on March 29 with an event called “I Am She,” founded by Kecia McCullough. This panel discussion will focus on inner healing for women who have experienced trauma, diving into topics such as incarceration, infidelity and intimacy.

The Economic Empowerment & Entrepreneur Expo on March 30 expects 300 attendees. The day centers around two sets of panels separated by a lunch break, in which attendees are encouraged to network with each other. 

The space will also host vendors, allowing attendees to shop with local cosmetic and accessory businesses, inquire about banking services with KeyBank, and apply for their Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises program certifications. The vendors, small-business owners themselves, have the chance to engage in the knowledge being shared by operating in the same room as the panels.

As the panels discuss topics such as expanding business, selecting the right entity, and building legacy wealth, Bisbee-Burrows sought women who have been in business as an entrepreneur or an investor, or have accumulated wealth in some way. Panelists are traveling to Rochester from neighboring cities like Syracuse and as far as Atlanta.

Bisbee-Burrows understands that business topics can be daunting. To combat this, she considers cultural nuances when planning to keep the expo lively and high-energy. Attendees are welcomed into the expo with a gift and music by a DJ, and share a meal with each other. There is also a themed dress code, this year’s being “blazers and bling.”

“Adding these fun pieces make the event that much more successful and sustainable. When you’re talking about heavy topics like finances or economics, it’s not that exciting, let’s be honest. But if you’re able to add some flavor to that, it makes it much more enticing,” says Bisbee-Burrows.

The end of the expo’s second panel features a keynote address by Tokeya Graham, the owner of Soulstainable Living LLC, an equity, education, and leadership consulting firm. The expo concludes with a tradition: the presentation of the Legacy Changemaker Award.

The Legacy Changemaker Award honors a woman in business that has been instrumental to the betterment of the community. Bisbee-Burrow asks the community for  nominations, and five nominees are invited and recognized at the expo. One of them is given the honor.

Bisbee-Burrows hopes to expand the event to Syracuse and Buffalo and eventually bring in thousands of attendees from across western and central New York. She also would like to expand sponsorships in the future, partnering with corporations while also giving small, local businesses the chance to advertise at the event.

Her priority remains in centering women’s voices and providing a clear path for Black women to elevate themselves by increasing their access to helpful information, making meaningful connections and overcoming life challenges.

“When creating a space for Black women, there’s automatically a cultural connection and safe space,” says Bisbee-Burrows. “Most importantly there’s inspiration. ‘If she looks like me and she did it, I can do it, too.’ As cliche as it sounds, it’s amazingly powerful.”

The Women’s Empowerment Weekend begins at 6 p.m. at the Legacy Drama House. The expo will be hosted at the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center.
Interested attendees can register online by March 15.

Evan Coleman is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and a recent University of Rochester graduate. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

One thought on “Expo aims to share expertise, empower women

  1. How about….how about graduating kids from high school with a relevant education! That is and should be the foundational message of empowerment. Women’s empowerment doesn’t begin at 6:oo pm at the Legacy Drama House…..it begins with a K-12 journey that is successful in positioning oneself for empowerment. We seem to skip the foundational journey, the basics and then jump right to empowerment. I’m all in for women’s empowerment, ALL IN! But please…please encourage kids to stay the course in the K-12 journey.
    (I know that I provide the same old drum beat, the education beat. That said, the RCSD aint listening, does not respond and will not educate all of our kids. Some survive the effort, too many are lost along the way or are not prepared for additional education nor employment.)

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