Tag Archives: Janis Collins

New “Refinery” Targets Women Business Leaders

This area is blessed with many things: Natural beauty. Educational and cultural opportunities. And an abundance of brilliant women.

Fairfield County teems with high achievers. After starting families, they’re ready to go back to work. But rather than return to the corporate world, they’re starting their own businesses.

Westporter Janis Collins — entrepreneur-in-residence for the Stamford Innovation Center and B:HIve in Bridgeport — has met with over 200 Connecticut startups in the past year. A quarter were led by women.

Refinery logoBut every business needs a boost. The Refinery is an exciting new project that leverages extensive local intellectual and financial capital to help women-led businesses grow. (The definition: at least 1 woman in a leadership role.)

It’s an underserved market, Collins says. They get less than 10% of all venture capital money — despite studies showing that these companies perform at par or greater than those with male CEOs.

Over 25 mentors — female and male — have already signed up. The core team includes Jen Gabler, North Shutshiwaran and Bill Gordon. All 3 live in Westport or Weston.

Local talent like Andy Moss, Steve Obsitnik, Galia Gichon and Jenny Lawton are ready to advise and assist too.

The Westport Library, Westport Sunrise Rotary and Stamford Innovation Center provide grant money to the top performing company in the program.

Janis Collins (left) and Jen Gabler work with Daniel Ruskin, who is helping with The Refinery's tech side.

Janis Collins (left) and Jen Gabler work with Daniel Ruskin, who is helping with The Refinery’s tech side.

The Library has integrated The Refinery into its Maker-in-Residence program. So — along with meeting rooms — the innovative Maker Space is available to Refinery members.

The Refinery says it is different from other accelerators because it is highly individualized; it serves pre-revenue companies, as well as those that have launched or need a re-boot; it matches mentors with industry-specific experience, and its location accesses New York and Boston networks.

Through June 15, the organization is accepting applications for a 12-week fall program. Applicants should have launched — or be ready to launch — a product or digital service by the end of 2014. Companies should have the potential to grow to more than $10 million in revenues within 4 to 6 years. To apply for the fall program, click on The Refinery website.

The accelerator culminates in a Pitch Night. Teams will present their companies to the community, pitch to potential investors, and compete for cash awards.

“This is a community effort to create local jobs, and investible companies,” Collins says.

And Fairfield County’s remarkable women lead the way.

Board Of Ed Chairman Says “Thank You”

Last night, the Board of Finance unanimously approved the Board of Education’s proposed 2012-13 budget.

The figure — praised by Finance members on both sides of the aisle — is $100.2 million. That’s a 2.17% percent increase over the current budget.

Tonight, Board of Education chairman Don O’Day issued this statement:

I want to sincerely thank the school community for their tremendous level of support on Thursday night. If you were unable to make it, trust me when I say that Town Hall was packed. The strong message from kids, teachers, parents, and administrators in attendance was unanimous: Westport’s schools are a priority, and should be funded. Like no other year I can remember, the Avi Kaner-led Board of Finance heartily agreed.

I want to especially thank Janis Collins, who was the first to say that she supported the 2012-13 school budget and would vote to approve it without a reduction. Janis recognized the school administration and the BOE for producing a lean and thoughtful budget. Her sincere recognition was much appreciated after months of hard work and difficult choices by the school administration and the Board of Education.

The Board of Finance approved the BOE’s 2012-13 school budget without cuts. The approval followed a commitment that I made, on behalf of the BOE, to review, with the administration and my BOE colleagues, different ways to lower class sizes without increasing the 2012-13 budget.  We will re-double our efforts to explore that goal for the elementary schools, as well as the middles schools and Staples. Tom Lasersohn deserves recognition for passionately speaking about the benefits of lower class sizes.

The results may not be exactly what everyone wants, but I do know this: Because of the willingness of the Board of Finance and the Board of Education to work together, we are all in a better place for our kids.

Thanks again to all of my fellow Westporters, for your support of our schools.