Lisa Oz quickly grabbed the attention at a business leadership conference Thursday in Adam’s Mark Hotel. Oz, wife of daytime television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, was the keynote speaker of the event sponsored by the Western New York Charter Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association.
“How many of you are normal?” Oz asked the crowd of about 400 women. Not one raised their hand. Instead they raised their voices in laughter. The conference program, “The New Normal,” Oz went on to explain, is about balancing expectations.
“We are expected to be CEOs and supermoms, and we are expected to manage other people’s needs while staying true to ourself,” said the mother of four who lives in Cliffside Park, N.J. “You have to commit to personal growth. You have to be open to change, and the evolution of an individual is not an easy task at all.” Oz spoke from personal experience. She is producer, writer and host of the “Lisa Oz Show” on Oprah Radio. She founded Ozworks, a media and investment consulting company. Her latest book is “US: Transforming Ourselves and the Relationships That Matter Most.”
The daylong conference also featured presentations including: “Wellness for Working Women” by Dr. David Kurss, “Cover Your Assets” by attorney Lisa Coppola and “5 Steps to Get Better Than Ever” by Mary Anne Cappellino.
The conference was the first sponsored by the Western New York chapter. Founded in 1952, the chapter now represents women in eight counties. Its mission is to bring businesswomen of diverse occupations together and to provide opportunities for leadership, education and networking.
“The group is rebranding,” said Victoria Sturman, conference publicity chairman. “Up until recent years, many of our members have come from Niagara County. Now the membership has expanded to Erie County and beyond.”
One of the conference presenters, Althea E. Luehrsen, is executive director of Leadership Buffalo. She formerly headed the University at Buffalo Center of Entrepreneurial Leadership program. Several graduates of the UB program attended Thursday’s conference, representing their businesses in the bustling vendor fair. Among the 40 vendors gathered to share their products and knowledge was Krista Van Wagner, owner of Curly’s Grill in Lackawanna. A 2006 graduate of UB’s leadership program, Van Wagner was taught to work on her business and not in her business, according to Luehrsen. “We taught her how to put systems and processes in place,” Luehrsen said. “We taught her to be the owner and not just do everything herself. She was able to step out of the kitchen, empower her employees to be able to work with her husband, who was her executive chef.”
Van Wagner has expanded her business to include a catering company and banquet facility.
Another vendor with a success story was Joyce DeLong, who owns and operates an Insty-Print franchise in Cheektowaga. “We had just moved to a new location on Union Road, and the October [2006] storm collapsed our roof. It ruined all of our equipment and all the jobs we had finished for customers. It was devastating,” DeLong recalled. “Do we save the business or don’t we? We worked out of a garage for eight months.”
At the time, DeLong had just enrolled in the one-year UB entrepreneurial program. The strategies she learned helped to her to reinvent the business. The following year, she said, the business went from averaging 2 to 3 percent in annual sales to 14 percent. In 2011, she said, the company experienced just under $1 million in sales.
“I’d been in business 26 years when I took the program, so it wasn’t like I was young,” said DeLong. “It made a huge difference. When you’ve been in business so long, sometimes you’re so close to it that you don’t see what you’re doing wrong.”