BUFFALO, N.Y. — We're celebrating the women who are making Western New York shine in our City Shapers reports this year. This week's City Shaper has helped more than a thousand entrepreneurs get off the ground in New York State.
City of Buffalo native, Marnie LaVigne, is the President and C.E.O. of Launch NY.
LaVigne co-founded Launch NY more than five years ago. It's a non-profit venture development group that helps high-growth potential companies get started. Launch NY covers 27 counties and is headquartered in Buffalo.
LaVigne says high-growth really means you have a big vision.
"Ten-million dollars in annual revenues by years five to seven, that's a big vision, and guess what, you're going to need some dollars to support that vision. So, Launch NY provides both free mentorship and access to the most active seed fund in New York State," says LaVigne.
She says it is a relatively new concept for Western New York.
"Instead of letting good ideas die on the vine or actually leave town," says LaVigne.
LaVigne started out in the academic world, but in the 90s became an entrepreneur during the dot-com years.
"I got into economic development and realized that my experience could help others, and help our community grow these same kind of innovators, and the jobs that come from those companies," she says.
Launch NY serves more than 250 active clients. Forty-five-percent of those companies are minority or women-led.
"They may be from drone technology to your favorite granola. Even Ru's Pierogi is one of the companies that we've invested in," LaVigne explains.
Launch NY focuses on an invest local platform. All an entrepreneur has to do is apply with an idea, and you can do that online. LaVigne and her team make it happen with help from mostly private funds. A lot of her time is spent fundraising.
"I will admit there are a lot of Starbucks and Spot Coffee meetings that go on, so I have to watch my caffeine intake to be sure, but then there are many other times when I'm doing a presentation or a panel," she says.
Seeing each company's success keeps LaVigne passionate about what she does.
"It's the people. It's their story. It's why they were actually motivated to get involved. And, if I can do something to help that individual move ahead, I mean, it almost seems like the easiest thing I could do. So, for me, I am just a problem solver, and bringing brilliant people together, and resources that is what drives me," says LaVigne.
If you know someone who would make a great City Shaper for 2020, just send Kelly Dudzik an email to nominate them.
Meet City Shaper Dawne Hoeg: