March 30, 2022
Recognizing the Women Leaders of Launch NY
As we close out Women’s History Month we want to take a moment to recognize and help you get to know the women leaders of Launch NY.
Nadia Abdallah is our Senior Operations Manager at Launch NY. She provides finance, operations, and project support at Launch NY. She specializes in programs supporting minority, women, disabled veteran and disadvantaged business entities. Her experience includes finance and operations at D.V. Brown & Associates, a mechanical contracting company.
Nadia studied Accounting at Canisius College and completed courses in entrepreneurship at Buffalo State University for young leaders in the Buffalo Area.
Nadia said she feels empowered by her work supporting our community through its startup ecosystem, especially supporting women founders. “Being a part of Launch NY has shown me that there are many women owned businesses and organizations who promote growth, encouragement, development and funding of women led start-ups. Women within these networks tend to face similar adversities but stop at no limits to help other women succeed.”
Danielle Blount is Project Manager for Launch NY’s Emerging Cleantech Opportunity (ECO) Incubator. She began with Launch NY during her MBA studies as an intern in the summer of 2015 and joined full-time after graduation.
Danielle attended the University at Buffalo for both her undergraduate and graduate studies, receiving her BA in Political Science and International Studies in 2013 and her MBA in 2016. Between degrees, Danielle worked at BlueCross BlueShield of WNY as a Network Development Associate. During this time, she also received her Master’s Certificate in Project Management from Villanova University in 2014. Danielle currently serves as President of the Plymouth Crossroads board, an Executive Team member of the Mount St. Mary Academy Alumnae Board, in Kenmore, NY, and an Awesome Buffalo Trustee.
Reflecting on the unique challenges faced by women founders, Danielle says, “Unfortunately, we still live in a time where women entrepreneurs will be asked more about their lives than their business from some (not all) investors. Be prepared for the question and to pivot your answer back to your business and the opportunity at hand. Don’t wait around for a seat at the table to open up. Start your business, bring your idea to life, and better yet, make your own table!”
Crystal Wallace is Project Manager of the Founders Go Big Program at Launch NY. Her
industry experience spans both public and private sectors, and her passion has been integration of learning, technology, strategy, and entrepreneurship. She has served her community by working to raise awareness on issues of disparity and access through her work with the National Society of Black Engineers, the Face-to-Face Initiative, Covenant of Grace Ministries, and other organizations.
Crystal received her Bachelor of Science in Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a concentration in Management Information Systems in 2004. She then earned her MBA from Canisius College in 2007.
Crystal is Founder and Chief Consulting Strategist of CMW Services, LLC, where she provides strategic consulting and business planning to enterprises and non-profits. She has taught and worked for the University at Buffalo, Canisius College, and Bryant & Stratton College. Crystal was also a member of the 2007 M&T Bank Management Development Program Class.
Advice Crystal gives to women in business includes, “Be intentional about recharging. Women entrepreneurs are often managing multiple competing priorities and trying to find the harmony between business and life. I’ve found intentionally creating moments of pause, reflection, and rest to be vital in maintaining the resilience needed to grow my business. After those still moments, I’m able to accomplish more than if I were to power through without a pause.”
Marnie LaVigne, Ph.D.
With a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Rochester, Dr. LaVigne has spent more than 30 years in both the private and public sectors creating new products and start-up businesses, driving innovation and economic growth in technology-based companies. Her for profit experience includes co-founding health informatics businesses employing more than 100 people, two initial public offerings, and product development in large biomedical companies. In 2014, after heading economic development at the University at Buffalo where she drove a 60:1 return on investment, she became the President and CEO of Launch NY, which she co-founded in 2011 to serve high-growth potential startups in the western half of New York State.
As a past startup founder, current head of Upstate New York’s only venture development organization, and one of the few female fund managers in the country, Marnie observed: “Our region still has to work hard on our renaissance because we still are considered an economically distressed community. We need all the help we can get—especially from diverse and creative people. Women can help bring new opportunities to the fore and help the innovators who could be real job and wealth drivers. There’s also the role model effect that cannot be underestimated. Some of the things that make WNY feel like home can have the unintended effect of presenting to people’s opportunities. We need to break old patterns, where opportunity here can be based on who your family is or where you went to school. We need an inclusive community to create a thriving, sustainable economy. It’s helpful that the innovation economy is new for everyone. In that regard, women have an open door, we are willing to step up.