Anne M. Janiak has always been interested in issues affecting women. 
“I remember in the late ’60s hearing about ‘The Feminine Mystique,’ and it made so much sense to me,” she says, referring to Betty Friedan’s seminal 1963 book about unfulfilled 1950s housewives that helped spark the second wave of feminism in the United States (1960-’80s). Moving to Scarsdale from Chicago, where her husband had attended The University of Chicago Law School, Janiak joined a consciousness-raising group. 
“The women in Scarsdale were so bright and vibrant,” remembers Janiak, a Philadelphia native who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts degree in women’s history from Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers. It was not long before she joined many of these women as a member of the Scarsdale chapter of the League of Women Voters and then its president. After serving as a village trustee and mayor, she said, “What else can I do?” 
That something else turned out to be the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in White Plains, which she served as founding CEO from 1997 to 2021. The center, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women and minority entrepreneurs and their businesses get a leg up in Westchester County and the Mid-Hudson Valley, will thank her for her years of leadership at its silver anniversary gala Sept. 15 at Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester. Janiak will be honored not only with WEDC’s Legacy Award but with the launch of the Anne M. Janiak Leadership Grant Program, identifying, she says, those WEDC participants who stand out for their abilities to work with others and move projects forward. The other honorees signify two elements in the lifeblood of the business world – Wells Fargo (the Community Partnership Award), representing banking; and Sawudat Abraham, owner of Baby Cubs Daycare Inc. in New Rochelle (the Enterprising Woman Award), exemplifying the entrepreneurship WEDC and Janiak have shepherded. 
“It is pretty amazing to realize that Anne started WEDC with a $10,000 legislative grant and grew the organization into one with a $2 million budget in 2021,” CEO Nikki A. Hahn says in a statement. (Other impressive numbers in the nonprofit’s 25-year history – 15 employees securing $2.9 million in financial assistance for more than 10,000 businesses.) “From its inception, the focus has been on women and minority entrepreneurs who lacked access to traditional business and banking resources,” Hahn adds. “Our success is a testament to her foresight and trailblazing mindset.” 
For her part, Janiak is quick to share credit with the Westchester Association of Women Business Owners, Westchester Community College, the Westchester County Association and the New York State Division for Women – all of which were present in the summer of 1997 at the birth of the Women’s Enterprise Project, which would ultimately become WEDC. 
“They needed someone to connect the dots,” Janiak remembers. That someone turned out to be a woman who says, “I like being part of a community and trying to solve problems.” 
As the name implies, WEDC – which offers 60-hour spring/fall business-training programs –began by serving women who didn’t have any such training but had ideas for start-ups. Some of these women had experienced domestic abuse, Janiak says. This in turn led to business training for child-care providers. A turning point came in 2000, with the introduction of courses for Spanish speakers, a fourth of whom were men. Then came the M/WBEs – the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise certificate holders. 
“We were one of the first organizations to help M/WBEs grown their businesses,” Janiak says. (In addition to training programs, WEDC offers one-on-one business and loan counseling, networking opportunities, assistance with loan applications for microloans and crowd funding through Kiva Zip.) 
“What we started out to do is help all people, especially women but not exclusively women,” Janiak says – an important distinction in world in which people increasingly define themselves as nonbinary, neither male nor female.  
Now WEDC’s special adviser, having retired in December 2021, Janiak says the organization will continue to reach out to the BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) communities in a region that embraces Westchester; Putnam; Dutchess, home of WEDC’s satellite office; Rockland; Orange; Sullivan; and Ulster counties, expanding services and building partnerships. (About 70 percent of WEDC’s funding comes from local, county, state and federal governments. The rest is from individual, foundation and corporate contributions.) 
As for Janiak, she will also continue to serve as executive director of the Westchester Municipal Officials Association (WMOA). “Any sane person would’ve given one up,” she says with a laugh. But the woman who likes to connect the dots see the importance of a relationship between local governments and the business community. 
“I like being busy,” she says, particular in service to others. Indeed, when she collects her Legacy Award Sept. 15, she will no doubt think of what she told WAG: “I remember the women who came to me and said, ‘I was broken and WEDC helped me.’ That is my reward.” 
 For more on the Women’s Enterprise Development Center’s 25th anniversary gala, visit here

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