Melissa-Sue John, Ph.D. receives Women Rising Award from CT WBDC

black owned business WBDC women owned business

On October 27, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich, in the presence of an esteemed audience of over 700 attendees, which included distinguished figures such as Senator Blumenthal, Governor Lamont, and the Honorable Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Dr. Melissa-Sue John was celebrated as one of the six women-owned business owners honored with the 2023 CT Women Rising Award.

Melissa-Sue John

The event itinerary was meticulously organized. Awardees and the keynote speaker convened at 11 am, providing an opportunity for photos, interactions with staff members, and a delightful breakfast, followed by a rehearsal.

CT WBDC women rising awardees

Dr. John was happy to be greeted by her support system of mentors, advisors, and friends: Jodi (Jodi's Cup of Health), Christine Sullivan (Connecticut Small Business Development CenterRealist Lab), and Kerrie McDevitt (Impact Growth Partners)

Melissa-Sue John

At noon, the doors were opened for guests to take their seats and the ceremony commenced with a warm welcome from the master of ceremonies, Gilda Bonnano. The audience then had the privilege of hearing Senator Blumenthal's address.

A particularly poignant moment in the event came when Fran Pastore shed light on the historical context, emphasizing that it was only in the 1970s that women were granted access to credit cards and loans. She referenced a powerful statement made by America Ferrera in the Barbie Movie (2023), underlining the myriad contradictory expectations imposed on women.

"You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can't ask for money because that's crass. You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean. You have to lead, but you can't squash other people's ideas. You're supposed to love being a mother, but don't talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining. You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you're supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It's too hard! It's too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault."

A daughter of immigrant parents, the Connecticut Lieutenant Governor's personal journey included witnessing the signing of the Equal Rights Amendment. In her address, she highlighted the disparity in PPP Loans, primarily benefiting white, male-owned large businesses, which prompted her to empower the CT Women's Business Development Council (WBDC) to facilitate women's access to business funding.

Videos featuring inspiring entrepreneurs Liz Ceppos (Cross Culture Kombucha) and Kristin Vece (Elevate Healing Arts) were showcased, followed by insightful remarks from Elana Milianta, WBDC Board Chair and a financial advisor.

The event continued with the presentation of the Patricia Billie Miller award for outstanding community service to Dr. Joanne Brunn, CEO of XLerant. The final 2023 Women Rising video featured Emmanuella Lautrue (Ma Maison Childcare) and Shellena Pitterson (Orchid Maids Cleaning Service). After the video, all awardees were welcomed to the stage and presented with the awards. At the table, Dr John was congratulated by Georgette Gouvela, Editor- in-Chief Westfair Communications Inc.

A delightful three-course lunch was served, including a bread, cheese, and fruit platter, roasted chicken breast with farro, roasted Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, baby kale, toasted pepita seeds, and cranberries, and tiramisu for dessert, layered with mascarpone mousse soaked in coffee liqueur.

Post-lunch, Impact Awards were presented to Leander Dolphin, managing partner of Shipman and Goodwin, and Jeffrey A. Flaks, President and CEO of Hartford Healthcare. The keynote speaker, Katrina Adams, broadcaster, author, and former chair and president of the United States Tennis Association, delivered an inspiring address, followed by closing remarks.

The event was truly remarkable, celebrating the achievements and contributions of outstanding women entrepreneurs and leaders.

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  • Cam Cross on

    Dr. John enables. She enables students, staff, peers, child authors and the adults who support them. She doesn’t have to do it all to be all in.

  • Yvette Phillips on

    Congratulations Dr. John, well deserved. I am so proud of all your accomplishments and the way that you are paving the road for other women in business. Keep on excelling because there are so many people who ae watching you and being encouraged by your success and growth.

  • Roz White on

    I am truly proud of all your accomplishments and paving the way for the next generation. Exceptional role model of what a thought can become with tenacity, hard work and a smile. Congratulations

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