The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center has hired Sarah Lance as project manager and Jennifer Romano as community engagement coordinator for the EmPWR (Equity & Prosperity for Women Reimagining) Their Businesses Program.  

The EmPWR Program is a 12-month initiative funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Women’s Business Ownership. EmPWR Program guides businesswomen to innovate, reimagine business models, and gain resiliency, so they thrive and prosper. The program is available to business owners living in all Indiana counties except the 11 served by the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center.

Lance most recently served as Sari Bari director of brand and strategy. Sari Bari is a social enterprise she co-founded in 2006 to help women in India escape or avoid human trafficking. Lance grew the company to 130 employees and artisans and established Sari Bari’s retail space in downtown Fort Wayne. Lance developed the company’s wholesale market for creative handmade products, growing the distributor base from zero to more than 100. She raised more than $500,000 for the non-profit through annual fundraising campaigns, social media, and special events. Lance is the 2016 Opus Prize Laureate and managed the $1 million Opus rize Foundation Award for Sari Bari.

Romano serves as the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce executive director. She also was elected in 2015 as a City Councilwoman in Columbia City, Indiana, a role in which she continues to serve. Romano is also the owner and publisher of Talk of the Town of Whitley County, a digital news service featuring positive news and discussion of community issues. Her career also includes roles at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber, Parkview Health, the YWCA of Fort Wayne, the Columbia City Post & Mail newspaper, and other regional publications.

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