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Innovation Hub Celebrates Women’s History Month with 'Her Story Her Way'

Jane Ciccone speaks at the Her Story Her Way event as Noemi Custodia-Lora, Sen. Diana DiZoglio, and UML's Stephanie Guyotte look on.
Jane Ciccone speaks at the Her Story Her Way event as Noemi Custodia-Lora, Sen. Diana DiZoglio, and UML's Stephanie Guyotte look on.

By Stephanie Guyotte

HAVERHILL – The Innovation Hub Haverhill welcomed three distinguished women leaders for an important conversation about leadership, mentoring and overcoming challenges to become successful.

Titled "Her Story, Her Way," the program featured: State Sen. Diana DiZoglio; Noemi Custodia-Lora, Vice President of Lawrence Campus and Community Relations of Northern Essex Community College; and Jane Ciccone, founder and CEO of Onesto Foods.

The program was presented by the Innovation Hub, the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Administration Massachusetts District.

SBA Massachusetts District Director Bob Nelson offered opening remarks, highlighting successful women entrepreneurs and encouraging women business owners in the audience to seek out the SBA’s support for capital and government contracting.

The speaking program was moderated by iHub Associate Director Stephanie Guyotte.

The audience of more than 60 women (and men) included Greater Haverhill business owners, entrepreneurs, community leaders, non-profit executives.

Sen. DiZoglio kicked off the conversation by sharing her story of the first time she ran for public office – in her 20s and against an incumbent. She was told it was “cute” that she was running by an older male, who, now is one of her supporters. She won that race and went on to serve as a state representative and now is in her first term as a state senator.

Custodia-Lora challenged women in the audience to not be afraid to ask for help, to take time to care for themselves instead of everyone else, and aim high in their career goals. “I have a lot of mentors for different areas of my life – person and professional,” she said.

Ciccone highlighted her mom, who was in the audience, as her mentor and inspiration. “Her work ethic is inspiring; I am one of 7 and three of my siblings are also entrepreneurs,” Ciccone said. Ciccone started Onesto Foods with a line of gluten-free crackers. She cooked in a local church kitchen and went business to business to get stores to sell her product. Today, about four years in business, she has a manufacturer in Vermont working with her to produce about 400 cases of crackers per month that can be found in 1,500 stores nationally. She’s just launched a new cookie line and is working on additional food products.
All three women encouraged attendees to pay it forward and support other women in all areas from politics to education to business.

The event was sponsored by Eastern Bank. Photos from the event can be found in the Facebook gallery.