Pragya Murphy

Funding WISE Women 

By Carol Radin | Photography by Mary Grace Johnson 

In her role on the WISE Women’s Business Center’s board of directors, Pragya Murphy takes to heart the words WISE stands for: “Women Igniting the Spirit of Enterpreneurship.” Pragya, chair of the board’s fundraising committee, is ignited by the spirit to empower other women.

“I take pride in helping women start or grow a business and contribute to the local economy,” she said. “If you have a business idea or if you have a business already and need other ideas, WISE is here for you.”

For aspiring women entrepreneurs, WISE is the place to see ideas take hold, through training classes, individual business counseling sessions, direct coaching support and mentoring. WISE has helped women put ideas into action since 2006. Last year, WISE trained 733 women entrepreneurs and individually counseled 134 clients.

The business center is hosted by Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, where the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship helped WISE obtain its first federal grant from the Small Business Administration. The Falcone Center continues to collaborate on WISE events and meet a portion of matching funds for the SBA grants. It is the center’s responsibility, however, to meet most of the matching funds through federal grants and corporate support.

This is where Pragya comes in. Drawing on her MBA background in finance and banking, as well as her experience with fundraising for nonprofit organizations, Pragya identifies potential funding sources, organizes events and pursues opportunities to get WISE’s name and mission out into the community and attract financial support.

Last year, she organized an event for business owners in Skaneateles and Auburn, sponsored by Key Bank and hosted by The Krebs restaurant. Key Bank will partner once again at an event in May at Owera Vineyards.

While Pragya has been instrumental in helping WISE meet its goals, she also credits colleagues on the board for their generosity in sharing expertise and the services of their businesses in fundraising efforts. Board members from successful businesses and companies like Laci’s Tapas Bar, Natur-Tyme and Hancock Estabrook, among others, have stepped up to contribute their time, talent and skills.

For Pragya, skills are only part of the equation. She knows supporting a community takes heart.

“Nonprofit is my passion,” she said.

Pragya’s own strong motivation to give back to the community stems from values instilled in her by her family.

One of her first fundraising projects in Syracuse was a telethon in 2015 to raise money for earthquake relief after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, the country from which Pragya and her family emigrated when she was a teenager. The telethon raised $50,000 in one night.

She was also a member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central New York’s board of directors. It was there that a fellow board member asked her to join the WISE board of directors two years ago.

“I said yes immediately,” Pragya said. “I saw it as a wonderful way to learn and contribute to the local economy.”

At the WISE Women’s Business Center, women can find support in their business ventures. The center offers practical training classes, like The Building Blocks of Starting a Business and Creating A Business Culture to Thrive In. Women can also attend roundtable discussions with career professionals, covering topics such as using Facebook in business, email advertising and time management. In addition, business counselors work one-on-one with clients to address individual needs and business plans.

The center also offers an initiative to support Latina female entrepreneurs. The Exito! program — which translates into Success! program — was initially funded as a pilot by the Women’s Fund of CNY, and now regularly offers Latina women a series of training courses, roundtable sessions and coaching in creating business plans.

Pragya’s next challenge is raising money to match a federal grant recently awarded to WISE from the Small Business Administration. According to WISE’s director, Joanne Lenweaver, the money raised will continue to support client business counseling and expansion of all services. Pragya also hopes to target funding for more technology-based training classes and webinars for WISE clients.

As a busy mother of two school-age children, Pragya also has insight into the personal obstacles women face when taking on a new venture.

“Women have particular needs,” she said.

Pragya explained that a myriad of issues can hold women back, including the need for flexibility to address family commitments, fear of risk as a sole family caretaker or even limits in transportation.

“Even people who have resources need moral support and confidence,” she said. SWM

For more information on the WISE Women’s Business Center, visit

Hair and makeup by Amanda McCarty of Karma Salon & Spa.