‘Shark Tank’ contestants to keynote Nichols College Empowering Women in Business Conference

Founders of Wicked Good Cupcakes whipping up address

DUDLEY—The Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) at Nichols College will host the 8th annual Empowering Women in Business Conference (EWIB) Thursday, March 22, from 12:45 to 6 p.m. This year’s keynote speakers are mother-daughter entrepreneurs and former contestants on ABC’s “Shark Tank” Tracey Noonan and Dani Vilagie, co-founders of Wicked Good Cupcakes. Their talk is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m., and it will be held in Daniels Auditorium on Center Road.

EWIB is designed to provide the support, motivation, and resources needed for businesswomen to be successful and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.

“At the Empowering Women in Business Conference, we will share with the audience the idea that we all face ‘stuff.’ Everyone has ‘stuff.’ It’s how you look at it and deal with it that determines your ultimate fate as a business person,” said Noonan, who is CEO of Wicked Good Cupcakes.

What started in their South Shore, Massachusetts kitchen, Wicked Good Cupcakes has grown to be the largest shipper of cupcakes in the United States. Due to their creativity, perseverance, and hard work—as well as their successful appearance on “Shark Tank”—Wicked Good Cupcakes is a nationally known, multi-million-dollar brand. Noonan and Vilagie continue to expand their company, with licensing, partnerships, and other initiatives in the works.

“Dani and I have faced many obstacles on the road to building a multi-million-dollar national brand,” said Noonan. “Not only was starting a business a challenge, but we also had to deal with personal struggles. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s where the ones who are tough and show true grit are the ones who come out on the other side, stronger and successful.”

In 2016 and 2017, Hanover, Mass.-based Wicked Good Cupcakes Inc., was ranked one of Inc. magazine’s top 5,000 fastest-growing privately held companies. It was also ranked #9 of the “Fast Fifty” (the 50 fastest-growing, privately owned companies in Massachusetts in April 2016) by Boston Business Journal. Wicked Good Cupcakes donates to veterans’ groups and animal shelters, and promotes its “Pay It Forward Friday” campaign, in which a different charitable organization is chosen every Friday to receive $1 from every online sale that week.

Noonan and Vilagie have appeared on seasons 4-8 of “Shark Tank” as well as on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “20/20”; the former “Kris Jenner” (FOX) and “Meredith Vieira” (NBC) shows; “Squawk Box,” (CNBC) “Fox Business News,” Food Network’s “Food Factory,” TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” and ABC’s “Beyond the Tank.” Wicked Good Cupcakes has also been a guest seller on the home-shopping TV channel QVC.

“Nichols College is honored to welcome Tracey and Dani of Wicked Good Cupcakes as the keynote at this year’s Empowering Women in Business Conference,” said Rachel Ferreira, co-chair of EWIB and director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership, whose mission is to develop the leadership potential of female students and serve as a resource and authoritative community voice on women’s leadership. “They are both inspirational and will be a unique duo unlike anyone we’ve had at the conference before.”

Conference goers are encouraged to share their interest in business with accomplished women in the field and with those just launching their careers. In addition, several concurrent sessions have been designed for personal and professional development. Session topics include: learning strategies to break through roadblocks to success; embracing change; boosting productivity; goal setting; social media techniques; and using emotional intelligence to become a high-performing leader. There will be opportunities to network with other women throughout the event. The evening ends with a door prize and several raffle items.

“At the Empowering Women in Business Conference, women can expect to gain newfound inspiration, a sense of achievement, and an increased business network within the local community,” said Ferreira. “It provides women with the dynamic opportunity to advance their career, grow their business, and help design their future by pursuing professional development within a welcoming environment of career-focused women leaders.”

The IWL published last spring its second edition of the biennial Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index, which measures the percentage of women who serve in positions such as CEO and board member in business, nonprofit organizations, and public entities in the state. According to the Index, women represent 51 percent of the U.S. population yet only 20 percent make up the U.S. Congress; 5.3 percent are CEOs of S&P 500 companies; 18.6 percent hold corporate board seats; and they experience a wage gap of 83 percent. The Index also notes that at the current rate of change, women won’t reach parity in corporate board seats or wages for nearly four decades, and it could be more than a century before women have equal representation in U.S. Congress.

The Empowering Women in Business Conference is open to the public and costs $30. Nichols campus community members and students may attend at the reduced rate of $10. To register, please click here.

“We are proud of the value we are able to offer conference participants, thanks to our very generous sponsors who are leading companies in this region that recognize the importance of professional development and networking,” said Nichols College Professor Jean Beaupré, EWIB co-chair and faculty advisor to the IWL.


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