DB&B Community Spotlight: Laura Serway

In keeping with this month's theme of spotlighting women in our community, we spoke with Laura Serway. Laura is a business development consultant, philanthropist and restaurateur, famous for her restaurant, Laci's Tapas Bar, which was located in the Hawley-Green neighborhood. Below is her full interview.


What steps do you take to break the bias?

Women’s empowerment and equality… wow. You have to remember I was raised in the 70’s and 80’s, right? And there was no talk of equality. I find it is a passion of mine to make sure that I can always make a difference by making sure that women get put first on the agenda; making sure women are considered first for a position; making sure that women when I owned the restaurant and they came were well taken care of. Because it still is a man’s world. It’s unfortunate but it still is a man’s world. So it’s important to me to be able to continue to [advocate] for women, and in addition to that, help women to grow their businesses.

What motivates you to advocate for women’s empowerment?

You know break the bias… this is so interesting for me. When I started reading the campaign for International women’s day I thought to myself, who came up with this and why are we doing this? And it’s simple. Not everybody is the same. Not everyone’s treated the same. Not everybody is looked at the same, and it's unfortunate. A female, a person who’s brown, a person who’s black, a person who’s purple, white- it doesn't matter! We all are the same people. And you know what? Dealing with this bias is a real challenge.

In our community that we live in, our everyday communication style, the things that we do just in general when we’re in public… I think, what am I doing to set the example? It’s all about role model. It’s all about continuing to build relationships and be that genuine person. And it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, where you’re from- we treat people the same way. I can tell you when people used to come into the restaurant and say to me, “Oh that’s that president of so and so,” I would say, “ok...and?” It doesn’t matter to me who you, are as long as you treat others with kindness, love, and respect.

What advice do you have for women looking to advance their careers?

As women continue to think about growing their careers, their future, their relationships– you know quite frankly this is about beginning with the end in mind. I’m a huge Stephen Covey fan, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People apply in everything that we do every day of our lives. So truly, making sure that you can lead by example, you can respect other people, that’s what it’s about. That’s how we can continue to make change in our community. And as a leader in our community, you’ve got to set that example. Set that tone by making sure that you do what you say you’re gonna do. 

So many folks that are in leadership roles take it for granted and go on a power trip. And it can’t be that way. Because the only way to break the bias is to set an example. And the only way to do that is to be a really good leader and to make sure you set that example wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. So I think leadership is really about making sure that you know what you wanna do, when you wanna do it, and then go out there and make it happen. Because as women we can and we are strong. We’re stronger in numbers, which is why we created Women United. This is what we do in Central New York.

In honor of Women’s History Month, who is someone you look up to?

Women who’ve impacted my life… When I sat down to think about that, I thought to myself “who are they?” 

I feel like I have been on such a personal mission to give every day of my life to help somebody else. But when I think of women who helped develop who I am as a person, I think about women in the music industry. I think about women in the hospitality industry. 

Let me give you a good example: Someone like Patti Labelle or Aretha Franklin. These women truly broke barriers in that industry. And when I think about that, I think to myself, how blessed am I? And how blessed are other women that are following behind them who are performers and entertainers– that they had that particular person to help them pave the way. When you look at The Supremes and how Diana Ross started the Supremes… I know that may sound silly but I’m a huge music fan!  And I’m a huge art fan. When I think about my friend Jacki who does all these art pieces– like the one behind me, this is what it's about! How can we help these other women to grow, and bring them up behind us? Let's face it, I’m an older person now and I’m hoping that I’ve had enough influence on people in this city to help them move forward like these other women set the example for us. 

We are so lucky to live in this time. We are free. We don’t have someone trying to invade our country, we are just blessed. And I know I am as well. And I can tell you that I hope the things I do in Central New York help influence other women as well.


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