Syracuse Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens inspires at first annual Afropreneurship celebration of Black History Month

Sharon Owens speaking at event

Sharon Owens graduated from Syracuse University in the 1980s, and credits her success to the inspiration of her mother, who grew up in poverty and held her children to a high standard. She shared that story, and lessons from more than 30 years in the fields of housing, community development, human services, and government, at last Friday’s first annual Afropreneur celebration, sponsored by the LaunchPad to commemorate Black History Month. Owens is Deputy Mayor of the City of Syracuse.

She joined a distinguished panel that included Indaria Jones, founder and chief executive officer, The Creators Lounge, Anthony Obas brand consultant and founder, Guided by Obas, Mlyz Blake, co-founder of COO of Black Cub Productions, Kelsey Davis, founder of CLLCTVE and Victoria Lawson, founder of Weird and Woke Design. The panel was moderated by Sharif D. King ’20, also known as King Sharif (Newhouse), founder of SDKing Media, a broadcast and digital media company that focuses on entertainment, media, sports, and tech brands.

Owens provided inspiration to the student entrepreneurs attending the event and invited them to become engaged in the life of the Syracuse community. As Deputy Mayor of Syracuse, she oversees city programs and services that address quality of life in the community, including Neighborhood and Business Development and Parks, Recreation, and Youth Programs, as well as the Police and Fire Departments. Owens also serves as chief of staff to the mayor.

Prior to this appointment, Owens served as the third CEO of Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc. She previously worked for the City of Syracuse as Deputy Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development from 2010 to 2013 during the Miner Administration.

Owens also has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. She served as Deputy Director of housing for Home HeadQuarters, Inc. and Jubilee Homes of Syracuse. Owens also worked at People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, Inc. (PEACE) as the Early Head Start Family and Community Coordinator and the Youth Services Component Director. 

Her involvement reaches to the boardroom as well. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Greater Syracuse HOPE Initiative, the Consensus Commission on Local Government Modernization, and the I-81 Community Stakeholder Committee, and the Blueprint 15 board as president.

In 2015 Owens received “The Kathy” Award from the Gifford Foundation, which recognized her commitment to establishing sound community-impacting advocacy for community residents and their families. She is a graduate of Syracuse University. The role she is most proud of is wife of 27 years to Shaun Owens and mother to Simone and Isaac.

The event was attended by teams of Syracuse University student startups who pitched ideas for solving community problems. Owens helped judge the ideas and a $500 award to the winner, along with special Distinguished Student Service Awards to students selected by their peers.

Group of students and panelists
Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens with panelists and finalists in the Pitch Challenge.
Left to right, Courtney Jiggets, Sharif King, Mlyz Blake, Indaria Jones, Caleb Obiagwu, Sharon Owens, Kelsey Davis and Anthony Obas