As it appeared on the Times Leader

By Bill O’Boyle – boboyle@timesleader.com

PLAINS TWP. — Nicole Farber said she grew up in Centermoreland, a community with a dirt road.

On Monday, Farber told her story of success with her company, ENX2 Marketing, and how she traveled that dirt road to embark on a journey that has taken her all over the world — including an invitation to former Vice President Joe Biden’s house.

Farber’s point was that she set out to succeed without a college education or formal training, possessing only her determination and her ability to communicate with people.

Farber participated in a seven-member panel — the Connect Avengers — that began Day 2 of the first-ever Wilkes-Barre Connect Conference, being held at The Woodlands in Plains Township. The conference began Sunday evening with a introductory mixer and continued Monday. It wraps up Tuesday, ending with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce dinner Tuesday night.

Times Leader Media Group is the official media partner for the conference, which began Sunday and concludes today.

Joe Boylan, executive director of Wilkes-Barre Connect, opened the event, introducing the panel and giving a brief overview of the day’s schedule.

“We’re here to educate, motivate and inspire,” Boylan said.

Wico van Genderen, President/CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, said the conference is a furtherance of a renaissance created over recent years in the region.

“It’s a matter of ABCs — academia, business and community — getting together and working to shape a community we all want,” van Genderen said.

“I knew I had something to contribute,” Farber said. “I knew I had a gift of working with people. So I surrounded myself with brilliant, capable people and I learned from them.”

And that was the main point the panel drove home to some 200 attendees, representing local colleges, high schools, organizations and businesses. Each panelist told their story of success and how they managed to overcome everything from lack of financial backing to breaking down social and business barriers.

Joining Farber on the panel were: Gerard Durling, Independent Wrestling; Ryan Hertel, Socialocca; Kris Jones, Special Guest App; Helen Lavelle, Lavelle Strategy Group; Chris Nash, LSEO; and Holly Pilcavage, Coal Creative.

Farber told the audience that the key to cultivating a bright future was sitting in the room.

“We are all planting seeds,” she said. “This — Northeastern Pennsylvania — is fertile land. And when you plant seeds in good soil, your harvest will be great.”

All of the panelists, some natives of NEPA, others having moved here, said the region has a lot to offer and people should be proud to call this there home.

“If I can make it, all of us in this room can make it,” Farber said, the emotion showing in her voice. “And I do not want to ever leave Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Durling said he always wanted to be a professional wrestler. As that career goal faded, he worked at Burger King and he started creating websites until he finally got an opportunity for a job. He now owns Independent Wrestling TV, televising professional matches.

“You just need one opportunity,” Durling said.

Chris Nash of LSEO, a full-service digital marketing agency, said all panel members had a moment that led to their success.

“First of all, you have to give yourself permission to succeed,” Nash said. “Don’t hold back in any way.”

Nash, who didn’t grow up in NEPA, said if you have a small bit of success, then people of the region will embrace you.

“People here seem reluctant to tell people outside the area where they are from, yet they are all so damn proud to be from here,” Nash said. “I can tell you I now feel like I’m from NEPA.”

Hertel agreed, saying, “We don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we have here. A lot of the answers to a bright future are right here in this room.”

Jones said the energy in the room was “amazing.”

“And it’s 8 a.m.,” Jones said. “It gives you a representation of what could be.”

The event

The three-day event intended to showcase the transformation of NEPA into a hub of innovation, relying on creative storytelling and presentations from the region’s best students, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and young professionals shaping the region.

The three-day conference was expected to provide the tools attendees need to connect, elevate, innovate, and accelerate their business and personal brand.