Introducing Kara Burke, finalist for the 2019 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is pleased to introduce you to the finalists for the 2019 ATHENA Awards,® which recognize contributions made by individuals to advance the status of women in the Buffalo Niagara region.

We’ll profile each finalist in the weeks leading up to the awards ceremony luncheon on Tuesday, June 4, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Check back every Wednesday to meet these exceptional women and learn more about their important work in the Buffalo Niagara region.

And if you’d like to attend the ATHENA Awards® Luncheon, the region’s most prestigious event dedicated to the professional accomplishments of those who work to advance women, you can get tickets here.

Meet This Week’s ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award® Finalist

Kara Burke
Vice President, Innovation and Growth
Rich Products Corp.

Kara Burke is vice president for innovation and growth at Rich Products, a recent promotion in her career with the company that spans 13 years. In her new position, Kara is responsible for assisting Rich Products in capitalizing on growth opportunities in the food industry worldwide.

Prior to her promotion, Kara was director of international marketing and new platforms for the company. She notes that she thinks her new role is one for which she was born, explaining that when she was in fourth grade, she won the Invention Convention. Kara says she would like to believe that initiated her career in innovation. Starting ‘new stuff’ has been a passion of hers ever since.

Outside of work, Kara serves as vice chair of Rich’s OWN (Our Women’s Network), an affinity group at Rich’s with a mission to accelerate the growth and advancement of women in the organization. She is also a member of Rich’s Parent Board for the Edukids daycare center onsite, representing the needs of the daycare parent population to the EduKids organization. In addition, she volunteers with the Say Yes mentor program to help high school seniors manage the transition to college.


First Job

Kara’s first job was as a cashier at a Wilson Farms convenience store.

Career Highlights

Among many career highlights, Kara points to leading the establishment of a new business unit at Rich’s dedicated to growing the company’s e-commerce sales. She also gives a shout out to her colleagues and peers—the managers and co-workers who have been supportive as she worked her way through different jobs and projects in her career.

Best Piece of Advice Given Regarding Her Career

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help or say ‘I don’t know.’”

Advice to Give to a Woman Just Starting in the Workplace

“Say ‘yes’ to new opportunities. At best, it will turn out to be a great new adventure. At worst, you learned something new.”

About Being an ATHENA Award® Finalist

“I am humbled to be named a finalist among so many inspirational and deserving women! It truly is an honor. I love my line of work, I enjoy mentoring and giving back to the community, and I love being a mother and wife to two amazing children and a wonderful, supportive husband. To be nominated for the Athena award represents to me that I have been lucky enough to have the support of the people around me to do the things I truly enjoy.”

On Buffalo Niagara

“The people, by far, are the greatest reason I enjoy living and working here. Buffalonians are so authentic and real and operate with a ‘no frills’ attitude. I have had the opportunity to work with people from all around the world (which is amazing) and they always say that the really love working with folks from Buffalo because we’re real.”

Favorite Spot in Buffalo

“Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park—I love to participate in something that has such a meaningful history to it. Whether running around the lake, strolling through the rose garden, or having a drink at the Terrace, you get to be a part of Buffalo’s history and future when you’re there.”

Lightning Round: Added Insights
  • Guilty Pleasure: “I love looking at the real estate market in Buffalo and getting inspired for new home improvement projects.”
  • My Superpower: “Being able to get ready to go out to an event in as little as 10 minutes (a skill I learned with having two young kids).”
  • Best Describes Me: “Hard-working, introvert, deliberate, set my mind to something and achieves it.”
  • Most Likely To: “End up on a candid camera TV show (this actually happened).”
  • Best At: “Identifying new opportunities – ‘connecting dots’ in new and different ways.”


Attend the ATHENA Awards® Luncheon

The ATHENA Awards® Luncheon is the region’s most prestigious event recognizing the professional accomplishments of exceptional individuals who are dedicated to the advancement of women. Be there when the winners are announced.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019
11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Buffalo Niagara Convention Center
153 Franklin Street | Buffalo, NY 14202

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