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2021 Entrepreneurs of the Year

Asheville General Store, Jackie Francis

Community Business of the Year–
Asheville General Store, Jackie Francis [Binghamton & Jamestown]

Small businesses succeed for a variety of reasons - some of them are easy to specify while with others, it is a combination of circumstances that make them successful. The Ashville General Store is prime example of a successful small business that got that way by not only making good business decisions but also by operating with a greater purpose in mind – the idea of community. Jackie Francis who grew up around the corner from the feed store in Ashville. Even at a young age, she would look at the feed store and think about what it would be like as a general store and antique shop. There was also the thought in the back of her mind that the store could and should be. In 1991, Jackie Francis got her chance. She purchased the building and opened up the Ashville General Store. It quickly became the place where the locals would come and mingle because it was comfortable. It became the focal point of Ashville - the town center - and remains that way today. Jackie Francis didn’t know her store would become a tourist destination. When tourists come to the Chautauqua region, one of the first places they stop is the Ashville General Store. It is known for its sandwiches, salads, pizza, wings, breakfasts, and the essential items they sell along with locally made gifts and merchandise. Jackie has utilized SBDC services at both the Jamestown and Binghamton centers. SBDC advisors have helped with marketing, staffing, and pandemic relief. Not surprisingly, even during the pandemic, the store had one of its best sales year thus far. Places like this thrive during a pandemic because it is part of the community.
[Advisors: Scott Bloor and Scott Miller]

All-County Amusements, Robert & Sondra Grauer

Family-Owned Business of the Year–
All-County Amusements, Robert & Sondra Grauer [Stony Brook]

For more than forty years, All County Amusements has been a family-owned and operated carnival business that brings safe, quality rides, games and food concessions to events throughout Long Island. Operating from April to November, it has provided equipment for hundreds of carnivals, fairs, feasts, and other fund-raising events. The family offers assistance in planning, advertising and promotion, special attractions and every other aspect of running a profitable event. During 2020, the business was completely shut down due to NYS-mandated closure of businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business had received PPP and EIDL loans prior to consulting the SBDC. Initially, Robert and Sondra Grauer wanted to learn about additional Covid relief through federal and state programs. The Research Network provided information about strategic and succession planning, to help them decide if selling or transferring ownership would be a good idea. Advisor Willa Smith held weekly meetings with the Grauers to discuss options. As the economy began to open up in 2021, All County Amusements began receiving calls to set up carnivals across Long Island. The increase in the Delta variant raised new issues for the business and changes to the business model were considered. Ultimately, the Grauers applied for a second round of PPP funding, to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, and to the NY Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program for financial relief. They also requested an increase in the amount of their EIDL loan. The SBA notified them that their EIDL loan would be increased from $150,000 to $500,000. Congressman Garbarino's office assisted with their EIDL request by appealing to the SBA on their behalf.
[Advisor: Willa Smith]

Blackhawk Data, Maryann Pagano

Female Entrepreneur of the Year–
Blackhawk Data, Maryann Pagano [Farmingdale]

Maryann Pagano started her journey as a business owner because she wanted to create a place where women in IT could thrive. Working in a male-dominated industry often meant that Maryann was excluded from the room when decisions were made. At BlackHawk Data, everyone is encouraged to contribute. Maryann serves as the Chief Executive Officer of BlackHawk Data. She is responsible for nurturing the business’s vendor partner ecosystem and aligning it with the goals of BlackHawk Data’s customers to deliver an exceptional client experience. Maryann also serves as the lead for the organization’s sales team and oversees all its marketing activities, extending BlackHawk Data’s reach in the market and enhancing its capabilities to provide customers with the solutions they need to realize success. BlackHawk Data was founded in 2018 with the idea that it would empower its employees to provide high-touch service to their clients without being blocked by management. Today, BlackHawk Data has 25+ employees, has surpassed revenue expectations, and has a corporate office in New York City as well as a warehouse, staging and Network Operations Center in New Jersey. BlackHawk Data was nominated as one of the Top 25 fastest growing companies by LWE, Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs of New Jersey. Maryann has been recognized by The Channel Company as one of their Top 40 Women of the Channel, as well as one of their 2021 Top 60 Solutions Providers. Maryann works with other women-entrepreneurs to coach them on their journey to success. It’s her mission to help women find support as well as room to learn and grow. The BlackHawk Data team is well positioned to work with all customers big or small and offer them the same value as a large partner, with the high touch of a small partner.
[Advisors: Stace Hansen and Troy Diaz]

Foit-Albert Associates, Gregory R. Carballada

Growth Business of the Year–
Foit-Albert Associates, Gregory R. Carballada [Columbia Harlem]

Foit-Albert Associates, Architecture, Engineering and Surveying, P.C., is an award-winning, New York State-based, multidisciplinary architecture, engineering, environmental, and land surveying consulting firm with offices in Manhattan, Queens, Buffalo, and Albany. The company provides services for federal, state, municipal, and private clients. Its 40-year portfolio includes new construction, additions, renovations, and adaptive reuse projects; engineering for the site/civil, structural, transportation, environmental, mechanical, fire protection; and survey projects. Since its founding in 1977, the firm has focused on urban and contextual design, adaptive reuse, and historic preservation. President Gregory R. Carballada, AIA, leads the firm, a certified Minority Business Enterprise, and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. He sets the vision and direction of the firm and coordinates and executes financial, administrative, and technical operations. Mr. Carballada is a graduate of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, The Inner-City Capital Connections executive education program, and is participating in the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Principals Academy. Mr. Carballada has participated in programs and events organized by the Columbia Business School SBDC. Through this experience, he has gained insight and experience with the goal to secure meaningful work within Harlem and the southern Bronx neighborhoods. The business wants to grow its minority community participation MBE to better serve clients and empower employees. Mr. Carballada consulted the Columbia Harlem SBDC seeking information about opportunities for growth. Advisor Glamis Haro encouraged him to apply to the Paycheck Protection Program to maintain the employees on his payroll, and funds enabled the company to retain 80 employees. As it emerges from the pandemic, the company is experiencing tremendous growth.
[Advisor: Glamis Haro]

Hot Spot Café, Hector Alverio

Minority Entrepreneur of the Year–
Hot Spot Café, Hector Alverio [Jamestown]

Hector Alverio opened his HotSpot Café on Valentine’s Day in 2020 during the pandemic and thrived despite receiving minimal financial assistance. When pandemic restrictions were lifted, city officials, police officers, and downtown business owners regularly visited the cafe for breakfast and lunch. He has expanded his staff to 5. Mr. Alverio consulted the Jamestown SBDC for startup assistance, developing financial projections, help with business entity formation and social media marketing. He worked with Advisor Dan Hickman to develop his business plan and financial projections. They formed his business entity and assisted in procuring some funding from local economic development. Jamestown Gazette published an article and the Café was featured online at SBDC’s initial Facebook post congratulating Mr. Alverio on his grand opening reached over 30,000 feeds in the first week alone and has continued to grow in reach since, at last count over 70,000. Ultimately, the HotSpot Café not only survived, but thrived, with minimal economic assistance. The city of Jamestown reached out to ask Mr. Alverio to start a food cart downtown and to cater downtown events. He is in the process of obtaining an on-premises liquor license and will apply for MBE certification. With SBDC assistance, Mr. Alverio created 3 jobs and has since expanded his payroll to 5 employee.
[Advisor: Danny Hickman]

Leon Etienne Magic Productions, Leon Etienne

Phoenix Business of the Year–
Leon Etienne Magic Productions, Leon Etienne [Mohawk Valley]

The unique performance style of illusionist Leon Etienne attracts entertainment producers to book him all over the world. Hailed by critics as "America’s Rock Illusionist," Leon is recognized for his on-stage charisma, fast-paced, high energy rock n’ roll performance style, and no nonsense approach to magic. Leon started performing 25 years ago and established ed his business in 2008. Prior to COVID, he averaged around 200 performances per year. Leon’s business was almost completely shut down due to COVID-19 in March 2020 and he consulted the SBDC in need of cash flow to meet his expenses until live performances resumed. As a sole proprietor, he was unsure which COVID-19 funding programs would fit his situation. Advisor Zach Steffen helped Leon determine which programs fit his unique needs and guided the client through the various application and forgiveness processes. He helped him navigate the various SBA and New York State funding opportunities available to his business. Thanks to the assistance he received from the SBDC, Leon was able to access much needed funding including those from the EIDL, PPP and NY Pandemic Small Business Recovery programs to keep his business afloat until live performances resumed. In May 2021, Leon gave his first performance in front of a live audience in over 14 months. He completed a month-long residency at the Strand Theatre in Old Forge, and he is scheduled to perform up and down the east coast. He recently completed a residency at Las Vegas and is anticipating that 2022 will be his busiest year yet.
[Advisor: Zach Steffen]

NY Embroidery Studio, Michelle Feinberg

Procurement Entrepreneur of the Year–
NY Embroidery Studio, Michelle Feinberg [Mohawk Valley and Baruch]

New York Embroidery Studio (NYES) is a design studio and manufacturing facility in New York City’s Garment District. Owner and creative director Michelle Feinberg brings more than 30 years of manufacturing experience to the fashion industry. Sensing a dire need for more PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelle focused her attention on how she could leverage her knowledge and experience with the necessary machinery and team of 48 employees to provide a public good. Michelle consulted Baruch SBDC business advisor Leo Zhang in April 2020 seeking guidance about contracting opportunities and locating additional buyers. After working as a primary contractor with NYC, she wanted to explore opportunities with New York State and the federal government. Baruch SBDC started by examining specific New York State bids and introduced her to SBDC Government Contracting Coordinator Gina Hayduk at the Procurement Assistance Center (PAC) in Utica for additional support. The PAC provided guidance on identifying bids and reviewing them before submission. Ultimately Michelle was awarded a $79 million contract with the Department of Defense, and received PPP and EIDL funding. To finance such a large contract the SBDC reviewed traditional loans and factor financing, her current lender proposals and terms, and reached out to its lending partners for additional financing options. Currently Michelle employs 1,000 staff (up from 48!) and is the largest maker of PPP gowns in NYC.
[Advisors: Gina Hayduk and Leo Zhang]

Black Parakeetz Paint Swig and Sing, Terence Clarke

Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year–
Black Parakeetz Paint Swig and Sing, Terence Clarke [Rockland]

A fan of all things karaoke, Terrence Clarke first consulted the SBDC in May 2019 and shared his idea of wanting to own a karaoke bar in Nyack. He imagined that the cost of opening his own bar would be cost prohibitive, and was unsure on how to secure the funding needed. Terrence, a former business owner, knew that undercapitalization could be a major road block. After attending a “paint and sip” party, he understood that he could incorporate other revenue streams that could ease the burden of creating a karaoke bar with multiple private booths. Instead, he would have one booth and other entertainment services that required less of an investment. Initially, Terrence had visited with a Wells Fargo banker, who did not provide much hope for the project. Soon after he met with Advisor Andrea Giraldo at the SBDC. During multiple sessions she provided assistance with business plan development, financing alternatives and brainstormed ideas with Terrence. When the plan was complete, Advisor Adi Israeli joined the team. He helped with the client’s financials, negotiating skills for securing a lease, and locating commercial space in Nyack. Once the space was secured, Terrence began designing the space while completing the loan application. After a few negative meetings with lenders, Advisor Giraldo recommended bringing the project to Community Capital New Yor. Terrance was invited to provide a formal presentation to the board. His presentation was a success with the board and his loan request was immediately approved. Terrence created eight new jobs, has hired many local skilled professionals, and converted what was once a white box, into a bar with finger food, karaoke and paint and sip, all rolled up into one business – Black Parakeetz Paint, Swig and Sing!
[Advisors: Andrea Giraldo and Adi Israeli]