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2009 Entrepreneurs of the Year

(photos by Timothy H. Raab)

Health Entrepreneur of the Year: Danielle Lundy, Oasis Wellness Spa
Female Entrepreneurs of the Year Carol Conolly/Laurie D’Amico, Discovering Me Nursery School
Exporter of the YearBrian Reh, Gorbel
Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year – Daniel Loucks, Countryside Propane
Minority Entrepreneurs of the Year Gerdie Rene and Stacey Ciceron, Sankofa Salon
Phoenix Award Lenore Mascara, Kaltec
Growth Business of the YearAngella Luyk, Midnight Janitorial
Manufacturer of the YearIra Warren, Frank Lowe Rubber & Gasket Co.

Health Entrepreneur of the Year – Danielle Lundy, Oasis Wellness Spa (Watertown SBDC)

Danielle Lundy When Danielle Lundy was 7 years old, she dreamed of being a chiropractor when she grew up. After earning a bachelors’ degree in Psychology/Child Life from Utica College of Syracuse University, she returned to college to pursue her lifelong dream. Dr. Lundy graduated from the New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, NY in March 2007 and six months later opened the doors to the Chiropractic Wellness Center of Northern New York. She has two locations, Sackets Harbor and Evans Mills. Advisor John Gould helped her prepare a business plan and projections for a spa. In her practice, Danielle emphasizes the importance of treating a person’s mind and spirit as well as their physical being. She is committed to helping her patients achieve a higher state of wellness in every area of their life. Following this philosophy, Danielle opened the Oasis Wellness spa adjacent to the wellness center in Sackets Harbor as a new "natural" destination for the healing of mind, body, and spirit. Her vision for the spa is to provide services that offer a warm and tranquil experience using products with natural ingredients such as orange peel, spearmint and ginger rather than chemicals.

Female Entrepreneurs of the Year – Carol Conolly/Laurie D’Amico, Discovering Me Nursery School (Rockland SBDC)

Laurie D'Amico and Carol ConollyCarol Conolly and Laurie D’Amico operate the Discovering Me Nursery School in the upscale community of Larchmont. The school, which has been open for 18 years, offers a program dedicated to the education and early childhood development of children between 2 ¾ and 5 years. Their classroom atmosphere stimulates skills and successful learning in a safe, secure and encouraging environment. Carol and Laurie approached the SBDC for assistance when they ran into some obstacles while planning to add to the center by purchasing an adjacent building. They wanted to expand the facility by adding a second story, unite multiple structures under one roof, and provide enough space for an indoor gym. There was resistance to the expansion from local officials, who requested that the partners undertake a traffic and parking survey and obtain variances. In the middle of overseeing significant renovations to the new building, Rockland advisor Geri Kavanagh helped the partners find a new bank to finance the completion of the project after their bank opted not to lend them additional funds. With a great deal of  determination and tremendous community support, Carol and Laurie prevailed and the expansion proceeded.

Exporter of the Year – Brian Reh, Gorbel (Brockport-Rochester SBDC)

Brian RehGorbel is an innovator and the leading builder of cranes and ergonomic lifting devices with more than 30 years experience providing overhead handling solutions to customers in a wide range of industries. Gorbel is a manufacturer and a net exporter; a rare combination in America today. They serve the North American and Chinese markets through facilities in Fishers (NY), Pell City (AL), Detroit (MI) and Tianjin (China). Jinshui Zhang assisted them with market research and information about the Chinese market, facilitated meetings and negotiations, and promoted Gorbel products and services. In 2006, the company celebrated the grand opening of a new plant in the Tianjin economic development area (TEDA) in China. The company was named International Business of the Year (small business category) by the Rochester Business Alliance that year. Gorbel employees pride themselves on delivering world class service and the highest quality products. The Gorbel team is willing to take on any challenge with vigor and only settles for success. The company tag line is "A Class Above", defines everything they do, especially in how they treat their peers and customers. Gorbel’s president, Brian Reh, is currently serving on SBA’s District Advisory Board (Buffalo District).

Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year – Daniel Loucks, Countryside Propane (Corning SBDC)

Dan LoucksDan Loucks bought a small bottled gas company with 190 customers in 2003 and renamed it Louck’s Bottled Gas. Over the next five years, the business grew significantly, changing locations and developing the capacity to make bulk deliveries. Dan found himself in a position to relocate, expand and recruit larger customers. He consulted Corning Advisor Scott Bloor in 2008 about expansion planning and financing. This year, with Scott’s assistance and a loan from Five Star Bank guaranteed by SBA, Louck’s Bottled Gas became Louck’s Countryside Propane. Dan purchased 300 new residential propane trucks, a bobtail truck and a boom truck. He remodeled his buildings and hired two employees. Aside from many traditional "expansion pains," he is doing well. Dan served in the Army from1983 to 1986, and has been a proud member of the Campbell American Legion for 10 years. He serves his customers with the same dedication with which he served in the military.

Minority Entrepreneurs of the Year – Gerdie Rene and Stacey Ciceron, Sankofa Salon (York SBDC)

Stacey Ciceron and Gerdie ReneGerdie Rene and Stacey Ciceron were childhood friends that went their separate ways after graduating from high school. They renewed their friendship when they attended the same beauty school and became licensed cosmetologists. Dissatisfied with the services offered by beauty salons in Queens, they decided to join forces and open their own salon. They found a location in Cambria Heights with convenient access by public transportation, and then turned to the SBDC for assistance. York advisor Brian Yeung helped them determine start-up costs and locate financing. Ultimately they received an SBA Community Express loan to get started. The word Sankofa is a principle and cultural custom among the Akan-speaking people of Ghana, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire that holds that there is wisdom in learning from the past to both understand the present and shape the future. It is this philosophy that drives them to offer quality services to their customers. The business is doing quite well, primarily because their customers are recommending the salon to friends and family.

Phoenix Award – Lenore Mascara, Kaltec – (Mid-Hudson SBDC)

Lenore MascaraIt was not easy for Nick Mascara to start Kaltec in the 1990s, but he persevered. In 2002, when the company was at a cross roads and was bursting at the seams of its facility, he called the SBDC to generate a sound business plan, and to help acquire the necessary financing. However, just when things were looking up for Kaltec, a series of tragedies turned their world upside down. Kaltec’s founder and president Nick Mascara, was diagnosed with cancer and shortly thereafter, he passed away. A week later, the second most important person in the organization died. The company’s financial records were a mess, cash flow was poor, and expenses were out of control. It seemed Kaltec was headed for total disaster.  Again, the Mascara family persevered. SBDC counselor, Al Randzin stepped in to guide the new company leader, Lenore Mascara. Lenore was as determined as ever to continue developing Kaltec, despite—or perhaps because of—the absence of her husband. With help from the City of Port Jervis Ecomomic Development, NYS Empire Zone and Key Bank, Lenore was able to reorganize and restructure. The net result was that Kaltec hit positive cash flow in May of 2008. Today Lenore Mascara is proud to say that Kaltec is thriving, having saved and/or created a total of 28 jobs.

Growth Business of the Year – Angella Luyk, Midnight Janitorial (Brockport-Rochester SBDC)

Angella LuykThey don’t cut corners, they clean them. Angella Luyk launched Midnight Janitorial with little equipment and one employee in 2005. Four years later she employs 27 people, one third of them disabled. Midnight Janitorial is committed to providing the highest quality cleaning services, so they pay a lot of attention to hiring, training and supervising employees. Each employee receives a month of intensive training that includes an introduction to green cleaning products, and each is held accountable for his or her work. As a result, the company has a stable workforce that is empowered to perform to its highest potential. The company’s employment philosophy and dedication to quality have led to a business ethics award from the Rochester business community, a Vital Women- Vital Roles award from the Rochester Womens Network, and recognition as the National Disability Employer of the Year, all in 2008. Ms Luyk worked with Brockport advisor Ralph Toscano to earn MWBE certification to help her expand through new contracts. In 2009, Angella Luyk was named SBA’s Home Based Business Person of the Year for the Buffalo District.

Manufacturer of the Year – Ira Warren, Frank Lowe Rubber & Gasket Co. (Farmingdale SBDC)

Ira Warren and Mrs. WarrenIra Warren and the Frank Lowe Rubber and Gasket Co., Inc. have proven to be a resilient presence in the Long Island manufacturing sector. When Ira took over in 1975, the company produced custom made gaskets, primarily for the aerospace and military industries. The annual sales were under $36,000 and the company was only comprised of two people. When those industries declined, the company had to be creative and look for new products. They found their niche in the glass and window industry.  By the new millennium, with a team of over 40 people, the company’s annual sales approached $10 Million. The recent decline in the home construction industry forced Ira and the company to seek again. Advisor Walter Reid helped him look for new markets. Ira worked with Empire State Development, the US Export Assistance Center, Jinshui Zhang and Gerry Shaye to develop an export program. With the strength and fortitude of Frank Lowe’s team they are weathering the current economic crises. With their feet firmly planted in their new 62,000 SF facility in Shirley, NY, Frank Lowe Rubber & Gasket Co., Inc. is part of the future of Long Island and New York State.