WEDC Presents LEAP Awards To 10 Local Entrepreneurs
White Plains, NY - What do the owners of a dog daycare and wellness center, a sweet potato pie company, and an online dinner delivery service have in common? The answer is they are among the 10 recipients of Lanza Enterprise Award Program (LEAP) grants to help women entrepreneurs in the lower Hudson Valley boost their small businesses to the next level.Five $5,000 and five $4,000 equity awards were presented at the Women's Enterprise Development Center's (WEDC) recent Annual Luncheon and Marketplace at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown.
"The monetary awards and technical assistance that WEDC offers through the LEAP program provide the winners with wonderful resources to help them grow their small businesses," said Anne Janiak, Executive Director of WEDC. “The recipients have all demonstrated enormous passion, dedication, talent and the nonstop drive that are needed to run successful businesses.”
The LEAP program is a collaboration among the Lanza Family Foundation, the Women’s Research and Education Fund (WREF), and the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC).
At the recent luncheon, Patricia Lanza, president of the Lanza Family Foundation, presented the 2012 LEAP awards to the following winners:
Candida Canfield. Dinner in Hand, LLC (New Rochelle) – Online dinner delivery service. Five years ago, Candida Canfield left her corporate career in advertising and marketing to pursue her passion for cooking and feeding people. Her mission with Dinner in Hand is to put America's busy families back at the dinner table. Dinner in Hand offers an extensive menu of sumptuous home-style meals you can order online and have delivered fresh to your door. Dinner in Hand is committed to de-signing balanced, healthy meals that support good eating habits and a healthier lifestyle.
Ms. Canfield will use her $5,000 LEAP Award to: Copyright the Dinner in Hand name and logo and start an ad campaign on Facebook and outdoor billboards (cost permitting).
Melinda Huff, Mirame (Yorktown Heights) – Swimwear design and manufacturing. Melinda Huff’s grandmothers came to the U.S. hoping to earn enough money to enable the rest of their families to follow. They found work in New York City's garment district and later made ready-to-wear dresses. After one of her grandmothers sewed her 8th grade graduation dress based on a drawing she had made, Ms. Huff knew that sewing and fashion design would be in her future. Ms. Huff pursued her passion and gained an extensive background in the fashion business, working all the way up to production manager for Norma Kamali. In 2010, she founded Mirame to make sexy and sophisticated swimwear for jet-setting women. Her swimsuits -- made in NYC in conjunction with a network of domestically-sourced and family-owned businesses -- are carried in local boutiques, many of them woman-owned and operated.
Ms. Huff will use her $5,000 LEAP Award to: Rebuild the Mirame website to include e-commerce capability. She will also attend an industry tradeshow or join a showroom in NY’s garment district in order to reach additional customers.
Susanne Leary Shoemaker, Undercare, Inc. (Bronxville) - Innovative undergarments. Susanne Leary Shoemaker worked on the editorial staff of the New Yorker magazine after graduating from college. After that, while raising three kids in the suburbs, she returned to school and received an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. The rigorous art training she received (combined with spatial design skills she learned from her mechanical engineer father) inspired her to create Undercare underwear to address the needs of individuals who are chronically or temporarily disabled. The patented design of Undercare garments -- inspired when Ms. Shoemaker noticed elderly women struggle to dress after swimming -- allow them to be put on without needing to sit down, balance on one leg, or bend at the knee or hip. They offer increased dignity and independence to people with mobility issues such as the elderly and those recovering from surgery or injury.
Mrs. Shoemaker will use her $5,000 LEAP award to: Purchase inventory for Undercare manufactured in the US using all American-made products.
Christine Sinclair, A Bark Above Inc. (Central Valley) - Dog daycare and wellness service. Christine Sinclair worked for over 20 years in nursing home administration and health care consulting. She got her business idea while helping her daughter care for a rescue puppy. In the course of looking into daytime boarding options, she was astonished at the poor conditions and cramped space of most dog daycare centers. A Bark Above is a wellness and daycare center for dogs designed to promote a dog’s health and longevity in a stress-free and holistic environment. Ms. Sinclair is on a mission to make A Bark Above the gold standard for dog care.
Ms. Sinclair will use her $5,000 LEAP Award to: Design a website, develop marketing materials, and purchase a therapeutic dog-grooming tub.
Marialisa Zywotchenko, Cyrus Contracting Corporation (Yonkers) - Construction and general contracting. Marialisa Zywotchenko developed her engineering and building skills while serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 2000 to 2006, where part of her service included assisting with the cleanup at Ground Zero in New York City. She and her husband Alex opened Cyrus Contracting in 2009 to specialize in residential and commercial renovation in New York City, Westchester, and Putnam County.
Mrs. Zywotchenko will use her $5,000 LEAP Award to: Make a down payment on an additional vehicle to use for construction projects.
Lea Cullen Boyer, Green Guru Network (Palenville) – Social media website/communications. Lea Cullen Boyer has been spearheading green initiatives for over 30 years. She served on Westchester County’s Global Warming Task Force and was the Sustainability Coordinator for the County of Westchester. In 2010, she launched the Green Guru Network (GGN) website to connect people in Westchester and the Hudson Valley with green businesses, green jobs, green events, and other innovative green resources. Leveraging the power of social media, Ms. Cullen Boyer’s GGN website attracted 2.7 million hits last year.
Ms. Cullen Boyer will use her $4,000 LEAP Award to: Upgrade her computer and software in order to allow her to offer webinars and create innovative marketing materials.
Kecia Palmer-Cousins, G&K Sweet Foods, LLC (Peekskill) - Sweet potato pie food company/manufacturer. Kecia Palmer-Cousins co-owns G&K Sweet Foods, a 5-year-old Peekskill-based food company that manufactures fully-baked "thaw & serve" sweet potato pies. Ms. Palmer-Cousins and her business partner, Gay Wheeler-Smith, decided to start a business around their signature offering -- Grandma’s Momma’s Legacy ‘Licious Sweet Potato Pie -- during a conversation following WEDC’s 2007 Spring Event, and they now sell their pies to local cafes, restaurants, catering halls, college and corporate food services, airport concessions, and military bases. Their healthy, southern-style pie is based on Ms. Wheeler-Smith’s great-grandmother’s recipe.
Ms. Palmer-Cousins will use her $4,000 LEAP Award to: Hire a food scientist to complete the formulation of a second product, a shelf-stable dessert to be offered in major supermarket chains. She will also hire a website designer to improve the company’s website.
Diana Scott-Sho, The Luscious Little Dessert Company (Yonkers) – Specialty baking company. Diana Scott-Sho attended Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School and then became a professional organizer for many years, specializing in moving the elderly from apartments into assisted living facilities. Her ongoing love of cooking and baking led her to bring home-baked treats to her organizing clients. Several years ago, a young friend who needed help to earn some additional money urged Ms. Scott-Sho to let her sell her southern-style baked goods door-to-door to Harlem businesses -- and they were a hit! This gave Ms. Scott-Sho the confidence to leave professional organizing and start The Luscious Little Dessert Company. Her all-natural, single-serving southern desserts are inspired by her great-grandmother’s recipes and are now sold at numerous salons and farmers’ markets in Upper Manhattan.
Ms. Scott-Sho will use her $4,000 LEAP Award to: Develop a website, file a trademark application, and hire additional staff for the 2012 summer season.
Donna Simons, Donna Simons Studio (Pound Ridge) – Commercial art and graphic design. Donna Simons is a graphic artist and writer whose career includes award-winning designs, concepts, and illustrations for textiles, books, packaging and advertising. Ms. Simons uses her skills and talent to produce art that address some of the most troubling issues of our day, including contaminated food and water, drug resistant super-germs, and global warming. She is helping to drive social change with a collection of powerful, compelling, and entertaining editorial images and narratives, entitled bon freakin’ appétit. Her fine art prints will be on exhibition at a solo show at the Greenwich Audubon Society in August, and she is publishing a book about the project that will come out in September.
Ms. Simons will use her $4,000 LEAP Award to: Update her computer, monitor, and printer to create prints, educational booklets and other merchandise to be sold at environmental education centers and agricultural events throughout the Hudson Valley.
Tamara Wrenn, Just Us Women Productions, LLC (Harriman) – Women’s wellness consulting firm. Tamara Wrenn has a diverse and varied professional background including non-profit consulting, training au pairs new to the U.S., and teaching Zumba lessons. Her real passion, however, is around all things related to childbirth. She is a certified birth and postpartum doula, as well as a childbirth educator. Just Us Women Productions provides comprehensive educational services to women before, during, and beyond pregnancy, including birth education and doula support. In addition, Ms. Wrenn provides technical assistance and training to larger organizations seeking to improve perinatal health care and services, reduce infant mortality, and prevent poor birth outcomes.
Ms. Wrenn will use her $4,000 LEAP Award to: Provide start-up funding for a web-based childbirth education series (e-class) to be called “Understanding Your Birth.”
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