SUNY, New York Small Business Development Center Announce Entrepreneurs of the Year

May 14, 2014

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC) State Director James King today announced the winners of the Entrepreneurs of the Year Awards, presented annually by the SBDC in recognition of existing businesses and startups achieving assisted success.

Through its network of 24 regional centers administered by SUNY across the state since 1984, SBDC has worked with more than 380,000 businesses, helping them to invest more than $5 billion in New York's economy and create or retain nearly 170,000 jobs.

“The SBDC is a unique and highly valuable resource for new business owners and entrepreneurs, helping thousands each year to bring their ideas to market,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “SUNY and the SBDC are proud to honor this most recent group of innovators who have each advanced their respective fields while creating jobs and driving regional economies across New York.”

“We are pleased to recognize our clients for their extraordinary contributions to small businesses in New York State,” said King. “Their hard-work and dedication have helped them achieve success and accomplish their goals, while at the same time making a positive impact on the state’s economy.” 

The awards were recently presented as follows:

Tammy Snyder, in association with the Jamestown SBDC, was named Social Media Entrepreneur of the Year. Her company, International Ordnance Technologies, manufactures machine gun links - ammunition-loading devices for weapon systems. In 2013, she launched a new website that has created profit opportunities and provided a strong return on investment. After the site went active, Snyder immediately started receiving inquiries from new customers, which translated into sales that have dramatically impacted revenue, profits and jobs.

Christine Hoffman, in association with the Watertown SBDC, was named Female Entrepreneur of the Year. She started The Spicy Wench to sell her homemade pepper jellies, sauces, and spices. Her products are now sold at several Watertown area stories, through private parties, wine and food events, craft fairs, farmers markets, and a renaissance festival. The company has added five employees since inception.

Hernan Donoso, in association with the Mid-Hudson SBDC, was named Exporter of the Year. Brotherhood Winery is America’s oldest winery, and has been in continuous operation for 175 years. Beginning in 2012, thanks to the New York SBDC’s NYS Wine Outlet in Shanghai, the company has been involved in an aggressive export program to expand and diversify its market footprint. Donoso recognized the market potential in China and decided it was a great opportunity. During 2012, Brotherhood’s exports reached 3,000 cases, and in 2013 they increased to more than 7,000 cases sold.

Patrick Curran, in association with the Rockland SBDC, was named Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year. He founded American Business Strategies to provide industry insights and expertise outside of a company's core capabilities, and help clients achieve success. He expanded the company to include outreach program for Veterans, and then helped develop and conduct a six-week boot camp for entrepreneurs at Rockland Community College. Curran also launched his Freedom’s Light Charity Program to support severely wounded military, first responders, and children impacted by the war on terror.

Dilenia Vazquez, in association with the York SBDC, was named Minority Entrepreneur of the Year. Vazquez’s business, Valencia Flowers, was forced to close in October 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. The storm not only destroyed the business physically but also economically. She consulted the SBDC to talk about loans and grants to repair her store and to replace her inventory of fresh flowers. Vazquez was able to get the first NY Hurricane Sandy Disaster loan approved by the New York Business Development Corp. (NYBDC), which gave her working capital she needed to reopen the business.

Lynne and Robert Angelicola, in association with the Mohawk Valley SBDC, were awarded the Procurement Business of the Year. Roi Office Interiors has been in business since 1995 and offers major office furniture lines, in-house design, and installation to both the public and private sector. They have expanded roi Interiors from its original location in Rome to include offices in Syracuse and Albany. They’ve been SBDC clients since 2010, when they initially contacted the Mohawk Valley office for assistance with contracting opportunities in New York State.

Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman, in association with the Brooklyn SBDC, were awarded the Family-Owned Business of the Year. Their skills, business savvy, and creativity have transformed a boarded-up, neighborhood eye-sore into an iconic, neighborhood social center that is embraced by the community and celebrated by countless restaurant reviewers and publishers. A visit to the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain has been described as a Disney-esque experience. The food quality has been embraced by critics from the NY Times and the TV show “The Chew”. The essence of the business they have created has been distilled into a soon-to-be released book entitled “The Soda Fountain,” which chronicles the legend of the American soda fountain.

Gail Walker, in association with the Farmingdale SBDC, was named Manufacturer of the Year. Walker is the CEO of Premier Rubber Company, Inc. (PRC), which was incorporated in 1996 as a raw materials supplier of recycled rubber from the truck tire retread industry. PRC is the largest and most recognized supplier in the industry throughout the US and Canada, has national contracts with Bridgestone, North America Tire and Goodyear. Sales have grown each year, from roughly $500,000 to projected sales of $5,400,000 for 2014. PRC diverts millions of pounds of rubber out of landfills and into the resale markets worldwide.

Annette McLaughlin, in association with the Rockland SBDC, was awarded the Phoenix Award. She developed Career Coach-360, which strives to meet the human development needs of the market. She worked tirelessly to form her own professional services firm, to develop and refine programs to serve the programmatic, development and recruiting needs of clients.

Deborah and Charles Eisenson, in association with the Stony Brook SBDC, were awarded the Home-Based Business of the Year. They are retired dentists who share a dream about providing people with discounts on vision, hearing, dental and veterinary care – as well as prescriptions for people and their pets. They started Discount Health Card, LLC to distribute discount cards on behalf of a third-party marketing firm that has access to chain drugstores and health care providers across the nation.

About the New York Small Business Development Center
The NY SBDC, administered by SUNY, has 24 regional service centers located throughout the New York State on SUNY, City University of New York (CUNY) and private university campuses. Since inception in 1984, the SBDC has provided small business advisement services to more than 374,000 New Yorkers. The SBDC also provides training and business research to existing business owners and entrepreneurs. SBDC clients have invested more than $5 billion in NY, impacting more than 165,000 jobs. 

The SBDC is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the State of New York, local communities, and host campuses. As a result of this leveraged support, the SBDC staff provides confidential one-on-one business advisement services at no direct cost to the citizens and entrepreneurs of New York. For more information about the SBDC, visit

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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