NJSBDC honors successful firms at awards ceremony

The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers network honored success at its 15th annual Small Business Growth Success Awards luncheon Dec. 15 at the Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township.

The network’s key stakeholders, partners and supporters joined together, recognizing the achievements and economic impact of the clients’ success on the regional and state economy.

“This is the highlight of this celebratory gathering,” said Brenda Hopper, CEO and state director of the NJSBDC network. “Seeing how our clients have grown with our experts’ assistance and recognizing them for these achievements due to their perseverance is the real reward.”

Prime financial sponsors include Public Service Enterprise Group, PNC Bank and Bank of America. Other financial supporters include City National Bank, Peapack-Gladstone Bank and UPS.

Small business clients of the NJSBDC network’s 12 regional centers and specialty programs were officially recognized for their success.

“We congratulated our 15 business award winners, and we’re glad that state legislators joined in the recognition,” said Deborah Smarth, NJSBDC network chief operating officer and associate state director. “Due to the Legislature’s continued efforts at ensuring state investment in the program to match federal funding that is received, we further leverage greater resources to maximize assistance for small businesses and entrepreneurs across the state.”

She called upon Gov.-elect Phil Murphy to restore increased state funding for this business-creation and jobs-producing program, to where it was a decade ago.

The event drew more than 300 individuals from the small business sector, higher education and economic development arenas.

Award winners included:

  • Princeton’s KDW Partners, owned by Eric Kainer, who was helped by NJSBDC’s Procurement Program in negotiating commercial procurement contracts worth more than $900,000.
  • Consolidated Packaging Group LLC, led by Executive Vice President Gary Kaufman, is one of NJSBDC’s Sustainability Program Business Registry members. The Ridgefield Park company has customers in diverse food industries as well as lawn and garden, household chemicals, pet foods and medical packaging, employing 125 workers.
  • Data and analytics company Arable Labs Inc., helps farmers and agribusinesses to better assess crop status, forecast growth and make better decisions relating to managing food production systems. The NJSBDC Technology Commercialization program assisted the Princeton business to obtain large Small Business Innovation Research grants.
  • Aikido Center of Manasquan, directed by owner and chief instructor Tim Vazquez, provides training opportunities for self-defense. The NJSBDC at Brookdale Community College assisted the business owner with social media and online marketing.
  • Dominican Republican immigrant Dulce Ramos started Integrated Learning Center Inc., which provides language instruction for corporate clients. Ramos also started a new consulting business called Zunzun House Inc., assisting nonprofits and for-profit companies on achieving their goals. The company was assisted with management and finance issues by the NJSBDC at Kean University.
  • Colombian immigrant Maria Gutierrez started Maria Mentiras Bar & Grill LLC,  a restaurant specializing in Latin fusion specialty dishes, with the assistance of the NJSBDC at NJ City University. Since opening, she was able to create 20 restaurant jobs.
  • Massage Heights of Morristown, owned and operated by David Shawger and Dale Carmody, decided to open a day spa. NJSBDC of Northwest Jersey helped them identify the best potential franchise model and assisted with the property lease arrangements and business agreement.
  • Hafco Foundry and Machine Inc., run by Basil and Billy Fornaci, is a family-run business in Midland Park, with $6 million plus in annual revenues. The NJSBDC of Ramapo College of New Jersey assisted the company with succession issues, business planning, and other vital strategic business tools.
  • Tim Smeltz grew more than $1 million in sales with 11 employees with Great American Sealcoating in Bridgewater and a Christmas Décor franchise business that expanded beyond Somerset County and into Hunterdon/Morris counties and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. NJSBDC at Raritan Valley Community College assisted him.
  • West Berlin’s DoveLin Enterprises Inc., owned by Mary Lindsay and Franklin Dove Jr., has increased sales by as much as 60 percent after coming to the NJSBDC at Rutgers-Camden in pursuit of financing.
  • Graycell Labs Inc., established by Dharmesh and Shweta Vachhani, was ranked No. 139 among the 500 fastest-growing firms in New Jersey. The Edison company offers a suite of information technology-based services and solutions, and was helped by the NJSBDC at Rutgers-New Brunswick.
  • Holly Kaplansky used her corporate advertising and marketing experience to open Minuteman Press of Newark, a client of the NJSBDC at Rutgers-Newark. It has grown to nearly a $1 million business with three full-time employees and one part-time employee.
  • Cardinal Bistro, owned and operated by Ventnor father-son team Thomas and Michael Brennan, opened with help from the NJSBDC at Stockton University.
  • Stout’s Transportation, a family-run operation for two generations, employs 100-plus workers. The Ewing company provides motor coach travel for tour and charter excursions, shuttle transport, and school and transit buses. The NJSBDC at the College of New Jersey assists them on a variety of business matters.
  • Dingman’s Dairy has 50 employees. The company purchased by Ann Marie Belasco and son Anthony in 2007, is located in Paterson and distributes ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen desserts, cones, toppings and other related products. Customers include restaurants, shops, catering facilities, schools, hospitals, convenience stores, etc. They were helped with product, market and geographic expansion by NJSBDC at William Paterson University.