The New Jersey Business Immigration Coalition will honor the winners of the 10th annual New Jersey Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards at the Multicultural Business Expo from 4-5 p.m. Tuesday at the Pines Manor in Edison.
The Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards are named for New Jersey immigrant entrepreneurs, many of which represent small mom-and-pop businesses as well as large corporations; ranging from high-tech firms to professional service providers, from manufacturing operations to restaurant and financial institutions. The winners of the Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award are Alex Martinez and Paula Guevara, owners of Paradise Flowers Distribution in South River.
Columbia native Guevara founded Paradise Flowers Distribution 18 years ago, when she was a college student and working as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. She and Martinez have grown the business to become the No. 1 distributor and importer of hydrangeas. They own a farm in Columbia and, in 2021, they bought a warehouse in South River with the help of Valley Bank and the Small Business Administration. They also received three electric vans through the NJ Zip Program.
“We are excited to present the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award to Paula and Alex for their significant business growth and demonstrated positive impact on the tate of New Jersey,” Katherine Kish, awards chair, New Jersey Business Immigration Coalition, said. “They are among our group of honored award winners who are helping local New Jersey communities thrive.”
Meanwhile, the Albert Einstein Award for Innovation will be presented to China native Chao Yan, founder and CEO of Princeton NuEnergy, a Bordentown-based innovative clean-tech company spun out from Princeton University in 2019 and focused on the direct recycling of lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles and consumer electronics.
Princeton NuEnergy is working to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign materials, enhance domestic manufacturing capabilities and create well-paying clean energy jobs. It will team up with Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and University of California, Irvine to develop processes aimed at improving end-to-end recycling efficiency. Princeton NuEnergy’s technology brings new opportunities to recycle batteries with high energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and low environmental impact.
The David Sarnoff Award for Advocacy and Community Engagement will be awarded to Jaime Lucero, a native of Mexico, for his role as a “Servant Leader,” addressing the needs of the less fortunate and creatively and purposefully acting to create institutions that help meet those needs. In 2019, Lucero founded Fuerza Migrante, a binational movement of key migrant organizations from throughout the U.S. that empowers the Mexican community abroad through education. Under his leadership, it has created educational platforms tailored to the needs of migrants and their families here and in Mexico, signing partnership agreements with more than two dozen private and public educational institutions in Mexico, New Jersey and New York.
Lastly, Colombia native Diana Mejia, founder of the Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center in Madison, will be awarded the Josephine Ho Award for Nonprofit Entrepreneurship. Self-funded from her personal retirement account 22 years ago, Wind of the Spirit is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, organizing and mobilizing for just immigration reform. Mejia’s organization helps develop a “responsible conscience,” putting the root causes and oppressed experiences in the center of the action. Today, the organization’s campaigns educate, organize and mobilize the immigrant community and allies for just and humane migration policies, advocate for human rights and dignity for all people, promote solidarity and a world of justice and peace, including immigration, advocacy, labor rights, health and safety, language access, conflict resolution, clean energy, etc.
The judges for this year’s awards were:
- Entrepreneur, teacher and publisher Sheldon Sturges, co-founder, Princeton Future;
- Mayra LaMantia, founder & CEO, Immigration Community Outreach and NJIEA 2022 Honoree Josephine Ho Award for Nonprofit Entrepreneurship;
- Lina Llona, president, Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce;
- Glenn Paul, serial entrepreneur and president, PerfectCompany.com.