Linda McMahon’s selection to lead the U.S. Small Business Administration was the opening kickoff for a run of success by Connecticut businesswomen connected to the agency.
The SBA recently announced its Small Business Week 2017 Connecticut award winners and nine of the 10 were women-owned businesses, according to Moriama Gutierrez, the agency’s Hartford-based assistant district director. Those include Carla Bartolucci, president of North Stonington-based Euro-USA Trading Co. and Jovial Foods Inc., who was named Connecticut Small Business Person of the Year, and Monica Goldstein of Trumbull-based RecoveryPlanner, who was named Exporter of the Year.
Goldstein was also recognized as Small Business Person of the Year for a region that covers the six New England states.
This year’s awards dovetail with the growing number of female businesses in Connecticut, SBA and others say. According to a survey by the National Women’s Business Council, there were 106,678 women-owned businesses in Connecticut in 2012, up 14.1 percent from five years earlier.
“It is heartwarming to see it,” said Fran Pastore, founder, president and CEO of the Stamford-based Women’s Business Development Council, which partners with SBA on advisory services for female entrepreneurs and operates a loan fund.
The council’s Janet Siegenthaler nominated three of the 10 winners – Flavia Naslausky and Camilla Gazal of Greenwich-based Zaniac, which won the Entrepreneurial Success award; Beverlee Dacey of Bridgeport-based Amodex Products, which won Family-Owned Business of the Year; and Westport-based Kim Rodney of Connecticut Community Bank, who won Financial Champion.
Pastore sees a connection between the elevation of McMahon, who helped build Stamford-based WWE Entertainment into one of the world’s most-recognized athletic brands, and the success of other Connecticut women in this year’s SBA awards. McMahon, a Greenwich resident, bolstered the council’s efforts throughout her time leading her family’s wrestling entertainment empire, Pastore said.
“Linda has been one of our biggest supporters,” said Pastore, whose council is in its 20th year. “She is bringing a fresh perspective and her commitment to women to the (SBA) office. Her success and that of the award winners is a sign of the times.”
A two-time unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate, McMahon earlier this year had the heady experience of having both men she competed against — Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy — accompany her to her Capitol Hill confirmation hearings. McMahon was nominated by President Donald Trump, a longtime friend who appeared in at least one televised WWE event.
Bartolucci is one of 50 state winners along with winners from the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands competing for the 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year award. It is part of National Small Business Week, which is scheduled for April 30 through May 6 with events planned in several cities including Washington, D.C. Each year since 1963, the White House has issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of National Small Business Week.
All state winners have been invited to Washington for ceremonies on April 30 through May 1 in which the national winner as well as three runners-up will be honored by McMahon.
“These small business owners define entrepreneurial spirit and best represent the 28 million small businesses that are the backbone and economic engine for today’s economy,” McMahon said in a March 16 press release announcing the state winners.
Committees are in charge of picking the state, regional and national winners, Gutierrez said. In winning this year’s Connecticut statewide award, Bartolucci scored highly in every selection category and beat out 14 other candidates, Gutierrez added. She was nominated by her lender, Mark Light of Willimantic-based Savings Institute Bank & Trust. All candidates had to have some of their business financing arranged by SBA, Gutierrez said.
A New London native and graduate of Connecticut College, Bartolucci started in developing a brand of organic foods called Bionaturae in 1996. She did this after losing both of her parents to cancer and growing interested in healthier eating and the emerging natural foods industry, she said. After her daughter was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, Bartolucci started another brand called Jovial, known for reviving an ancient grain called einkorn. She published a cookbook with Clarkson Potter in 2014 and is working on a second book.
Bartolucci received a $2.5 million loan for the purchase of the 28-acre historic John Randall Homestead in North Stonington and is renovating the property as a farming and manufacturing site, the SBA said. The homestead, which was vacant for 10 years, was officially opened as the headquarters for Euro-USA Trading and Jovial Foods in November 2016.
“The SBA award is a great honor because it has been a struggle to build our business from nothing to what we are today,” Bartolucci said. “I love my work and I care deeply for our employees and the customers that we develop the products for. I hope my award will inspire other women like me who have come from nothing but believe in working hard and making a difference.”
Fellow award-winner Monica Goldstein was nominated by Anne Evans, director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Middletown-based Export Assistance Center. Founded in 1999, RecoveryPlanner offers business continuity management, disaster recovery, and risk and crisis management services. The Commerce Department honored RecoveryPlanner last year, making it one of 73 companies to receive a President’s “E” Award for sustained increases in export sales over a four-year period.
Evans called her nomination of Goldstein an “easy natural” because of their seven-year relationship that has included international trade missions to Australia and Israel. Goldstein also routinely helps Evans’ office with software issues.
“She shares and she cares,” Evans said. “She’s always willing to help.”
Other 2017 Connecticut award winners are as follows:
- Young Entrepreneur: Ashley Stone of Beauty Entourage, Farmington
- Home-Based Business: Mary Goehring of Transcription Plus, Bristol
- Minority-Owned Business of the Year: Miguel Tomassio of Taco Loco, Black Rock
- Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Elizabeth Florian of Grassroots Ice Cream, Granby
- Micro-Enterprise: Katalina Riegelmann of Katalina’s Bakery, New Haven