Success Stories

How’d they do it? How can you do it? Get inspired here.

Female and minority entrepreneurs are the fastest-growing segments of business owners in the U.S. Everyone’s reasons for starting a business, their path to success and even their definition of success is unique. Learn from WEDC clients and how we helped guide them through their journeys.

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Featured Success Story

Diana Bellissimo – Lilymoore Farms LLC

Pleasant Valley, NY

Diana said “I truly believe that my WEDC 60 hour class and the friends that I made in the class have been a blessing.  I gained a lot of knowledge in the 60 hour and continue to gain knowledge through their classes offered.  Cynthia and my friends that I made in the class have been a wonderful sounding board in helping me make decisions to make my farm grow.”

Additional Success Stories

Karlene Barrett

Karlene Barrett

Attainable Hope Psychology Services

Middletown, NY

Karlene came to WEDC to learn more about starting her own private psychology practice.  Karlene knew this would be an undertaking and wanted to make sure she had the tools to launch and sustain the business over time.  She is a graduate of the 60 hour program which gave her the roadmap to launch her business in April 2018.  We were excited to be part of Karlene's open house in December 2018. Karlene did a fabulous job of creating a location that had a welcoming and soothing atmosphere. In just a few months of operation she has already provided numerous counseling sessions to clients.  A real accomplishment being Karlene is only working one day a week.  As the business builds she will be offering full time hours. We are thrilled to have helped Karlene realize her dream and will continue to help her grow utilizing our center’s resources.

Karlene said “Before attending the 60-hour course, I had the idea of what I wanted to do, but it was all in my head. The WEDC course helped me translate my idea into a workable business plan. I especially appreciated learning how to integrate market research into identifying a target market, and how to develop a marketing plan. The direct involvement of professional presenters in our course helped me not only get real-world training, but also role models of successful entrepreneurs. Being mentored by Cynthia and some of our presenters, as well as support from my peers in the class, gave me direction and confidence in moving forward with my plans.

I’m now the confident and satisfied owner of Attainable Hope Psychology Services PLLC. I started small, on a part-time basis and plan to continue growing into a self-sufficient business within the next year. I am most happy that I am doing what I enjoy, making a difference in the lives of individuals, helping them find hope and direction for their lives.”

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Soraida Sanchez

Zoraida Beauty Spa

Port Chester, NY

Soraida Sanchez emigrated from Colombia and arrived in the U.S. with dreams of starting her own business and becoming her own boss when she read about the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) in a local newspaper. Interpreting that moment of discovery as a sign, Soraida contacted WEDC, enrolled in its 60 Hour Entrepreneurial Training Program in Spanish, and graduated. Today, Soraida is the proud owner/operator of Zoraida Beauty Spa located in Port Chester, New York, where with the help of the technical assistance she received from a WEDC business counselor, and a $10,000 loan secured through WEDC’s microloan program, Soraida will continue to grow her enterprise and serve her expanding clientele.

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Lassey Mensah

Consolidated Information Technology LLC

Newburgh, NY

Lassey came to the EAP center to get his IT services business off the ground. He was unemployed and wanted to take this opportunity to go out on his own. So, to move towards his goal Lassey took advantage of WEDC’s services: Path to Entrepreneurship Workshop, Business Counseling, Fall 2016 60 Hour Entrepreneurial Training Program, Completed Business Plan, Formed an LLC, Increase Sales.

Lassey made his unemployment an opportunity to have a livelihood he could grow. WEDC is thrilled to be able to support Lassey in his continued journey of business growth.

Lassey detailed “Before I started the program I have a vision of the future but didn’t have a path to get to it. With the help of WEDC program I have built my confidence and have learn how to build a business plan that allows me to have a road map. Please be informed that I could have never done it without the Help of WEDC program. Through the program I have learned that to be an entrepreneur and have a successful business, you need to have a business plan. Thank you, Cynthia and the WEDC team for all the help and support.”

Jessica

Jessica Mejias

Los Andes Bakery

Email: jmarlenemejias@msn.com
Website: www.losandesbakery.com
An interview with Jessica, “I arrived in the United States in 1984 from Chile with many dreams and desires to work. My husband Francisco arrived in 1985, he is from a family of bakers, so as soon as he got into the country we started thinking in opening a Chilean bakery because there was nothing like it in our area. Our biggest challenge at the beginning was to make our products known. After 26 years in the business we feel very happy and proud to have created a brand and give employment to many families.
We are a Chilean bakery that makes empanadas, sandwiches, cookies, pastries and cakes. We have three locations each of which has its own equipment and employees. At first we focused to obtain clients from the Chilean community but after 26 years in the field our clientele has changed a lot and we have clients from different countries, including American clients. Also after so many years of service we have clients from the second generation of families.

In the beginning we didn’t have a lot of support, it was only my husband and me who believed in the project. After a couple of years we received an SBA loan which served to open our second business.

What it surpised us the most it was the many hours of work, patience, tolerance, and endurance that we had to spend to make our business successful.
My plans for the future are to be able to start selling our empanadas wholesale and maybe add other products later on.
I found out about WEDC through another non-profit organization.

In my case, WEDC was an excellent tool for ordering ideas, organizing my business, and understanding better our numbers. When you have a business you focus so much on work and to keep producing that sometimes you do not realize the importance of having everything organized in the business like the administration, management, and the accounting part of a small business.
For people starting out their own business I would strongly advise them to let themselves be guided by WEDC and to definitely take the classes and workshops that WEDC offers. I would like to thank WEDC as it has helped me grow both as a person and as a business owner.”

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Nancy Kessler

Memoirs Plus

Email: memoirsplus@gmail.com
Website: http://www.memoirsplus.com

After suddenly finding herself unemployed, Nancy Kessler decided it was time to make her dream of owning a business come true. She had heard about WEDC through a career coach that she had known for a long time. While employed, Nancy did not have the time to seek out services offered by WEDC. However, upon unemployment, she was able to use her time wisely to create a business plan. WEDC has done wonderful things for me through the support from a community of people that have helped me focus on the tools I needed to succeed,” she explains.

Upon completing the 60+ Hour Entrepreneurial Training Program, Nancy was able to meet women business owners to support her business plan and formed the WEDC Senior Providers’ Network. Nancy has participated in a variety of workshops and networking events held by WEDC, along with receiving individualized business counseling. Nancy attended a day-long Pro Bono Partnership event at MasterCard where she received help with creating marketing documents and plans. “Through WEDC, I was able to receive a one-day scholarship at MasterCard to work on my business,” she says.

In June 0f 2014, Nancy launched her own business related to her passion for writing memoirs for senior citizens. Memoirs Plus is created to engage independent seniors with sophisticated intellectual and creative activities which will enable them to tell their life stories through writing a memoir. The company enables seniors to share their stories in book form through assistance with writing and illustrating. Nancy often speaks for civic organizations and teaches Memoir Writing at the Scarsdale Adult School.

Nancy became a member of WEDC’s board of directors. For those thinking about starting their own small businesses, Nancy has the following advice: “Don’t start without taking a class. WEDC can offer all you need to know and introduce you to a community of people that will help you. I relied heavily on WEDC.”

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Isreal Morales

Sky Diamond Jewelers LLC

New Windsor

Isreal came to WEDC to attend our Spring 2016 60 hour Entrepreneurial Training Program.  His dream was to open a full service jewelry store that offers jewelry repairs, gold and diamond buying, customization engagement rings, etc.  His extensive background and management experience in the industry really gave him the foundation he needed to go out and start a business on his own.  Equally important was the relationships he developed over the years that enabled Isreal to work with vendors from day one.

Isreal has taken advantage of our ongoing one on one technical assistance. To fine tune everything and acquire the start-up funding for buildout, initial costs and inventory. This enabled Isreal to officially launch his LLC with a soft opening in September and an official grand opening on October 15th.  Isreal’s reputation as a professional jeweler leads him to believe customers will follow him to his new store. The turnout at the opening is a testament to his ability to build a solid customer base quickly.  We are thrilled to have been part of the catalyst for this budding new startup.  To provide our client with the guidance and resources he needed to make his dream a reality.  We will continue to provide support to Isreal throughout his business ownership journey.

The WEDC class really propelled me forward at a faster rate than I ever expected to move. I’d always dreamed of owning my own jewelry store to provide a more distinct customer experience and fill the gaps that I noticed in the jewelry industry. My ambition was always strong but I needed help formulating the right business plan. The WEDC program did just that, it far surpassed my expectations from day one. Not only did I gain the knowledge to move forward with my business model but most importantly it gave me the confidence I needed to not stray from my ideas of a perfect jewelry store. After the program Cynthia was there to answer any questions I had and now I can finally say I am the proud owner of Sky Diamond Jewelers LLC.” Isreal Morales

Kelsa

Kelsa DeBrabant

Happy Patches

Kelsa DeBrabant, a Westchester, NY mom got her business inspiration in 2013, when her 3-year-old daughter kept coming home from preschool with ripped knees. Kelsa felt she had a choice: either throw away her daughter’s pants or turn lemons into lemonade.  With 10+ years of fashion industry experience under her belt, she decided to spin the negative experience of a now torn favorite pair of leggings into an opportunity for her daughter to create her own “new favorite.”  Soon after, the Happy Patches business was formed and so too the realization of her entrepreneurial dream.

The original Happy Patches product was a small collection of iron-on patches for mending holes in children’s clothes.  At first, the patches didn’t sell well and challenged Kelsa to think about the business in innovative ways to understand what appealed to her customers.  After a few months of soul searching and market research, she expanded the product offerings to include decorative patches for fashion design and fun.  This is when true growth began. 

As of September 2017, Happy Patches has sold over 3,500 patches to 2,200 customers in 11 countries. Happy Patches are sold online through Etsy and Amazon.  There are over 130 designs offered in a variety of sizes and colors.  Customization is key to Happy Patches’ success: their bestselling designs include superhero logos, Disney themes, unicorns and emojis. All designs are made of glitter and non-glitter vinyl, and shipped to customers in 1-3 business days.  Most customers order from Happy Patches because they have a vision of a costume or fashion item they want to create and need just the right iron-on design to make it happen. 

Kelsa designs all patches, and manages the fulfillment and shipping of all orders with the help of a part-time freelancer.  She stays on top of current trends to identify her customers’ needs and continue attracting new ones. Her future business plans for Happy Patches is to include a new line of embroidered patches for kids that rewards gritty behavior. The patches are given to kids as incentives to help them find their passion and persevere despite the obstacles they may encounter.

Kelsa learned online about WEDC’s 60-hour entrepreneurial training program a year before she started her business. She signed up for the course once her business idea came to life and was ready to take the next step: create her business plan.  She had a creative background but needed the business component. Through the program, she learned practical skills and step-by-step guidance on how to start a business which allowed her to deal with her fears and uncertainty in the early days of launching her business.

In addition to her family, Kelsa has cast a wide net of support.  Finding mentors and business support services, like WEDC and SCORE, have been key to her business success along the way.  She has also created Mindfulness Moms, a monthly Meet-Up group for women to get support and feel supported on their paths towards realizing their personal and career dreams.

For a while, Kelsa was surprised at the need to have self-discipline and a true sense of purpose to get up each day and run the details of a small business.  She further shared that at times it has felt boring, fearful and confusing, and that she even contemplated giving up.  On the other hand, she didn’t realize how much she would learn about herself and the grit needed to achieve her goals. 

“Entrepreneurship is not the easiest career route to take, but it has proved to be the most satisfying”, Kelsa says.  Around the time she was considering starting her business, she came across an inspirational magnet which today hangs on her refrigerator as a constant reminder of why she took the leap into entrepreneurship.  It reads, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined. – Henry David Thoreau”.  These are the words that keep her motivated and on course.

Geraldina

Geraldina Shabani

Geraldina’s Couture

eraldina Shabani, a native of Albania, opened her Hartsdale, Westchester store in March of 2016. Drawing on her years of experience, Geraldina’s Couture specializes in everything from customized bridal gowns to alterations and restoration of vintage pieces. For Geraldina, her storefront is more than a business: it’s the realization of a life time dream, one that has accompanied her across the Atlantic Ocean. Having grown up in a family of tailors and seamstresses, Geraldina fell in love with fashion and design at an early age, creating her first dress when she was only 10 years old. At 18, she managed a full staff at her uncle’s fabric business in Albania.

In the late 1990’s, Geraldina moved to Greece with her husband, Arjan and their 13-month-old son, Redi escaping the Albanian civil war. Even though the couple had family in Greece, finding work in her new country was not easy. Much of the employment was seasonal and many business owners were hesitant to hire a woman with a young child. To find work, Geraldina had to make the difficult decision to return her son to Albania where he could stay with family while she worked in Greece. It took her 5 ½ years to reunite with her son. “My son didn’t know me. I promised I would never leave him again.”

She found work as a seamstress in an interior design store, a job she kept until 2010 when Geraldina was selected as a winner of a USA green card lottery and moved to New York in search of a better life. “I had no second thoughts in my mind,” she said.  Speaking to family and friends in her home country, she learned about the fashion mecca in Manhattan. She found an apartment in Poughkeepsie and wasted no time looking for work. “The next day, my son found a job for me on Craigslist.” Just two days after arriving in New York, Geraldina and Redi took the train to NYC for an interview with design label Peggy Jennings. Because she spoke no English, 13-year-old Redi served as his mother’s translator. “They took me to the showroom and handed me a dress to alter which I completed in two hours.  They offered me the job on the spot and began working the following day”.  From there, she worked for several high-end designers, from Christian Dior to Dolce & Gabbana to Fendi.

Geraldina used her daily train rides commuting between Poughkeepsie and Manhattan to work on her English. She recalls sitting near a group of teachers as they were chatting excitedly about their plans for the day. I was sitting across from them, watching. They caught my eye looking at them and I said, “I’m so sorry, I’m just trying to hear so I can learn English,” she said. They quickly included her into their conversation and started to teach her. Redi also played a key role in ensuring his mother learned her new country’s language. He prepared a list of words every day which she had to learn during her commute, and Redi would quizzed her every night.  Today, Geraldina continues working on her grasp of the English language and is preparing to apply for U.S. citizenship. 

“But always I was looking for more.” Though working in the bustling city was exciting, Geraldina felt her work lacked the creativity she longed to share. During that time, she also did alterations for friends and acquaintances from her home in Poughkeepsie. When a client, a woman she met through another chance encounter on the train, persuaded her to visit Hartsdale, Geraldina fell in love. “I looked at this location and said, ‘This will be my future,” Geraldina said of Hartsdale, the hamlet in Greenburgh to which she and her family moved in 2014.  During her many walks along Hartsdale Avenue, a vacant storefront caught her eye. Her dream of owning her own business became reality in 2016, when at long last she could open Geraldina’s Couture in that same storefront. Today, Geraldina’s Couture has four employees and her clientele continues growing steadily through word of mouth, drive-by/walk-ins and online presence.

Redi, now a student at SUNY Stony Brook, remains one of her biggest supporters. He programmed her website, helped her with social media outlets and creating her store logo. “I feel so proud,” Shabani says of her son. Another great supporter of her efforts is her best friend, Carol White

In June 2017, Geraldina became a WEDC graduate. She learned about WEDC through yet another fortuitous encounter.  Her business was just starting while she was working part time at Neiman Marcus to pay her bills. She was let go when they found her business to be competition to theirs. Scared about having lost her job, she was sitting at a bus stop, crying. The woman next to her asked what was wrong. Once Geraldina finished sharing her story, the lady told her about the WEDC program. Geraldina signed up to the program as soon as she got home.  “The program helped me in completing a solid foundation to grow my business. It was very helpful (for learning how) to be an American businesswoman,” she said. Geraldina hopes to put her existing and newly learned skills to grow her business. “I want to give my heart to my business.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a small business owner, is the being able to develop a direct relationship with clients. Her plans for Geraldina’s Couture include starting a sewing school this October and moving to a new, larger location. Her advice to all those thinking about starting their own business is simple: “Don’t think too much…JUST DO IT!” 

dustless

Jeffrey Sinclair

J&J Dustless Blasting

Wappingers Falls, NY

Jeffrey came to the EAP center to get assistance with writing a business plan and launching his dustless media blasting business in the Mid-Hudson area. He also needed assistance with securing financing to purchase the needed equipment and franchising package.

Jeffrey took advantage of WEDC MHV’s free 1-on-1 counseling where we worked on his business plan reviewing services, target market, competition and research for market size. On multiple occasions Jeffrey came in to move forward and fine tune the work he completed. We discussed the financials and what information was needed to move forward with projections. Jeffrey officially formed his LLC. With all of this leg work done Jeffrey participated in our Tips on How to Complete A Successful Loan /Application Package Workshop. This gave him the funding structure and resource to move things forward. In 2017, Jeffrey reported securing a loan from Community Capital for startup expenses and equipment. Jeffrey in May had received his equipment and was ready to begin working on clients.

WEDC MHV is so thrilled to have been able to assist Jeffrey with creating a business plan that was comprehensive and is his road map for success. I know we will hear about his continued growth. We will continue to support Jeffrey and expect that he will take advantage of our counseling and other workshops.

“The help I received from the EAP was invaluable. The help I received from Cynthia and Simone was priceless. Cynthia made the process of preparing a proper business plan so much tolerable. That process of the plan was very nerve racking for me until I received her help. With her help I wrote a very well organized plan that helped me receive funding on the first try. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for both of these very professional woman I would still be trying to write this plan and not be in business today. I would and have recommended them to everyone one I know thinking to start a business.” Jeffrey Sinclair

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Diana Bellissimo

Lilymoore Farms LLC

Diana came to the center to get assistance with making her young alpaca farm profitable and set the foundation to grow it.  Her goals when we first met in January 2017 was to be profitable by the end of the year.

Diana attended our Spring 2017 60 Hour Entrepreneurial Training Program.  We had one on one counseling sessions that discussed her business goals, marketing, expansion of a web and farm store, as well as her strategies to be competitive. Diana completed our 60 Hour Entrepreneurial Training Program on 6/6/17 and handed in a completed business plan.

Diana has taken advantage of many workshops and programs at WEDC.  In fact, she has attended the following workshops to help her continue developing her growth plans: Small Business Breakthrough, Social Media Do’s and Don’ts: 5 Tips to Getting Started Today and Rank on the First Page of Google.  She was also one of the participants in our Advanced Micro-Manufacturing Program that was a seven session series on scaling.  We have met many times since graduation and have talked about what steps she needs to take with marketing, costs, advertising mediums, events, etc. to not only meet but exceed her business goals. Diana was thrilled to share that in 2018 her sales increased by 35%.  Significant growth for such a young business.

In fact, Diana said “I truly believe that my WEDC 60 hour class and the friends that I made in the class have been a blessing.  I gained a lot of knowledge in the 60 hour and continue to gain knowledge through their classes offered.  Cynthia and my friends that I made in the class have been a wonderful sounding board in helping me make decisions to make my farm grow.”  We are so glad to be part of making her farm one of the Hudson Valley’s treasures.

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Yvonne Kasper

Get Results YK

Fishkill, NY

Yvonne came to WEDC to get assistance with expanding her new business.  She is doing personal training and wanted to expand to include nutrition coaching.  Upon doing a discover process it was determined that Yvonne should attend the 60 hour program.  This would provide Yvonne with the framework to reach her goals. 

Yvonne utilized our free counseling during and after the completion of the 60 hour class.  Topics we discussed included goals for expansion.  Also strategies for maximizing the 60 hour class.  We also discussed results of her market research, explored demographic research tools and video/social media campaign for holidays and January.  We assisted Yvonne with her YouTube channel, reviewed video, content and marketing timeline to develop.  Discussed market plan draft, fine tuning target market, market size, goals and promotion strategy.  Also overall growth goals. 

Yvonne completed our 60 hour entrepreneurial training program with a business plan.  She also reported a substantial increase in sales. In fact, Yvonne moved into a studio.  Great growth that was a direct result of the assistance Yvonne received.

Yvonne was able to do all of this while having a family and caretaker for an elderly mother.  Her determination and drive will help her to continue to grow the business.  Yvonne said “I decided to take the WEDC course because I wanted to provide my business a better background in marketing and advertising.  I really didn’t know where to start.  When I came into the course I got so much more.  Knowledge in insurance and networking.  If you are deciding on starting a business this is the place to come.” We will work with Yvonne to learn more about how her business model has evolved and continue to support her through this growth.

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Success Story

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Women's Enterprise Development Center

The Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC), a 501(c)(3) corporation, has been empowering women entrepreneurs to build successful small businesses since 1997 in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. This is accomplished by providing comprehensive, high quality business training programs, one-on-one business and loan counseling, networking opportunities, assistance with loan applications for microloans and crowd funding through Kiva Zip, and MWBE certification assistance in English and Spanish. WEDC’s overarching goal is to build a vibrant community of women business owners, comprised of start-up and established companies.

The Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC), a 501(c)(3) corporation, has been empowering women entrepreneurs to build successful small businesses since 1997 in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. Our overarching goal is to build a vibrant community of women business owners, comprised of start-up and established companies.

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