CEL program honors emerging minority and women entrepreneurs

From left, Mentor of the Year Lori E. Miller; Arjang Assad, dean of the UB School of Management; Sherman Washington, owner of 1 Accord Services Inc.; and Alex Cleary, MWEE program coordinator, celebrate Washington's Protégé of the Year award. (Photo by Nancy J. Parisi)

Release Date: June 16, 2014 This content is archived.


The Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs Class of 2014. (Photo by Nancy J. Parisi)

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sherman Washington has been named Protégé of the Year by the Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs (MWEE) program, a joint venture by the University at Buffalo School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) and the UB Center for Urban Studies.

Washington accepted a $1,500 first-place prize for the honor. He owns and operates 1 Accord Services Inc., a Buffalo-based, certified commercial cleaning firm specializing in educational and medical facilities.

“The instructors helped my company make some key changes and zero in on the market segment I was interested in,” Washington says. “My sales increased, and I gained two contracts that I can directly correlate to our sessions about targeting a market.”

Christopher Wan, president of Dyno Group, was awarded second place and a $1,000 prize. Gina Bonitatibus, owner and president of InnerSpace Office Interiors, took third place and received a $500 prize.

The awards were presented at a graduation banquet for four CEL programs on June 5 at UB’s Center for the Arts.

After entering as protégés last year, 29 participants completed the MWEE program, which is sponsored by The Allstate Foundation.

In addition to the award winners, this year’s graduates were: Marie Achkar, Leading Edge Performance, Williamsville; Annie Adams, Second Chic, Buffalo; Lemuel Alfonso, AA Janitorial, Cheektowaga; Melissa Campbell, Filigrees Gallery & Boutique, Buffalo; Zandra Cunningham, Azariah’s Innocence, Buffalo; Darold Fountain, Aurora Window Systems and Contracting, Buffalo; Tosha Groves, ReBelle, Amherst; Mitch Ilunga, Maximum Performance Sports Training, Cheektowaga.

Also, Tyra Johnson, Blue Sky Design Supply, Buffalo; Nicole Jones, Artisan Journey LLC, Wheatfield; Alison Kurek, Focus on Art, Kenmore; Anika Mann, Nice & Neat Cleaning Service, Buffalo; Julie Mayer, Joe the Painter Inc., Orchard Park; Mari McNeil, Mari McNeil, Tonawanda; Cortney Morrison-Taylor, Ró, Buffalo; Christina O’Reilly, Paragon Elite, Buffalo; Michele Ogden, GEMS, Buffalo; Oscar Pedroso, GradFly, Buffalo.

Also, Lela Pitts, A Kiss By Nature, Buffalo; Priscilla Porter, Priscilla’s Bookkeeping, Buffalo; Ella Quinn, Building Great Blocks, Amherst; Louise Sano, Global Villages, Buffalo; Marke' Shelton, Xclusive Tax Services, Rochester; Shaun Silverwood, road kiln, Getzville; Stephanie Valentine, Candy Coated Bags, Buffalo; and Karyn Ventrilla, KV Grants Consulting, Williamsville.

Each participant was assigned a mentor from the local business community to help devise realistic business goals and develop timetables and strategies for achieving them. Mentors met regularly with participants, providing advice in strategic and tactical thinking, marketing, long-range financial planning and more.

Washington’s mentor, Lori E. Miller, president of Developing Professionals, was named Mentor of the Year at the banquet.

Protégés also attended business development seminars twice a month and additional networking events. For their capstone project, participants completed and presented a revised or newly developed business plan.

“The program expanded my thinking and my goals for the company,” says Washington. “My mentor really helped me develop creative ideas for building a brand and presenting my company to potential customers. And the networking portion was great because you get to rub shoulders with entrepreneurs like yourself and those at another level.”

Including this year's class, 180 local entrepreneurs have completed the MWEE program since it launched in 2004.

The CEL is now accepting applications for the 2015 MWEE program. To be eligible, an entrepreneur must be a woman or a member of a recognized minority group and own a business in the Buffalo Niagara region. For more information, contact the CEL at 716-885-5715 or mgt-cel@buffalo.edu.

The Allstate Foundation, established in 1952, is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corp. Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, The Allstate Foundation brings the relationships, reputation and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people’s well-being and prosperity. For more information, visit allstatefoundation.org.

Established in 1987, the CEL provides participants with individualized and interactive education in entrepreneurship. More than 1,200 CEL alumni employ more than 22,000 Western New Yorkers, and their businesses are worth more than $2 billion to the local economy. For more information, visit mgt.buffalo.edu/cel.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school also has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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