CEL graduates 34 emerging minority and women entrepreneurs

Release Date: June 26, 2017 This content is archived.

“The program pushed me to learn about all aspects of business, gave me the opportunity to collaborate with others to identify better ways of doing business and helped me set clear, achievable goals ”
Melissa Hooper, Owner
Che GarcĂ­a Chimichurri

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Melissa Hooper, owner of Che García Chimichurri, 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.

Hooper earned a $1,500 prize for the honor. She says the MWEE program gave her skills and knowledge she was immediately able to apply in her business of making Argentinian marinade.

“The program pushed me to learn about all aspects of business, gave me the opportunity to collaborate with others to identify better ways of doing business and helped me set clear, achievable goals,” says Hooper.

Laura Duquette, owner of 12 Grain Studio, was awarded second place and a $1,000 prize. Shayna Israel, owner of Plurality Press, took third place and a $500 prize.

The awards were handed out at a graduation ceremony for three CEL programs in June at UB’s Center for the Arts.

Sponsored by The Allstate Foundation, the MWEE program helps minority and women entrepreneurs take their companies to the next stage of development with business development seminars twice a month, networking events and one-on-one mentoring.

After entering as protégés last year, 34 participants graduated, bringing the total number of local entrepreneurs who have completed the MWEE program to 261 since it launched in 2004.

The graduates were:

  • Starr Ango, Chic Bundles
  • Carl Bailey, Positive Nation Productions
  • Joseph Baker, New Frontier Cleaning Service
  • Lillie Mae Baker, Couture of New York
  • April Baskin, The College Simulation Experience
  • Sally Bhandari, Nepali Clothing and Cosmetics
  • Jacqueline Bontzolakes, Diamond Therapeutic Arts
  • Tracy Brown, Our Virtual Office Team
  • Liz Conron, Core Connection Pilates
  • Danielle Domanowski, Green Works Contracting
  • Laura Duquette, 12 Grain Studio
  • Therese Fuerst, Fuerst Consulting Corp.
  • Melissa Hooper, Che García Chimichurri
  • Ligia Hubert, ligiahubert
  • Mari Irwin, Soul Candy Project LLC
  • Shayna Israel, Plurality Press
  • Christie Johnson, Christie's Cleaning
  • Soda Kuczkowski, Start with Sleep
  • Erin Lalley-Bauer, Fern Croft Floral
  • Raine Manuel, Zigma Naturals
  • Maddie McCauley, Madelena Lee Design LLC
  • Janice McKinnie, Developments by JEM
  • Gretchen Meyers, Pegs Hardware
  • Davina Moss-King, Positive Direction and Associates Inc.
  • Htay Naing, Nine and Night
  • Holly Nowak, HMN Resources LLC
  • Kimmi Ott, OttFit Pilates LLC
  • Wendy Pegan, Creative Relationship Center
  • Afiya Rice, R Healin’ Center
  • Than Than Saw, 007 Chinese Food
  • Ma Theint, Moon Lady Arts and Crafts
  • Candice Urban-Green, BoxCraft Studio LLC
  • Jacquelyn Wrafter, Wrafterbuilt
  • Mohammed Yaseen, M. Asian Halal Foods

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.

David Berghash, CEL ’93, CEO of Shield Manufacturing, was honored as Mentor of the Year.

The CEL is accepting applications for the 2018 MWEE program. To be eligible, an entrepreneur must be a woman or member of a recognized minority group and own a business in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Individuals interested in the program can learn more about the curriculum and speak candidly with MWEE alumni at an open house at 8 a.m. July 26 at the UB Educational Opportunity Center, located at 555 Ellicott St., Buffalo. To register for the open house or apply, contact the CEL at 716-885-5715 or mgt-cel@buffalo.edu.

The Allstate Foundation, a charitable organization funded by subsidiaries of Allstate Insurance Corp., provides philanthropic grants to nonprofit organizations. With a focus on teen safe driving and building financial independence for domestic violence survivors, The Allstate Foundation also promotes safe and vital communities; tolerance, inclusion and diversity; and economic empowerment. For more information, visit allstatefoundation.org.

Established in 1987, the CEL provides participants with individualized and interactive education in entrepreneurship. More than 1,300 CEL alumni employ more than 22,000 Western New Yorkers, and their businesses contribute more than $2 billion to the local economy annually. 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, 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.

Media Contact Information

Kevin Manne
Associate Director of Communications
School of Management