The stars over Brooklyn were blazing bright on the evening of May 3, as Schneps Communications feted its newest class of Stars Under 40 at an awards and networking event at the Grand Prospect Hall.
For the first time, honorees were selected from beyond Brooklyn and as far as Pennsylvania as the event — which highlights achievement by some of the best and brightest rising talents — strove to broaden its reach.
In total, 45 individuals were recognized for the strides they have made in business and public service, despite the fact that not one of them had celebrated his or her 40th birthday.
“The Stars Under 40 Business Awards & Networking Event Honors young professionals under the age of 40 who exemplify outstanding leadership skills not only in their chosen fields but in their communities,” stressed Victoria Schneps, the founder of Schneps Communications Events. “Yes – these are successful young business people who also find time within their busy lives to give back to their communities!”
This year’s honorees were: Rookie Of The Year Francesca Cheney, Owner, Sol Sips; Dynamic Duo — Business Mike and Nicole Bloomfield, President and Vice President, Tekie Geek; Dynamic Duo — Community Outreach Cindy Godla (Events, Marketing and PR Manager) and Alexandra Silversmith – Executive Director, Alliance for Coney Island; Family Business Legacy Derek and Daniel Johnson, Co-Owners, Bob & Sons Refinishing; Cinematic Entrepreneurs Michael Ayjian and Stephen Skeel, Co-Founders, 7 Wonders Cinema; Entrepreneurs Of The Year Cameron Fischer and Alfred Schofield, Co-Owners, Vitalfit Nutrition; Michael Blinder, AVP, Branch Manager, Investors Bank; Regina Boukhvalova, Vice President, Business Development Officer, Northfield Bank; Jose Candia, Partner/Pack Leader, Brooklyn Canine Club; Robert Casatelli, Co-Owner, Ho’Brah – A Taco Joint, the Kettle Black Restaurant & Bar, Lockyard; Voncille Cheney, Author/Founder, I Am Queen JVC; Teresa Cirelli, Director of Community Relations, On Your Mark, Inc.; Harley Courts, CEO, Nooklyn; Kimiko Gordon, CEO/Team Leader, Keller Williams Realty Empire; Obiano Huntley, Associate Director of Emergency Management, NYC Health + Hospitals|Kings County; Danielle V. Johnsen, Vice President of Compliance, Digital Edge Ventures; Ravi Kantha, Senior Real Estate Advisor, Leslie J. Garfield; Nicole Kneessy, Premium Sales Manager, Brooklyn Cyclones; Farrah Lafontant, Community Initiatives Associate, Brooklyn Arts Council; Reverend Edward L. Lai, Corporate Director of Asian Initiatives, the Allure Group; Emma Manson, Senior Project Manager, Brooklyn Navy Yard; Christine Medina, Owner, the CM Brand – Marketing & Brand Agency; Nathalie Michel, Police Officer, Immigrant Outreach Unit – Community Affairs Bureau, NYPD; Julia Moak, Owner/Publisher, Brokelyn/Greenpointers.com/DumboNYC; Stephen Molloy, Owner, Molloy Electric; Shawn Mullahy, CEO, MySpace NYC; Rob Myers, Vice President, IDB Bank; Ramfis Myrthil, Filmmaker/Founder/Co-President, Beast of the East Productions; Leslie Offley, Director of Coordination, the Avondale Care Group; James R. O’Neill, Managing Director, CPEX Real Estate; George Procovas, Owner, 13th Avenue Florist; Joseph Quadara, Social Media Manager/President & Founder, the Von Agency/the Manfredi Movement; Halina Radchenko, Esq., Hach & Rose, LLP; Jonathan M. Stern, Managing Director, Meridian Capital Group; Jaclyn M. Tacoronte, Partner, JMT Media; Violetta Ustayev, Owner/Designer, Vi Design; Esmeralda Xhelehsi, AVP, Marketing Director, Empire State Bank; Leonard J. Wiener, Attorney at Law, Marder Eskesen & Nass; Anthony R. Wilson, AVP, Branch Manager, Dime Community Bank; and Igor Zakh, Chief Operating Officer, the Cornerstone Group of NY.
“It’s an honor, honestly, to be recognized for our work,” noted Silversmith. “We both work extremely hard programming all the free events and doing outreach to the community to make sure the public knows what’s happening.”
“It’s a great opportunity to bring local business leaders in the community together,” added O’Neill. “You can find a lot of synergy with people you might not interact with on a daily basis.”
“This kind of event raises our visibility, and raises awareness of what we are trying to accomplish, connecting small businesses and the non-profit sector,” said Tacoronte, who is striving to have her enterprise become certified as the first Native American MWBE business in the city or state.
The expansion beyond Brooklyn’s borders delighted Johnsen, who hails from Staten Island. Johnsen, who had previously been recognized as a Staten Island Power Woman, said that she had gleaned a great deal from participating in the prior event. “It definitely helped my career,” she said. “I made valuable contacts at the event and I look forward to making new friends and clients tonight. It’s a great, fun way for younger people to get together and network.”
Quadara agreed. “For me,” he said, “the most important thing is being able to meet a bunch of people.”
The event sponsors were Dime Community Bank, Empire State Bank, Northfield Bank, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Investors Bank, CPEX Real Estate, Cornerstone Group of NY; the Avondale Care Group, the Brooklyn Cyclones, Tekie Geek, MySpace NYC, Broadway Stages, Medcast Plus and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
The exhibitors were the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Cornerstone Group of NY, Diet Coffee, Dime Community Bank, Doterra Essential Oils, Empire State Bank, Investors Bank, Lady Lair by AVM, Northfield Bank, Qi Financial Strategies, Reiki Master Teacher, Success by Health, Tekie Geek and Touchstone Jewelry .
The benefits of having a table at the networking portion of the event were lauded by participants. Besides supporting a colleague, “We’re here to bring attention to the Cyclones,” said Jeremy Allen, an account executive with the Cyclones. Being on hand, he added, “Reaches a new group of people, maybe ones who haven’t ever been to a game. It’s a good opportunity to introduce ourselves.”
The “hyper-local business exposure” was key for financial planner David Hamond, founder of Qi Financial, who noted that he lives in Bensonhurst and supports his local PTA. “You don’t have to go to Manhattan to get good service,” he stressed.
“We’re here to show residents in the community everything we have to offer,” said Karen Urquhart, assistant branch manager at Dime Community Bank’s 214 Bedford Avenue branch. “We can also answer any questions from anyone who wants to establish a relationship with us.”
A raffle raised $2,200 for On Your Mark, a not for profit organization that turns dreams into reality for people with disabilities and their families.
Margaret Kelly, star of Broadway and a member of the Highland Divas, sang the national anthem.