Category Archives: Business Spotlight

Fit 4 A Better Me, LLC.

When Brenda Green, a certified, professional NASM-CPT, Precision Nutrition Coach, and Strength Specialist, founded Fit 4 A Better Me in 2016, she embarked on an entrepreneurial journey that was both a personal mission and a community-building revolution. Today, this woman-owned and operated virtual fitness and health studio continues to empower, transform and inspire a diverse and dynamic group of women.

“I started my business to create a space for women to take care of their overall health. As women, we predominantly take the role of caregiver and put our care on hold. My journey as a cancer survivor reinforced the importance of health and wellness, as I was blessed to recover quicker than anticipated. However, my aunt, who helped care for me while I was ill, and unbeknownst to me, ignored her own health issues to her detriment. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Her death helped propel me forward in my drive to help other women to be healthier, fit, and a better version of themselves inside and out.”

When Brenda moved Fit 4 A Better Me to Hudson County, she immediately saw a benefit to her business. “I’ve traveled around the country and lived in many places, but nothing stuck like Hudson County did. When my husband and I made the move to Secaucus, I dedicated myself to taking my business to the next level by participating in all the great programs available to me.”  Brenda’s business journey started with an introduction to her future coach, Reina Valenzuela, of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (SHCCNJ), at a free business training class in Paterson. Reina helped facilitate her participation in various networking events and programs. Shortly after, Brenda was enrolled in the SHCCNJs Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program (HETP), where she was able to connect with other small business owners and learned how to not only strengthen her business model, but was also able to take advantage of other opportunities.

After completing the HETP program, Brenda entered a pitch competition hosted by Latinas in Business and was awarded a scholarship for Rutgers Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development/ Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (CUEED/EPI) training program. When asked about her experience, Brenda reflected, “I had not realized the true value of Rutgers EPI program until meeting my mentors and coaches.” She continued, “with the guidance of Jasmine Cordero as my program manager, I was able to grow and plan for challenges. What is most inspiring is knowing that there is so much support for entrepreneurs to realize goals and take businesses to the next level. The experience is really “Familia,” working together, supporting and helping each other out.”
Over the past 14 years, we’ve helped over 600 entrepreneurs in New Jersey to build their brands, accelerate strategic alliances, and focus their finances,” says Lyneir Richardson, Executive Director of CUEED.  “Small businesses strengthen communities, and we’re proud to contribute to their growth and success.”

“The Hudson County Economic Development Corporation’s ongoing commitment to supporting growth and accelerating entrepreneurship is core to our mission. We’re proud to provide funding to the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program along with the Rutgers Business School Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development Entrepreneurship as we continue to open doors throughout the County. Through the alignment of our partnerships, Hudson County’s business community had access to the training and skill set development necessary to prepare for, survive and thrive through the Covid-19 pandemic.” Michelle Richardson, Executive Director, Hudson County Economic Development Corporation.

“Being an entrepreneur anywhere takes grit, strength, and a willingness to learn. Here in Hudson County, I’ve found a welcoming and supportive community that keeps pushing forward to provide the right environment to help us grow. Working together and knowing that other people are on the same journey is an invaluable and inspiring experience. I’m often asked for words of advice for other entrepreneurs, and I always say, never give up and ask for help; there are so many programs through local organizations and Chambers. Get involved!”

Getting involved and making a difference in the lives of others takes many forms at Fit 4 A Better Me. For over 6 years, every December Brenda participates in the Kids Blessing Bag Project by helping to organize donations of essential items, clothing, and gifts to various local shelters. Always exploring ways to connect with more organizations focused on women’s health, Brenda is looking forward to expanding her community and discovering new doors opening for business owners and entrepreneurs.

Free 10-Week Summer Fitness Program held at Harmon Cove, Secaucus, NJ.

Download the May 2022 Business Spotlight at: Fit 4 a Better Me

 

Reynaldo Diaz, GID LLC.

Reynaldo Diaz immigrated from El Salvador to Guttenberg in the 1980s, where he received citizenship in the 1990s.  Today, he and his wife Suzanne Zikas are proud North Bergen residents who both work in fashion and the importing and exporting of textiles.

“We just love the diversity and small-town feeling here.  Coming from Latin America to a community comprised mostly of immigrants looking for a better life creates an ideal environment for entrepreneurs of all kinds.  Hudson County’s location can’t be beaten, it is just so accessible.  For our business, easy access to New York City and international shipping hubs is essential.” Reynaldo and Suzanne both agree there is nothing like the support and sense of unity they’ve experienced.

“Through COVID, I was unable to receive shipments and travel to meet clients and do business.  As a global company with a local footprint, this posed huge challenges for me.  Receiving the SBA loan from the UCEDC kept my business going while I worked from home while also allowing me to support all my local businesses.  The financial assistance I received at a local level is what quality of life is all about and is a unique feature of this amazing County,” shares Reynaldo.

Michelle Richardson, Executive Director, Hudson County Economic Development Corporation (HCEDC) shared, “We set out in 2017 to partner with a diverse group of lenders with the financial resources that align with HCEDC’s mission to assist our small business community.  We’re proud to have created a network for referrals through our affiliated partners to allow small businesses to access customized solutions for their unique needs.”

“The HCEDC and UCEDC are mission-driven to help small businesses succeed.  Our priorities aligned during the pandemic, and we were able to be even more responsive and accessible to local businesses.  This was a huge benefit to small businesses as the HCEDC was on the ground and in constant communication with partners and businesses to provide the best resources and options available.  Together, we built a powerful partnership and a seamless process for small business owners.” Adam Farrah, President, UCEDC.

Reynaldo reflects on being an entrepreneur in Hudson County.  “If you are looking to open a small business, but do not know where to start or how to financially open doors, look into resources in your area.  Fill out as many applications for loans as you can because organizations like HCEDC and UCEDC will be there to make it happen and offer advice.”

Chic Diva Spa

Every year, immigrants and entrepreneurs are choosing Hudson County as their home thanks to our diversity and accessibility to pursue their hopes and dreams. “Our mission at Hudson County Economic Development Corporation is to help them realize their goals by connecting them with the training, education, information and access to capital through our powerful network of partners,” said Michelle Richardson, Executive Director. Chic Diva Spa is one of the many stories which illustrate how it all comes together.

“The support we received from organizations such as UCEDC, The Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, and others was critical to our success here.” Shared Ana Centeno, owner of Chic Diva Spa with partner Blanca Dole, “As immigrants from Honduras, we immediately felt welcomed in Hudson County and were provided with all the resources we needed to start our lives here.”

One of the first connections Ana made was with Reina Valenzuela of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (SHCCNJ). Reina immediately went to work to assist Ana and Blanca by enrolling them into SHCCNJ’s HETP program; providing business coaching, renewal of business licenses, certifications, applying for loans, and necessary strategies to grow their business. Through the affiliated partnerships among the SHCCNJ and HCEDC, Ana was introduced to the UCEDC to provide them access to the capital the businesses needed through the pandemic.

“Our continuous goal is to promote community economic development. We provide our clients with access to entrepreneurial capital, and related business development services such as loans, loan packaging, government procurement assistance, training in English & Spanish, and technical mentoring services to offer small businesses solutions to challenging obstacles,” said Adam Farrah, President of UCEDC.

Chic Diva Spa, a Holistic Center operating in North Bergen since 2015, continues to be a valued service for the community, a place where clients become family and have the opportunity to recharge. When asked about what advice they have for other small business owners in Hudson County, Ana says without hesitation, “Education! Educate yourself about the resources available at a state, county, and community level. Take classes and training courses– most of them are free! It may be hard running a business all day, however, understanding how to do things properly for your business will only drive it to greater success.”

Brand Intelligence

 

Resilience is commonly associated with Hudson County and its diverse community of residents and businesses. Mary Olson’s branding and marketing firm, Brand Intelligence, exemplifies this quality and brings a unique perspective, vision, and skill set to the region.

Mary’s journey to  Hudson County began over 25 years ago when she was forced to leave her downtown New York City office due to the devastating attacks of 9/11. Mary continued her entrepreneurial drive by embarking on new business opportunities Jersey City offered. She immersed herself in the diverse community, networking, educating, and evolving her business into a branding advisory firm. Reflecting on Hudson County as a whole, she shared, “When I moved to Hudson County, I immediately felt welcomed by the business community and was impressed by the resources available to me to be able to rebuild my business. The cultural diversity and energy here continue to inspire me.”

The onset of the COVID-19 crisis posed extraordinary challenges for small business owners like Mary, who lost 80% of business revenue. Through the referral from Michelle Richardson, Executive Director of the Hudson County Economic Development Corporation (HCEDC), Mary connected with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at New Jersey City University (NJSBDC at NJCU) and was provided with funding options to keep her business secure.

“The COVID-19 crisis presented unforeseen challenges to our business community. Our response to provide access to information, available funding, and resources was critical to the ongoing health and growth of the Hudson County economy.” Richardson stated. She facilitated the relationship between Mary and Karen McIntyre, Community Outreach & Employer Engagement at NJCU’s SBDC. “The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers’ network is committed to guiding established small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to create and expand their business enterprises which will, in turn, result in sustainable growth, job creation and statewide economic development and prosperity.”

When asked about the importance of community relationships, Mary emphasized, “HCEDC, NJSBDC at NJCU, and Jersey City Economic Development Corporation reopened the doors for my business. HCEDC, with the leadership of Michelle Richardson, provides extraordinary knowledge and research into every resource available for small business owners like myself.” She continued, “These organizations focus on supporting entrepreneurs with the financial backing and personable reassurance to know someone is there thinking about you.” HCEDC is committed to supporting small business owners to continue to grow their business in Hudson County and advance economic development on a local level.

Have questions about resources available for your business? Click here.

PAZ Music Academy

Established in 1985, Paz Music Academy of Kearny, a unique multi-generational business continues to transform Hudson County’s families and special needs communities through the teaching of appreciation, theory and technique. Today, Yanina and Roberto Paz further a family tradition and love of music which began with Roberto’s father in Spain.

Roberto reflected on the means of transforming his family’s dream into a successful business by stating, “The American Dream is to come to America to start a business, plant seeds, and develop roots to give to the next generation. We’re living proof of that hard work. When my father immigrated to Newark in 1969, he taught music from the basement of a local Church. “Now, as parents to 3 children, we are proud to be 2nd generation owners, and we are continuing to thrive thanks to Hudson County’s focus on diversity and support of small businesses.”

Hudson County Economic Development Corporation focuses on diversity and support of local businesses by offering programs and opportunities through partnerships to shape and continue to grow Hudson County. Through word-of-mouth, Yanina discovered the HETP/LETS (Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program/Latina Entrepreneurship Training Series) sponsored by The Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Carlos A Medina, ESQ. President/CEO of SHCCNJ, emphasizes the impact of the organization, “The Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization that has been the voice of 120,000 Hispanic-owned businesses that contribute over $20 billion to the state’s economy. We’re proud to be serving this vibrant and vital community, and to promote the continued growth and development of Hispanic entrepreneurs, such as the PAZ learning center.”

Yanina emphasized the importance of community outreach and business training by stating, “These programs speak directly to the needs of small business owners and have been essential to our business’ health. Everything I learned significantly accelerated our capacities as new owners as Roberto and I assumed those responsibilities only 3 years ago. The personalized attention I received from my coaches Tatiana Orozco, from Torozco Digital, and Susana Fonticoba, from Clear Path Strategy, empowered me with not only the knowledge I needed to be a better business owner but the understanding and practice of how to organize back-end operations. The program offered tools and marketing tactics to grow our current client base while re-engaging existing students to build our community and brand loyalty. Throughout the process, I greatly benefited from connecting with other local business owners to share successes, get advice and ask questions.”

“The Hudson County Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a cornerstone of our approach to ensure that we are advancing our mission to ‘Open Doors’ for all businesses and organizations in Hudson County. Education, training, information and access to capital in concert with affordable housing are services we are proud to help provide to fuel growth in our diverse and underserved communities.” Michelle Richardson, Executive Director, HCEDC.

According to Yanina Paz the future looks very bright as Paz Music Academy continues to evolve. “The pandemic and training we’ve received opened doors to reinvent and adapt our business. We’ve seen a 400% increase in enrollment since the HETP/LETS training program and it’s wonderful knowing that I can continue to rely on their support and expertise as we grow and find new ways to serve the community. Small businesses like ours are making such a difference here, we’re hiring more teachers and expanding our hours of operation. Everyone benefits when we work together.”

The Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has opened their applications for the 2022 Hispanic Entrepreneurship Training Program. If you think your business could be a fit from this program, we encourage you to apply. The application link can be found here.