Carolyn Dorfman Dance

Nomination from Sue Elderman

What an amazing treasure is located right in our own back yard. The Dance Studio is designed for both the serious dance student and dance enthusiast. With a passion to study modern dance techniques with an opportunity to perform live. Early in the pandemic Carolyn was forced to recreate her business plan adapting a virtual component to a very real dance reality.

All programing went virtual for the 2020-2021. Creating educational video packaging opportunities.

As the pandemic wore on and in person work remained impossible. They held virtual classes for the public, providing a calming and relaxing escape during a grueling year.

Caroyln continued rehearsing with her professionals maintaining 308 artists through Covid. Fortunately Carolyn is an early adopter of technology and her administrative staff is pretty tech savvy so she was able to train her co members and staff in everything she needed to know about operating in this new virtual world. Her quick responses to challenging times makes her a champion in my book!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Before Carolyn Dorfman Dance knew that the world would completely shut down mid-March 2020, that we would receive help from new and established foundations, and a program like the Payroll Protection Plan would happen, Carolyn and I decided that we would keep our doors open. That meant maintaining the full company (14 full-time and 2 part-time staff), working to save all the educational contracts (all our major, lucrative residencies were underway or about to start in the March period), and continue trying to plan our annual gala (scheduled for May 2nd at NJPAC) when the world shutdown.

We immediately contacted all K-12, university partners and negotiated figuring out how to fulfill our teaching, performing and/or lecture demonstrations as they were figuring out how to operate virtually. ED Thomas and Marketing Communication/Development Manager Shaffner, participated almost daily/throughout the week in informational calls from multiple chambers, national and NJ non-profit organizations, NJ and national based arts organizations and a few social justice, civic advocacy organizations. Fortunately, Carolyn is an early adopter of technology, our administrative staff is pretty tech savvy, so we trained our company members and entire staff in everything we needed to know about operating in the virtual world.

Although all in-person galas were canceled, at the last minute we e-vited our donors and patrons for support using the image developed for the gala invitation and we were fortunate to receive approximately $30,000 in donations. As the pandemic wore on and in-person work remained impossible, we held free virtual masterclasses for the public, including taking time before class to discuss the racial/political atrocity of the week. Carolyn continued rehearsing with the dancers via zoom to fulfill the commission for Ocean County College to create a new dance work to the music of jazz legend Louie Prima, Jr. We, also, conducted a shortened summer dance intensive; and completed a virtual creation called Alone/Together with our international partners from the National Ballet of Sarajevo.

Albeit a grueling, frightening, and intense year, it also was an exhilarating year, replete with new learnings, personal and organizational determination, and emotional fortitude and resilience.

During the 2019-2020 season, in New Jersey Carolyn Dorfman Dance engaged 308 artists, including our 10-member company, and entertained/educated more than 2,800 people. Our programming: 9 Performances presented by 7 Venues; 8 Educational Residences, which included 2 Performances, equating to 121 Classes; 5 Master Classes and 12 Lectures or Lecture Series. Counties served: Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Ocean, Passaic, and Union. Our total attendance (including out-of-state) was 5,925.

All programming was virtual in 2020 and 2021. After creating an educational video package for an elementary school district in 2020 who restricted outside vendors from directly teaching their students virtually, that school district returned in 2021 to re-use the video. We made a business/financial decision that we would charge a licensing fee, and, to our surprise, they were happy to do so. Consequently, this showed us we have a new educational product that can be sold to schools, community organizations in and outside of NJ. This is a preliminary way for an organization to hire us, who may have a limited budget, schedule or as a way introduce us to their students, populations in preparation of us being hired for a more expensive, long-term residency and/or tour. We were also able to raise funds from a new pandemic funder and the NJ Cultural Trust to hire a full-time digital marketing assistant, with videography skills, to create these new packages.

Crow And The Coconut Yoga

Nomination from Clare Cruz

As a frontline worker, I saw the devastation that COVID-19 pandemic brought to mankind. I felt the pain and suffering that my patients, colleagues, friends and family went through. We spent long hours with our patients and colleagues’ covered faces and muffled voices. Smiling faces have disappeared, comforting hugs were forbidden. I needed a space to calm my mind and heart, this is what “Crow and the Coconut Yoga” provided for me during the pandemic. The small businesses STRUGGLED but the studio is PASSIONATE and COMMITTED in the wellbeing of its community.

The studio offered FREE MEDITATION CLASSES during the pandemic. They also offered classes via LIVESTREAM as well as OUTDOORS. They also offered FREE OUTDOOR YOGA CLASSES when businesses were beginning to open. The studio collaborated with the town of Union to offer THREE MONTHS of FREE YOGA to the first 25 attendees at an event. The studio demonstrated its resiliency on how the owner and staff was able to modify their business model to be able to give and serve their community during the pandemic.

For this reason, I am nominating “Crow and the Coconut Yoga” as the Union County Small Business Community Champion! Thank you for this opportunity to be able to recognize and celebrate a special small business like this.

Nomination from Ashley Generallo

For so many of us, yoga is more than a workout, relaxation and meditation. It is essential to bring us strength, peace and calm in our lives just like on our mats. Jowell has done everything to give this community a safe and comfortable space, especially through the pandemic. Jowell worked tirelessly to ensure we still had outdoor and zoom classes.

She opened the studio as soon as possible since the need for yoga was even stronger. In the evening classes, the studio provides a place for me to forget the hard parts of the day and in the morning, gives me intention and energy for the day to come. My life has changed for the better significantly since the Crow opened over 2 years ago and I can’t wait to spend many more years there.

Nomination from Wendy Ramirez

During Covid lockdown, they offered classes via livestream as well as outdoors that were super helpful and safe. Free meditation & outdoor yoga classes were offered.

With Union township, they offered 3 months free yoga to first 25 attendees & I was thrilled to have won! Grateful for this welcoming and inspiring studio in my backyard!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we believed it was more important than ever to remain connected with each other while ensuring everyone’s safety.

We offered classes via livestream. Free meditation classes were also available during the pandemic. When businesses were beginning to open we offered free outdoor yoga classes. We also collaborated with Union Township to offer free yoga for new students. Once we were able to open our doors we took extra precautions to ensure our student’s safety. Our teachers wore masks and were required to sanitize prior to entering, while in the studio and leaving the studio.

We increased time between classes to allow for proper disinfection. Some of our teachers generously taught for free. Our students continued to practice with us. It was a challenging and humbling time. We learned from each other, embraced the changes and moved forward with our lives together. We are blessed and grateful to have our students and community’s support.

Girl Talk Meet Up

Nomination from M. Stewart

In 2017 Erica hosted her 1st in-person Girl Talk Meetup, which I was in attendance for and I truly felt that Girl Talk Meetup was a sacred space for women like myself to share and grow personally and professionally together. The in-person meetups/workshops, coaching sessions and conferences included topics such as:

  • Life, Career and Business Goal Setting
  • Health and Wellness Coaching
  • Financial Literacy Information
  • Dating and Marriage Success
  • Mental Health Awareness

Over the last 4 years, Erica has used the Girl Talk Meetup platform to help inspire and empower young ladies in their 20s thru women upward in age, with a few of these women in their mid 70s this includes me and my girlfriends. I am not only a proud mother but I am also a highly impressed client. When the world was struck by a global pandemic (COVID 19) and businesses were forced to close their doors. Erica quickly shifted her mindset, energy and business.

On March 28, 2020 Girl Talk Meetup hosted it’s very 1st virtual meetup. This pivot from in-person to virtual meet-ups, coaching sessions, and conferences visually happened so naturally. The 1st Virtual Girl Talk Meetup was a Check-In and in my eyes this was so thoughtful of her to host this session to see how her coaches and clients were doing and to ask if we needed any assistance.

As the months went on in 2020, I noticed that the monthly virtual Girl Talk Meetups shifted to topics that could help women like me to make the best of our time while being at home.
The new topics included:

  • The Importance of Mindset and Intentions
  • Organizing and Maximizing Your Space
  • What to Do With the Money You’re Saving
  • Help with Buying or Selling a Home

In addition to the above sessions in November 2020, Girl Talk Meetup hosted a virtual Women’s Wellness Conference entitled “Super Charge Your Life: Recognize, Accept and Nourish.” This conference was awesome. It included guest speakers, breakout room coaching sessions, vendors, prizes and the opportunity to network and fellowship with each other. Again this showed how committed Erica was to providing women with resources and information to help them fulfill their personal and professional goals.

In my opinion not only has Girl Talk Meetup shown resilience during a pandemic but it has continued to contribute to the well-being of its community of women both in-person and virtually. Furthermore, providing me and so many other women with the support that we needed during a time of uncertainty, and I am looking forward to future workshops.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Girl Talk Meetup was created in 2018 to inspire and empower women to transform their personal and professional visions into reality.

During the global pandemic COVID, Girl Talk Meetup movement continued to provide virtual services to women in need of a coaching, accountability, mentoring and encouragement. Life during difficult times brought women together not only in New Jersey but across the United States. As a Certified Life and Career Coach, Erica Bell and her team of professional coaches pivoted and begin offering several coaching/educational sessions that ranged mental health and social awareness, intellectual , spiritual, physical, and occupational supportive services.

Who is Erica Bell?
30+ year resident of Union Township and graduate of Kean University.
My passion for serving and guiding others to own their destiny represents my own success story of designing my destiny.

My coaching journey started 12 years ago but my professional career as an educator extends beyond 20 years. As a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in coaching for individuals, groups, executives, and businesses, I am inspired daily by the privilege to help people like you envision your future potential, build your confidence and finally own the destiny you deserve.

I have walked my own path of self-doubt through personal losses, challenging relationships and questioning my self-worth. Coaching and therapy helped me to be who I am today and I want to get you started on your journey to self-discovery

Gladys’ Cleaning Service

Nomination from Any Oliva

Gladys´ Cleaning Service is a small business dedicated to the field of cleaning. Founded 18 years ago by Gladys Vonglahn a Latino woman from Union County who came to this country with the clear purpose of consistently working to forge a legacy for her family and generations to come. On the 18th anniversary of Gladys Cleaning Service, the COVID crisis began.

The pandemic affected the company at first as it dedicated 90 percent to the residential cleaning area. She found herself with the challenge of not being able to enter the houses of her clients. This situation far from paralyzing her company, prompted her to take the decision to make the shift to the commercial area knowing that now more than ever companies must be clean, disinfected and sanitized to be able to safely invite their employees and clientele. Gladys´ Cleaning Service started a strong campaign of Marketing, Branding and Advertising supported by the state certifications of MWBE, SBE, WBE, MBE. Gladys began serving companies such as Paycheck, Grupo La Providencia, Malqui Tax, Aerofarms, Kartago, See-More Appliance Center, Yellow Bear Cleaners, Consulate of Peru in New Jersey, among many other companies. Instead of shying away from the challenge Gladys Cleaning Service got to work and grew its clientele by 50 percent. Gladys Vonglahn was recognized for her resilient character and the way she coped with the crises by the Business Magazine, Negocios Hispanos USA Magazine, ROI NJ Business Magazine, BNI Group, Pay Check National Newsletter, Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Gladys Vonglahn has a great spirit of helping the community, which is why in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic she co-founded a Business Platform as support and empowerment of small business owners “Presente Digital” with the firm purpose of supporting entrepreneurs to transform the crisis in an opportunity and to encourage formal and organized commerce among the Latino community through knowledge, experience and education. Gladys Vonglahn is a respected leader in the field of cleaning and an entrepreneur committed to growing the community.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

When Gladys’ Cleaning Service realized the negatively health/economic impact due Covid 19 in March 2020, we decided to implement a safety guidance for the protection of our clients and ourselves. We understand the importance of the cleaning procedures during these difficult times.
We are practicing social distancing, wearing mask covering all the time within our mouth and nose, using disposable gloves, wearing cover shoes, changing our vacuum bags after each client, and sanitizing our hands afterwards.

We were providing residential cleaning service for many years. Suddenly, the pandemic hit us so badly in the residential area that the impact towards my business plans to the commercial area which in the beginning was very affected. However, unlike big companies, we overcome the difficult challenges of Covid by staying safe and satisfying customers.

I realized the need to provide a professional cleaning service to this segment so the economy can still be running. It was a huge challenge to learn new cleaning standards, and work with new cleaning supplies.

My main motivation to keep Gladys’ Cleaning Service was the passion for my career in the cleaning industry. I had to reinvent myself, think out of the box, and make quick decisions before my business were to die like others during this difficult time. Also, I am first generation of immigrants so I can adapt easily to huge changes in life so I knew it that I have to do something great to keep my dream business alive. Besides, I am a faithful and positive women so I am used to change negative time in a great lessons of my life.

The way that I found to help our community was funding with my partner Any Oliva “Presente Digital” a live platform weekly program online to support our Latino community through motivational messages, bringing professionals like psychologists, business coaches, accounting people, community leaders, and consuls as sources of information to people who did not how to overcome the pandemic.

IRIS Environmental Laboratories

Nomination from Todd Charleson

The feeling of safety IRIS provides in a world of COIVD is unparalleled. They make sure everybody is and was checked before entering the perimeter. They ensure all the tools and samples were cleaned and sanitized.

IRIS did their best to keep their employees even during lockdown periods when the business was forced to face 65% less sales. They improved digital capabilities in order to keep social distance!

They were also AWARDED 5 franchised locations during the Pandemic and has hired new employees from the local community.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

One of the company’s most critical moments was during the COVID-19 Pandemic. With the economy practically stagnated and health concerns in place, IRIS had to take several measures, not only to ensure the company would survive, but survive with stability. The first measure was to enforce health security measures among all workers, making sure they were complying with CDC regulations.

Following these procedures, that IRIS started making, IRIS made sure all samples received would go through a sanitization process, as well as the tools and supplies after using them. Second, IRIS created an institutional video about the pandemic to demonstrate that IRIS is committed with their employees and customers. Third, IRIS developed a contingency plan together with the employees to adapt to the economic downturn, which enabled them to retain their entire workforce. This set of measures has enabled IRIS to maintain the stability of the company, the safety of their employees and keep the local community serviced through Asbestos, Mold and Indoor testing and inspections.

IRIS Environmental Laboratories was formed by the dream of two brothers to come together after living apart for more than 20 years. The company started in 2012 in a bedroom with no employees and has never stopped since. At the end of 2019 IRIS started to offer a franchise model nationwide when the pandemic hit in the beginning of 2020. Even with the economic downturn IRIS decided to keep its action plan and in March 2020 awarded its first franchisees. IRIS currently has territories in NJ, FL, NY and is proud to encourage others across the country to be entrepreneurs. IRIS is proud to be born and raised in Union NJ.

Jammed Up Bakery

Nomination from Courtney Little -Vozos

Established in 2018. Jammed Up Bakery is a bakery for people & dogs, by the owners of Van Gogh’s Ear Café. During the pandemic, Jammed Up started several new initiatives to adapt to the lack of in-person shopping and reduction of private parties and functions of cakes.

These initiatives included establishing nation-wide shipping and encouraging customers to send cookies and pastries to their loved ones near and far; selling “provisions” including eggs, flour, milk, and other kitchen staples; and creating to-go treat boxes, allowing their patrons to bring the magic of an extra special dessert home. The treat box packages include everything from at-home cookie decorating for holidays to the classic milk and cookies combination.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

Jammed Up Bakery was opened December of 2018 to act as the bakery of our other business, Van Gogh’s Ear Cafe. In March of 2020, when faced with the COVID-19 outbreak, our first instinct was to just close the doors to the bakery and see what happens over the next few weeks. We had very few employees at the bakery, and wanted to focus on making sure we could keep our other businesses running. A few days into lockdown we had the idea to ship our cookies.

We started out as a very basic operation, shipping cookies mostly to our family and friends. But then those friends and family shipped to their friends and families, and before we knew it we were bringing back our staff to make more cookies, and ship them! Spring 2020 was a dark and lonely time for a lot of people, but it turns out cookies are a great way of telling someone you can’t be with, that you miss them. As our shipping business grew we started teaming up with local groups to send cookies to essential hospital workers locally and across the country. We even shipped cookies (along with some much needed PPE) to friends on the Navajo nation as they were getting hit hard with COVID.

Looking back we realize that COVID should have probably closed our new business down, but we actually were able to grow throughout COVID, and hire more bakers on the other end of it. We are still shipping our cookies nationwide, and change our flavor choices monthly! You can get anything from a basic chocolate chip cookie to some of our more exotic flavors like Bahama Mama or Bourbon Bacon BBQ delivered right to your door, nationwide!