This week, I had the privilege to attend and participate in the inaugural Small Business Awards Day program at Proctors Theatre in the heart of our beloved City of Schenectady. It was a significant milestone as we came together to applaud the resilience, innovation, and unwavering spirit of our small business community.

When the call for nominations echoed through our community, the response was nothing short of overwhelming. Nearly 70 small businesses were nominated, ranging from the newest startups to the dedicated pet groomers who add a touch of love to our city. The influx of over 100 emails served as a testament to the deep connection and support our residents have for the small businesses that make Schenectady thrive.

Out of this inspiring pool of nominations, many businesses emerged, and those that received the most votes were Gifted Hands Barber Shop, Amsler’s Auto Sales, Jus Kickback, a Pinup Jodan’s Mermaid Lounge, and Lagioia Italian Deli. These businesses have not only enriched our community but have also become integral parts of the tapestry that makes Schenectady unique.

One of our guest speakers for this momentous occasion is none other than Heather Lent, a visionary small business owner and the mind behind Bittersweet Candy Store on Jay Street. Her journey, much like those of our many entrepreneurs, is a story of passion, dedication, and the pursuit of dreams. The keynote speaker was Michael Dermer, author of “The Lonely Entrepreneur” whose words inspired us all.

In addition to celebrating business success, we took pride in recognizing individuals who go above and beyond to serve our community. Kenneth Brooks, whose small business involves nurturing young minds to plant trees throughout our city, was presented with a well-deserved Community Service Award.

This exciting journey of acknowledging and celebrating our small business community leads us to reflect on the vital role they play in shaping the character and prosperity of Schenectady. Together, we contribute to making this city a vibrant, dynamic, and inclusive place to call home.

Let’s collectively embrace the spirit of community and entrepreneurship that defines Schenectady. Here’s to the success of our small businesses and the bright future they continue to build for us all!

Honorees for the 2023 Small Business Awards program were:

Kenneth Brooks, Ground Up Landscaping

Linda MacFarlane, Executive Director of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region

John Samatulski, President of Urban Initiatives Group

Nominees also include:

Jason Chicoine, Rose Bordett, Destiny Watkins, Chenrae Experience, Styld n’ EMRGD, Upstate Moving “Best Customer Service”, Christina Cruz of Grounded Goddess, She is Beauty “Best Hair Salon & Customer Service”, Lucid Writers/Lucid Voices, Haus of Blaq – Marquitta Beasely, Blissful Events by Nadine “Best Start Up Business”, Unbeetable, Smalls on Jay, Sandyes Cafe “Best Cake Decorator”, Cornell’s, Johnny’s, Jasmine Thai Restaurant, Memphis King “Best Barbecue and Best Customer Service”, Zen Asian Fusion Lounge, Newest Lunch, Alese Johnson – Touched by Love Hair Studio “Best Hair Salon”, “O” the Barber – Orlando Hundley “Best Barber”, Yacine African Hair Braiding “Best Hair Salon & Stylist”, Steven Hines “Best Barber”, City Hair, Maria Anderson – Latin Paradise Salon, Paul Mitchell Beauty School, Ashley Parish – Paul Mitchell Beauty School, High Profile Barber Shop, Lou Grasso “Best Barber”, Jorge Colon “Best Barber and Best Barber Shop”, Janice Beauty Salon, Natty’s Barber Shop, Nicholas Smalls – Cuts n Blends, Homestyle Pizza, Marino’s Pizza, Sicilian Pizza, Pizza King, Paesan’s Pizza, Paulie’s Pizza, Bear and Bird Boutique, Jing Dudley “Best Landlord”, Bridget & Ted Congdon “Best Landlord”, Elite Nail Bar, Chas Burch “Best Customer Service”, Yatianna Tirado, Do it with Sheas Concierge & Errand Services – Sheika Stone, Sherana Barakat of Trustco Bank “Best Teller”, Sernetta Jackson of Pioneer Bank, Jordan Yanatos – The Mermaid Lounge, Northeastern Jewelers, Uncle Sam’s Candy Store, Bittersweet Candy, Sugar Rush – Angela Love, Hernas Veterinary Clinic, Terry Baker of All Pro House, Bonnie’s Grooming – Bonnie Hernandez, Sonja’s Pet Salon, Paws Grooming – Tatiana, Head to Tail Pet Wellness Center, Nic Cook at NC Photography “Best Photographer”, Jay Street Pub, Livingston Energy Group/Lynkwell “Doing Big Things Award”,  and Mediation Matters.