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2018 Small Business Awards Recognizes Local Economic Vitality

July 6, 2018

The Chamber recently recognized and celebrated small business in Norwalk at the Small Business Awards luncheon on June 7. The event, hosted by the Small Business Council, honored several area businesses and organizations for their entrepreneurial spirit, success and commitment to the community. The winners included the Fairfield County Makers Guild, Italia Restaurant, New England Fashion + Design Association, Potoo, and Under One Roof at The Marvin. Below is some information about each of them.

Vladimir Mariano, The Fairfield County Makers Guild, Entrepreneur Award

From the interests and initiative of a small group of engineering and arts enthusiasts that met regularly on an informal basis, the Guild was organized in 2014 into a 501 (c) 3. It now offers memberships and a space for community participants to develop their projects on a variety of interests including 3D printing, robotics and the development of other ideas and inventions.

Fairfield County Makers Guild has provided administrative support, staff training and recommendations on equipment purchases to the Norwalk Community College Makers Space, the libraries of Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Norwalk and Danbury. The organization was recognized by the Obama Administration and invited to a White House gathering of national makers spaces by the Science and Technology Commission. Recently, the Guild was a partner with the City of Norwalk in their application for an Innovative Community grant application.

Italia Restaurant, Generations Award

Italia Restaurant was purchased in 1976 by three Taccone brothers, Joe, Gianni and Silvano. It is now one of one of Norwalk’s longest running family owned restaurants. Originally from the Italian island of Ischia, the Taccone’s serve authentic Italian food. After opening a second store in 1985, they expanded to three stores. In 2016, Italia was given a makeover to celebrate their 40th Anniversary.

The Taccone family has been involved within the community by supporting many local and non-profit organizations, including the Norwalk High School Marching Band, Norwalk Sons of Italy, golf tournaments, and Holy Smoke Hangout (A local Christian youth outreach). They have sponsored many sport teams: including softball, bowling, basketball, and of course, bocce.

Under One Roof/The Marvin, Nonprofit Award

Under One Roof at the Marvin has become a national model for successfully providing affordable housing with services, a nationally accredited preschool program, and a unique intergenerational program. The only facility like it in the state, Under One Roof is located at the original Marvin School grammar school in East Norwalk. The Marvin provides apartments for seniors as well as services for them, including a meal, light housekeeping, 24-hour on-site staff, and linkages to city, state and private support services. In addition, onsite is The Marvin Children’s Center, a full-day, full-year preschool and childcare center serving three- and four year olds. By sharing a single facility, seniors and children share intergenerational activities, providing long-lasting benefits for all. 

New England Fashion + Design Association, Arts & Culture Award

The New England Fashion + Design Association (NEF+DA) was born of a dream by Irina Simeonova, who spent 22 years creating fashion in Europe and America, to introduce fashion design classes to all ages. The organization was launched in a coffee shop in Stamford, programming a few local events in 2006. In 2008, the Association opened its first location in Norwalk in the South Norwalk Train Station, where it still operates today.

NEF+DA offers classes to children age six through adults, not as basic sewing classes, but as professional training to prepare students for their dream of becoming part of the fashion industry. The organization also functions as an adult fashion design incubator by offering workshops in sewing, design, and creating a pre-college portfolio. It provides internships and work opportunities for NEF+DA students and offers summer camps.

POTOO Marketing, Innovation & Technology Award

David Veber and Fred Dimyan founded POTOO Marketing in 2014 when the two former colleagues realized that vetting Amazon sellers for brand companies in exchange for a small cut in sales would be a viable business model. POTOO helps brands gain better control over those selling their products on Amazon, allowing the brand to control the seller’s practices or have them stop selling their product altogether. The company’s namesake is a bird species that resides in the Amazon and is an integral part of the forest ecosystem but nearly invisible to the naked eye. Like the bird, POTOO works behind the scenes, but is vital to the success of many others. The company now provides service for seven of the ten largest brands sold on Amazon.

POTOO gives back to its community by partnering itself with STAR and is a sponsor of the Celebrating Hope foundation, as well as contributing meals by working with SnackStation to support hunger relief. 

In addition to the Small Business Awards, Rick Tavella of Rick’s Main Roofing was recognized with the Community Spirit Award for his work as the Chairman of the Small Business Council, as he steps down, and also for his significant contributions to the community overall.

Congratulations to all our winners and thank you for helping to make Norwalk a great place to work, eat, design and innovate!