Professional Woman of the Year
Carla Cosenzi- Tommy Motor Car Group
Carla Cosenzi grew up in the family business, but never had any intention of making that her life’s work. She earned a baccalaureate from Northeastern and masters from Columbia in Clinical Psychology. After graduation, her dad invited her to work in the business for a while. She fell in love with the automobile industry and enjoyed working alongside her dad.
She attended Dealer Academy and learned the business by working in every facet from parts/service to sales to gain experience within the company. During this time, she fought to earn respect in this male dominated world. She says that facing that challenge made her into the businesswoman she is today.
In 2007, her father, Tom, was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor. With her brother, Tommy, the two of them worked together with their father to prepare the business for the transition ahead. Tom fought a courageous battle for over two years. Unfortunately, he lost the battle on Sept 3, 2009 and it was then that Carla and Tommy became the new owners.
Carla and Tommy work together through respect and communication to grow their father’s legacy. She credits their success to the employees who helped grow the business into the successful one it is today. Carla is actively involved in the community and also started the Tom Cosenzi Driving for the Cure Charity Golf Tournament in memory of her father.
Her favorite quote is from Lee Iaccoca, “To succeed today, you must set priorities and decide what you stand for.”
Young Careerist of the Year
Erin Catherine- Winstanley Partners
If a careerist is defined as one who passionately pursues the advancement of their professional aims, then Erin Catherine being voted, “Young Careerist of the Year” is an award well earned. A young lady focused on her goals, Erin studied creative advertising and graduated Magna Cum Laude with her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008. While at VCU, her activities included the University Honors Program, Kappa Tau Alpha, and the VCU Ad Club, where she honed her knowledge and awareness of advertising successfully.
In 2008 she received a Student Silver Addy award, and an Advertising Club of New York scholarship, and a Student Bronze award from the Richmond Ad Club. Additionally, she was “Judges Choice” at the DSVC National Advertising Student Show and Conference in 2009. This Williamsburg, Virginia native currently resides in Pittsfield where serves as a Junior Copywriter for Winstanley Partners, a full service advertising and creative media company, located in Lenox, MA.
At Winstanley, she continues to exhibit her skills as a writer who aptly incorporates her previous marketing and advertising experiences into her current position. For her work, the Albany Ad Club in Albany, NY, recently awarded Erin the Silver Addy Award for Digital Advertising on her work for GE Energy Storage. A 2013 graduate of the Berkshire Leadership Program, Erin is definitely a young “woman to watch”, whose skills and knowledge of social media and integrated marketing will move her forward in this digital age.
Her favorite quote is, "Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,"- J.R.R. Tolkien
Volunteer Woman of the Year
Michelle Cayo- Country Bank
Michelle Cayo is the Vice President of Commercial Credit at Country Bank in Ware. Earning her baccalaureate in Business and masters in Communications from BayPath College, Michelle began her 15 year career in commercial credit at Hampden Bank.
Her career has provided many opportunities for Michelle to give back as a volunteer. After serving on the board of the Professional Women’s Chamber, an affiliate of the Affiliate Chambers of Greater Springfield for many years, she is currently completing her second term as president. However, of all of her volunteer efforts, there is one that grew from the heart.
Michelle is the mother of Nick Cayo, whom she describes as “an inspirational young man.” She says that, “He left a lasting impression on all he met with his witty sense of humor and took every opportunity to make people smile. His laugh was contagious and his love of life was limitless.” Nick was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in September 2011, and after a valiant fight, passed away on December 15, 2012, the day before his 13th birthday.
To honor her son, Michelle and her husband Ed reached out to the Jimmy Fund and were approved to host the first annual Steps for Pediatric Cancer Walk. The Walk, held September 14, 2013 in Look Park, raised $45,000 for the research of pediatric cancer.
Michelle’s favorite quote is from Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” She is.
Top Woman in Banking
Angela Vatter- Hampden Bank
Northampton native, Angela Vatter helps individuals and businesses meet their financial needs as Retail Banking Manager of Hampden Bank in Agawam. After working for a large commercial bank, Angela wanted to use her many years of banking experience to help a locally owned bank assist community members. Angela takes pride in “helping people meet the goals they set for themselves” and plans to continue developing her skills as a banker. Angela also is the secretary for the Agawam Small Business Assistance Center, member of the Agawam Lions Clubs and member of the Westfield State Executive Alumni Council.
Favorite Quote: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”-Herman Cain
Top Woman in Beauty
Leanne Sedlak- SkinCatering
Licensed massage therapist, Leanne Sedlak calls herself the “Chief Chiller-Outer” of her business, SkinCatering. In 2010, Leanne decided to combine her education, from the Message School in Easthampton, MA, with her extensive training and create a business to care for people inside and out. SkinCatering is a mobile spa with an in-spa location in South Hadley. Leanne looks forward to growing her business, expanding her team and locations and promoting her all-natural skin-care line in the future. She also hopes to “benefit the health of the world starting in the Pioneer Valley.”
Favorite Quote: “Those who achieve great things defeat long odds, and become legends, didn’t have anything you don’t have. They just kept showing up, expecting a miracle, long after everyone else got practical.”-Mike Dooley
Top Woman in Creative Arts
Erika Chrystal- Erika Chrystal Photography
To say Erika Chrystal is a busy woman is an understatement. Wife, mother of three, full-time student, dedicated volunteer, contracted photographer for Bella Baby Photography and owner of Erika Chrystal Photography out of Westfield are just some of the many hats she wears. She went into business in 2010 after almost a decade of photography experience, which started in an after school program learning film photography. She now works mainly with newborns, families and children and loves that she’s able to “freeze moments in time for them.” Hoping to expand her business to include wedding photography in the future, Erika does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Favorite Quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the word” -Mahatma Gandhi
Top Woman in Culinary Arts
Joanne Locke- Main Street Deli & Restaurant
Owner and CFO of Main Street Deli & Restaurant in Agawam, Joanne Locke does everything from the marketing and event planning to being the top chef and menu planner. She and her family have been involved in the food industry for over twenty years. Eight years ago, Joanne came aboard Main Street Deli & Restaurant to help her husband, Rick and son, Michael get the business off the ground. On top of the in-house deli and restaurant, Main Street also provides catering services for a variety of occasions, an area they are looking to further expand. Joanne’s passion to make the deli a second home for customers and staff continues to be driving force in her business.
Favorite Quote: “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny!”-Margaret Thatcher
Top Woman in Education
Stephanie Gendron- Clifford M. Granger School
Stephanie Gendron says her job does not stop at teaching kids how to read and write but rather can include being a nurse, comedian, mediator and everything in between. After earning her B.S in Elementary Education from Skidmore College, Stephanie went on to Westfield State College where she earned her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education, with a concentration in reading. She currently teaches at Clifford M. Granger School in Feeding Hills where she also serves on the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Team and is a 4th Grade Math Leader. Stephanie enjoys that no two days are ever the same, considers herself lucky to work with staff that is more like family and never gets tired of watching students achieve their goals. Aside from her busy professional life, Stephanie and her husband Kyle are expecting their first child in January.
Favorite Quote: “Don’t be afraid to stand for what you believe in, even if that means standing alone.”-Unknown
Top Woman in Event Planning
Tanya Costigan- Bowties & Butterflies Event Planning
Working on and off in the event planning industry since 1999, Tanya Costigan decided to start her own business in August of 2010 by combining previous experience and education with her passion for creativity. Bowties & Butterflies Event Planning is based in Westfield, but is more of a mobile office as Tanya meets with clients at venues, homes and other convenient locations to plan for upcoming events. Her job doesn’t stop at just wedding and event planning; she also does the designing, coordinating and installation work on her projects. Tanya says she still gets goose bumps from seeing spaces transformed and hopes that the roots she has planted help her to do this full-time one day.
Favorite Quote: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou.
Top Woman in Graphic & Web Design
Emily Susan Gaylord- Chikmedia
Emily Susan Gaylord is the cofounder, along with Megan Rothschild, of Chikmedia, a design and marketing firm directed at female business owners. In addition to this, Emily is Assistant Director for Marketing & Communications at Wilbraham & Monson Academy (WMA). She also supervises the daily community service program, WMAction. Emily has a strong background in community service. She has volunteered for the Open Pantry Teen Parent Program and Honest Beginnings sober home. In addition she has also previously worked for the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. She has recently been recognized by her alma mater, UMass Amherst, by being invited back for their annual Dining with the Stars event. She lives in Easthampton with her husband and two greyhounds.
Emily’s favorite quote is "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." – Eleanor Roosevelt
Top Woman in New Home Based Business
Debra Sorcinelli- It’s a Girl Thing
Debra Sorcinelli owns and operates It’s a Girl Thing, which offers “unique fashion jewelry plus some whimsical and inspiring gifts that celebrate the enduring bond and empowering sisterhood of women.” These items are sold at trade shows, corporate shows, and community events and make great gifts. She has been successful due in part to her willingness to “embrace change” and keep up with current trends and technology. Recently, she has shifted her online retail business to include mostly social network sales, and hosts a closed Facebook auction group entitled, “Shopping is Always the Answer”. Debra also supports local businesses through volunteering to organize “cash mobs.” She resides in Agawam with her husband, Bob, and her puppy, Lily.
Her favorite quote is "Embrace the current season of your life."- Gabrielle Blair
Top Woman in Insurance
Judith Davis- Insurance Center of New England, Inc
A strong sense of humor and an even stronger sense of integrity are Judy Davis’s trademarks. The Vice-President of Sales in the Employee Benefits Division at the Insurance Center of New England in Agawam, she has been working in the insurance field for about 35 years. During that time, she has worked for a number of companies. She was Vice-President of Employee Benefits at Bank North for several years before being hired to jump-start the department at ICNE. She never loses sight of the human factor. Most of her clients have worked with her for over 15 years: some have even become personal friends, and “that in itself is most gratifying. I like the fact that they value my work, my expertise, and my integrity.”
Favorite quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou
Top Woman in Law
Elizabeth Ginter- Bacon & Wilson
Elizabeth Ginter of Bacon & Wilson in Springfield enjoys research. Her specialty is real estate law: she does the title research necessary before a sale, re-financing, or any other sort of property transaction. “Actually, I was a history major, so it’s right up my alley,” observes Ginter, the President of the Ellis Title Company, which is part of the law firm. “You have to be very organized and have a good attention to detail.” It is, she laughs, a lot like being a detective. Ginter has been with the firm for roughly 13 years. “You see the oddest things sometimes,” she reflects. ”I tell people what I do, and I get these stone-faced looks. ‘It’s not that bad, really – it’s interesting.’”
Favorite quote: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
Top Woman in the Medical Field
Kelly Stellato- Pediatric Services of Springfield
Kelly Stellato is a registered dietician who services patients of Pediatric Services of Springfield and Walden Behavioral Care of Northampton, MA and South Windsor, CT. She also works as an outpatient nutrition consultant and counselor for Smith College, Harvard University, and Deerfield Academy. In addition to this, Kelly runs her own private practice, which provides nutrition therapy and wellness training. In between counseling and speaking engagements, Kelly holds certificates in yoga, pre/post natal exercise, and tai chi and is also a certified personal trainer, lactation counselor, and new mother. Through her hard work and busy schedule, Kelly has worked toward achieving her mission of helping “clients eat in a way that fosters health and to make peace with their body regardless of size.”
Her favorite quotation is "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take." -Wayne Gretzky.
Top Woman in Radio
Karen Boyd- MIX93.1
Tune into Mix 93.1 WHYN FM weekday mornings, and you’ll hear Karen Boyd from 5am-10am. As one half of the “Zito and Karen” Morning Mix show, you’ll enjoy her dynamic and upbeat personality and find fun features like “Karen’s Hollywood 411”. She began her career in radio at ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT., then as Program Director at WPOP in Hartford, CT. Now Greater Springfield benefits from her experiences, which include work in health and human services as an exercise and yoga instructor, adjunct professor, school psychologist, and doctoral student. A lover of people and animals, this former body builder is also an avid runner, who reflects that love in “Karen’s Running Blog” on the stations website.
Karen’s favorite quote is: “Everything happens for a reason.”
Top Woman in Real Estate
Julianne Krutka- Park Square Realty
Julianne Krutka is a realtor at Park Square Realty in Westfield. She was one of the few realtors to actually enter the industry during the market crash of 2008, after deciding to leave her post as a full time mom and part time school bus driver. She has helped numerous families, especially those who are struggling with the difficult market, to “obtain the dream of home ownership.” Julianne was named real estate rookie of the year in four states her first year of business. Every year since then, she has increased her production and has been the top producer in her company since 2009.
Her favorite quotation is “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” –Steve Jobs
Top Woman in Television
Nicole Nalepa- WWLP Channel 22
Nicole Nalepa began working her dream job right out of college three years ago. She anchors the 4:30am newscast for WWLP-TV and is also the senior weekday morning reporter. Nicole attended Westfield State College where she began her tenure as an Elementary Education major. However, by the end of her sophomore year, she recognized that her love for the communications field deserved to be explored more deeply, so she changed major. During her years at Westfield, she gained experience in the field through internships with the Boston Fox station, WWLP and the “Evening News with Katie Couric” at CBS in New York.
Her favorite quote is, "If your dreams don't scare you they aren't big enough."
Top Woman in Blogging
Sienna Wildfield- Hilltown Families Blog
Sienna Wildfield is the founder and executive director of Hilltown Families, a non-profit “online, grassroots communication network” for Western Massachusetts families. Through her network, thousands of people are able to exchange ideas, information, coordinate activities, advocate for education, and work towards better life in their communities. The goal of Hilltown Families is to “support and empower” Western Mass families to advocate for better standards in education, community, and everyday life. In addition to this, Sienna also serves on the Chesterfield Cultural Council, the Hilltown CDC, and is executive producer of the Hilltown Family Variety Show.
Sienna’s favorite quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret
Top Woman in Human Resources
Pamela Thornton- United Personnel
Pamela Thornton is the Business Development Manager of United Personnel in Springfield. She’s also a problem-solver. And that’s what United Personnel does: help companies find employees and people find jobs. “We also find creative human-resource solutions for clients as well,” she explains. “We’ve been doing business in the Greater Springfield area for so long, we have deep relationships with many companies. We’ve been able to share best practices – in a confidential way – based on our years of experience.” Thornton, who got her start at LEGO Systems, Inc. in Enfield, Connecticut, has been working in human resources for 17 years. She is a past president of both the Human Management Association of Western New England and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield.
Favorite quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Top Woman, Professional Writer
Christine Parizo- Christine Parizo Communications
Christine Parizo’s first job out of college was as a technology journalist. She loved it. By 2010, she was ready to go out on her own and start Christine Parizo Communications in West Springfield. At present, her two main focuses are business-to-business technological marketing (white-paper case studies, contributing articles for business-to-business publications) and entrepreneurs (website copy, brochures and other materials for small businesses). She is, however, in the process of expanding her business to include marketing for various health-care companies. “I like learning new things,” she enthuses. “Even when I’m working for entrepreneurs, I’m like ‘How does it work? What makes it different?’ I’m kind of a geek. I can’t always put it together, but I want to know what makes it work, “ says Parizo.
Favorite quote: “If ye have faith as a grain of a mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” – New Testament, Matthew 17:20
Top Woman, New Entrepreneur
Laura Albano- Hidden Treasures
“I was tired of buying things made in China,” says Laura Albano, owner of Hidden Treasures in Agawam. “I wanted to support local artisans and give people a chance to buy things that were made in the USA.”
Her store, which she opened almost three years ago, is home to the work of 70 artisans (some local, some from other parts of New England) and carries everything from jewelry and primitive furniture to quilts to baby gifts and children’s books by area writers. Coming soon to the line-up will be such local food items as home-made jams and salsa, honey, Shelburne Falls coffee, and herbal teas. “It’s never the same place twice,” she remarks, “because I never know what the vendors will be bringing in.”
Favorite Quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw
Top Woman in Advertising & Marketing
Nancy Creed- Affiliated Chambers of Commerce
If you are in business within Greater Springfield, or if you desire to be in business, you need to know Nancy Creed. As Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, she is responsible for the overall strategic direction efforts of the business association of nearly 1200 members, and was previously its Communications Director. An East Longmeadow native and Holyoke resident, Nancy knows the region and shares her knowledge through her consulting firm NF Creed Communications, which specializes in public relations development and management. A journalism graduate of Syracuse University, she has received many honors and awards. She is a member of many organizations including the Ad Club of Western Massachusetts, Valley Press Club, and is Vice President of Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society Board of Directors.
Her favorite quote is: “It’s five o'clock somewhere!”
Top Woman in Travel
Laurie Klefos- Berkshire Visitors’ Bureau
Since 2008, Laurie Klefos has been the President and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors’ Bureau, the official regional tourism council for Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts. Previously, she had been President of the Arizona Tourism Alliance, Director of Tourism Marketing for Moses Anshell Advertising in Phoenix, and State Travel Director for the State of New Hampshire. Laurie fell in love with advertising as Smokey The Bear’s secretary in the Department of Agriculture. Her work as a destination marketer for the Berkshires is fitting because of her strong attachment to and background in the region and currently resides in Pittsfield.
Her favorite quotation is: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."-Maya Angelou
Top Women’s Organization of Western Massachusetts
Women Business Owners Alliance of Pioneer Valley (WBOA)
The Women Business Owners Alliance of Western Massachusetts (WBOA) is “a grass-roots organization started by local business owners,” explains Freda Brown, President of WBOA. “We’re more about supporting, educating, and connecting as opposed to just networking. We do the networking thing as well, but that’s not our main focus.”
The WBOA is helpful for business women across the spectrum because it has “so many fabulous women who have so much knowledge, so much expertise. The support just comes naturally amongst the members.” They have monthly breakfast meetings and WBOA After Five Connections and Cocktails every other month. “You don’t have to be a member to come to our meetings – we welcome guests – but membership has a lot of benefits.”
Non-Profit Community Service Award
Springfield School Volunteers (SSV)
The Springfield School Volunteers has been making a difference for kids in grades K through 12 since 1969. In 1979, the SSV was selected by First Lady Rosalind Carter “as a model of spirit of volunteerism.”
Their approach is three-pronged. First, there’s the Academic Tutoring Program, also known as SMART (Supplemental Math and Reading Tutoring). Then there’s the School-based Mentoring Program that brings students together with “caring adult volunteers who serve as positive role models and trusted friends.” Finally, there’s the Read Aloud Program: once a month, from October through February, volunteers read aloud to kids at participating elementary schools. “A caring adult can make a world of difference to a child who is struggling academically or socially,” says Executive Director Denise N. Cogmand.