Interview with Mike Benson

Mike Benson – In-Home Fitness by Sharon Arena Mike Benson knows athletics. Not only was he a professional athlete, but his training and knowledge has also made him become one of the top elite in-home trainers in Fairfield County. Like any business, there has to be a beginning. Mike has always been involved in fitness and athletics most of his life. After college, he was signed to 3 different pro football leagues but found himself “struggling” in the industry. He switched gear from on the field to off the field. Mike wrote to ESPN is hopes of broadcasting with no avail. Soon after, he decided to start a video sports company, where he announced the “play-by-plays” with high school football, baseball, soccer, and basketball. He loved interviewing the kids, broadcasting and sending the videos to excited parents. Mike knew he loved broadcasting, but it wasn’t enough. Since he loved working out (for most of his life), Mike thought this could be a window of opportunity for him. He got his start at The Fitness Edge in Norwalk back in the 90s. During his 4 years at The Fitness Edge, he got his certification as a personal trainer and an advanced degree in sports medicine from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. With his new knowledge and understanding with the human body and terminology, has helped advance his career. In 2002, Mike decided to go into business himself, where Mike Benson In-Home Fitness was born. I asked Mike what has been the most rewarding part of his business? “I think about the elderly population – how I can help prolong their lives,” said Mike. Mike visits his clients at their homes and helps them with a fitness regimen customized for them. Has there been a particular client that stands out to

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Interview with DR. IBRAHIMI

Interview with DR. IBRAHIMI – CT SKIN INSTITUTE – by Sharon Arena When we’re young, most of us don’t think about sun damage. Hours spent in the sun during our youth, followed by implementing a better skin routine as we age. Scheduling annual trips to the dermatologist, followed by “the talk” on better skin care habits. But when it comes to serious skin complications – such as the little boy who has a port wine birthmark across his face? Or the young girl with skin cancer? This is when I got to meet Dr. Omar Ibrahimi of the Connecticut Skin Institute. Dr. Ibrahimi is unlike other Dermatologist in the area. He’s even had patients come from all across the country for treatments. Why? Dr. Ibrahimi is proud of this education and training – and is always ahead of the latest technology and treatments. His office manager, Amy, explained more: “We are the only practice in Connecticut with two fellowship-trained Laser and Aesthetic Dermatologists,” said Amy. “Dr. Ibrahimi was also trained at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Harvard University.” The Wellman Center is the world’s largest research facility dedicated to investigating the effects of light on the human body and therapeutic techniques, overall helping to improve the overall health and quality of life. Dr. Ibrahimi believes that when he works with a patient in laser therapy, he needs to feel comfortable and see the scientific proof of the treatment. He’s also a Mohs and Fraxel laser fellowship-trained surgeon. Mohs is a type of micrographic surgery, which has been the most effective technique for treating different types of skin cancers. Learning about all the training and education Dr. Ibrahimi had, I knew anyone would be in great hands with him. But what exactly does “fellowship trained” mean? Here’s some facts I’ve

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Interview with Dr. Robinson & Dr. Klein

Interview with MODERN DERMATOLOGY – DR. KLEIN + DR. ROBINSON – By Sharon Arena Modern Dermatology in Westport is a new full-service dermatology practice delivering comprehensive medical, cosmetic, surgical and pediatric care for the entire family within a boutique setting. Modern Dermatology is the passion project of award-winning, board certified dermatologists, Dr. Rhonda Klein, MD, MPH, FAAD and Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD. As one of the very first people through the doors, there was some construction and finishing touches still in progress, however the staff’s warm greeting and accommodating demeanor made it hardly recognizable. I sat down with Dr, Klein and Dr. Robinson to learn more about them and the new practice. The duo first met during their residency at Yale Medical School. From residency, they both went on to gain experience in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology, while participating in cutting-edge research and presentations locally and around the world. Throughout their careers they always knew they wanted to work together and ultimately to start their own practice that could deliver highly personalized carefor the entire family. Personally, they were living parallel lives – both becoming mothers of 4 children (each!) and professionally,reconnecting at Connecticut Dermatology Group where they both practiced prior to opening Modern Dermatology. As we all settle back into routine coming off of summer schedules, it’s a great time to think about establishing a skin care routine, so I asked the doctors to share their expertise. What is the awareness level in our community about sun safety and skin cancer? “Most people are aware of the sun, however messages about effective protection are still mixed,” said Dr. Robinson. “We try to educate our patients on all of the products out there – including protective clothing, physical sunscreens and chemical blockers. Using these correctly is critical

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Interview with Melissa Boris

Interview with Melissa Boris – NEW BEAUTY & WELLNESS – by Sharon Arena Hidden off Post Road in beautiful Westport, is an oasis of beauty, wellness and tranquility. New Beauty & Wellness opened its doors in 2016 to serve the needs of the local community. When I walked in the facility, I was greeted immediately with a warm smile by Melissa Boris, the Spa Director. As I wondered around, the location had the look and feel of a luxury spa – with all your pampering needs. Before the tour of the facility, Mellissa and I had a chance to talk about NB&W and the need for a location of its kind. “Our goal,” said Melissa, “is to make sure everyone leaves happy. Our business model is different – we cater to the wants and needs of our guests.” Melissa is new to NB&W, with over 20 years’ management experience in the hospitality and luxury spa industry – working in NYC for names like The Sojo Spa Club, The Setai Club & Spa Wall Street, and La Prairie at The Ritz-Carlton. To leave NYC to try something different, Melissa found that she fell in-love with the community. She loved the concept of what NB&W is looking to do – a State of the Art Luxury Spa. Luxury spa services with the enhancement of medical technologies and integrated wellness. Everyone has been so welcoming to try this – giving the guest everything you can. “This is a destination spa. A true oasis.” Melissa commented. The location has a full team to assist with the needs of the community. From board-certified physicians, aestheticians, massage therapist and healers – Melissa mentions everyone works together as a team, like a small family. I asked Melissa what makes NB&W different from other spas that are similar

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Interview with Michelle Sperry

Interview with MICHELLE SPERRY – Connecticut Theater Dance by Sharon Arena When I walked into Connecticut Theater Dance in Westport, I was greeted by fellow “bun-head” Founder and Director, Michelle Sperry. CTD offers a unique look at the world of dance – from ballet, jazz, hip-hop and more – I was even motivated to get out my leotard. During my tour of the studio, Michelle brought me into a room FULL of goodies – as I’d like to describe – tutus, scrunches, tiaras and all things sparkly. “This is our boutique,” said Michelle. “The girls love coming in here – it’s like a huge walk-in closet.” Another part of the studio had a kitchen. The dancers could buy healthy snacks and shakes, rather than settle for junk food. Each room we walked through was big, bright and beautiful. Floor-length mirrors covered each wall, revealing that I really should take a Monday morning Yoga class at Ms. Sperry’s studio. Michelle is a busy woman – that’s the best way I can describe it. With her past experiences in law, education, performer and so much more, she enjoys every aspect of what she does and what she’s created. Her office is covered with photographs of dancers and ballerinas, looking like they are professional performers. Connecticut Theater Dance started not too ago, with a different name. They offered dance classes to younger children and also taught manner lessons – Emily Post style. The company also had onsite parties and were constantly receiving excellent reviews. Since their dance program has got more popular, Michelle brought in more classes, to develop proper ballet techniques and also yoga. Michelle has created dozens of workshops and hands-on activities, with the goal of inspiring children and young adults to become leaders. “Behind every dancer who believes in themselves

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Interview with Angelique Joseph

By Sharon Arena – Angelique Joseph ONE ORGANIZED ANGEL Just from the name alone “The Organizing Angel”, I knew this woman was put in front of me for a purpose. But before Angelique Joseph started her white-glove concierge agency, she spent time in the corporate world. Angelique was born in the Caribbean, raised in New York, and settled in Ridgefield, CT 3 years ago. She has over 15 years experience managing firms and advising C-Suite executives in a wide range of industries including pharmaceutical, advertising and marketing. Her talent for meticulous attention to detail quickly earned her a reputation of being the go to person to get things done. This led to many high profile responsibilities that included project management, personal assistance, office management; the list goes on and on. Recently, Angelique felt the need for a change; she felt unfulfilled and began losing that signature passion and fire she was known for, but it was a health scare which became the wake up call that she needed to take a step back and reassess her path. Like most born-entrepreneurs, she asked herself what the next phase was. “What am I good at?” she asked herself. She quickly found that she was excellent at viewing someone else’s life and bringing order to it. Soon, The Organizing Angel was born. “I’m really good at bringing order to someone’s life,” said Angelique. Soon after opening shop, she found that there was a true need for her services. A large portion of her business comes from word-of-mouth, and what started off as friends recommending her to their friends quickly turned into clients recommending her to their friends and family. But, not everyone is ready to jump from a corporate role to entrepreneur, so I asked Angelique what the transition has been like? “It

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Interview with Susie Blumenfeld

By Sharon Arena – Susie Blumenfeld PINK HOUSE PRODUCTIONS When I first walked in to Pink House Productions, there were splashes of pink, jars of candy and invitations everywhere. To be honest, it looked like the aftermath of a fun party. Susie Blumenfeld, owner of Pink House Productions, is the gal with the ideas on how to throw an amazing party. “This is your party. (We) make sure it reflects your taste,” said Susie. Throwing a party is not just about inviting a group of people. No, there is an art to it, and Susie is the creator. Susie’s background is originally in advertising in New York City, then to an event design company. Eventually, she was brought into planning because she was able to connect with the clients. Her talent was not only to connect with them, but develop a relationship, or “friendship”, and has done multiple parties for the same families. With her new-found knowledge, expertise and designs for any occasion, Pink House Productions was born in 2006. Since then, Susie has been the “Face of Westport” in May 2017’s Westport Magazine, and was voted “Best of Westport Event Planner.” The name “Pink House” came from a playhouse that was completely pink that her 3 girls had in the family backyard for over 20 years. When the playhouse became old, Susie’s husband was able to salvage the front of the house with the pink door. Susie pointed to a far corner in her office, where the pink door lay against the wall. A great reminder of where it all began. Susie showed me a slide show of some of the parties she has thrown. “You always start with the invitations,” said Susie. She showed me these party invites like I’ve never seen – maybe similar to being invited

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Interview with Mamoune Tazi

By Sharon Arena -Mamoune Tazi LE BOUDOIR Any woman can tell you, that walking out of a salon with a fresh blow-out gives her a little more confidence for the rest of the day. Mamoune Tazi, owner, and founder of Le Boudoir, captured that. But before the brand had 3 thriving locations in their 3 ½ year history, Mamoune had a different beginning. Born and raised in Morocco, Mamoune’s future was already laid out for him. He decided he was going to be a lawyer, just like his father. At the age of 18, he decided to move to France to study law. While he was there, he found himself visiting Paris quote often. In Paris, Mamoune went to different types of shows and fell in love with the hair. With his new interest, his father and uncle soon decided to invest in a hair salon in the U.S. Mamoune got involved in the industry, which his father supported 100%. Soon after, he studied hair in cosmetology school, where he met his wife Alena. Mamoune was able to pick up and learn skills during school, at a blow dry bar. He thought it was creative and fun environment – and from there was hooked. I asked Mamoune why a blow dry bar? Besides the fun environment and setting, he wanted to be different in nature. With a blow dry, it’s an easy service. When someone gets their hair done, the “blow dry” is the final product – just like saving the dessert for last. When Mamoune opened his first location, he wanted to create an experience for everyone. His goal is to have his clients leave with a smile. “I like to keep beauty simple,” Mamoune said. “Women tend to complicate it. I like to change the perception of how

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Interview with Shiran Nicholson

By Sharon Arena – SHIRAN NICHOLSON Nicholson Events Shiran is the life of the party and he’ll bring it! Owner & Founder of Nicholson Events, Inc, he has worked in the music and entertainment industry for over 20 years. For being such a sought-out event planner and entertainer, his love for music began at a young age and was inspired from his mother. His French mother loves life and often throws parties, celebrating it. At the age of 11, Shiran started playing music for her parties, finding an instant talent for entertaining everyone that was the foundation to his international DJ experience. Shiran found an instant love for music and dancing, especially in the International arena. Based in NYC at 16 Shiran got his first residency at Tattoo in NYC. He also traveled along the French Riviera and Paris DJ’ing at prestigious clubs. His experiences with different cultures and travel and Fluency in French made him an international specialist. This allows him to understand how to create the most unique experiences for all nationalities, Cultures. Shiran has learned the event business from the ground up. He became an instant success with his outstanding talent. Shiran started DJ-ing and MC-ing in New York City on a regular basis. At the age of 20, Shiran founded Nicholson Events, Inc. with his first clients being the owners of Chanel. Nicholson Event’s dedication to every event is impeccable – Shiran and his team are sure to pay attention to every detail. To him, everything matters – and everything is personal. The Nicholson Events team is able to service clients from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and worldwide, bringing their clients event dreams to reality. They’re specialty is to not have a specialty – if they were to have a specialty, it’s making people happy.

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Interview with Dr. Flora Levin

By Sharon Arena – DR. FLORA LEVIN When I first met Dr. Flora Levin in her Westport office, I didn’t feel like I was in a doctor’s office – instead, it was a finely decorated waiting room with cozy furniture and beautiful art pieces. She sat with me on the sofa, ready to be interviewed – like a couple of friends chatting. So, of course, being a Board Certified Oculofacial Plastic Surgeon, I wanted to know how she came to specialize in such an interesting area, concentrating exclusively on the eyelids and the areas around them. Dr. Levin has always found sight and eyes fascinating, but also had an interest in aesthetics and plastic surgery. She, therefore, chose to become an ophthalmologist, as well as a plastic surgeon. Dr. Levin started her career in academic medicine and in larger practices. However, she felt the lack of the ability to make decisions about the nature and goals of the practice and about her future. After spending over 6 years at Yale, she felt the need to go into solo practice. This allowed her to be more accommodating to her patients’ needs, while also balancing her career as a surgeon and her life as a mother to 3 young children. “Starting a practice required a lot of work up front,” said Dr. Levin. “But if you put in the time to do it right in the beginning, you’ll thank yourself later.” Now, over a year on her own, she has no regrets – it’s the best decision she’s ever made. Dr. Levin also offers non-surgical facial rejuvenation to her patients, including a wide range of dermal fillers (Juvederm, Restylane, Sculptra, Bellafill), laser skin resurfacing, and microneedling. Each patient’s treatment plan is based on their individual needs and goals. When I asked Dr.

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Interview with Christina Voight

By Sharon Arena – CHRISTINA VOIGHT The best way to describe Edgerton Heating & Air Conditioning is like a well-oiled machine. In an industry where it’s mostly male-dominated, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Voight, the newest addition to Edgerton who has both the brains and beauty to back the company’s brand. This family business started back in 1956 when Charlie Edgerton saw a need for excellent customer service and even better quality service. Charlie started the company as a one-man show in Monroe, CT. Since then, the company has grown to more than 50 employees and is now owned by the 3rd generation. “I’m sure a lot has changed since 1956,” I mentioned Derek, the company’s VP, and General Manager, and Chris, director of Residential Operations, walked into the room. The men laughed and mentioned that part of what makes them different from other companies, is that they’re always up-to-date on the latest technologies. Looking at the wall of their conference room, I noticed a rather large whiteboard, filled with notes. To me, they are generating ideas through their team – trying to think of new, innovative ways to improve their product and service. “We started specializing in Smart Homes,” mentioned Derek, “from a simple app on your phone, you can control the air conditioning, heat and humidity levels in your home.” Personally, that’s pretty genius – I know I’d like to come back from vacation to a nice, comfortable home. “Some of the other technologies we offer are heated floor tiles and driveways,” adds Chris. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to have a heated driveway in New England? Yes, please! One of the things that set Edgerton apart from everyone else, is that they stand by their work and their product. They believe getting

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Interview with the AFC Urgent Care Team

by Sharon Arena – When you walk into AFC Urgent Care in Norwalk, you immediately feel welcome. I was greeted by Janet Nazarian, Director of Marketing and Community Relations – whose positive energy radiates the room. Janet just started this journey into the medical field two years ago. Coming from a sales and marketing background, one thing this company has given her is the sense of being a part of the community. In her new role with AFC, Janet enjoys being able to help people experience excellent service. Janet explains that a lot of people don’t realize the differences and benefits of going to an Urgent Care facility instead of an ER. “Many of the walk-in doctors’ offices are owned by the big hospitals. We have the capability to treat most non- life-threatening issues in one place. We have a lab and x-ray on-site so you don’t have to make two trips.” Ken Goldberg, director of the facility, joined us for our interview, and explained that their mission to provide the best healthcare possible. AFC Urgent Care treats a wide range of services from bumps and bruises, to coughs and stitches. They also provide services for employers – such as drug screening, occupational health and worker’s compensation. “We have customized plans for different businesses,” Ken mentions, “we also offer PPD testing and pre-employment physicals.” Being most employers and insurance companies encourage their employers to get physicals and wellness checkups, AFC Urgent Care makes it easy to schedule an appointment online. With the area being very diverse with different ethnicities and cultures, AFC Urgent Care provides immigration physicals. The medical director is a USCIS Designated Civil Surgeon certified to administer immigration exams. This is a step for an anyone who’s seeking citizenship or a green card. Ken also came from a

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Interview with Fiona Porter

By Sharon Arena – FIONA PORTER If you haven’t seen the sparkly bottles of wine on your Facebook news feed yet, then you must be living under a rock. Fiona Porter is a rock-star when it comes to supporting a good cause. She recently became an “Ambassador of Hope” for viaONEHOPE, a California based wine movement dedicated to giving back. 50% of each bottle gives back to a cause: childhood hunger, veterans, breast and ovarian cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart health etc. Did you know that with the purchase of these wines, you can actually help a shelter animal find it’s forever home? I’ll drink to that. Fiona has been a busy lady, throwing at least 2 wine tastings per week raising funds for various 501C3’s (legitimate charities).  Most recently she’s helped hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and Texas, and closer to home she’s raised funds for Our Woven Community, Bridgeport. Should you wish to raise money for a cause close to your heart be sure to reach out to Fiona, as she will be glad to make it happen. Prior to her dedication to giving back, Fiona was somewhat of a worldwide traveler. Born and raised in the north of England, she traveled abroad from the age of 6 (unaccompanied for the most part) to places like France and Germany, staying with different host families. By the time she reached 13, she was a teen working in downtown Berlin. Fiona earned her Bachelor Degree in Arts from Birmingham University, UK studying German and Russian. Her degree took her to Moscow, Russia, where she worked from a young age as a financial markets head hunter, building teams of people embracing marketing, recruiting and strategic work. As a result of 18 + years of excellent performance, Fiona was asked by clients to replicate

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Interview with Charlie Shipman

by Sharon Arena – CHARLIE SHIPMAN Managing Principal, Blue Keel Financial Planning I’m not too familiar with Connecticut, but I can totally see why Charlie had me meet him at his riverfront home in beautiful Weston. His home office was even better than I imagined – a barn with exposed post-and-beam architecture, views of the Saugatuck River flowing just beyond the balcony, comfortable couches, and of course a small, wooden model sailboat. It could have easily been mistaken for a Man-Cave, but this was where Charlie ‘makes his magic happen’ as a financial planner and investment manager when he foregoes working from his Westport office. Charlie wasn’t always an investments guy. He spent most of his childhood being an extrovert and young entrepreneur. When Charlie was 8 years old, he and his family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There, Charlie immediately started creating a name for himself by taking it upon his own doing to meet the neighbors. He recounted that his mother, upon meeting someone in the neighborhood for the first time, would often be asked if she was related to Charlie Shipman. His mother would reply ‘yes’ hesitantly because she was sure they meant someone other than her son. “My mother had no idea I was walking around, knocking on doors, and introducing myself to the entire neighborhood,” Charlie said with a smile. “I’ve just always liked talking to people and hearing their stories.” Charlie’s stepfather was a strong role model for him. He helped guide Charlie and set the bar in budgeting and financial planning, emphasizing the importance of preserving an investment’s principal and spending wisely. His stepfather, a successful Tony Award-winning Broadway composer, also taught Charlie about the benefits of letting your money make money for you and the need to plan wisely for the

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Interview with The Granola Bar

By Sharon Arena – THE GRANOLA BAR Walking into a home-like setting, I was greeted with all smiles. This is The Granola Bar of Westport. I sat in a comfy seat and excitedly ordered their Avocado Toast. Now, Nicole Muto, The Granola Bar’s Marketing Manager, will tell you I have been counting the days to try this dish. Anthony, my waiter didn’t seem to mind me taking pictures of my toast and posting it to Instagram. Yum! Nicole told me the story of how The Granola Bar all began – and how two moms pioneered the healthy eating industry in the area. Starting in 2013, founders and moms Julie and Dana wanted a healthier option for their families. Brainstorming in their kitchen, they developed recipes that consisted of oats and granola that are health-conscious and delicious! Knowing these two were onto something, they quickly marketed their product to their local markets. With the expanding positive feedback, the new entrepreneurs decided to open a location to serve the community. The Westport location became such a success, that shortly after, Julie and Dana opened locations in Greenwich, Stamford, and most recently Armonk. The duo are very hands on and have always been part of the process. With their success in the virtual world, The Granola Bar has introduced Online Ordering on their website, and also an app through the Apple and GooglePlay stores. With the app, you’ll be able to order your favorite food to-go, use credit cards on file, and even tip your server. Great news for me, as I’ll be ordering much more Avocado Toast. Nicole started her career in the Greenwich location, after finding about them through Instagram. I mean, have you seen their delicious food pics?! She values Julie and Dana both as mentors and their work ethic.

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Interview with Craig Oshrin – Real Estate Professional

By Sharon Arena – When I first met Craig Oshin, or “CraigO” to most, it felt like we have been friends for years. Our meeting was scheduled at Caffe Social in Norwalk over a cup of java, where Craig always likes to say, “conversation starts with coffee…” – and a nice big cup of course. As I ordered my coffee, the conversation just flowed. So of course, trying to get back to asking the million-dollar question, how did the whole Realtor gig start – and who is Craig O? Craig has always been a mover and shaker, an entrepreneur and networker extraordinaire. He started his own moving and relocation company in 2001 and has been successfully serving Fairfield County for over 15 years. During this time, he started to notice that he could make a difference with the way his clients go through the moving process from start to finish. After spending most of his adult life in the moving, he knew that for anyone, this can be a life-changing event. So why does it have to be so complicated? Craig then went on to earn his Real Estate license and started to create a strategy that helps individuals and families have a less-stressful home buying and moving experience. With his friendly personality and calming nature, he has helped more than 10,000 people relocate and feel comfortable and trusting him during this process. When it comes to moving, he makes sure to put buys and sellers in the right direction. His main goals when he has a listing are to help with clients with promotion, process and pricing. Craig has been in the top of his industry and has even been featured in local media for his dedication and hard work. Craig is an über networker and loves making new

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Interview with Joe Grushkin – MaxExposure

by Sharon Arena – The weather on Monday was a mix of rain and clouds. I had high hopes of meeting Joe Grushkin (CEO & Founder of MaxExposure Social Media) at his famous backyard Tiki Bar, instead we met at his next favorite spot and client – 323 Main Restaurant and Bar in Westport. Even before I met Joe in person, his online energy and charisma got my attention. No wonder he’s well-known and had an outstanding presence in his community. We connected immediately over that fact that we’re both from New Jersey and share a passion (and suffering) for the New York Jets & Mets. But what really had me excited about meeting this original Gold Coaster, was how he grew his brand, business and reputation, all while being an actively involved family man. Joe was a natural-born and life-time entrepreneur. His father, who is his biggest role model, taught him from an early start to be a success and never settle. They regularly attended together University of New Haven’s Center for Family Business, where Joe saw first-hand the value of hard work and dedication. Other large family businesses, like Bigelow Tea and Moffly Media, regularly attended the meetings, and displayed the importance of family and how it engages within a thriving business. His father had always said, “You can only trust people in business with your last name,” something Joe still believes today – especially with 2 of his daughters and his future son-in-law involved in his company. Joe’s story begins in 1983, where he started selling Cutco Knives while attending Stockton College. What started as a summer a gig as a sales rep, resulted in a 14-year career with the company, where he immediately broke all sales records held. After graduation, Joe moved to Boston, and soon

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