Norwalk’s LaKota Oaks hosted an array of bright young talent from the corporate, nonprofit, government, education and medical worlds on June 11 with the presentation of the Fairfield County Business Journal’s 15th annual 40 Under Forty awards.
Matt Scott, meteorologist and morning show co-host at Fox 61 News, returned as the event’s emcee for his fourth year and started the evening by joking that he was initially concerned about whether he could make it to the event. “Fortunately, my schedule has freed up since I am no longer taking the SATs for underprivileged kids in Fairfield County – I’m going to miss those side hustles,” he said, drawing both gasps and laughs.
The keynote speaker for the event was Scott Johnson, president of the Mack Media Group in Brookfield and host of “The Mack Talks” weekly podcast. Johnson used his speech to highlight his career trajectory as a serial entrepreneur, starting in screen printing and embroidery design before expanding into signage and vehicle wraps, noting his corporate focus “evolved to fit the demand of the consumer and we never lost sight that we needed them in order to succeed.”
When Johnson wanted to pursue digital marketing, he became dissatisfied with the agencies he had hired and opted to create his own, eventually selling off his other business lines to focus on this pursuit.
“I believed in myself, but more important than that I believed in the needs of the customer,” he said. “It is clear to me that to be an entrepreneur or a business owner, you need to learn how to evolve. Entrepreneurship is a lonely road and I commend anyone daring enough to take it willingly. But know this: although you are alone, it is about anything but you. You learn from those around you, solve their problems and inevitably you’ll solve your own.”
This year’s event included a new minimalist twist: the honorees were asked to describe themselves in speeches consisting only of three words. Among the most amusing responses was Dr. Rhonda Klein of Modern Dermatology in Westport, who declared, “Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.” Christian Keane of Gartner unfolded a large paper and gave a Jack Benny-worthy pause before announcing, “Man few words.” Katia Garcon of House of Katia provoked applause with her sassy three-word announcement, “Boss ladies rule.” And after Beverly Balaz, president of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, introduced Charles Rocco of Rocco & Associates Wealth Management, he turned around to Balaz and surprised her with his three-word speech of “Thank you Beverly.”
This year’s 40 Under Forty honorees are, in alphabetical order, are: Amanda Almonte, 39, director of At-HomeCare of CT LLC in Bethel; Andy Cabell, 33, owner of Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Danbury; Godiva Cadena, 39, Bank Secrecy Act manager at Union Savings Bank in Danbury; Kevin Caskin, 36, vice president and senior market manager at People’s United Bank in Southport; Roger Chappuis, 33, director of information technology at Family & Children’s Aid in Danbury; Thomas Cingari Jr., 34, supervisor of dairy and produce, digital commerce and retail technology at ShopRite Grade A Markets Inc. in Norwalk; Michelle Coletti, 39, director of development at LMC, a Lennar Co., in Stamford; and Sasha Collins, 30, youth trauma specialist and Camp Hope America-Connecticut coordinator at The Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport.
Also honored were John Corraro, 26, financial planner at Barnum Financial Group in Shelton; Evan Cygler, 31, director of special projects at Miller Motorcars in Greenwich; Kate Dischino, 38, vice president of emergency programs at Americares in Stamford; Jackie Essex, 38, registered nurse at Greenwich Hospital; Katia Garcon, 37, founder and president of House of Katia in Norwalk; Robyn Goldenberg, 31, director of marketing and business development at Strategy Leaders in Norwalk; Angelica Gorrio, 39, director and owner of Marinera CT in Stamford; Brian Higgins, 37, founder and CEO of Aditum in Norwalk; Christian Keane, 39, group vice president of strategy and corporate development at Gartner in Stamford; Dr. Rhonda Klein, 39, partner and co-founder at Modern Dermatology in Westport; Marisa MacLean, 30, founder and publisher of Westport Lifestyle in Westport; Shannon Malkin Daniels, 39, founder and CEO of encaptiv in Stamford; and Dr. Joshua Marcus, 36, endovascular neurosurgeon at Western CT Health Network/Nuvance Health in Danbury.
The honorees also included Elisabeth Marrocolla, 32, head of children and teen services at the Darien Library; Eddie Martinez, 35, founder and president of TOP Station in Bridgeport; Samantha Mauro, 31, owner of Whiskey Barrel in Stratford; Peter McSherry, 35, vice president of digital analytics at Epsilon in Wilton; Amanda Meeson, 39, executive director of Sterling House Community Center in Stratford; Erin Mercede, 34, director of leadership programs at the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; Kelli Meyer, 32, director of campus activities and civic engagement at the University of Bridgeport; Oliver Page, 39, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP in Stamford; Roberta Rich, 39, vice president and market leader at Bank of America in Greenwich; Suobo Richards, 39, president and chief operating officer at Service After Service in Shelton; Chloe Richland, 36, associate at Wilson Elser in Stamford; Charles Rocco, 31, president and CEO at Rocco & Associates Wealth Management Inc. in Fairfield; and Erick Russell, 31, associate at Pullman & Comley LLC in Bridgeport.
Awards were also presented to Katherine Russian, 39, director of business development at Lentner LLC in Wilton; Emily Anne Scalise, 28, director of operations and business development at NicholsMD of Greenwich; Raya Ward, 35, general manager at Nielsen’s Florist & Garden Shop in Darien; Josh Weinshank; 37, partner and leader of Cramer & Anderson’s Fairfield County Trust and Estate Planning and Administration Group at Cramer & Anderson LLP in Ridgefield; Angela Wong, 35, events and development director at CityCenter Danbury; and Laura Zap, 36, director of conference planning at LaKota Oaks in Norwalk.
This year’s event was presented by Westfair Communications, publisher of the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals, with UConn School of Business as a Silver Sponsor; Bronze Sponsorship was provided by Deloitte, Yale New Haven Health Greenwich Hospital, Val’s Putnam Wines & Liquors, Blossom Flower and the City of Norwalk; support for the event was provided by Audi of Danbury and BMW of Darien. Chamber sponsorship for the event was provided by, in alphabetical order, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Business Council of Fairﬁeld County, Darien Chamber of Commerce, Fairﬁeld Chamber of Commerce, Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, Ridgeﬁeld Chamber of Commerce, Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and Wilton Chamber of Commerce.