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Sophia Serlis-McPhillips

Holly Hunt

Gloria Vanderbilt said, “I always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.”

We see this in action every year at the annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach. This year’s event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 3 and will feature 82 exhibitors.

Not just a craft show, the Women’s EXPO brings together some of Long Island’s great women entrepreneurs and business professionals to network, collaborate … and SHOP!

While only one day, the work of the EXPO continues all year at the Miller Business Center. Bank of America has been the EXPO’s Signature Sponsor since its inception 19 years ago.

“We’re proud to be back this year as the presenting sponsor of the Women’s EXPO, which provides women entrepreneurs the power to grow their business, attract new customers and showcase their talent,” said Bob Isaksen, Bank of America Long Island market president. “Collaborating with the library in support of these local women-owned small businesses fosters a healthy economy and creates opportunity for all.”

“Seeing the women talking with each other and connecting” is Miller Business Center coordinator Elizabeth Malafi’s favorite part of the event. With items such as soaps, candles, food, jewelry, pottery and home decor, there is something for everyone.

“All are welcome to soak in the excitement of the day,” says library director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. “The energy at the library on EXPO day is wonderful for everyone who visits.”

Below are just a few of the women entrepreneurs you will meet at this year’s event:

Alegna Soap

Angela Carillo

Angela Carillo really loves soap. Her love for soaps started in childhood when she would look forward to vacations, so she could visit gift shops to see what kinds of soap they carried. Carillo has been making soap for 20 years and once she put her kids and husband through college she turned her hobby into a successful business. Alegna Soap was born 10 years go with three focuses — retail, private label and workshops/conferences. Carillo says that having a diverse focus allows the business to always be steady.

The lasting connections and collaborations of the EXPO have been invaluable to Carillo. “It’s a totally different event than any other I do,” she says. Over the many years she has been participating, Carillo has communicated and collaborated with several of the other women entrepreneurs, including other soap vendors. In addition to the EXPO, Carillo takes advantage of the offerings of the Miller Business Center. Most recently attending Instagram for Business where she learned about using the story feature and promptly began using it on her business Instagram account.

Simply Nicki Supreme Nut Butters

Nicki Gohorel

Nicki Gohorel moved to Istanbul with her husband and was surprised that, while there were plenty of delicious nuts, there were no nut butters. In 2013, she started making her own and gave some as gifts. They were so delicious, friends encouraged her to sell them and Simply Nicki was born.

Gohorel creates nut butters with a focus on high-quality ingredients. Her most popular flavor is Peanut Butter Supreme, which includes amino acids to help the body process the protein in the peanuts more efficiently. What makes Simply Nicki stand out from other nut butters is the variety of flavors and customization capabilities. A traveler, Gohorel has “a mental Rolodex of flavors” that she loves to combine in what some may think are strange ways. Another popular flavor, Almond Supreme, contains almonds, goji berries, nutmeg and sea salt. Not your average nut butter!

But she is not just passionate about flavors and nut butters. Simply Nicki nut butters are packaged with as little paper or plastic as possible at the Made Conscious Kitchen in Cutchogue. This eco-friendly, cooperative kitchen allows small, local entrepreneurs to work together and as Gohorel put it,”lift each other up.”

Holly Hunt Photography

Holly Hunt

Holly Hunt grew up surrounded by photos taken by her grandfather, a professional who photographed the likes of Kennedy and the Beatles. It’s no surprise that his work inspired her to pick up a camera and take up photography. Hunt didn’t intend for her explorations of abandoned places to go past the walls of her own home, but after gifting photos to friends and family, she received encouragement to share them. And it’s no wonder, as her haunting works of art create a beautiful story of forgotten places.

“I was a patron of the EXPO for many years but I never expected to be an exhibitor. I never thought I was good enough,” she said. Thankfully, that didn’t stop her from applying in 2018. Hunt sold most of the inventory she brought to that first EXPO. More importantly were the connections she made with other women. She met so many other entrepreneurs and business professionals. The EXPO even helped organically grow her social media platforms, a hard thing to do these days. She’s looking forward to showing her new work at this year’s event.

From the Page

Callie Meaney

Callie Meaney’s mom loves candles. Growing up, they were always in her house. They became a hobby for Meaney and then a business. With all the candles available on the market she knew hers would need a unique twist. Since she loves to read, Meaney gravitated toward book-themed candles and From the Page was born. With a permanent collection of about 20, each season she introduces new scents. Top sellers right now are Magic Pumpkin Patch and Sleepy Hollow. Each natural soy candle comes in a reusable jar and each label has a picture that has been hand-drawn by Meaney herself.

She is looking forward to her first EXPO so she can meet other women entrepreneurs and business professionals. Before starting in 2013, Meaney had no business experience and hopes to hear other’s stories. As she’s hoping to expand to wholesale as well as a retail location, the knowledge she gains at the event will be invaluable.

Precise Gluten Free Foods

Mayra Robayo

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but how many of us actually put it to practice? Mayra Robayo does. After her daughter was diagnosed with an allergy to gluten, Robayo began making everything from scratch. But her son wanted good pancakes and the gluten-free ones she was making weren’t cutting it. After a lot of experimentation with different mixes, she created a pancake her son liked. Knowing how hard it is for families dealing with food allergies, she started Precise Gluten Free Foods in 2018 to share the mix with others. Robayo is off and running. In spring 2019, she added an oatmeal cookie mix to the line. Her mixes are gluten, nut, allergy and chemical free and can be found at local stores.

Even though this is Robayo’s first time exhibiting at the EXPO, she has been utilizing the resources available at the Miller Business Center for the past several months. Recently, she attended Grow Your Business with Google and learned that even without a retail location she could create a Google business page. Robayo says this doubled traffic to her website.

Kick off your holiday shopping at the 19th annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free and there is ample parking. Lunch from the Fifth Season Restaurant will be available for purchase in the EXPO Café. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393, ext. 296, or visit www.womensEXPOli.org.

All photos by Elizabeth Malafi

Former newspaper adviser Edward Wendell, center, is pictured with MCPL director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips and Comsewogue Public Library director Debbie Engelhardt.

By Karina Gerry

Middle Country Public Library librarians Stephanie Vecchio and Carol Gray look through issues of The Quadrangle from the 1970s. Photo from MCPL

A retired Newfield High School teacher’s forgotten files turned out to be a treasure for Middle Country Public Library.

Edward Wendol donated original issues of The Quadrangle to the library last month in hopes of preserving a unique piece of history. The Quadrangle, the Newfield High School paper, was supervised by Wendol during 1970-76. Wendol kept the papers all these years in a file in his attic, where he admits he forgot about them until he stumbled upon them one day.

“With the popularity of items being digitized today, I thought this would be the perfect item to be digitized at the Middle Country Public Library [in the district] where I worked,” Wendol said. “I thought it would be the most appropriate place to bring them.”

During his 27 years with the school district, Wendol worked as an English teacher and volunteered to serve as the adviser to The Quadrangle after having a positive experience at his own high school newspaper.

“I had students that were with me their entire high school career,” Wendol remembered fondly. “I think several of them may have even ventured into the journalism aspect.”

Wendol, who has served as a trustee on the Comsewogue Public Library board since 1972, Debbie Engelhardt, director of the Comsewogue library, and Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, director of MCPL, met in December at the Middle Country library so Wendol could hand over his original editions of the paper.

Copies of Newfield High School’s The Quadrangle, above, were donated to Middle Country Public Library in December by Edward Wendol.

“I thought it was absolutely incredible that Mr. Wendol kept all those papers from way back when,” Serlis-McPhillips said. “To have the foresight to do that and the fact that he wanted to give them to the library, I just thought was tremendous that he cared enough about working at Newfield and working at Middle Country school district.”

While the library’s website has a digitized photo collection of the old pictures they’ve received in recent years, this is the first time, in Serlis-McPhillips time at the library at least, that they have been given any type of periodical or newspaper.

“We’re just in the process of cataloging them and putting them on our website so that anyone can share them,” Serlis-McPhillips said. “You know it’s interesting to go back and look at the ads and the events that they were doing, and it kind of gives you a picture of history.”

With his donation, Wendol’s biggest hope is that past students are able to see their work.

“The reason why I brought it to Middle Country where the school district is located is to see if there are students who still live in the school district,” Wendol said. “If they have access to the public library and are willing to say, ‘Hey, let’s see what you have regarding my old high school newspaper at my old high school that I attended.’”

EXPO shoppers. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

Fall brings with it a chill in the air, pumpkin spice everything and the Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach.

A recent study by American Express shows that between 1997 and 2017, the number of women-owned businesses increased at a rate 2.5 times higher than the national average with many of these businesses being run by creative women from their homes and studios. 

The annual Women’s EXPO, now in its 18th year, celebrates these women by connecting them with their peers, local business women and potential customers. This year’s event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 4 and will feature 83 exhibitors. 

“Our favorites are back along with a great selection of new women entrepreneurs just starting out,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, director of the library. 

With a diverse group of entrepreneurs, there is something for everyone. Shoppers can find items such as jewelry, pottery, handbags and home decor. Serlis-McPhillips reminds us that the EXPO is much more than a trade show. “The library’s Miller Business Center works with these and other entrepreneurs all year, educating them on business topics and offering them ample opportunities to network with business professionals from throughout Long Island.” 

Here are some of the great women entrepreneurs you can meet at this year’s event:

Victoria Collette

Victoria Collette

According to Victoria Collette, she is in the business of empowering women. She started her fragrance company, POP SCENTsation, which allows shoppers to create their own fragrance; in the process they get to “discover what it means to be their unique self.”

Since launching, Collette has expanded to 23 fragrances and recently added Perfume Creation Kits. Participating in last year’s EXPO helped her get the word out about her new company and she is excited to be a part of this year’s event. “The energy of the day, being surrounded by and meeting so many amazing women entrepreneurs is incredible.”

Linda Johnson

Linda Johnson

Linda Johnson has always been a maverick, living outside the box. Her dream of owning her own business came to fruition in 2014 with Chocology, which was born out of her family’s “love of chocolate paired with a passion for learning and sharing.” The chocolate and fudge are delicious but, more importantly, it is sold with excitement and education. Beyond her businesses she created #ChocologyCares, supporting charities such as American VetDogs and Stony Brook Cancer Center.

Johnson’s commitment to community and supporting other entrepreneurs can be seen in her new venture — the Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market in Setauket, a gathering place bringing people together. This support and community is also what keeps Johnson coming back to the EXPO. “I love the camaraderie, I love the women and I learn so much!”    

Carly McAllister 

Carly McAllister

After Carly McAllister’s son developed eczema, she became concerned about the ingredients in store-bought soaps and started making her own using organic ingredients. McAllister gave extra bars to friends and family who told her it was so good she should sell it. Encouragement from her husband Michael and others resulted in Modern Primal Soap Co., whose goal is to make products that are as natural as possible. 

Having been an EXPO shopper for years McAllister (top photo) was excited to join the event as an exhibitor. ”I would love to be able to participate and applied as soon as I could.”  She is looking forward to another successful show. “The EXPO is something really special! I love being in a room with so many smart, talented women! The fellowship between the participants is amazing.”

Angelique Velez

Angelique Velez

A bad breakup didn’t slow down Angelique Velez; in fact, it was the impetus for Breakups to Makeup, her company that sells travel makeup clutches, T-shirts and tanks featuring motivational and inspirational words. Velez  (photo on right) realized that makeup inspires and lifts people up. “Making other people feel better inevitably helped to lift my spirits,” she said. Breakups to Makeup’s first slogan Love Raised Me, Lipstick Saved Me “encompassed everything I had been going through and showcased the importance of makeup in our lives as artists.” Since its inception, her products have been sold in major stores like Sephora and have been featured in InStyle, Refinery29 and Latina.

Velez is looking forward to her first time exhibiting at the EXPO. “Anything that supports women and women-owned business is very important to me. The fact that this also caters to Long Island businesses is something unique as well and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

The annual Women’s EXPO will take place on Thursday, Oct. 4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach. Admission is free and there is ample parking. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393, ext. 296 or visit www.womensEXPOli.org.