Tags Posts tagged with "Women’s EXPO"

Women’s EXPO

A product from Sweet Woodland Farm. Photo courtesy of Rachel Stephens

The leaves are changing and there is a nip in the air, which means it is time for one of the community’s favorite fall events! After two years virtual and outdoors, the 22nd annual Women’s EXPO returns in-person at the newly renovated Middle Country Public Library, in Centereach on Thursday, Oct.6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with more than 70 exhibitors.

An initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation, this annual event celebrates women entrepreneurs by connecting them with their peers, local business women and most importantly, potential customers. 

It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone and entrepreneurs have really taken a hit. “While the library’s Miller Business Center never stopped working with these and other entrepreneurs the entire time, we know that the camaraderie and energy of the EXPO is invaluable. We are happy to welcome these local entrepreneurs into our new space,” says library director, Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. 

“Our favorites along with a great selection of new women entrepreneurs will be at this year’s EXPO and we can’t wait,” said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of the library’s Miller Business Center. As it has in previous years, EXPO welcomes a diverse group of entrepreneurs with something for everyone including soaps, food, clothing and more. Like all entrepreneurs, they have worked hard to survive uncertain times. 

Shahnilla Jamal, chair of the EXPO’s planning committee and an SVP and Relationship Manager at HSBC Bank is excited to appreciate and celebrate these entrepreneurs. “Resilience is what I see in the women of Long Island, especially the EXPO entrepreneurs,” she said. “They have endured many trials and tribulations over the past couple of years, yet these amazing women have emerged stronger and more determined than ever before.” 

Long Island has always supported small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit. The support comes from shoppers and other Long Island businesses, including People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union (PAFCU), who has supported the EXPO for many years. Lisa Mitnick, Senior Manager of Business development for PAFCU knows how important it is. “Driving initiatives that advance women in their careers is not just critical to our business success, but is extremely important. The EXPO promotes the career advancement and success of women throughout Long Island,” she said.

Let’s learn more about some of the women you’ll meet at the EXPO.

Loretta Oberheim
Artwork by Loretta Oberheim

Loretta Oberheim

Loretta Oberheim Art


After hearing great things about the EXPO from her dear friend and photographer, Holly Hunt, Loretta Oberheim, decided to apply to participate. “The support she had received from the wide range of female entrepreneurs, as well as Middle Country Library, was something I found to be extraordinary…To see an entire event celebrating female entrepreneurs is phenomenal, and I’m proud to be a part of it.” 

Loretta is an award-winning sculptor and abstract artist. After graduating with a B.F.A. in Textile/Surface design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, she began working in the interior design industry with her designs gracing the pages of Vogue, Architectural Digest and more. A traumatic brain injury made creating impossible for a while, but after a time, Loretta was able to create again in a new form – contemporary abstract impressionism. 

As an entrepreneur, sales are important of course, but for Loretta, one of her greatest business and creative successes happened when she gave a piece of her artwork away.  “A young woman came by my booth with her parents and commented on my cool cane. After looking at my work, she commented to her mom that she needed to start painting again.” This comment touched Loretta. She gave one of her paintings to the young woman telling her to “go home and just start trying.” For Loretta, nothing compared to the moment. She knew that the young woman would forever look at that painting and see that a complete stranger had faith in her.

Rachel Stephens

Rachel Stephens

Sweet Woodland Farm


Born and raised on Long Island, Rachel Stephens owns and runs Sweet Woodland Farm on the North Fork, growing elderberry, herbs, roots and more. The crops are hand-harvested, barn-dried and used in all the wellness products Rachel makes and sells through farmer’s markets, local shops and the EXPO. Using the herbs she grows to help people is an incredible feeling for her. Some moments, when Rachel is alone on the farm, looking around, she is reminded that success doesn’t need to be proven financially, but success can mean that you are doing what you love to do. 

“Besides these cherished moments, I celebrate quietly to myself every time a customer tells me how well my products have helped them. It feels incredible to know that I can help people using herbs I’ve grown myself and processed by hand into a product that people will enjoy and benefit from. It’s these moments when I can appreciate the work that I’ve chosen rather than feel the rush and burdens of running a business.”

Rachel is thrilled to be at EXPO again this year. What she remembers most about last year’s event is the camaraderie and support among the women who participate. “I appreciate that there is an event recognizing and celebrating woman owned businesses. As women gain momentum in every field I’m happy to represent women in farming at the EXPO.”

Tina Dos Reis

Tina Dos Reis

All Out Anime!


After too many years in retail management, in 2014 Tina Dos Reis decided to be her own boss, starting a small business that suffered too many losses during Covid and closed. Having plenty of time on her hands, she started watching Japanese anime. Tina quickly became hooked on the action-packed scenes full of heroes with powers and quirks and started collecting keychains, figures and her current obsession, nendoroids. 

That’s when it clicked, her next entrepreneurial outing — “selling anime figures!” Choosing a business name wasn’t difficult.  “The phrase ‘go all out,’ is used quite often in anime. Characters will say it when they are determined to act on or do something important. Going all out was exactly what I wanted to do with this new venture.” And so, All Out Anime!: Your Place to Go All Out! was born. It is a business built on trust. With much of the product imported, there are many fakes out there. This can be a big challenge and is the reason customers may turn to well-known, larger shops first. But Tina is trying to change that in her corner of the anime world — she guarantees that her merchandise is 100% fully-licensed. 

As an online business, one of Tina’s proudest moments has been creating her first website. “When you see your vision come to life, it’s truly exhilarating!” She is excited to be a part of this year’s EXPO. “This event is such a great opportunity not just for myself, but for all women entrepreneurs.  The local community will have the chance to see firsthand the price we women put into our small businesses, as well as the friendly service we provide in order to make each customer experience a happy one.”


The 22nd annual Women’s EXPO will take place on Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Snacks and lunch will be available for purchase in the EXPO Café. Admission is free and there is ample parking. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393 x296 or visit www.womensEXPOli.org. 


Linda Johnson of Chocology at a previous Women's EXPO. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Popular marketplace of LI women entrepreneurs back for its 22nd year.

Save the date! The highly popular Women’s EXPO heads back to the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach on Thursday, October 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Time to shop! Photo by Heidi Sutton

Featuring more than 80 vendors, the  indoor event provides a marketplace for Long Island women entrepreneurs who create or distribute a variety of products, including jewelry, pottery, soaps, food and more. This event is a great opportunity to support local women entrepreneurs while shopping for holiday gift giving.

The Women’s EXPO is presented by the Middle Country Library Foundation. Proceeds will help to support the library’s Miller Business Center, which supports regional economic development by meeting the information needs of the business community, promoting a literate and job-ready workforce, and providing employment information and career exploration opportunities.  Sponsors include TD Bank, People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union and BankUnited.

“We are excited to be back celebrating women entrepreneurs on Long Island with the 22nd annual Women’s EXPO, after two years of limitations due to the pandemic.” says Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, the Director of the Middle Country Public Library.

For more information go to www.WomensEXPOli.org or call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.

Jessica and Jennifer Morales

One of the area’s favorite fall events, the Middle Country Public Library’s Women’s EXPO is back in person on Nov. 5 and, for the first time, outdoors. The annual event, which will feature more than 40 exhibitors this year, celebrates women entrepreneurs by connecting them with their peers, local business women and potential customers. 

“We are eager to see some of our favorites and to meet a great selection of new women entrepreneurs at this year’s EXPO,” said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of the library’s Miller Business Center. 

As always, the EXPO welcomes a diverse group of entrepreneurs with something for everyone. Shoppers can find items such as jewelry, pottery, handbags and home decor.  Library director, Sophia 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.” 

TD Bank has been a sponsor of the EXPO since 2007. Maryellen Ferretti, Retail Market Manager, V.P./Long Island East Region says, “The Middle Country Library is a great partner with TD Bank because we both believe in giving back to the community in which we live and work. The Women’s EXPO is a great example of TD Bank’s commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs and business on Long Island.”

Let’s learn more about some of the women you’ll meet at the EXPO.  

Jessica and Jennifer Morales, Luv Chic Boutique

Jessica and Jennifer Morales Luv Chic Boutique

On their birthday in 2019, twins Jessica and Jennifer Morales tossed around the idea of starting their own clothing business. They wanted Luv Chic Boutique to help “women feel beautiful, comfortable and confident.” Having worked at the Middle Country Library since 2014, Jessica knew the Miller Business Center can help entrepreneurs like her and her sister. Librarians at the Center connected them with the Stony Brook Small Business Development Center, where they were able to get their business going. 

Learning as they went, Jessica and Jennifer started with big clothing drops, promoting via social media, but soon found that smaller collections were more successful. Both women look forward to growing their business, eventually adding accessories and even a store front.  Jessica and Jennifer are eager to finally be a part of the EXPO as exhibitors as they have seen the energy of the day. “We are excited to do the show because it is such a big and important event.”

Shannon Messina, North Fork Creations

Shannon Messina

Shannon Messina of North Fork Creations is an EXPO veteran. She worked with her business partner and mother-in-law, Elaine, to create beautiful hand painted glassware. After Elaine passed away, Shannon had a difficult time picking up a paint brush so she tried something new. She started hosting paint parties at wineries out East and was building her new niche when Covid happened.

Like most small businesses, Shannon pivoted to survive, creating kits for people to paint at home and investing in a laser cutting machine. She loves the creativity involved with both painting and designing laser cut items and is looking forward to showing her new products to EXPO shoppers. “What’s so nice about the EXPO is that you speak with so many different types of people. Whenever I meet another woman [business owner] from Long Island, I tell them to do the EXPO.” 

Cathy Buckley, Cathy Buckley Cat’s Meow 

Cathy Buckley

Cathy Buckley always loved seeing the beautiful, unique handmade jewelry when she attended art fairs and felt inspired to make her own. Being a registered nurse, designing jewelry with copper, brass, silver and vintage items is also a way for Cathy to keep her sanity.  During the pandemic, she shifted sales to online and worked hard to increase the presence of Cat’s Meow on Instagram and other social media outlets. Cathy even participated in the virtual EXPO last year but is eager to get back to in-person events. “I love the EXPO! It’s very empowering to be in the presence of so many women entrepreneurs.”

Diana McDonough, ACD Vinyl

Diana McDonough

Diana McDonough is BUSY! She works full-time and is a full-time grad student in Cyber Security at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC. Oh, and did we mention she runs ACD Vinyl? As many entrepreneurs did, during the start of the pandemic, Diana took her graphic design background and turned it into a business. She was happy to be able to use her creativity to make her own designs in cake toppers, stickers, cards, banners and more. 

Each month, Diana donates a portion of sales to an organization focused on getting women & girls into STEM such as Girls Who Code. While most of her sales are online, Diana loves to attend shows so she can network with other small businesses. She is excited to attend the EXPO for the first time because “celebrating women and helping women is something I am extremely passionate about.”


The annual Women’s EXPO will take place outdoors on Friday, November 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach. Admission is free and there is ample parking. The rain date for the EXPO is Friday, November 12th. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393 x296 or visit www.womensEXPOli.org. 


From left to right: Elizabeth Malafi, Sal DiVincenzo, Maryellen Ferretti and Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. Photo from MCPL

TD Bank has provided a generous grant of $5,000 to  the Middle Country Library Foundation in support of a new series focused on business and personal finance and the annual Women’s EXPO, the library’s educational and supportive venue where local women entrepreneurs and artists gain valuable tradeshow experience.

Edna J. White

The pandemic has affected absolutely everyone and no one more so than small business owners and entrepreneurs. They have never worked harder to stay afloat than in the past year.

Elizabeth Malafi, Coordinator of the Miller Business Center acknowledges their hard work. “Small businesses and entrepreneurs have had such a hard time, especially those who rely heavily on in-person events, shows and markets,” she said. 

Because of the limits on these types of events, the Middle Country Public Library’s annual Women’s EXPO went virtual last year. And, now, for the first time in its history, this traditionally fall event will be held virtually in the spring. 

An initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation, the Women’s EXPO is a vehicle to promote economic development for Long Island women entrepreneurs.  “Offering a virtual marketplace during this time gives women an opportunity to promote themselves in a new way,” said Malafi. “It also pushes them to create or expand their digital presence. With support from Bank of America and our other sponsors, we are able to offer workshops that help them continue to grow their businesses virtually.” 

Recent workshops focused on expanding a small business’s social media footprint.  

“The mission of the Library’s Miller Business Center has always been to promote economic development on Long Island. The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from the exhibitors about our first virtual EXPO led us to make the decision to offer the event for the first time in the spring. Now more than ever, we needed to give Long Island’s women entrepreneurs every opportunity to get back on their feet,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Director of Middle Country Public Library.

Support local businesses and shop for spring events at the Women’s EXPO on Thursday, April 15 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Register at www.womensEXPOli.org. Virtual attendees will be entered to win one of several door prizes. Computers for browsing will be available at the Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach branch at 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on the day of the event. For more information, please call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.

And now, meet some of the participating entrepreneurs!

Edna J. White

Edna J. White

An author and life purpose coach, Edna J. White was looking for a way to revive her business during the pandemic. When she saw the EXPO was going virtual last fall, she thought it would be a good way to promote her books and coaching business. 

“At first it was a little confusing because it was my first encounter with this innovative idea but after getting much-needed direction from the EXPO team, I was off and running!” she said. “The online EXPO was a great experience with a lot of engagement.” 

White is hoping for even more success this spring. 

Mary Ann Butera

Mary Ann Butera

Mary Ann Butera, of Crafty Butterfly, was intrigued by the idea of a virtual EXPO but didn’t think it was really for her … until she visited the online event last December and saw how great it looked and how easy the platform was to use. 

“This event could well become a new trend as an addition to in-person fairs. Middle Country Library offers such excellent events and programs, this new approach is just so logical and creative — it fits perfectly into the growing acceptance and use of social media … and gives me another outlet for my hand knit creations.” 

Butera will be selling felted hats, shawls, wraps, unique accessories and more during the online event.

Sherry Davis

Sherry Davis, of Davis Fiber Arts, had just decided to start selling her artwork as the pandemic hit. She quickly detoured into mask making, taking advantage of both her treasure trove of reclaimed fabrics and her fiber art skills.

 Now that things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal, Davis says she is “back on track and ready to offer my handwoven upcycled rugs to the public.” After being referred to the virtual EXPO by another woman entrepreneur, Davis decided it was “just the right time for me to debut my work.”

Tiana Le

Tiana Le, owner of Le Fusion, an artisan spring roll company, has participated in the EXPO for many years and always loved the comradery of the day but was skeptical about the event going virtual last fall. 

“When I heard they were doing the EXPO as a virtual market I wasn’t sure how it was going to work but it was AMAZING!!!” said Le, adding that she had customers asking questions throughout the day, like they would in person.

“They brought e-commerce to a different level. The platform was live and interactive. It was a successful and amazing experience!!” Le believes she will be just as successful at the April 15 event.


Kellly Wong of Lai Life Products

If we had to pick one word for 2020 it might be pivot. We’ve all been pivoting our lives to accommodate changes due to a global pandemic. Perhaps no one has pivoted more than small business owners and entrepreneurs, especially local micro entrepreneurs who rely on sales from weekend markets throughout the holiday season.

The annual Women’s EXPO, an initiative of the Middle Country Library Foundation and Miller Business Center, has also pivoted and will be held virtually this year on Dec. 10.

“The mission of the Library’s Miller Business Center has always been to promote economic development on Long Island and we felt that more than ever, we needed to support Long Island’s women entrepreneurs,” said Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Director of the library. “With support from Bank of America and our other sponsors, we are able to offer workshops that would help provide the necessary tools to succeed in this virtual marketplace,” she said. The programs, focusing on social media, selling online, marketing, and photography, helped entrepreneurs with the online environment.

“Bank of America is committed to supporting economic mobility for those within the communities we serve,” said Bob Isaksen, Long Island market president for Bank of America. “Women entrepreneurs play an important role in driving economic growth here on Long Island, and this year more than ever, it is important to support and advance their businesses. We’re grateful to have a strong, long standing partnership with the Middle Country Library Foundation for this event and encourage everyone who is able to virtually shop the EXPO this holiday season.”

Here are just a few of the women you will “meet” at this year’s virtual event:

Kelly Wong: Lai Life Products

Kellly Wong of Lai Life Products

After seeing how hard it was for some people to kneel on their thin yoga mats, Kelly Wong created a high quality knee pad to alleviate pressure on knees, wrists, or tailbone. She never expected that her passion project, Lai Life, would be so successful. Feedback from those customers showed Wong that the implications for her product reached far beyond the yoga studio. Now she markets the pad with its many other uses including for gardening and game day.

With in-person events being canceled, Kelly turned to her ecommerce site.  Targeted online ads and a move towards exercising at home has helped and Kelly has even sold out a few times. The move to more online sales has forced her to learn a lot more but overall it has helped with the business. Interestingly, she’s been developing more relationships with her customers in this new virtual world. This year will be Kelly’s first as an exhibitor at the EXPO and she is “very excited to join this elite group of small businesses.”

Lori Rosenberg: Red Gems

Lori Rosenberg of Red Gems

Primarily a pop-up shop, Lori Rosenberg’s Red Gems, was not prepared for all the event cancellations. “I have always told my children to play to their strengths, one of my strengths is building a strong rapport and trust with my customers,” said Lori.

This rapport has brought her many repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals who reach out to purchase the jewelry, rain ponchos, and other accessories she sells. But not seeing new and loyal customers at events has been a challenge. While Lori knows she has to build her online shopping presence, she is also the first to admit that tech does not come easily to her.

Like most of us, she’s had to learn a lot of new skills in 2020. Lori is looking forward to learning what she needs to create a virtual booth for the EXPO. “I signed up for the virtual EXPO because I was honored to have been an exhibitor for the last two years and from start to finish it was a true pleasure as well as profitable. The staff could not have been more professional, supportive or accommodating and it was inspiring to be in the company of other Long Island entrepreneurs.”

Tamar Perry: Creative Treasures

Tamar Perry of Creative Treasures

Tamar Perry has been creating since her first art class at age 12. Her hobby turned into a side business in 2011, when she began making paper jewelry and selling at local shows.

This year has been a challenge — the pandemic caused her employer to close its New York office — but Tamar is an optimist and saw an opportunity to invest in her own company, Creative Treasures which focuses on vintage, romantic, steampunk and old country style paper crafting and mixed media art.

While her main focus is creating scrapbooking albums and mixed media art, she has partnered with Plasterkraze in Selden to offer make-and-take events and online classes.

As a first time exhibitor, Tamar is looking forward to using the virtual EXPO to interact with the local community and introduce them to her art. “The virtual EXPO gives me the ability to invite you to my studio, share my techniques and show you hands on how I make these crafts.”

Dana Porciello: The Soothery

Dana Porciello of The Soothery

Like many other small businesses without a storefront, Dana Porciello, of The Soothery, has been seeking ways to get in front of customers. In these times especially, finding markets for her handmade soaps, lotion bars, lip balms, and face masks has been a big challenge, but one Dana knew she wanted to take on. She’s been working on her website – thesoothery.com – to get her business in front of a wider audience. Dana has also joined any safe, in-person markets. “I met amazing people and customers who wanted to support local makers which was inspiring and made me love what I do even more.” She has learned a lot about her business and sees this year overall as a tremendous learning experience.

Dana’s excited about the opportunities a virtual EXPO brings. “I love the Women’s EXPO because every woman here started with an idea and made it a reality. I find this so powerful and love to be around that energy. The library and its community does an amazing job supporting the EXPO and women in business and I love being a part of it.”


Support local businesses and finish your holiday shopping at the 20th annual (and first VIRTUAL) Women’s EXPO on Thursday, December 10, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at www.womensEXPOli.org. Virtual attendees will be entered to win one of many door prizes. Computers for browsing will be available at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on the day of the event. For more information, please call 631-585-9393, ext. 296.




Middle Country Public Library in Centereach hosted the 19th annual Women’s EXPO on Oct. 3. Thousands came out to kick off their holiday shopping at the one-day event presented by the Middle Country Library Foundation and the library’s Miller Business Center.

More than 80 women entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to introduce their products, which included jewelry, children’s books, soaps, candles, chocolate, fall crafts, clothing and much more. Fifth Season restaurant offered lunch in the EXPO Café. 

This year’s lead sponsor was Bank of America. The event was also sponsored by Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP of Ronkonkoma; People’s Alliance Federal Credit Union; BankUnited; TD Bank; Jefferson’s Ferry; and the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce. Vendors interested in participating in next year’s event are encouraged to visit www.womensExpoli.org. See more photos of the event at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

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

Chocology Unlimited owner Linda Johnson hands out samples of fudge at last year’s Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

By Elizabeth Malafi

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurs face many challenges when starting a new business. The challenges are even greater for women entrepreneurs.

While the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of women-owned businesses increased by 45 percent from 2007 to 2016, a faster rate than the national average, research shows there is still a significant gap between women-owned and male-owned businesses.

Linda Johnson. Photo by Miranda Gatewood

A report by SCORE, “The Megaphone of Main Street: Women’s Entrepreneurship,” published in spring 2018, shows that women-owned businesses still fall behind in revenue and financing. However, the same report shows that mentorship increases a business’s chances of opening and staying open. Networking and connecting with other women entrepreneurs can yield the same results. These outside perspectives help refine a business’s practices and decision-making.

Connections with other business women and entrepreneurs is invaluable and can really make a difference in the success of a business venture.

Linda Johnson of Chocology Unlimited knows the value of these connections. When first starting her business, she met a kindred spirit in Maria Camassa of Lucky Lou’s Gourmet Rice Pudding. Both were starting new businesses after previous careers and quickly realized that they had very similar philosophies. “Even though we have very different directions for our businesses we still bounce ideas off of each other. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective,” says Johnson. The two became business supports for each other.

As successful women entrepreneurs, the two are often too busy to physically meet, but they do keep in touch. Both women are early birds who spend a lot of time driving so phone calls from the car are their main way of communicating. And communicate they do. Johnson says these calls are often for sharing thoughts and getting input on new business ideas. “We laugh … a lot. Mostly at ourselves.” With the laughter comes true, honest and valuable feedback. Johnson says her connection with Camassa is so important, not only for her business but for herself. It is great to not only get an outside opinion but also encouragement and understanding.

Mentors, partners and role models are beneficial to the success of women-owned small businesses but not always easy to find. Women entrepreneurs should reach out to other women entrepreneurs and professionals.

Not sure where to find them? Join your local chamber of commerce. Or visit one of the many business networking organizations on Long Island. Some even focus on the success of women. SCWBEC, the Suffolk County Women’s Business Enterprise Coalition, is an organization whose mission is to support their members through networking with other women business professionals.

Each fall, the Middle Country Public Library’s Miller Business Center hosts the Women’s EXPO, a venue for women entrepreneurs on Long Island to market their products. But more importantly, this event strives to connect its participants with other women entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Women entrepreneurs have come a long way, but there is still a ways to go toward complete equity. Partnering and mentoring between women entrepreneurs is a good way to get there.

Elizabeth Malafi is the coordinator of the Miller Business Center at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach.

By Heidi Sutton

The Middle Country Public Library in Centereach hosted its 18th annual Women’s EXPO Oct.4. Thousands came out to kick off their holiday shopping at the one-day event which was presented by the Middle Country Library Foundation and the library’s Miller Business Resource Center.

More than 80 women entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to introduce their products, which included pottery, candles, baked goods, fall crafts, children’s books, clothing, jewelry, soaps and much more. 

This year’s event’s lead sponsor was Bank of America and was also sponsored by Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP of Ronkonkoma. Volunteers from Bank of America helped make sure the day ran smoothly.

“We had a great turnout with over 2,300 shoppers,” said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of Adult Services and the Miller Business Resource Center. “Year after year the best thing about the EXPO is the people. We are lucky to have amazing volunteers, entrepreneurs and shoppers who make it such a special day.”

Vendors interested in participating in next year’s event are encouraged to visit www.womensExpoli.org.

Photos by Heidi Sutton