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  • Writer's pictureSBDC @ JCC

SBDC Announces Entrepreneurship of the Year Award Winners During National Small Business Week

(September 13, 2021) The global pandemic has had a lasting impact on the small business community, and many businesses do not know if they will remain open. However, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jamestown Community College recognizes the tremendous efforts of the local small business community to continue successful operations of their businesses in these unprecedented times. In an effort to recognize our resilient business community, the SBDC has created the first ever Entrepreneurs of the Year Awards for our region. The SBDC is pleased to recognize the following small business owners in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County as Entrepreneurs of the Year:

Hector Alverio, The Hotspot Café

Jackie Francis, Ashville General Store

Jessica Gilbert, Ava Grace Eco Fashion

Shannon Whipple, Custom Cuts

These individuals were selected for their successes owning small businesses in our region and have been nominated to receive awards at the state level as well. Each has overcome obstacles and contributed to the economic growth of the area as female and minority business owners.

The SBDC is honored to work with the small business community in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany County. According to SBDC Director, Courtney Curatolo, “These individuals have not only inspired the SBDC team of advisors, but also inspire others interested in starting their own small business in our region. It has been very fulfilling watching each of these individuals grow their businesses and see success in a period of economic uncertainty.”

As a minority entrepreneur, Hector Alverio opened his café on Valentine’s Day 2020, just before the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic. During the shut-down he implemented take out service and not only survived, but thrived.

Jackie Francis opened The Ashville General Store in 1991 and it quickly became a place for locals and tourists to come and mingle over food made from scratch. It has been open for 30 years not only due to good business decisions but also by operating with a greater purpose in mind-the idea of community. This award is being given by the SBDC at Jamestown Community College and the SBDC at Binghamton University.

Jessica Gilbert is an amazing female entrepreneur that was able to pivot during the pandemic to create a successful online presence, purchased a new building in Ellicottville for her store, started to produce her own brand, and has seen substantial growth.

Shannon Whipple is another female entrepreneur that has remarkable resilience and determination. Despite personal and professional struggles caused by the pandemic, she has demonstrated a strong will, optimism, and creativity to make her business successful.

Holger Ekanger, VP for Workforce Readiness at JCC also shared, “JCC is focused on working with entrepreneurs in the region and excited to honor these individuals through the SBDC. Each of these entrepreneurs is a role model for others to start small businesses and we hope to work with those individuals to ensure they are successful. In fact, we are working on developing an entrepreneurship certification over the next 10 months and hope to provide the training needed for diverse industries.”

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jamestown Community College (JCC) vision is to create economic sustainability for all New Yorkers – one business at a time. The SBDC delivers high quality business counseling and training to clients looking to start a business or improve the performance of an existing business. Services are free and confidential and include a range of management and technical assistance from business plan development, accounting guidance, productivity enhancement and export assistance to loan information, marketing, and financial planning among other services. For services and more information contact 716-338-1024 or go to our website at



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