Westchester’s young professionals exude energy and excitement, and they express appreciation for a business climate that helps them grow.
“Because of Westchester County’s reputation as New York’s Intellectual Capital®, it’s important that we choose the best of the bunch when we are looking to hire,” says Maria Freburg, a senior business banker with Webster Bank in White Plains. “It’s fast-paced and you’re surrounded by very competent individuals. It helps you become better.”
Freburg is Chairperson of the steering committee for “40 Under 40 Rising Stars,” The Business Council of Westchester’s program that honors business professionals who are outstanding performers in their industry and have also had an impact on their local communities.
“It’s the most exciting time to be a young professional in Westchester,” says Chris Dessi, Founder and CEO of Silverback Social, a White Plains-based social media agency. “Silverback is reaping the benefit of a down economy – young people were not so willing to get an apartment in Manhattan; they’re staying home instead and we are getting Manhattan-quality work in Westchester. They’re doing really great work, and the quality is there and the opportunity is there.”
Adds Freburg, “Westchester is a suburb of New York City, and to be here and be successful means something. Hard work is recognized.”
Rising Stars gives the individuals honored – 40 are chosen each year from more than 100 nominees – an opportunity for visibility within the county, and a valuable network.
“When you put it on your résumé, it gives you an opportunity to network and build business contacts,” Freburg says.
It also gives young professionals a chance to meld both work and meaning in their lives: A fundraiser in the fall of 2013 set a goal of providing 40,000 pounds of food to the Coalition for the Hungry and the Homeless.
“We believe we can come together as a team and really make a difference,” Freburg says. “We are focused on something larger than our own careers.”
That sense of community is part of what keeps young professionals in Westchester instead of losing them to the Big Apple next door. They know that community and the opportunity to make an impact, both personally and professionally, is not as easy to find elsewhere.
“We have a lot of businesses, both large and small, as well as not-for-profits. … We have more opportunities,” Freburg says, “and certainly being within a network like Rising Stars, those opportunities are even more so – you really have doors opened for you.”
But she is quick to point out that those who are not honored also find plenty of opportunities to create networks and open doors. “We have one of the most active, interactive and well-run business councils,” she says.
The Westchester Digital Summit, of which Dessi is Founder and Producer, adds a digital dimension to an already lively business scene. Forbes.com touted it as one of the “Four Lesser-Known Conferences That Deserve Your Attention in 2013.”
Speakers and panelists included executives from Facebook, IBM, Heineken, Rue La La, Hubspot, Petflow.com, Target, Fox Business and Steiner Sports. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, the Founder of WineLibrary.com and VaynerMedia, was the keynote speaker and will be again for the 2014 conference, which takes place on May 15 at the Ritz-Carlton in White Plains. The author of “The Startup Playbook,” David S. Kidder, also will be featured. Some 550 people attended in 2013.
Dessi says the goal is to educate Westchester about the possibilities of the digital world by bringing in powerful digital marketers. “Digital touches every single business,” he says. “Businesses can no longer choose whether to engage in social media. Whether you like it or not, social media is all around us.”
2013 Rising Stars:
Charles Aikman / WTP Advisors
Brennian Antell / Altium Wealth Management, LLC
Edwin Araujo / Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center
Lauren Brady / This is Me Foundation
Faith Ann Butcher / Hudson Valley Reporter
Peter Cappiello / PrimePay
Frank Carlisi / Toni Anne’s Catering
Dan Casteralla / American Christmas, Inc.
Joshua Chapman / Tommie Copper Inc.
Diana Costello / Office of the County Executive
Cristian Cruz / Stew Leonard’s
Stephen D’Arcy / Marx Okubo Associates, Inc.
Diane Durante / Biodynamic Technologies
Timothy Florio / HSBC Bank USA
Ed Forbes / Journal News Media Group
Potoula Gjidija / Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Andres Gonzalez / Talt Electric
Jeffrey Haydon / Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts, Inc.
Marisela Huerta, Ph.D / Center for Autism and the Developing Brain; NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division
Barry Kappel / ContraFect Corporation
John Leone / Good Life Entertainment
Alexander Leventhal / Faros Properties
Jené Luciani / Jené Luciani, Inc.
Nick Marra / Webster Bank
Drew McKay / Arben Group, LLC
Andy Moller / Shoreline
Eon Nichols / Cuddy & Feder LLP
Benjamin Palancia / Albert Palancia Agency Inc.
Salahuddin Rajput / Walison Corp.
Corinne Safarowic / Westchester School for Special Children
Judeson Saintil / Hudson Health Plan
Drew Saunders / Jones Lang LaSalle
Timothy Sheehan / IntegraMed
JD Summa / Kings Capital Construction Group, Inc.
Scott Tangredi / Reckson, a Division of SL Green Realty Corp.
Stacey Tank / Heineken USA
Patrick Van Horne / Active Analysis Consulting
Zinaria Williams, MD / Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Shakira Wilson / Con Edison
John Zanzarella / Jackson Lewis LLP