Type to search

Westchester’s Women in Business in 2022 Innovate and Inspire

Share
Photography by Ken Gabrielsen | Shot on location at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers

As Westchester County continues to grow and adapt amid times of change, these inspiring women lead the way in the 914.

By Paul Adler, Nick Brandi, Cristiana Caruso, Jessica Jafet, Michelle Gillian Larkin, and Wolfranz Xhokaxhiu

Across industry, nonprofits, and the arts, this year’s Women in Business honorees have sent ripples throughout the county and their communities. By establishing a legacy of leadership, drive, and passion, our Women in Business are continuing to serve the county as we shift into the new normal.

24 Westchester Women Leading the Way to Recovery

Women in Business Awards 2022

Priya Kapoor-Salian
Co-owner/Chef

RaaSa

women in business Priya

Growing up in Chappaqua with parents from India, Priya Kapoor-Salian ate the cuisine of her ancestors every day. Her present-day patrons would likely stew with envy, but for young Kapoor-Salian, “I got tired of the same food and became interested in cooking.” Already at ease in the kitchen, as “it’s important in Indian culture for a woman to learn to cook,” Kapoor-Salian took the tastes she knew and blended them with more foreign flavors, particularly Cajun. “I created all different dishes and recipes for the holidays,” she says, “and I became addicted to the Food Network.” Her passion led to hospitality-and-hotel-management school, where she met her future husband. Together, they went from washing dishes and bussing tables to the kitchens of some of NYC’s top restaurants. They took ownership of RaaSa eight years ago and continue to swap shifts at the stove. “I treat RaaSa like a child,” says Kapoor-Salian. “I give it so much care.” As for her staff: “Because we worked our way up, I know the pressures. I work just as hard as they do.” Many of the daily specials are Cajun-inflected dishes she concocted at home to enhance family mealtimes, earning RaaSa a 2020 Michelin Bib Gourmand nod and ensuring that Kapoor-Salian and her customers never tire of the same food.
—MGL

Cheryl Brannan
Founder & Executive Director

Sister to Sister International, Inc.

women in business Cheryl

World travel affects different people in different ways, but when Cheryl Brannan arrived in Nairobi as a nongovernmental UN delegate for an international women’s conference, the impact was life-changing. “I was meeting women from all over the world and seeing how we had a common thread of wanting and needing to empower each other,” she recalls. The experience was so profound that Brannan and her family made repeated trips to Africa, tending to in-need villages and reconnecting with their history. Already leading political and activist causes at home, the creation of Sister to Sister International (STSI) was a natural progression. “I was at a point in my life where I wanted to focus on the next generation.” Based in Yonkers, STSI is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that globally links — via advocacy, education, and the promotion of African culture — women, girls, and families of African descent to resources that connect, advance, and strengthen them. “I envisioned an organization where, under one umbrella, political, corporate, and grassroots women would feel at home empowering Black women.” Health and wellness are cornerstones of STSI, and its standout successes include the “Still I Rise” report on the status of Black women and girls in Westchester and the first-of-its-kind STEAM academy for middle and high school girls of color. “For me, legacy is really important,” says Brannan. “I’ve had a good life, and I’m just happy to invest in the next generation.” —MGL

Cathy Billone
Founder/Owner

The Nurtury Montessori School

women in business Cathy

The eldest of nine children, Cathy Billone realized from an early age that everyone learns differently. “The education we received was great for some of us, but not for others who really struggled,” she explains. The first time she stepped into a Montessori school while pursuing an education degree, she knew instantly that something special was happening. “Children were actively engaged in lessons or activities, walking around freely, and seemed to be deciding what they wanted to do,” Billone recalls. “Everyone seemed polite and concentrated on whatever they were doing; talking, eating, reading.” Convinced this was how she wanted children to experience learning, Billone became a Montessori teacher in 1979; two decades later, she founded The Nurtury Montessori School in her house in New Rochelle. Today, she owns and operates eight such schools across Westchester, plus one in Fort Lauderdale, and her Montessori-educated grown daughters are her co-owners. “I still marvel at the success the children have and their love of learning,” says Billone. “Some learn very fast and others slower, but they all actually learn.” And the best part, according to Billone: “What they learn most is how to control themselves, get along with others, and become responsible for themselves and others. What can be better than that?” —MGL

Jane Veron
CEO

The Acceleration Project

women in business Jane

As a leader who is committed to helping solve societal problems, Jane Veron considers herself “a fixer and a doer.” She is the cofounder and CEO of The Acceleration Project (TAP), a nonprofit organization based in Scarsdale that serves underrepresented small-business owners in the tri-state area, particularly women and people of color. “TAP is all about closing inequity: income, racial, and gender gaps. We do so by advancing the success of small-business owners, providing an incredible pathway for the dignity and sustainability of people’s lives, families, and communities,” says Veron. With a large group of pro bono consultants and a paid management team that offers guidance in business fundamentals in English and Spanish, TAP provides customized support to hundreds of small businesses, both locally and across the country. This practical assistance propels businesses to the next level and keeps local economies thriving. In addition, Veron currently serves as mayor of the Village of Scarsdale, a role that merges her business acumen and civic leadership skills. A Harvard Business School graduate who spent her career in strategy, marketing and consulting, she says her vision is to invest in the future of the village and make it an even better place to live. “I love to work toward common goals; there is such power in bringing people together to get things done,” she says. —JJ

Shelley Mayer
Senator

New York State Senate

women in business Shelley

New York State Senator Shelley Mayer is not cynical about politics and democracy. On the contrary, the Democratic representative of the 37th District since 2018 considers her position to be a tremendous honor and believes strongly in the system. “We have a nation where people can run for office; they can say their ideas; people can choose to vote for them,” Mayer says. The Yonkers native, who received a BA from UCLA and a law degree from the University at Buffalo Law School, was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2012, where she served for six years. Throughout her time in state government, Mayer has been a champion of public education and continues to work on behalf of children by delivering resources to schools and making policy decisions that benefit every student. As for her emergence as a role model for women who want to make a difference, the mother and grandmother happily accepts that responsibility. “I’m very supportive of women who want to get involved either in civic life, in politics, or in their own careers,” Mayer explains. “I want to be a confidence booster because all of us women engage in this self-doubt as we move up the ladder — and I say, find your voice and don’t apologize for it!” —JJ

Nikki Hahn
CEO

Women’s Enterprise Development Center

women in business Nikki

One small business at a time, CEO Nikki Hahn and the entire team at the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) are empowering local entrepreneurs to achieve financial stability and economic self-sufficiency. The nonprofit helps women and minorities build successful businesses through training programs, networking, and advisory services, in addition to providing assistance with finding capital and becoming Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) certified. Hahn, who has been at the helm since January 2022, says she is extremely proud that the organization is able to help change lives by improving the financial trajectories of their clients. “Who we help ranges from immigrants who came to this country with five dollars in their pockets and now have a booming business with 10 trucks on the road to women who had a hobby on the side and wondered if they could launch a business and never imagined this life was possible for them,” says Hahn. In addition, WEDC assists qualified small businesses with the certification process that allows them to be considered for contracts by corporations, municipalities, schools, and others who are trying to further goals of increasing ties with minority- and women-owned businesses. “It opens a whole new revenue stream that they wouldn’t have realized otherwise,” says Hahn. —JJ

Dr. Stephanie Smith-Marrone
Medical Director

NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Cancer Center

Women in business Stephanie

A medical oncologist becomes a part of a patient’s life in meaningful ways. Dr. Stephanie Smith-Marrone, medical director of NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Cancer Center, understands this deeply and has devoted herself to providing a supportive, personalized, and multidisciplinary approach to treating the disease. The board-certified specialist in lung, head, and neck cancers is also an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her expertise and leadership overseeing the clinical and operational activities of all cancer-related services at NY-P Cancer Center has given Smith-Marrone valuable insights. “Having cancer brings an intensity of emotions, ranging from sadness and fear to, surprisingly, joy and even a sense of freedom,” she explains. “My patients share these experiences with me, and I am grateful to be a part of that.” Fortunately, there have been tremendous advances in medical oncology over the past decade. These include new approaches to treatment that involve immunotherapy as well as other scientific advances in cancer genetics, the doctor explains, which have brought numerous, new, effective drug options and resulted in patients living longer, with less toxic treatment. “My job is very intense, but it is emotionally and intellectually gratifying, and I couldn’t imagine doing any other kind of medicine,” says Smith-Marrone. —JJ

Kerry Reinertsen
Senior VP of Strategic Alliances

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Women in business Kerry

Graduating from Harvard with a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology, and having prior work experience from fiscal giants such as IBM and Merrill Lynch, Kerry Reinertsen acts as a conduit between the worlds of science and business. Joining Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2011 as the senior vice president of strategic alliances, Reinertsen has been vital to the constant growth, success, and innovation of the corporation. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has matured from having only a handful of collaborators to over 100 active partners, all of whom contributed to its status as a $70 billion market-cap company and global biopharma leader. Reinertsen’s intersectionality between the worlds of business and science are essential to her success. She has served in board roles for many of Regeneron’s collaborators, such as the private biotech companies Decibel and Vyriad, guiding these early-stage companies on how to maximize the use of Regeneron’s resources. Knowing that the ultimate goal of Regeneron is to connect patients in need with lifesaving medications, Reinertsen was one of the first pharmaceutical executives to strike innovative deals that focused on promoting social well-being by including contractual clauses in partner deals with collaborators, like the compulsory establishment of nonprofits by said collaborators. Reinertsen acknowledges the grand implications that came with being exposed to science at such a young age, leading to her avid support of local and national charities that facilitate and promote the exposure of children to the sciences. —WX

Liz Pollack
Senior Marketing Manager

Cross County Shopping Center

Women in business Liz

The past few years were marked as some of the most difficult not only for retail stores but also for creating social gatherings from a distance. Cross County Shopping Center senior marketing manager Liz Pollack has ebbed and flowed with every change the pandemic threw at her. She was part of the team that executed one of the largest leases in New York during the COVID years, with retail giant Target breaking ground on a 130,000-square-foot space. Pollack’s role in the deal was integral, providing market research, consumer data, and renderings of the future build-out that helped secure the lease and get planning board approval by the City of Yonkers. In 2021, with green initiatives in mind, Pollack spearheaded a partnership with Best Bees, an organization that provides beekeeping services, so that organizations such as Marx Realty and Cross County Center could work together to perpetuate bees’ essential role in the ecosystem. Pollack also ran a social media contest to name two queen bees that garnered more than 100K views and helped increase engagement on the company’s Instagram page by more than 25%. For these achievements and events such as Girls’ Night Out, the Flip Circus Pop Up, and Cross County’s holiday events, Pollack was inducted into the Business Council of Westchester’s Business Hall of Fame. Additionally, she has exceeded annual-sponsorship and advertising-income goals every year for the past decade. For Pollack, the accolades are not the goal but rather reminders to always do her job with drive and integrity. “I was raised on the principle that you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning and night, knowing you did your best, tried your best; that is the driving force behind my work ethic.” —CC

Karen Banoff
Vice-President, Organizational Performance

White Plains Hospital (WPH)

Women in business Karen BanoffKaren Banoff is a catalyst for change. Positive change. It is the result of more than 35 years of single-minded dedication to her career in healthcare management. “I consider myself a team builder with the will and tenacity to break down barriers,” says Banoff. “I don’t give up until I find the solution to a problem. Internally, I may feel pressured, but externally, I always model a calm and balanced demeanor for my team.” That team spans multiple departments and more than 70 employees to whom Banoff feels a great sense of responsibility. “It’s my nature to encourage and support others,” she explains. “I take great pride in sharing my knowledge, experiences, and wisdom with those who report to me, so they can grow in their careers.” Banoff has been integral in leading WPH’s quality and performance-improvement initiatives, while her counsel and influence led to the elevation of the hospital’s data analytics capabilities across the institution. Thanks to her successful recruitment of top talent in the data analysis space, WPH is seeing the benefits of improved access to information and a better understanding of those results through innovative data visualization, helping clinical and operational leaders focus their efforts to have the greatest impact. In addition to valiantly stepping up to take on additional responsibilities during the pandemic, Banoff works diligently to inspire and cultivate the next generation of leaders through her ongoing work on the fundraising board of the White Plains Youth Bureau. —NB

Amanda DePalma
Senior Vice President of Events

Business Council of Westchester

women in business Amanda

Amanda DePalma has played a key role in the promotion, expansion, and galvanization of the Westchester business community. During her six years as SVP of events for the Business Council of Westchester, DePalma’s boundless energy and organizational savvy have not only grown the number of events but also resulted in a threefold revenue increase. “Amanda’s event oversight is very strategic,” says Marsha Gordon, president/CEO of the BCW. “Yes, she highlights the BCW, but she also seeks to build the businesses and capacity of Westchester’s diverse meeting places, a key ingredient to economic development.” Though responsible for a mind-boggling 84 annual events, DePalma’s most high-profile product is likely BCW’s annual Business Expo. In 2019, for example, the region’s most influential B2B trade show saw more than 1,500 attendees gather, network, and showcase their products and services through such vehicles as the show’s “Experience Suites” and “Ask the Experts” booths. Meanwhile, her deft pivot to virtual events during the pandemic incredibly saw an increase in council membership (“my proudest achievement,” says DePalma). But she is equally passionate about egalitarian ideals. DePalma was essential in developing the BCW’s Anti-Racism Education Series, featuring workshops designed to deal with implicit bias, along with the most recent Diversity Conference, which focused on how businesses can better include people of color in their workforces and as contractors. After the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the BCW, under DePalma’s leadership, organized a program to teach companies what to do in the event of an active shooting. “I believe that if you are passionate about what you do, success will follow,” she says. —NB

Kate Schlientz
CEO

CommuniKATE Media, LLC

Women in business Kate

For a woman of many roles, Kate Schlientz’s most important one is as a global citizen and advocate for those who cannot champion themselves. A journalist by trade, starting her own media company felt like the natural career progression for Schlientz. But as she began to work with clients in the restaurant and nonprofit fields, overwhelming truths regarding food security in Westchester County became apparent. It was her innate call to do something to benefit the greater good that drove Schlientz to develop the Eating for Orange campaign with Feeding Westchester. For the past five Septembers, she has coordinated orange-inspired dishes, events, and fundraisers with upwards of 50 restaurants to produce one of the largest social media fundraising campaigns for those with food insecurity. “If we eat, everyone should eat,” says Schlientz. When COVID crippled the restaurant landscape of the county, Schlientz refused to stay idle, founding the Restaurant Alliance of Westchester. The organization began as a series of weekly Zoom check-ins with owners to communicate state mandates and offer marketing advice. Currently, the organization works with local government to help elevate and grow the industry. But that’s not all Schlientz was doing for local residents as the pandemic raged on: She also raised money and organized dozens of meals to feed the National Guard and helped Feeding Westchester with meals for frontline workers at local hospitals. Those meals helped local restaurants keep staff employed and businesses operating. But none of this is special to Schlientz; it is all just a day in the life. ““It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make an impact, but it is some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.” —CC

Isabel Dichiara
Executive Director

Westchester County Bar Association

Women in business Isabel

Isabel DiChiara believes in “leading from the front,” which has empowered those under her to always put their best foot forward during her 15 years as a top executive. Since she took the reins as executive director of the Westchester County Bar Association (WCBA) in 2017, she has grown the membership by more than 46%, from 1,300 members to 1,900 members. Even more impressive, DiChiara has maintained these membership levels through the tumult of the past two years while most other bar associations were losing members. Unlike many executives, she refuses to micromanage her team and instead pushes their ideas to fruition, recognizing that everyone’s unique perspective has intrinsic value, regardless of seniority. But her collaborative efforts also extend upward in her organization. She has developed a novel relationship between the executive committee and board of directors, fostering a proactive approach to success. Instead of just reacting to the financial goals and decisions of the two groups, DiChiara uses her expertise to help guide budget allocation to ensure that greater objectives are reached. She also manages to serve in executive positions on many community boards in her downtime, including the Childcare Council of Putnam and Dutchess Counties. She serves on the founding board of the Tyron Family Foundation and serves on the paralegal advisory committee at Westchester Community College. —WX

Dawn Perri
Chief Human Resource Officer

PKF O’Connor Davies

Women in Business Dawn

It’s said that pressure creates diamonds. In Dawn Perri’s case, pressure created something better: a dedicated, passionate, and hardworking community leader and C-suite executive. Born and raised in the Bronx to a single mother with three children, Perri did not have what most would call a privileged upbringing. Unable to afford college after graduating high school, she was committed to establishing herself and began working as a secretary for a law firm. Over the next 10 years, Perri accrued success and respect from her coworkers but realized in order to obtain the leadership positions she desired she would need to further her education. Managing her homelife as the mother of a son and respected employee of a law firm, Perri enrolled in Fordham University, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2013. She has since built an impressive career at PKF O’Connor Davies (PKFOD), starting in 2016 as chief human resources officer and eventually becoming partner after a unanimous vote. In the role, she has developed and implemented programs to smooth PKFOD’s merger process and grown a cohesive and strong HR team tasked with overseeing nearly 1,400 employees. Perri also implemented a Woman’s Initiative at PKFOD, fostering support for the women of the company. She also regularly participates in her community, coaching girls’ basketball for six years and being actively involved with the White Plains Youth Bureau. Thanks to Perri, another round of something-better-than diamonds will be joining the workforce soon. —WX

Karen C. Erren
President & CEO

Feeding Westchester

Karen C. Erren

In 2020, amid the pandemic, Karen Erren joined Feeding Westchester, a local nonprofit that provides hunger relief for families in need. Although Erren had 15 years of executive experience working for other food-relief organizations in Florida, California, and Arkansas, she found herself in a dire situation when she joined the Feeding Westchester team. She arrived to find a team recently depleted by 20%, with half the senior leadership gone, during a time in which food needs were nearly tripled from the previous year. The team that remained was fragmented and fatigued, as the number of local families needing hunger-relief services had grown from 138,000 in 2019 to 350,000 people per month in 2020. Against all odds, Erren met the challenge by embracing a collaborative approach. Every morning, she visits each corner of the distribution center and speaks with the team members, her managers praising her warmth and interest in their particular needs. She also increased the minimum wage to $20 an hour for her employees, focusing on employee benefits and their professional development. She actively challenges the status quo by considering all employees’ opinions and ideas, fostering collective growth and success. —WX

Anu Pani, MD
Owner, Medical Director and Physician

Immediate Medical Care MD; Pani Family Medicine

Anumpama Pani, MD

Dr. Anu Pani is a true COVID warrior. A family physician with more than two decades of experience, Pani opened her own urgent care center, Immediate Medical Care MD, in Ossining, in 2020. When a world-changing pandemic reared its head a few months later, Pani rose to the occasion. “I am proud to say I never lost one COVID patient, and I saw probably 5,000 of them and about 600 or 700 very sick patients,” recalls Pani. “It didn’t matter if I had to come in every single day, on Christmas, or by myself. That is what you have to do to help.” For her brave efforts, Pani was awarded Best Urgent Care in Westchester and Fairfield Counties by Doctors of Distinction and declared a Hero in the pandemic by the Ossining Hispanic Parents Committee. Currently, Pani is expanding Immediate Medical Care MD’s original location by taking over an adjacent space — nearly doubling the center’s size — and opening a new full-time primary-care office nearby. “People will say you can’t do everything all at once, but you can,” says Pani. “You aren’t going to do preventive care all of a sudden, but if you see something, address it; keep it in your mind to follow through on it. You can save lives. You can make a difference.” —PA

Katrine Beck
Founding Partner

Fullerton Beck LLP

Katrine Beck

The cofounder of White Plains law firm Fullerton Beck LLP, Katrine Beck works to defend both her community and her clients. “Fullerton Beck is primarily an insurance defense firm with practices that include general liability, New York labor law, medical malpractice, long-term care, and appellate law,” explains Beck. Along with a place on the New York Metro Super Lawyers list since 2016, Beck was named a “Notable Women in Law” by Crain’s New York Business in 2021 and 2022 and is a Westchester County Business Journal C-Suite Awards honoree. In addition, the Iranian-born Beck was included in the Business Council of Westchester’s “40 under 40” Rising Stars list and was awarded the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Vanguard Award by the New York State Bar Association. “As an immigrant born into Persian culture, with its beauty and positive aspects, I always felt it also possessed inherent injustice and inequality,” explains Beck, “and to me, Ruth Bader Ginsburg epitomized the opposite of that.” Beck has also served on the board at Girls Inc. of Westchester, serves as a mentor, and is a longtime supporter of Family Reach, a nonprofit that provides financial aid to families with children facing cancer. When it comes to her firm, the future looks bright. “In October, we are moving into a beautiful, larger space that will double the size of our footprint in White Plains,” says Beck. “While many companies were forced to downsize or shutter from COVID, Fullerton Beck expanded into New Jersey and Connecticut, and we negotiated a new lease in White Plains for better space.” —PA

Kathy O’Connor
Commissioner

Westchester County Department of Parks & Recreation

Kathy O’Connor

If you’ve ever spent the day at Playland Park, Muscoot Farm, Glen Island Park, or any other destination included in the 18,000 acres of parkland overseen by the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation (WCPRC), then you’ve already seen the work of Kathy O’Connor — perhaps without even knowing it. Since 2010, O’Connor has been the commissioner of the Westchester’s park system, which consists of 244 employees and hundreds of seasonal employees, a $55 million annual budget, and three million annual visitors. O’Connor has a long history of working within the park system: She started her career with the County Parks Department in 1980 and held various positions until 2010, when she was appointed commissioner. Additionally, she volunteered her time as the executive director of the Friends of Westchester County Parks from 2003 to 2010. Due to her exemplary work, more than 10 local and national awards were granted to WCPRC, including the highest honor a parks system can receive and accreditation by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) for three straight terms. O’Connor also deploys her staff to assure that our parks maintain high standards, resulting in annual passing grades for over 98% of Westchester’s parks — 13% higher than the New York City parks’ average. During the pandemic, the commissioner worked alongside her staff to guarantee the secure opening of pools, beaches, and children’s camps over the affected summers. Even more crucially, she collaborated with local and state officials to transform the Westchester County Center and Glen Island into field hospitals that were among the nation’s first drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites. Responding to the immense emotional upheaval imposed by the pandemic, she helped develop Ribbons of Remembrance, a memorial dedicated to victims of COVID-19. Last year, O’Connor’s exceptional management skills were recognized by the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO), which awarded her its Outstanding Public Official Award. —WX

Dara Rosenbaum
Partner

Rosenbaum & Taylor, PC

Dara Rosenbaum

Dara Rosenbaum never lets the grass grow under her feet. A small-business owner who cofounded her firm in 2011, Rosenbaum is a mentor to young women, an advisor, and host of her own podcast, Compelling Conversations. At Rosenbaum & Taylor, PC, she works each day to help both entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed. “The firm’s mission is to serve small and midsize businesses by doing exceptional transactional and litigation work in the areas of business formation, contract drafting and negotiation, business law, business strategy, and business disputes,” says Rosenbaum. “As a small-business owner myself, I know how important it is to have a strong ally to turn to for advice. It is my personal goal to be an accessible, helpful resource to, and advocate for, my clients throughout their business journeys.” A practicing attorney for more than two decades, Rosenbaum is a mentor through The Teak Fellowship, which provides support and education to talented students from low-income families. She is also active in Women Owned Law, an organization that provides advocates for women legal entrepreneurs. “It is my privilege, and I think of it as my duty, to connect with young women who may be able to draw inspiration from me, learn from my experiences, and look to me for advice and guidance,” shares Rosenbaum. “I started mentoring because I was excited about what I could offer young women, not realizing how much I would learn in return.” —PA

Ellen Dunkin, ESQ.
Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Chief Risk Officer & Secretary

Amalgamated Life Insurance Company

Ellen Dunkin, ESQ.

For Ellen Dunkin, a career in law comes with many hats. As the senior vice president, general counsel, and chief risk officer for White Plains’ Amalgamated Life Insurance Company, Dunkin provides legal advice and litigation support for the company and ensures Amalgamated’s HIPAA, HITECH, and PPACA compliance. She is also responsible for drafting and reviewing all contracts, leases, and plan documentation at the firm, and for reviewing the company’s ERM and insurance programs. As if that weren’t enough, Dunkin additionally provides supervision of Amalgamated’s legal, internal audit, and compliance departments. “I kind of look at it as four hats — or maybe more than four,” says Dunkin with a laugh. Dunkin has also served as speaker during several Association of Corporate Counsel meetings and at the Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS) RISKWORLD conference. Last year, she served as president of RIMS and is currently an ex officio member of the board. Yet despite these many responsibilities, Dunkin still remains laser-focused on her work. “At Amalgamated, I look to keep the company on a steady course, make sure that we maintain our compliance, and ensure that I can support the business and business leaders,” explains Dunkin. “That’s what keeps me coming to work every day.” —PA

Michelle Nicholas
SVP, Chief Diversity Officer, and Director of Community Development

PCSB Bank

Michelle Nicholas

Michelle Nicholas wields eloquence and business savvy in equal measure. As senior vice president, chief diversity officer, and director of community development at PCSB Bank, the Guyanese-born Nicholas is also a frequent speaker for the Business Council of Westchester. At PCSB, Nicholas is a member of the bank’s senior leadership team, responsible for the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, cross-cultural competency, and external community engagement. “I think about people at the top, people in the middle, everybody, because we all are human beings, and we all are looking to be treated fairly and equally at every step and at every stage of our lives,” says Nicholas. She currently serves on the board of Nonprofit Westchester and chairs its Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee in addition to serving as co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, and serving on the African American Advisory Board. All this hard work has not gone unnoticed. Nicholas made Crain’s 2022 list of Notable Black Leaders and Executives and was a 2022 Caribbean Impact Award winner, among several other honors. Back in Guyana, Nicholas founded Sexual Assault and Family Education (SAFE), as well as Nico Consulting, which aids Guyanese companies. “In 2018 and 2022, respectively, I co-created the 25 Influential Women Leaders Award and the Women’s Leadership Program, both aimed at championing women for their talents, achievements, values, and contributions,” says Nicholas. “As a Guyanese immigrant, I am proud to support women as they cross-pollinate ideas and networks.” —PA

Ellen Prior
Associate Director; Manager

Jazz Forum Arts; Jazz Forum

Ellen Prior

Managing local politics, running a nonprofit, and keeping a jazz club humming is all in a day’s work for Ellen Prior. The associate director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Jazz Forum Arts and manager of the Tarrytown music club Jazz Forum seemingly works around the clock to better both her town and her burgeoning business. Prior cofounded Jazz Forum Arts in 1985 alongside her husband, Mark Morganelli, and has since 2017 managed Jazz Forum. “When we opened the club, we had no Plan B,” recalls Prior. “It was what we were going to do no matter what, and thankfully it worked really well.” Nowadays, Jazz Forum welcomes 20,000 patrons annually, while Jazz Forum Art’s 32 free outdoor summer concerts attract 17,000 annual attendees. Prior is also a Democratic district leader in Tarrytown, where she helps select, support, and endorse candidates. “Politics is often very local, and I am very concerned about the condition of the community at large,” says Prior. “Not just my family and not just my direct circle of friends, but folks in the area, and more broadly, who are struggling.” Of course, she lavishes equal attention on her nonprofit and venue, which is expanding with a rotating art exhibit as well as a children’s educational program. “Now, after COVID, so many people come in who are just so grateful for what we’ve done,” Prior shares. “It is sustaining for us, and it is nurturing for them to have a place of peace, community, and love.” —PA

Damia Harris-Madden
Executive Director

Westchester County Youth Bureau

Damia Harris-Madden

For nearly two decades, Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden has gracefully worked at the crossroads of government, education, business, and the nonprofit sectors. While still working in the private sector, Harris-Madden became aware of the “huge dearth of soft skills,” particularly among young, urban, and immigrant job seekers. Seeing the issues facing these talented young people ultimately pushed her to leave the private sector and dedicate herself to helping them prepare for the workplace.

In her time as executive director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau, Harris-Madden has extended its reach by adding Yonkers, Ossining, and Port Chester to the program. During her 14 years as executive director/grant writer for the City of Mount Vernon, she was able to expand afterschool programs to every school in the city and enable the implementation of Saturday STEM classes at no cost to the taxpayers. Dr. Harris-Madden also wrote grant proposals to expand programing geared towards inspiring young girls to reach for any goals they can imagine, no matter how seemingly unattainable or untraditional. During her government tenure, Dr. Harris-Madden has secured over $40 million from public and private funding sources to promote positive youth development.

Throughout all of her achievements, she is steadfastly determined to “lead with the heart and service to others.” At the end of the day, her source of greatest pride is being a pillar of inspiration for her daughters, who have witnessed her overcome a myriad of difficulties while obtaining the highest levels of education and balancing demanding career responsibilities. —WX

Laura Damiano
Owner

Laura Damiano Designs

Laura Damiano

Don’t bet against Laura Damiano. In 2010, while working full-time in the corporate world, Damiano started her eponymous stationery and brand design business as a hobby in her 690-square-foot apartment. Equipped with a BFA from Manhattanville College and completing her master’s degree at night, Damiano fell in love with paper craft. With no clue how to run or even start a business, she navigated the legal and creative processes without any professional guidance. Her business started with no capital, surviving on her biweekly salary to lift it off the ground. There were numerous occasions when Damiano, a single mother, was out of resources, food, and pulling “nighters.” At times like that, she leaned on her driving force: her son. “I have this kick in my brain to constantly create, play, and push the envelope,” says Damiano. “I have to provide for my family of two, and I have to create. It’s the perfect fuel and wheel for my drive.” Forging forward via grassroots marketing and word of mouth, Damiano has received nearly 40 industry awards since her company’s founding. Among them are numerous Best of Westchester awards and a recent recognition as a global double finalist in the Louie Awards by the Greeting Card Association. In chasing her dreams, Damiano has been many things, including her own accountant, marketer, designer, secretary, and production manager. But what she’s never been is afraid, and that perspective stems from her parents. “When our minds can’t stop thinking and our hearts race, we associate those markers with fear. But my parents drilled into me: ‘That’s not fear; that’s passion.’ If you think that way, you can never make a mistake.” —CC

Related: Westchester’s Women in Business in 2021 Are Making an Impact

;

Get Westchester's Best Restaurants Guide for FREE! 

Keep a pulse on local food, art, and entertainment content when you join our Westchester newsletter.

No thank you
Westchester Magazine's Best Restaurants