The Immigrant Learning Center » Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards Dinner

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Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Dinner
Honoring immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts


The 2016 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Winners

Front row from left: Diane Portnoy, ILC Founder and CEO; Hilda Torres and Gerardo Loza, Neighborhood Business Award Winners; and Denzil Mohammed, ILC Public Education Institute Program Specialist. Back row from left: Mihael Mikek. High-Tech Business Award Winner; Garo H. Armen, Life Science Business Award Winner; Herby Duverne, Business Growth Award Winner; and Jay Ash, MA Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.


The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC) held its fifth annual Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Dinner on April 28, 2016, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, MA. With remarks from U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and the Master of Ceremonies, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, 42 outstanding nominees from 26 countries who started businesses in 18 cities and towns across Massachusetts were honored. Prior speakers have included Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, University of Massachusetts Chancellor Keith Motley, Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman and Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Rich Davey.

See photos of 2016 Awards Dinner
See Photos from The 2016 Awards Dinner.


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2016 Awards Dinner Sponsors

The 2016 Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award winners:

See videos interviews with our award winners in our Immigrant Entrepreneur Interview Series.

Herby Duverné, Business Growth

Herby DuverneHerby Duverné came to the United States from Haiti at the age of 20 without knowing any English. He worked his way through both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and eventually became a successful business owner. He has overseen explosive growth at physical security and emergency management service provider Taino Consulting Group. Since 2012, he has grown employment from three to 35, and the company increased its workforce seven-fold in 2015 alone.


Gerardo Loza and Hilda Torres, Neighborhood Business 

Gerardo Loza and Hilda TorresHilda Torres was a beautician in Mexico. She switched careers in the U.S. out of the necessity of finding affordable childcare for her own daughter. In 2012, Torres and her cousin Gerardo Loza opened My Little Best Friends Early Learning Center with seven students and three teachers. Today, the daycare employs 28 staff members with 114 enrolled students and many more on the waiting list.


Mihael Mikek, High-Tech Business

Mihael MikekMihael Mikek came to the United States from Slovenia to further his education. While obtaining his MBA from Babson College, he incubated Celtra, Inc. at the school’s business hatchery. Celtra is the first self-service, rich media advertising platform for mobile. The company powers $400 million in media advertising campaigns and counts Fortune 500 companies among its 2,500 brand clients that deliver 50 billion advertisements a year.


Garo H. Armen, Life Science Business

Garo ArmenGaro H. Armen is the chairman and chief executive officer of Agenus, Inc., an immuno-oncology company he co-founded in 1994 to develop innovative treatments for cancer and other diseases. He was born in Turkey of Armenian decent. His concern for the Armenian people lead him to found the Children of Armenia Fund, which implements programs to improve the lives of children in rural villages in Armenia. Dr. Armen’s goal is to see cures for cancer through immunology become commonplace within the next five to 10 years.



The Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards selection committee reviewed nominations and selected one winner in each category. The 2016 selection committee members were:


Business Growth

  • Debi Kleiman, Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, Babson College
  • Denzil Mohammed, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.
  • David Parker, Entrepreneurship for All
  • Jose Luis Rojas Villarreal, Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation



Neighborhood Business

  • Leandro Freire, Accion
  • Denzil Mohammed, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.
  • Theresa Park, City of Lawrence
  • Saritin Rizzuto, Metro Credit Union


High-Tech Business

  • Doug Banks, Boston Business Journal
  • Abi Barrow, Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center
  • Kathleen Hagan, Hagan and Company
  • Denzil Mohammed, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.
  • Julianne Zimmerman, Reinventure Capital


Life Science Business

  • Lauren Celano, Propel Careers
  • Alison Farquhar, GTL Coaching & Consulting, LLC
  • Bonnie Fendrock, Cyta Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Frank Hoy, Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Denzil Mohammed, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.


2016 Nominees

This slide show is an opportunity to meet each of the outstanding nominees for The 2016 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.


Previous Nominees and Winners

One hundred fifty seven Massachusetts business owners and innovators from 55 countries have been nominated and recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in the five years of The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, the only one of its kind in New England.
Growth Nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

Business Growth

  • Fitzroy Alexander, Traditional Breads Inc., Lynn (2014 WINNER)
  • Herby Duverné, Taino Consulting Group, Boston (2016 WINNER)
  • Wendy Estrella, Estrella Law Firm, Lawrence (2016)
  • Eduardo & German Fernandez, Brothers Market, Inc., Dorchester (2016)
  • Francisco Fernandez, Happy Supermarket, Dorchester (2016)
  • Rafael Guzman, RM Technologies, Inc., Lawrence (2013 WINNER)
  • Venkat Kolluri, Chitika Inc./Cidewalk, Westborough (2015)
  • Marc-Andre Lebel, FRX Polymers, Inc., Chelmsford (2016)
  • Christine Lin, The Cambridge Institute of International Education, Waltham (2014)
    Growth Nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

  • Charbel Najem, Capstone General Contracting, Worcester (2014)
  • Ravi Meruva, IconSoft, Burlington (2015)
  • Lisandra Mones, Glitterati Style, Salem (2013)
  • Larry O’Toole, Gentle Giant Moving Company, Somerville (2016)
  • Hitendra Patel, IXL Center, Cambridge (2016)
  • Dmitriy Peregudov,, Arlington (2014)
  • Jose de la Rosa, Guardian Healthcare, Jamaica Plain (2014, 2016)
  • Tony Salem, Sea-Dar Construction, Boston (2016)
  • Ashish Sangani, GIRI Hotels, Quincy (2012)
  • Julia Silverio, Silverio Insurance, Lawrence (2012, WINNER)
  • Helene and Thomas Stohr, swissbakers, Allston and Reading (2015 WINNER)
  • Sushil Tuli, Leader Bank, N.A, Arlington (2012)
  • Paolo Volpati-Kedra, Sauces ‘n Love, Inc., Lynn (2013, 2015)


Neighborhood Business

  • Rosemary Agbede, Unique You Salon, Lowell (2013)
    Neighborhood nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Elias Audy, Cypress Automart, Brookline (2016)
  • Denise and Sambath Ban, Simply Khmer Restaurant, Lowell  (2014)
  • Victor Barros, Systemize Networks, Stoughton  (2014)
  • Arturo Barroso, Boston Shoe Service, Boston  (2014)
  • Edan Barshan, Universal Dental Plan, Boston  (2014)
  • Umesh Bhuju, Zumi’s Espresso and Ice Cream, Ipswich (2012, 2013)
  • Alberto Calvo, Stop & Compare Supermarkets, Chelsea (2014, 2015)
  • Angelica & Diana Cardona, Chocolafee, Revere (2016)
  • Martin Carrera, La Veracruzana, Amherst and Northampton (2015)
  • Eva and Nick Chau, Tai Tung Pharmacy, Boston (2016)
  • Henry Chung, Pho Saigon, Lee (2012)
  • Tom Dang, Pho Da Lat Restaurant, Lowell (2013)
  • Javier Diaz, Rincon Caribeno Restaurant, Hyde Park (2014, 2015)
  • Larry Dossantos, 912 Auto, Dorchester (2012 WINNER)
    Neighborhood nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Mai Du, Wah Lum Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy, Malden (2016)
  • Calvin Duong, New Century Auto Collision and Service Center, Lowell (2013)
  • Ahmed Egal, Car Service Boston, Boston (2015)
  • Ruth Francis, P&R Ice Cream and Restaurant, Mattapan (2015)
  • Julia Frenkle, Opus Design LLC, Brighton (2016)
  • Jose Antonio Guerrero, Cafe Azteca, Lawrence (2014)
  • Suraj Gurung, Asian Star Markets LLC, West Springfield (2016)
  • Andres Gutierrez, JP’s Massage Therapy Center, Jamaica Plain (2015)
  • Dheyaa Habeed, Baghdad Bakery and Market, West Springfield (2016)
  • Eli Hsu, Tepthida Khmer, Lowell (2012)
  • Janet Hung and Delia Vildoso, Tiny World Child Care Inc., Brookline (2014)
  • Juan Ingles, Imigrante Latino America Services, Chelsea (2013)
  • Muhmud Jafri, Dover Rug & Home, Natick (2013 WINNER)
    Neighborhood Nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

  • Marie Claire Jean-Guillaume, La Ronde de Marie Claire Early Learning Center, Hyde Park (2013)
  • Sandra Katz-Deleon, Center For Bilingual Services, Lawrence
  • Nai Nan Ko, Ko Automotive Group, Wellesley (2014)
  • Fatima Langa, Muqueca Restaurant, Cambridge (2016)
  • Hong Liu, A Friendly Inn at Harvard, Cambridge (2015)
  • Francisco Lora, Tropicana Market, Salem (2013)
  • Gerardo Loza and Hilda Torres, My Little Best Friends Early Learning Center, Malden (2016 WINNERS)
  • Roger Magalhaes, Shades in Place, Franklin (2012)
  • George V. Markos, Brother’s Deli, Lynn (2015)
  • Danaris Mazara, Sweet Grace Heavenly Cakes, Lawrence (2016)
  • Ricardo Miranda, Miranda Auto Body, Springfield  (2014)
  • Moe Mobasherat, Omnidentix & Associates, Medford (2016)
  • Tarun & Simi Narula, Spice Root Indian Restaurant, Williamstown (2012)
  • Anthony O. N. Ngethe, Nursecare Transportation, Methuen (2015)
    Neighborhood Nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

  • Ky Nguyen, Kingston Station, Boston (2015)
  • Phong Nguyen, Yoki Restaurant, Medford (2014)
  • Elizabeth Nolberto, Ellie’s CPR and First Aid Training, Lawrence (2016)
  • Jignesh Patel, Jay Square, Beverly (2016)
  • Colette Phillips, Colette Phillips Communications, Boston (2016)
  • Damaris Pimentel, ULTRA Beauty Salon, Jamaica Plain (2013, 2015 WINNER)
  • Roger Samkhon Pin and Soben Pin, KhmerPost USA, Lowell  (2014)
  • Antonio Rodrigues, TNT Cleaning Services Inc., Assonet (2016)
  • Elizabeth Rodriguez and Gladys Ruiz, Little Children Schoolhouse, Brookline (2015)
    Neighborhood nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Maria Rosa, Yeska Cakes, Lawrence (2013)
  • Nabil and Joseph Sater, The Middle East & ZuZu, Cambridge (2014)
  • Magbe Savane, Makomas LLC, Revere (2016)
  • Manuel Silva, Silva’s Mini-Market, Lowell (2013)
  • Marc Silva, Somerville Sustainable Cleaning, Cambridge (2014)
  • Neily Soto, Soto Real Estate Services, Lawrence (2012)
  • Joe de Souza, Modelos Market and Cafe, Somerville (2016)
  • Helene and Thomas Stohr, swissbakers, Reading (2013)
  • Abrar Ali Syed, Pine Banks Animal Hospital, Malden (2012)
  • Sabrina Tan and Chin Lee, Flavours of Malaysia, Pittsfield (2014)
  • Rosa and Nisaury Tejeda and Victoria Amador, Tremendous Maid LLC, Jamaica Plain (2014 WINNER)
  • Malee Thai, Pailin Market, Lowell (2012)
  • Tran Family, My Xuyen Corporation (2012)
    Neighborhood nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Douglas Tran, All Seasons Table, LLC, Malden (2013, 2016)
  • Long Tran, Viet Thai Restaurant, Lowell (2012)
  • Angel Valdivia, Angel’s Painting, Inc., Framingham (2013)
  • Carlos Vargas, Vargas & Vargas Insurance, Dorchester and Stoughton (2015)
  • Tania Vega and Jose Roberto Vega, River Grille, Hyde Park (2015)
  • Patria Veras Valenzuela, Sonia’s Bridal, Jamaica Plain (2013)
  • Yolanda Villamil, Alpha Travel Agency, Worcester (2015)
  • Weidong Wang, Baba Sushi and Chuan Sushi Restaurants, Worcester (2014)
  • Angela Westen, Angela Westen Insurance Agency, Lowell (2013, 2016)


High-Tech Business

  • Vikram Aggarwal, EnergySage, Cambridge (2014)
    High-Tech nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Edison Almeida, eCurv Inc., Cambridge (2016)
  • Rajini Anachi, mZeal Communications, Littleton (2016)
  • Ash Ashutosh, Actifio, Inc., Waltham (2013)
  • Mahmud Awan, Tech Man International LLC, Charlton City (2015)
  • Himanshu Bhatnagar, HB Software Solutions, Lowell (2013)
  • Vladimir Bulovic, QD Vision, Lexington (2016)
  • Dries Buytaert, Acquia, Burlington (2015 WINNER)
  • Kris Canekeratne, Virtusa Coroporation, Westborough (2012)
  • Semyon Dukach, SMTP, Inc., Cambridge (2015)
  • Joshua Feast, Cogito Corporation, Boston (2015)
  • Ashifi Gogo, Sproxil, Inc., Cambridge (2013, 2014)
  • Bettina Hein, Pixability, Boston (2014 )
  • Fauzia Khan, and Mansoor Khan, Alere Analytics, Lowell (2014 WINNER)
  • Mihael Mikek, Celtra, Inc., Boston (2016 WINNER)
    High-Tech nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Gaugarin Oliver, RedEgg Solutions, Waltham (2012)
  • Vasu Ram, Content Raven, Marlborough (2015)
  • Rama Ramakrishnan, CQuotient, Cambridge (2015)
  • Markus Rex, ownCloud, Lexington (2016)
  • Pedro Santos, OsComp Systems, Somerville (2014)
  • Swapnil Shah, FirstFuel Software, Lexington (2014)
  • Omri Shor, Medisafe, Boston (2016)
  • Marin Solja?i?, WiTricity Corporation, Watertown (2013)
  • Dinesh Wadhwani, ThinkLite LLC, Natick (2015)
  • Anita Worden, Solectria – A Yaskawa Company, Lawrence (2015)
  • Xavier Xicay, Tuatara Corp., Boston (2014)


Life Science nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Life Science Business

  • Sudhir Agrawal, Idera Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge (2016)
  • PJ Anand, Alcyone Lifesciences, Lowell (2016)
  • Garo Armen, Agenus, Inc., Lexington(2016 WINNER)
  • Bela Asztalos, PhD, Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation, Framingham (2014, 2015)
  • Pravin Chaturvedi, PhD, IndUS Pharmaceuticals, Woburn (2014)
  • Laxman Desai, Toxikon Corporation, Bedford (2015 WINNER)
  • Magdalena Leszczyniecka, STC Biologics, Cambridge (2106)
  • Chiang J. Li, Boston Biomedical, Inc., Cambridge (2013 WINNER)
  • Vincent Linder, Claros Diagnostics, Woburn (2012)
  • Davide Marini, Firefly BioWorks, Inc., Cambridge (2014)
  • Krishna Menon, Cellceutix Corporation, Beverly (2015)
  • Bernat Olle, Vedanta Biosciences, Inc., Cambridge (2016)
  • Elisabet de los Pinos, Aura Biosciences, Cambridge (2016)
  • Josef von Rickenbach, PAREXEL International Corp., Waltham (2014 WINNER)
    Life Science nominees for The ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award

  • Derrick J. Rossi, Moderna Therapeutics, Cambridge (2015)
  • Amarpreet Singh Sawhney, Ocular Therapeutix, Inc., Bedford (2012 WINNER)
  • Oliver Yu, Conagen, Bedford (2016)
  • Andrey Zarur, Greenlight Biosciences, Medford (2014)
  • Vincent W. Coljee, Excelimmune, Inc., Woburn (2012)
  • Yang Zhao, Memsic, Inc., Andover (2012, 2013)

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