Five awarded ILC Entrepreneurs of the Year

I accept this award with gratitude and respect for many who fought and sacrificed their lives for me so I can rise. Thank you.
Herby Duverné, 2016 Business Growth winner
2016 Award Winners
Front row from left: Diane Portnoy, ILC Founder and CEO; Hilda Torres; Gerardo Loza; and Denzil Mohammed, ILC Public Education Institute Director. Back row from left: Mihael Mikek; Garo H. Armen; Herby Duverné; and Jay Ash, MA Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.


Five winners were honored with The 2016 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in front of more than 200 guests at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, MA, on April 28, 2016. As noted by director of The ILC Public Education Institute Denzil Mohammed, this year’s 42 nominees immigrated from 26 countries, have started more than 60 businesses, employ nearly 1,200 people in Massachusetts and generated income and investment totaling more than $1 billion. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recorded special remarks congratulating all the nominees. Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash was the Master of Ceremonies.

Both Secretary Ash and Secretary Pritzker lauded the nominees’ accomplishments and their vital contributions to Massachusetts and to the United States. Ash emphasized the positive impact of immigrant entrepreneurship on job creation, community development and new goods, services and innovations. Pritzker advocated for immigration reform to further that impact: “Tonight’s honorees continue the great tradition of the immigrants who came before all of us. Our values, our history, our competitiveness and the demands of our economy dictate that we enact comprehensive immigration reform without further delay.”

All nominees received citations from their legislators. Continue below for more information and click on the video stills to watch interviews with each winner.

Business Growth:
Herby Duverné from Haiti, Founder and CEO of Taino Consulting Group, LLC in Boston

Life Science Business:
Garo H. Armen from Turkey, Co-Founder and CEO of Agenus Inc. in Lexington

Neighborhood Business:
Hilda Torres and Gerardo Loza from Mexico, Founders of My Little Best Friends Early Learning Center in Malden

High-Tech Business:
Mihael Mikek from Slovenia, Founder and CEO of Celtra, Inc. in Boston

More than 150 Massachusetts business owners and innovators 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.



Do you know other Massachusetts immigrant entrepreneurs worthy of recognition? Tell us about them.


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2016 ILC Business Growth Entrepreneur of the Year

Herby Duverné, Founder and CEO of Taino Consulting Group, LLC, Boston (Haiti)
Herby Duverné immigrated to the U.S. with no money or English skills and put himself through school working as a janitor. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s from Northeastern University, Duverné worked his way up to Deputy Director of Aviation Security at the Massachusetts Port Authority. In 2012 he founded Taino Consulting Group, a cyber and physical security and emergency management service provider. Under his direction, the company increased its workforce seven-fold in 2015.

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2016 ILC Life Science Entrepreneur of the Year
Garo H. Armen, Co-Founder and CEO of Agenus Inc., Lexington (Turkey)
Garo H. Armen came to the U.S. to escape an oppressive life in Turkey and to research treatments for his mother’s cancer. He co-founded Agenus Inc. which focuses on the body’s immune system to develop innovative treatments for cancer and other rare diseases. Dr. Armen was awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Dr. Armen is also the founder and chairman of the Children of Armenia Fund, which implements programs to improve the lives of children in rural villages in Armenia. For his humanitarian efforts, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.




2016 ILC Neighborhood Entrepreneurs of the Year
Hilda Torres & Gerardo Loza, Founders of My Little Best Friends Early Learning Center, Malden (Mexico)
Hilda Torres came to the U.S. seeking employment as a beautician but had difficulty finding affordable daycare for her children. She became a licensed childcare worker to get a discount at her children’s daycare center and discovered a talent for working with children. Soon, Torres’ cousin Gerardo Loza proposed that they go into business together and open their own daycare center. In 2012, they 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 whose parents come from 29 countries.



2016 ILC High-Tech Entrepreneur of the Year
Mihael Mikek, Founder and CEO of Celtra, Inc., Boston (Slovenia)
Mihael Mikek is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded and managed several fast growing businesses in diverse industries with successful exits before launching Celtra, Inc. The company, which was incubated at Babson College’s MBA business hatchery in 2006, is the first self-service, rich media advertising platform for mobile. The company had more than $160 million of estimated media delivery in 2014 and works with more than 600 certified media partners and more than 400 global clients. Under Mr. Mikek’s leadership, Celtra has experienced more than 1,000 percent revenue growth over the last four years and won several industry awards.





Click here to learn more about these annual awards and to learn more about past nominees.



The 2016 ILC Entrepreneur of the Year Award Nominees on stage with their citations.


From left: Jose Estrella; Business Growth nominee Wendy Estrella, Estrella Law Firm; and Denzil Mohammed, director, The ILC Public Education Institute
Stuart Bornstein applauds a speaker at the Awards Dinner.
Stuart Bornstein applauds a speaker at the Awards Dinner.
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