8 Woman-Led Westchester Organizations That Are Crushing It
In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re shining the spotlight on these top-performing local businesses leaders.
March 8 celebrates International Women’s Day, and we could think of no better opportunity to highlight eight of Westchester’s most successful, innovative, and acclaimed women leading Westchester businesses and nonprofits.
Photo by Toshi Tasaki
Owned by Barbara Kudla and her husband James (above), this local IT company has grown over 15 years to provide support and management to companies throughout Westchester and the greater metro area. Most recently honored at our own 2018 914INC. Small Business Awards, the business has grown from a ‘mom-and-pop’ operation of two to a company of nearly 20 employees. With nearly two decades of experience as a former director of accounts and director of customer service, Kudla now keeps Tarrytech running smoothly in the roll of VP.
Food & Drink
Chef Bonnie Saran is inarguably one of the most prominent women in Westchester’s food scene. The culinary and business expert behind Little Drunken Chef, Little Crepe Street, Little Mumbai Market, Little Spice Bazaar, and the original Little Kebab Station, Saran is an Indian ex-pat who settled in Bedford Hills.
Her Mount Kisco and Pleasantville eateries have been thrilling locals since Kebab Station first opened in 2011, and have become well known for their friendly atmosphere and welcoming free Thanksgiving dinners. “I like to take chances,” Saran says. “I don’t have fear. I can open a restaurant closing my eyes, that doesn’t scare me. Something comes to my mind and I go for it. I like a new challenge.”
Susan O’Keefe’s (above, right) eponymous bakery is equal parts old-fashioned bakeshop and creative, innovative modern dessert shop — try the baked empanadas or the deceptively delicious vegan and gluten-free menus.
A Best of Westchester winner for five years running, O’Keefe has a brick-and-mortar bakery in Croton-on-Hudson for all your bread and baked good needs, but also offers Baked By Susan treats through various, local grocers and markets, cafés, and various Whole Foods locations throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. (And that’s of course in addition to taking custom wedding and party orders.)
Health & Wellness
Photo by Toshi Tasaki
Robbie Levy, another recent SBA honoree, founded this company 20 years ago to offer physical, speech, and occupational therapy to infants, children, and teens. In the ensuing two decades, Dynamic Kids has gone from five employees to over two-dozen, and serves around 300 kids every week.
Having expanded to a new Hartsdale facility in 2015, the company now offers sensory-planned programs like yoga, music, and art in addition to social skills and even bike-riding lessons. “It’s extremely gratifying to see the smile on a child’s face when they master a new task,” Levy says.
Started by local Alicia Grande in 2008 with a single product (GrandeLASH-MD enhancing serum), Grande Cosmetics now boasts full lines of lash, lip, brow, and hair products online. The 2015 SBA alum also recently struck a deal to offer its bestselling products in select Macy’s stores nationwide and on Maycs.com. Grande Cosmetics are PETA certified cruelty-free, and come with a 90-day money-back guarantee.
The former Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art has been a huge driving force behind the artistic renaissance over the past 15 years in Peekskill. Exhibiting over 5,000 artists in those years, the MOCA is the brainchild of former Fordham professor Dr. Livia Straus. Straus and her husband, Marc, opened an arts and education center in an abandoned store in 2003 and have grown it into a massive local center for artistic endeavors, showcasing artists from around the world. “Peekskill has come a long way,” says Straus, who received 914INC.’s Editor’s Award for Transformative Achievement as part of the 2018 Women In Business cover story. “The collaboration of artists, government, and business is inspiring and energizing.”
Photo by Toshi Tasaki
Originally, Family-to-Family began when founder Pam Koner (above, center) called up an Illinois pastor to help after reading a New York Times article about a community living in extreme poverty. From 17 local families sending monthly boxes of food, books, and clothing, Koner quickly transformed the grassroots org into a thriving 501(c)3 that now sponsors some 1,000 families across the country, including 230 throughout the New York metro area and 106 right here in Westchester.
The organization, a 2018 SBA alum, now additionally supports refugees, veterans, Holocaust survivors, and works with local branches of national and international companies like Danone, State Farm, Wells Fargo, Eileen Fisher, and Stew Leonard’s to increase its philanthropic reach. It also donates more than $54,000 annually in monthly grocery supplements for Westchester families in need.
Photo by Stefan Radtke
Westchester County’s largest agency supporting those with developmental issues, continues to grow under the new leadership of Tibisay Guzmán — also a 2018 914INC Women In Business honoree — who took over as Executive Director & CEO in 2018. Guzmán has been with the company nearly 15 years, first as director of the Arc’s Wellness Center and later as the organization’s chief operation officer, overseeing a $56 million annual budget.
Guzmán now leads the Arc, which serves more than 40 group homes and offers everything from preschool programs to employment services. She also has a personal connection to the organization’s purpose: “As the parent of an adult with a disability,” she says, “I am very conscientious about how every change I may recommend or decision I make affects our mission.”