2022 Michael H. Boyce Award Winners
Yvonne Kasimbi, Sanaa Chocolate,
South Bend, Indiana
Sanaa Chocolates was founded by Yvonne Kasimbi with her husband, Oscar, in 2019. The chocolate confectionery shop is dedicated to quality creations and is passionate about bringing the finest flavors to every one of its customers. It takes pride in the local sourcing of the best quality 100% Fair Trade cacao. Ingredients are organic and seasonal, with unique flavors inspired by the various regions of the world. Owner Yvonne has been through numerous challenges in her entrepreneurial journey, from navigating the impact of COVID not long after opening her storefront to balancing life as a new mother and working around an injury caused by the intensive manual labor required in making her chocolates by hand. In each situation, Yvonne has found a way to turn adversity into opportunity.
Charlotte Terry-Mendez, Cleaning Genie
As the founding owner of Cleaning Genie, Charlotte has been a driving force in building the company to where it is today. Charlotte embodies what it means to be a resilient entrepreneur by making a difference for her family, employees, and the community as a whole. Her leadership during the COVID pandemic and her spirit of creative problem-solving helped her adapt quickly to move the company toward a CDC-certified organization prepared to meet the market's needs. Overcoming adversity in her journey and with a faithful commitment to her dream, Charlotte has always found a way to move forward. This spirit truly represents the Michael Boyce award, and we are proud to recognize her in this way.
Ruben Gaona, The Way Out
Ruben Gaona was born in El Paso, Texas, and moved to Milwaukee’s Southside at the age of 15. In 2017 Ruben completed seven years of a 10-year sentence, and in 2019 he founded 2nd Chance Wisconsin and began providing guidance (through motivational speaking) to formerly incarcerated people. Ruben is a U. S. Navy Veteran, a former employee for the Department of Defense (NAVY), and a Justice-Involved individual. Ruben’s experience working in re-entry with the State of Wisconsin inspired him to co-found The Way Out, where he is currently the COO, and in 2022 he became the Executive Director for My Way Out, Inc. Ruben has had the privilege of speaking at several re-entry engagements throughout Wisconsin to discuss the merits of second chance employment. Ruben is also an active advocate of the Ban the Box movement in the United States and was recently nominated by Madison 365 as one of Wisconsin's Most Influential Latino Leaders for 2022 for his role at The Way Out.
Brianna Edwards, Brianna Chatese Industries
Brianna Edwards was born and raised in North Minneapolis, MN. She is a former professional athlete, a graduate of Providence College, current Special Ed Teacher, an entrepreneur, and the owner of Brianna Chatese Industries, LLC (BCI). From a young age, she has been an entrepreneur, from selling cookies or candy at church to raising money for her pageants or sports team. She created BCI LLC at the age of 28 and uses each business to provide education to diverse groups. LOV3 IT S3ASONING gives consumers a healthy way to add flavor to their food without all the additional sodium or calories. LOV3 IT’s mission is to change how people see their food by providing a better salt alternative.
Crystal Fairley, Uncle Keith’s Gourmet Foods
San Diego, California
Crystal runs Uncle Keith’s Gourmet Foods and is currently setting the Meeting and Events vision for the company. Crystal considers herself both a "Vetpreneur" and "Mompreneur" and has leveraged both titles to grow the business. She is a CMP (Certified Meeting Professional, holds an MBA in Management and Strategy, and in 2019 received the CAMP (Certified Associate in Project Management). Before starting the company with her husband, she worked as an Onsite Meeting Manager in the Meetings and Events Industry. In that position, she learned the value of building relationships, reaching target markets through events, and providing an over-the-top experience. Crystal has used her current affiliations not only to help grow the family business but as a resource to be connected to her community; we say, “No one is in business for themselves.” It is her desire to leave the world better than she found it.
Shanmugapriya, Aswin Millets
Shanmugapriya is a 33-year-old woman from Madurai, India. She is a graduate, married, and a mother of two autistic special children. She started a millet ‘ready to cook’ business in her son’s name, Aswin. She started giving free samples to special kids’ parents and special schools to emphasize the importance of millet and healthy foods. Gradually she got opportunities to exhibit her products in special schools for mentally challenged kids in Madurai, Chennai, and across Tamil Nadu. She is an active and energetic entrepreneur who quickly identified her unique selling proposition as a millet health mix (porridge-morning breakfast). Aswin millets achieved a strong customer base through its high-quality, price, and delivery mechanisms. She received the IWD’22 Women of Tomorrow Award from Tiyagarajar School of Management, TSM, business school. She is the proprietor of the Millet Common Facility Center (CFC), funded by EDII. She is a living example for every woman struggling in their personal life “everything is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard for it to achieve it.”
Tastee Smith, Care Task LLC
Tastee Smith owns and founded Care Task LLC, a non-emergency medical transport company serving Montgomery and surrounding counties. The business is certified through Buckeye healthcare and Medicaid. While Tastee works to get certified for Medicare to operate her business fully, she works as a traveling notary and provides at-home health services through Care Task. She wants to merge fully into the transportation side as she loves working with seniors and feels it is her calling. She initially struggled greatly with public speaking but found confidence practicing and grew in her confidence, and continued to pitch her business ideas to Greater West Dayton Incubator staff. She recently became a semi-finalist in the Flyer Pitch Competition and won $500 for her business. She is using her award money to build her brand to gain credibility, trust, and recognition in the region. She recently applied for the Cultural Capital Microloan and is a top candidate to be considered for loan opportunities. Tastee never gives up and continually seeks ways to proactively grow her business.
Aaron Thomas, A-Roc Entertainment (established) and AVQ Group (new)
Aaron was a model delegate in the boot camp and has distinguished himself by continuing to serve others. He’s continually gone out of his way to mentor and support other entrepreneurs in Southeast Ohio. He has faced adversity–including closing his retail store after nearly 20 years during the pandemic – but he keeps moving forward, pursuing opportunity with resilience and a positive attitude.