Innovative entrepreneurial minds: The nominees for the inaugural AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs event
These are the nominees that the public has selected as some of the top entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia region.
In Philadelphia, entrepreneurs add a very important element to the city’s vibrant and growing economy.
Whether in hospitality, technology, nonprofit, health, construction, food service and beyond, just about each industry in the city is filled with innovative entrepreneurial minds who make our city what it is.
In October 2021, Philadelphia was named one of the top and fastest-growing cities for entrepreneurs by LinkedIn News’ The State of Entrepreneurship report.
In celebration of National Entrepreneurship Month, AL DÍA is hosting its inaugural AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs event, to highlight and celebrate some of the very entrepreneurs enriching the city’s diverse business community.
To find some of the brightest, most successful entrepreneurial minds from the region, AL DÍA allowed the public to nominate some notable entrepreneurs in the city and surrounding areas.
After a two-week-long nomination period, a total of 22 nominations were given.
The full list of honorees are:
- Nicole Marquis, HipCityVeg, Bar Bombón & Charlie Was a Sinner
Nicole Marquis is the founder and CEO of HipCityVeg, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant, opening the first location in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. She has since expanded the business to eight locations, beginning with the opening of the first Washington D.C. store in Chinatown in June 2016, a second in Dupont Circle in 2019, and a third in D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood this upcoming spring. The restaurants offer plant-based American classics with innovative twists, making plant-based food convenient and affordable.
Marquis has also created two full-service plant-based restaurants: Charlie Was a Sinner, a cocktail lounge and small plates restaurant; and Bar Bombón, a Latin-inspired restaurant reminiscent of Old San Juan.
- Luis Torrado, Torrado Construction
Luis Torrado is the founder of Torrado Construction, one of the leading MBE construction firms in Philadelphia. Through hard work, leadership and determination, Torrado Construction has grown from its humble beginnings to the multi-disciplined contracted business it is today, filled with excitement and opportunity.
- Silvia Lucci, LUHV Food
Silvia Lucci is the owner of LUHV Food, a small-scale, family-run, minority-owned vegan food company in its two locations, one in Hatboro, Pa. and a deli in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. Lucci, along with her husband and chef, Daniel, is able to produce nutritious vegan foods that are both good for our bodies and the environment. The business also offers online ordering for deliver and pickup and wholesale distribution at Mom’s Organic Market, Whole Foods, and countless markets and food co-ops throughout Greater Philadelphia.
- Rachel Carson, Helicopter Tech, Inc. (HTI)
Rachel Carson is the CEO of Helicopter Tech Inc., a woman-owned small business that aims to meet the needs of the many diverse customers within the aviation industry. The company provides thousands of aircraft parts, manufactured by its subcontractors and suppliers and delivers it through its supply chain management operation. It also manages the manufacturing and delivery of the parts to ensure consistent quality, efficiency and cost. Since it was founded in 1995, HTI has expanded its aircraft parts business to support 300 companies in 23 countries.
- Cynthia Gallo, Fiber Business Solutions Group, Inc.
Cynthia Gallo is the owner of Fiber Business Solutions Group, Inc., a WBENC certified women-owned small business enterprise and full-service telecommunications contractor servicing corporate and government sectors, and based in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
- Uva Coles, Inclusiva
Uva Coles is the founder of Inclusiva, a Philadelphia-area consulting firm that specializes in diversity and inclusion services. She launched the consulting firm to help address the “triple pandemic” of healthcare, race, and social equity currently impacting business practices. Cole has garnered over 25 years of experience developing inclusive workforce solutions to address organizational needs in an ever-evolving global landscape, with a goal of building bridges of connection across differences.
- Shannon Morales, Tribaja
Shannon Morales is the founder of Tribaja, a digital platform that allows employers to find diverse talent, with the goal of advancing marginalized communities into tech and startups.
Morales is a startup founder/operator, innovation enthusiast, and diversity consultant who has launched three businesses with impact-driven missions.
- Damian Salas, Universal Home Services, Inovas Group, LLC
Damian Salas is the founder and CEO of Universal Home Services, a real estate services company. He is also the founder of Inovas Group, LLC, a holding company with Universal Home Services and former assets Inovas Workforce (a management consulting firm) and Inovas Group ( biomedical commercialization firm with a nanomaterial for healthcare).
- Cecilia Torres, Casa Papel
Cecilia Torres is the founder and creative director at Casa Papel, a full service one-stop graphic design and specialty print studio that specializes in custom wedding invitations. Casa Papel has gone from an idea to a brick and mortar studio in the heart of Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood.
- Lou Rodriguez, Rodriguez Consulting, LLC
Lou Rodriguez is the CEO and founder of Rodriguez Consulting, LLC, an award-winning professional engineering and land surveying firm. He provides a unique combination of civil engineering and information technology experience in both the public and private sector, as he is a professional civil engineer with over 30 years of experience, primarily focused on water infrastructure and geographic information systems. Rodriguez is passionate about regional economic development, workforce development and educational equity.
- Mike Munoz, Revenue Collections Bureau
Mike Munoz is the President at Revenue Collection Bureau, Inc. His company provides municipal tax collection and administration, as well as collection of utility overdue and delinquent debt, and other municipal collection and or administration projects. Always having real estate sales and development in his blood, Munoz started doing business in Camden, New Jersey, where he continued real estate investments and retail businesses. Today, he is very proud of the fact that he has helped many people turning renters into homeowners, and through his community participation work, helping other Latino businesses and individuals establish themselves as entrepreneurs.
- Shasnettay Warner, Tiny Tech Learning Lab
Shasnettay Warner is the owner of Tiny Tech Learning Lab, a child daycare center in West Oak Lane. She has a strong ambition to address the needs in her community and her passion for science is the inspiration for incorporating S.T.E.M. and eco-health into Tiny Tech’s tri-focused curriculum. Her goal is to educate and expose our youth to S.T.E.M. early in life to increase the chance that they will not only excel in those subjects as they advance in their academics, but can also enter into S.T.E.M. careers
- Jorge Mosquera, Mixto and Tierra Colombiana
Jorge Mosquera is the owner of Tierra Colombiana and Mixto Restaurante, two of the most popular Latin American restaurants in Philadelphia. Tierra Colombiana, has served the Philadelphia community for more than 30 years with traditional Latin American and Caribbean cuisine; Mixto is a Cuban, Latin American & Caribbean restaurant located in Center City.
- Mike Diaz, Semper Utilities
Mike Diaz is the founder and CEO of Semper Utilities, a minority- and veteran-owned company. He started Semper Utilities because he saw a need in the industry to provide professional, safe and cost-effective utility construction services.
- Gladys Salazar, Vision Utilities
Gladys Salazar is the founder and CEO of Vision Utilities.
Salazar is also the founder of Safe Zone Flagging Inc., a full-service traffic control company providing vehicle and pedestrian control to various industries throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and surrounding states. The company prides itself on safety and efficiency for clients and the general public. It is committed to bettering our community and remaining involved in outreach projects.
- Mia Mendoza, Mendoza Group
Mia Mendoza is the founder, CEO and senior strategist of Mendoza Group, an agency founded on three core pillars – education, empathy, empowerment. Mendoza has led the agency’s more than quarter-century rise from a small ad shop serving local, ethnic markets to a full-service national marketing agency.
- Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller, South Philly Barbacoa
Cristina Martinez is South Philly Barbacoa’s co-owner and chef, having gained local and national recognition over the past several years for not only her marinated lamb tacos, pancita and consommé, but for her advocacy for undocumented restaurant workers’ rights and her own publicly shared undocumented status.
- Maria N. Gonzalez, HACE
Maria N. Gonzalez is the president of HACE, where she heads HACE’s development team managing over $100M of commercial and housing development projects that have contributed to the stabilization and revitalization of the Fairhill and St. Hugh Neighborhoods. Under her leadership HACE has developed its Housing Counseling Program to serve as a one-stop-shop for housing related services, which is certified by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling.
- Jose Fernandez, Atilio’s Construction
José Fernandez is the president & founder of Atilio’s Construction, a construction company located in Sussex County, Delaware and Kent County. As a general contractor, Fernandez works very closely with sub-contractors to ensure he work ethic is carried out.
- Margarita Santiago & Ana Fernández, Stars Adult Medical Daycare Center
Margarita Santiago and Ana Fernández are co-founders of Stars Adult Medical Daycare Center and created the center with the goal of creating a better experience for adults in an underserved area and for the Hispanic community in the Camden area. As the only Latinas in New Jersey to own an adult medical daycare center, Santiago and Fernández embrace their role in not only helping community members at Stars, but at home, as well.
- Danny Perez, River Lights Café
Danny Perez is co-founder of River Lights Café, a restaurant located in downtown Milford that offers an indoor and outdoor dining experience featuring a delicious variety of breakfast and lunch favorites. Alongside his fiancé Rebecca Garcia, the couple offers good service at affordable prices. All of the menu items are homemade.
- C. Frank Igwé, Moravia Health
C. Frank Igwé is the president & founder of Moravia Health, a home healthcare company based in Philadelphia. Founded in 2012, the company has a focus on maximizing social impact.
From this list, six will be selected as honorees based on a set of criteria that include: community impact, number of employees, overall success, business longevity, and a minimum $1,000,000 annual revenue.
The final honorees will be selected by the 2021 AL DIA Top Entrepreneurs Advisory Board led by Board Chair Anne Bovaird Nevins, President of PIDC; and also includes Christopher Hatch, Small Business Advocate and Entrepreneur; Janet Alvarez, CNBC Contributor; Kenneth Anderson, Vice President of Civic Affairs at The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia; Miguel Alban, Senior Vice President and Director of Multicultural Banking at Customers Bank; and Salvatore Patti, Senior Vice President and Director of Commercial Banking and Wealth Client Management at WSFS Bank.
The 2021 AL DÍA Top Entrepreneurs event will take place Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 at The Pyramid Club of Philadelphia. To register for the event, click here.