CONNSTEP Celebrates Small Business Week

CONNSTEP Celebrates Small Business Week

Over 60 years ago, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) initiated National Small Business Week to honor and acknowledge the significant contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. In honor of Small Business Week, CONNSTEP proudly celebrated National Small Business Week on behalf of the many small to medium-sized manufacturers in the state of Connecticut.


This year, National Small Business Week took place from April 28 – May 4, during which time CONNSTEP kicked off its Small Business Appreciation Tour, in the Fairfield County region of the state. In a gesture of appreciation, the CONNSTEP Tour Team visited several manufacturers to acknowledge their hard work, innovative spirit, and the role they play in shaping Connecticut’s future.


During the Small Business Appreciation Tour, our team visited the manufacturers prepared with gifts gratitude including handmade cookies, and other treats as a gesture of our appreciation. The CONNSTEP team consisted of Miles Herrick, Director of Business Development and Sales; Doug Narins, Business Development Advisor; Phoebe Gonzales, Associate Business Development Advisor; and consultant Barbara Hannan.


But the tour doesn’t stop in Fairfield County!


Get ready for a month-long celebration! The CONNSTEP Appreciation Tour is hitting the road in May to visit manufacturers across Connecticut and show our appreciation during National Small Business Month. Stay tuned for updates on the tour’s progress. We look forward to meeting many innovative manufacturers this month!


The CONNSTEP Team, would like to thank these manufacturers for your trust, and support. We truly appreciate the opportunity to visit and celebrate the many contributions you make throughout the state and beyond!


Check out the manufacturers we visited below:

HOMA Pump Technology

HOMA Pump Technology – Ansonia, CT: HOMA is a leading manufacturer of submersible pumps and motors, known worldwide for superb engineering and adherence to meeting and exceeding the strictest of industry standards. Their manufacturing process produces the highest quality, most reliable pumping equipment available, backed by expert workmanship and service. HOMA President Jim Torony, and Vice President Joanne Marino, shared the company's rich history, its expansive global reach, and its strategic road map for its future. The CONNSTEP team received a tour of the manufacturing floor and met with HOMA employees who proudly conveyed the work they conduct in support of the company operations.

Fun Fact: HOMA Pumps are installed throughout the entirety of Palm Jumeirah, the iconic man-made island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Hampford Research

Hampford Research – Stratford, CT: Hampford Research is a specialty chemical manufacturer and an integral part of the electronics, adhesive, printing, and personal care/dental supply chains. The company has developed and manufactured customized handcrafted specialty chemical solutions from laboratory to full-scale production, earning a reputation as one of the finest small specialty chemical manufacturers in the United States. A second-generation family-owned business, Hampford Research was founded 40 years ago by chemist Jack Hampford. In 2007 he handed the helm to his daughter, Kate Hampford Donahue, who continues to serve in her role as CEO today. The company is a huge advocate of Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement, its processes, culture, and management style. According to Kate Donahue, “CONNSTEP training and services is one of the main pieces to help us do things consistently and safely every day. It's what's allowed us to effectively move forward. It's good for the company and for the people who work here. In fact, our Chemical Process Engineer Stefan DeRossi, just completed CONNSTEP’s Continuous Improvement Champion course and received his certification in March!” Following strict safety regulations, Hampford’s Donahue and President Lloyd Lirio escorted the CONNSTEP team on an extensive tour of their extraordinary chemical manufacturing facility. Throughout the tour, Hampford employees shared their expertise and roles at the company, demonstrated pride in their work, and expressed the value they bring to the organization. Hampford’s Lirio added, "The definition of modern is never stay the same. We're not afraid of change. That's what keeps us moving forward!"

Fun fact: During Jack Hampford's tenure, he achieved remarkable feats, including developing the inner materials of the modern golf ball famously used in a historic golf shot on the moon by astronaut Alan Shepard - where it remains to this day!

Penmar Industries

Penmar Industries – Stratford, CT: Penmar Industries is a leading supplier in the competitive market of customized labels, tapes, and packaging supplies. The company is focused on accelerated growth in the coming years through building its brand and investing in digital technologies. President and CEO Ed Rodriguez, and his son, Vice President of Finance Eddy Rodriguez, are the two generations powering the leadership and success of the company. They guided the CONNSTEP visitors on a tour of their production shop, introducing the staff and artisans who work as a tight-knit team to produce the final product. And they met Oz, the resident dog who is a beloved and honorary member the Penmar team.

Fun Fact: While crafting labels that embody their clients' artistic visions, Penmar has dominated the local beer scene by supplying labels for breweries like Two Roads Brewery and many others.

Seymour Sheridan

Seymour Sheridan – Monroe, CT: Seymour Sheridan has been manufacturing stainless steel floats and welded bellows since 1965. They also have the experience to custom design and produce floats and bellows to meet the demands of any application. Their high-quality products are competitively priced and delivered on time to their customers. Company CEO John Morgan and his daughter Cheryl Morgan, who serves as president, lead the organization at Seymour Sheridan, with Cheryl representing the third generation of the family business. Started by her grandfather Luke Morgan, an engineer, the company remains dedicated to crafting high-quality floats and bellows. During our NSBW Appreciation Tour, Cheryl shared her views about the company's products, clientele, and how she views the future. She is mindful of the evolving role of AI in the industry and is well aware of its growing impact. Based on customer feedback, Seymour Sheridan has a very strong reputation in the industry. She indicated that while post-pandemic supply chain disruptions persist, business overall is good. "What's most important," she said, "is growing with the times without changing for change's sake. We look for a balance." That philosophy extends to machine technologies, product innovation, training, and management style.

Fun Fact: Floats and bellows regulate the steam of a building's heating system. At the Empire State Building in New York City, Seymour Sheridan floats and bellows are strategically installed in the steam heating system, directly responsible for a remarkable 30% reduction in its carbon footprint!


Cornell-Carr – Monroe, CT: Since 1955, Cornell-Carr has been producing the majority of doors and windows for the U.S. Naval fleet. A business that started out making metal cookie sheets found its way through happenstance to a building project from a man who visited the company from the Brooklyn Naval Yard. That visit, as it turned out, serendipitously evolved into a mighty and trusted partnership with the U.S. Navy. The company serves most major commercial and military shipbuilding and repair shipyards in the United States. During the shop floor tour with the CONNSTEP team, the father and son leadership duo of Philip Gangnath and Phil Gangnath showed how they manufactures heat-, frost- and ballistic-resistant windows, some as thick as eight inches, for portholes of every size. Visit the Intrepid Museum docked at Pier 46 in Manhattan, and you'll see the Cornell-Carr branded name on all of them. The same is true if you board the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier in Virginia. Chances are, if a navy vessel has a window or door, it’s a good bet they are made by Cornell-Carr. Our team heard from Philip Sr. about the challenges of finding and maintaining experienced welders and machinists. That said, he indicated that his team is a strong one. "I'm proud of the family structure we've formed with our employees," shared Philip Sr. "We can talk about things and work through problems. We know how to laugh occasionally because what we do is quite a serious business."

Fun Fact: Cornell-Carr windows and doors were used in the film, The Perfect Storm, when they shot the final scenes where the ship was sinking.

Rose Sisters Chips

Rose Sisters Chips – Bridgeport, CT: The Rose Sisters Chips company produces seasoned baked flour tortillas using a family recipe originated nearly a century ago. Championed by Jonathan and Lauren Marcus, they have been the company stewards carrying on the tradition of the recipe from Jonathan's grandmother, Goldie. During the tour of their chip production facility, the CONNSTEP team witnessed the warm savory chips move through the assembly line and conveyer system before being baked in their new state-of-the-art oven affectionately called "Frankenstein.” It's big and powerful, boasting seven times the throughput capacity, marking the first step in a strategic expansion plan for the company, including debuting a new snack size and two additional flavors. Jonathan and Lauren shared their ambitious plan to take Rose Sisters Chips from a locally manufactured brand that's sold in some specialty stores to a more widely distributed brand, whose name and taste is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Their timeline to ramp up automation systems in is expected to begin in June, emphasizing that automating will require more hiring, not layoffs.

Fun Fact: Jonathan's grandmother immigrated to America from Poland in 1933 after marrying her husband Isidore in Ontario, Canada. The following year they moved to Brooklyn, New York. Among the few possessions she brought with her was a Singer sewing machine, which she used to earn a living in clothing factories. Decades later, Jonathan inherited the machine and had it appraised. To his surprise, he discovered that his grandmother's cherished possession, was manufactured in the very same building where Rose Sisters Chips are produced today—the former Singer Manufacturing Company in the East End of Bridgeport. Talk about a small world!

Sonata Scientific

Sonata Scientific – Danbury, CT: Sonata Scientific, founded and led by CEO Peter Van Buskirk and COO Jeffery Roeder, boasts an interdisciplinary team of chemists, physicists, and materials engineers. Their focus lies in developing cutting-edge products that significantly enhance health and well-being. Among these innovations are advanced Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) systems, leveraging novel technology stemming from their breakthroughs in nano-engineering. Their overarching mission is to enhance the safety and security of the medical supply chain. During our visit to their advanced laboratory, Van Buskirk and Roeder highlighted a critical issue: the process of sterilizing over half of all medical devices releases toxic gases through their packaging. These emissions pose risks in factories and warehouses, endangering workers exposed to them. In response, Sonata Scientific has engineered a control product that substantially mitigates these toxins, thereby enhancing worker and community safety. Furthermore, this leading developer of industrial air purification solutions envisions broader applications for their new product. They see potential uses in semiconductor manufacturing and various clean room environments, aiming to provide clean and safe air for facility workers and neighboring communities alike.

Fun Fact: While the pungent chemical odors often present in nail and hair salons may seem innocuous, they're actually harmful. Sonata Scientific is also addressing this concern, underscoring their commitment to improving air quality across diverse environments.


WaveAerospace – Stratford, CT: WaveAerospace specializes in the construction of high-performance heavy-weather drones, UAVs, and aircraft. These cutting-edge products find utility across various sectors, including law enforcement, emergency services, and military applications, such as search and rescue missions, disaster response, aerial surveys, marine and offshore operations, and atmospheric testing. Engineered to excel in extreme weather conditions, these unmanned aircraft often carry out vital missions with critical payloads, such as medical organ transportation, surpassing the capabilities of existing market offerings. Their guiding principle: "We fly where no one else can." At a tour of the company hangar at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, co-founder Steve Bofill and Dan Eidsness, Vice President of International & U.S. Relations, greeted the CONNSTEP team. They were surrounded by state-of-the-art, high-performance drones and a dedicated team of engineers. "We're revolutionizing aviation," stated Bofill. "Our key differentiator? The ability to fly in conditions that ground others, whether it's harsh weather or perilous environments." Expansion is on the horizon, with plans to hire 30 new staff members by late fall 2024 to keep up with escalating demand. Eidsness emphasized, "Our challenges lie in system development as we scale up, devising compliance protocols, and obtaining certifications." Among their groundbreaking products is the Huntress, an unmanned multi-copter boasting speeds exceeding 500 mph, slated for release next year. These UAVs are capable of enduring winds exceeding 80 mph for extended periods and withstanding even arctic conditions.

Fun Fact: WaveAerospace's UAVs have already demonstrated their real-world impact. In a recent incident in Westchester County, NY, where a small plane crashed and went missing, their UAVs played a pivotal role in the search and rescue operation, navigating where traditional resources couldn't reach.

Carlucci Welding & Fabrication

Carlucci Welding & Fabrication – Norwalk, CT: Carlucci specializes in fabricating structural steel components with precision and expertise, ensuring superior quality and durability for a wide range of construction and industrial applications, setting the foundation for safe and robust structures. Their dedicated team of highly skilled welders and fabricators, combined with state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge techniques, ensures the highest level of craftsmanship and integrity in every project. Founder and Principal Canio Carlucci and COO Deborah Gordon took CONNSTEP on a fascinating tour of its two locations where they met employees who shared their pride in their work. Afterwards, Carlucci and Gordon discussed their business and their plans for a large-scale project: a 2500-ton structural steel job for six mixed-use buildings in Darien, CT, set to break ground in December. Carlucci recalled spending nearly 120 hours on the bid. "Relationships get you the small jobs," he said. "Having the most complete price and the best plan to execute is how you close the deal." Regarding how he started his business, Carlucci shared, “Awhile back, I was working in private equity and just hated looking at spreadsheets all day.” One day he decided to follow his passion. "I'd learned welding when I was growing up and decided to start my own welding business. It's a great trade to be in. And oddly enough, as a leader, dealing with spreadsheets are exactly where I find myself again. But I love all of it." Carlucci Welding also specializes in architectural design, including a trophy three-story steel staircase, painted yellow, for a private home on Martha's Vineyard. Unlike other manufacturers, their work is ETO: Engineering To Go. No two projects are the same. Recently, they invested in a high-speed machine that, along with their current capacity, enables them to process 200 tons of steel weekly. "Our biggest challenge is to scale," added Gordon. "As we automate, our capacity will double and we'll need more people, not less, to manage the increased throughput. Growing too fast is a challenge," she admitted, " but staying the same size sends you backwards." Fun Fact: The first place Carlucci welded as a teenager was at his friend's father's business - located in the very same building he rents today for the fabrication arm of his company.