HCC students win entrepreneurship awards


Published: 5/17/2020 9:09:25 PM


Staff Writer

It might be a tough time to start or improve a business. But three Holyoke Community College students and an alumna now are one step closer to doing just that.

All four have won entrepreneurship awards from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Agawam organization that, among other things, recognizes promising business concepts with awards of up to $1,000 to help the winners get their ventures started.

The award winners are HCC students Alexandra Clark of Huntington; Heather Reynolds Labonte of Granby; Nicole Ortiz of Holyoke; and HCC alumna Michaeala Konig of Westfield.

Clark and Ortiz are both studying culinary arts and plan to open food truck operations. Clark’s business, which will sell organic salads, will be called Lettuce Eat, and Ortiz intends to focus on selling healthy breakfast fare from her Crave Food truck.

“I’ve seen a need in my hometown for a wider variety of food options,” Ortiz said. “I can’t wait to do my best to bring some fresh, new options to my neighbors in Holyoke and Springfield.”

Labonte, who is studying marketing at HCC at age 51, says she wants to turn an historic family home and estate she and her sister inherited in Granby into an outdoor venue for weddings, company events, graduation parties and other gatherings. The home, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, dates to the 1700s and includes 52 acres, with a pond and nature gardens, at the base of the Holyoke Range.

Labonte says she and a cousin were married there and that now “I want to share the love of this property with others.”

Earlier this year, Ortiz and Labonte both won additional funding for their ventures through Holyoke’s participation in the “EforAll” entrepreneurship program, based in eastern Massachusetts.

Konig, meantime, has received a Grinspoon Spirit Award, which is for existing businesses. She earned an associate degree in visual art at HCC in 2016 and is the owner of Bloom Aesthetics, an East Longmeadow skincare business she opened last year.   

The Grinspoon Awards are typically announced at a banquet the organization hosts each spring at the Log Cabin restaurant in Holyoke. This year the awards were announced online because of the COVID-19 outbreak.​​​​​​​

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.




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