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NACCE Announces 2015 Alumni Award Winners

Tuesday, October 13, 2015   (0 Comments)
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Springfield, MA, October 13, 2015 --(PR.com)-- The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), the nation’s leading organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship through community colleges, and ed2go, the industry leader in online learning for adults, is honoring community college alumni from Texas and Florida for both their outstanding entrepreneurial achievements and their contributions to their community college at its 13th Annual Conference, now underway in Houston.

Winning the NACCE2015 Alumni Entrepreneur Awards are Abe Gonzalez, Owner and Vice President of RPC Global, Inc., nominated by Houston Community College; Gary Roberts, Owner/Vintner, Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery who was nominated by Indian River State College; and, Samantha Wishlinski, founder of Sam Wish and nominated by San Jacinto College. Each award winner received a $750 travel stipend to attend NACCE2015 and certificates for five ed2Go Short Courses. These awards were funded through a generous donation from Cengage Learning, a leading educational content, technology and services company for the higher education and K-12, professional and library markets worldwide.

“Although they have very different pathways to entrepreneurship, these alumni entrepreneurs define the entrepreneurial mindset – grit, ability to leverage resources, willingness to pivot and adapt. They are outstanding role models for others in the community who want to start a business,” said NACCE president and CEO Rebecca Corbin. “These alumni are also a proud reminder of the role that community colleges play as a hub in their entrepreneurial ecosystem and as a catalyst to launch businesses and create jobs.”

Here are the winners’ stories:

Abraham Gonzalez is the owner and vice president of RPC Global, Inc., a computer recycling and services family-owned company based in Houston. His passion is developing Green Initiatives in the belief that recycling benefits everybody.

In July 2011, Gonzalez was one of 27 graduates of the first class of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Houston Community College (HCC). During the program, Abe created a growth plan for RPC Global. By investing in high-tech products, the company is planning to grow to revenues of $2,000,000 and employ 15 people by 2016. By building partnerships with major corporations, Gonzalez and his team are on track to meet those goals. From 2011 to 2014, he grew his revenues 214 percent and increased his employee count by 33 percent.

Since graduating, Gonzalez has stayed involved with HCC as an alumni member. He is involved with the teams setting plans for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses alumni and the annual Expo that showcases its graduates. He also speaks on behalf of the program at events.

Gary Roberts is the owner/vintner of Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery, the Florida’s central east and southeast coast’s first and only Florida Certified Winery. Roberts is a serial entrepreneur, beginning his statewide award-winning nursery and landscaping businesses in Fort Pierce, Florida in 1979. Since then, he has diversified and expanded into the vineyard and winery business in 2009. A Phi Theta Kappa graduate of Indian River State College, he maintained close ties with his alma mater by supporting the college’s basketball program, teaching classes in horticulture and landscaping, and working to help beautify the campus. In addition, he served on the Treasure Coast Workforce Development Board, and was chair of the Youth Committee. He also worked on the Workforce Youth Summit and the Young Floridians program.

Roberts returned to IRSC as a student when he looked to diversify his business. In 2007, along with many industries, the nursery and landscape sector experienced a significant downturn. In Roberts’ efforts to diversify, he conducted exhaustive research and decided to diversify into the winery business, a new industry for the central east coast of Florida. With no local competition to learn from or any institutions with courses in viticulture, he turned to the Entrepreneurship Program at IRSC, which assisted and guided him through the development of a strategic plan. In fewer than four years, the winery has almost doubled annual sales and has diversified into other income streams like private events.

Samantha Wishlinski is the founder of Sam Wish, an online business providing handmade items such as bath salts, essential oils and lotions for an ever-expanding customer base. She is a recent graduate of San Jacinto College in Houston. When she began at San Jacinto College, her business was focused on vintage garments.

Through class projects she realized that her options were limited with respect to growth if she stayed focused on clothing. As a result, she switched concentration to oils and lotions and has experienced exponential sales growth of her business.

Wishlinski has stayed involved with the college as a member of the Business Management Advisory Committee at San Jacinto College, representing alumni and is a featured speaker in several classes.

See the press release here.


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