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Rhode Island District Office
380 Westminster Street Room 511
Providence, RI 02903
United States
Phone: 401-528-4561
Fax: 401-528-4539
TTY/TTD: 401-528-4690
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

2011 RI and New England SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year

     Versatile Marketing Solutions, doing business as VMS Alarms, began operations in 2003 from president and CEO Jay Gotra’s apartment with a phone line and a business plan. Gotra previously worked for a large home alarm company, working his way up the corporate ladder, and earning every facet of the business. When that company split up, Versatile Marketing Solutions was formed.
     Through hard work, dedication, and a hands-on approach, Gotra and his management team have created an infrastructure not seen in the security dealer market.  The company continually developed administrative and sales employees, while enhancing and updating processes to manage growth.
     From 2003-2006 VMS focused on sales and marketing, selling alarm systems through other alarm dealers in the Northeast.  Over the three years, the company realized the weaknesses these alarm companies possessed, specifically in scheduling and customer service. To counter the weaknesses VMS added a technician of their own, with the right training and proper support system.
     In June 2006, VMS received its first SBA guaranteed loan from Bank of America, which enabled the company to become VMS Alarms, a self-contained, full service alarm company with 10 technicians of their own, as well as a full customer service and scheduling department.
     Since 2007, VMS has grown at a steady pace, utilizing technology to communicate efficiently between their sales offices in Rhode Island and developing key personnel in their infrastructure, which enabled the company to more than double every year.
     In 2007, VMS generated $1.8 million in revenue and employed 35 employees. The following year the company enjoyed tremendous growth with revenues jumping 260 percent to $4.8 million. The number of employees also increased to 65. The company opened sales offices, joined Monitronics International, and began to grow installation coverage outside of New England into eight states, generating $12 million in revenue.
     In 2009, VMS added 2 more external sales offices, and developed strong business relationships with small sales companies which they developed and added to their sales force.
     In August 2009, VMS received a second SBA-guaranteed loan for $200,000 from Coastway Community Bank to purchase a 15,000 square foot office building where the company can properly maintain its senior sales and administrative support staff. VMS ended 2009 with $8.4 million in revenue and 70 employees.
     VMS has settled into its new corporate headquarters and moved forward with the growth plans developed in 2009. The company has doubled the senior sales staff, adding 2 more states of installation coverage (totaling 11) and adding more than 120 full time administrative, installation, and sales positions between August 2009 and August 2010. VMS is projected to surpass $12 million in revenue and protect over 11,000 homes and families. The company is forecasting $19 million in revenue for 2011.
     According to Gotra, the SBA-backed loans opened the doors for VMS to establish a well-organized, efficient, and professional environment that took the firm from a small start-up to a corporation with grounded roots. VMS’s growth is steady and controlled, balancing sales staff with administrative support systems.
     The potential for additional SBA assistance exists because the company forecasts employing 350 full time and 150 part-time people by the end of 2014 in the Rhode Island area, and moving their headquarters into a larger building by the end of 2012.
     For his demonstrated success and potential for continued growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Jay Gotra as the 2011 Rhode Island and New England SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
James R. Lavoie

2011 Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year

 2011 Rhode Island and New England Veteran Small Business

Champion of the Year


     James R. Lavoie and his partner, Joseph M. Marino, co-founders of Rite-Solutions, a service-disabled veteran owned small business based in Middletown, are innovators in the tech sector that build advanced systems and engineer software, largely of a classified nature for the Navy.
     Considered unorthodox by some, they manage their company from the bottom-up, supposing that great ideas are born when everyone – no matter their station within the matrix—has license to propose a new innovation, and all workers share in its birth, development and deployment, or the alternative, its death. An internal stock market of the brain trust kind, Mutual Fun as Lavoie calls it, where employees can buy into a good idea to advance it, or sell a poor one to stop it.
     Not unlike the Dow Jones’ version, ticker icons represent stocks, e-mail alerts forewarn, and internal blogs opine and debate the worthiness of each offering. From concept to production, conceivably, those fresh ideas that make it through this intellectual gauntlet cause Rite-Solutions to pursue a new technology, refine an efficiency process, or create a new business or product.
     Jim in particular has gained notoriety for his unique approach to small business development and creative thinking, and as a disabled veteran has championed the cause of others like himself – actively advocating for new legislation and policy that affect service-disabled veterans who own a small business.
     A Navy veteran, Jim served with the submarine force during the Vietnam era, later using his GI Bill to earn a degree in electronic technology.  From there, while working as an electronics technician at Electric Boat, a promotion to the training department led to further technical schooling and an advanced competency in computer engineering.
     Lavoie left Electric Boat for Analysis & Technology in 1979, a small, high tech firm located in Stonington, Ct. At A & T he developed his managerial skills and leadership style, which can best be described as “forging new paths” as opposed to following the well paved road. Point in fact, Jim was admired within A & T for his ability to turn conventional wisdom on its ear and to find new, creative, and better ways to conduct business and motivate employees.
     Lavoie was promoted to president within A & T of a subsidiary he named Integrated Performance Decisions (IPD). Referred to as the geeks by Jim, his team of software engineers quickly became the cornerstone for innovative thinking within the company.
     In 2000, Jim and a small group of associates set out on their own to start Rite-Solutions.
     He has leveraged Rite Solutions and their cutting-edge technologies to support the healthcare systems of the active duty military and Department of Veteran Affairs.  Through his initiatives, the company provides medical business re-engineering solutions to the Army’s Medical Command and the Department of Health, combining advanced software architectures and applications development to better maintain the health records of service members.
     In addition, Jim is pursuing other opportunities to support service members and their families with proposals like the Veterans administration’s $12 billion procurement opportunity where he has formed a team comprised of four other service-disabled veteran-owned small business technology companies combined with other Rhode Island small businesses. The award of this contract to Rite-Solutions could represent a “game changer” for accelerating Rhode Island’s economic recovery efforts.
     Jim also participates in Rhode Island Small Business Development Center’s PATH program.  Professionals Available to Help (PATH) is chartered to connect successful business owners with others to ensure the future of industry in the state. The program offers free advice and assistance to small business owners to help launch and grow their companies.
     Most recently, Jim provided mentoring and support to EVAS, an industry-leading provider of accessible plug and play computers specifically designed for people who are visually, physically, hearing or learning disabled.
     For his outstanding commitment to the veteran community, and distinguished excellence operating a small business, the U.S. Small Business Administration is honored to present James R. Lavoie with the 2011 Rhode Island and New England Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year Award.
Samuel Sinel

2011 Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year

2011 Rhode Island and New England Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year 


     “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”  Wisely said by someone who remains unknown to this day.
     An ambitious young Russian who immigrated to Rhode Island, Hymen Berger found opportunity and a livelihood in those words – acting on the sage advice, building a junk business from his horse and wagon, traveling the state to buy the scraps of metal and textile mill cast-off’s no one wanted.
     Others saw re-use and value though, so Hymen resold his scrap to them. His business prospered and a family legacy was passed down the line.
     Three generation’s later the business is a full-service recycling enterprise. Owners of Berger & Co. Recycling Inc., Sam Sinel and his brother, Charles, carry on the family tradition from their Pawtucket headquarters, a 4-acre industrial yard, and a distant improvement from the barn workshop grandfather Hymen operated. Great grandson Adam Sinel has worked in the family business since 2002, extending Berger’s lineage to the fourth generation.
     Buying recyclables and reselling them on the global commodities market, Berger & Co. specializes in scrap metal, waste paper, scrap plastic, textiles, and precious metals, like gold and silver, where trace amounts are filtered from discarded electronics and auto parts. Pretty much anything non-hazardous is a sought after item and recycled.  They employ 21 people in Rhode Island.
     The recycling business markets the material to paper mills and metal smelters and other consumers worldwide. They are – point in fact – one of Rhode Island’s largest exporters. For nearly 15 years, Berger & Co. has helped area businesses, including health practices, law offices and police departments among many others, dispose of sensitive letters and documents.
     The business is community-minded, in particular, Sam Sinel. He has been a two-time co-host of “Benefest,” an annual fundraising event for the Rhode Island Special Olympics. As a cub master and den leader, he has been involved with Cub Scout Pack 3 in East Greenwich.
     In addition, with his wife, Pamela, they coached a creative problem solving team that won two Rhode Island state championships, and participated in the world finals held at the University of Iowa and the University of Tennessee. As a Freemason, Sam’s been an Elected Master at the Jenks Lodge in Pawtucket, and a former president of the Charles E. Lawton Memorial Masonic Home.
     The U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to present the 2011 Rhode Island and New England Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year Award to Samuel Sinel, owner of, Berger & Co. in Pawtrucket.

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