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Success Stories

David Lerman, Mohawk Valley SBDC Advisor, Janine Szczepanski, Helios Remote Sensing Systems, Inc. CEO, Walter Szczepanski, Helios Remote Sensing Systems, Inc.Founder, and Roxanne Mutchler, Mohawk Valley SBDC Regional Director.

Radar is involved in many different parts of our daily lives, such as the Doppler radar used to forecast weather or automatic position sensing in automobiles. An acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging, radar describes the energy that detects a target’s range and motion. One small business in Rome, New York, Helios Remote Sensing Systems, Inc., is taking radar technology to new heights and keeping our nation’s military and intelligence forces the best equipped in the world.

In 2007, Walter Szczepanski was ready to start his technology company after a career with GE Aerospace in Utica, NY and Lockheed Martin in Syracuse, NY working on airborne sensors. Helios initially employed just Szczepanski and his business-savvy daughter, Janine, but then quickly grew to include more employees in the following years.  Walter and Janine turned to business advisor David Lerman at the Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for help with a business plan to launch Helios... Read More

When Chris Dambach was eight years old, his father’s assignment in the U.S. Army changed and the family was relocated from Syracuse, NY to Virginia. Dambach found he could make money by selling cold cans of soda at nearby construction sites. After his soda-filled summer, Dambach spent the fall catching crawfish in creeks to sell to friends as pets and to fishermen as bait. His third venture was selling candy to other kids on his bus-eventually drawing the ire of the school principal when lunch money was used to buy candy instead. Little did Dambach know that his childhood start as an entrepreneur would come full circle when his life was at a crossroads.

“I was assigned as a scout with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Marine Corps unit in Mattydale, NY. Our unit was activated and deployed to the Syrian border area in northern Iraq in 2009,” recounts Syracuse-native Chris Dambach. “On Mother’s Day, our vehicle rolled over and I suffered several injuries after being ejected... Read More

Often times our families can be our harshest critics. Just ask Sherry DePerno, President and CEO of Advanced Tool Inc., of Marcy, New York: “At 16 years old my parents fired me! Like so many young people I wasn’t ready to be serious about a career or the commitment required to run a business.”

Five years later she returned to the family business with a second chance to prove herself after attending college and experiencing other work opportunities. Her father, Harold “Butch” Lockwood began Advanced Tool in his Sauquoit, New York garage after being laid off from Chicago Pneumatic in 1975. After starting at the bottom, DePerno learned each part of the business including customer service where she began to voice her opinions with her parents that included ideas about possible future opportunities for the company. DePerno transitioned into the leadership role when she and her husband Rob purchased the business from her parents in 2007.

“There’s a misconception that when... Read More

For DeWitt native Michael Brady, coming home turned into an opportunity to own his future. In 2001, Brady was considering leaving his Wall Street career after 10 years and returning to Upstate New York to be closer to family and friends. The 9/11 attacks accelerated his timetable and Brady left with a desire to make a positive difference in his hometown. In Syracuse that winter his father introduced him to the pharmaceutical label market through a long-term client, a local pharmaceutical manufacturer. Brady recognized a need for a nimble label manufacturer to service the pharmaceutical market. In March 2002, Brady set up HP Mile, Inc. to manufacture labels faster, better and cheaper specifically for pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Brady landed his first customer when one of his father’s contacts took a purchasing job at a medical device company in California and needed help with their labeling issues. After that, HP Mile’s business grew steadily each year. The Syracuse... Read More