2023 afe
General Business

2023 Awards for Excellence

New Jersey Business Magazine is proud to present the 2023 Awards for Excellence to four executives and 12 companies who have improved the quality of life in New Jersey in outstanding ways. Powered by NJBIA, the awards honor select employers from NJBIA’s membership for outstanding achievements.

2023 AFE Executives of the Year 

For individuals who demonstrate leadership and passion while achieving business success. 

Karimah A. Hagans, Esq., Executive Director, Turning Point Community Services, Inc. 

When it comes to helping women overcome barriers, Karimah Hagans’ passion is personally driven. 

Raised by a single mother and domestic violence survivor, Hagans witnessed first-hand what is required for women and their families to get back on their feet. In addition, as a Puerto Rican and African American woman, Hagans understands the hurdles that marginalized groups must overcome daily. Today, she serves as executive director of Turning Point Community Services, Inc., a nonprofit that provides housing and services to women and their families in Northern New Jersey. 

Thanks to Hagans’ leadership, the lives of nearly 400 women and children have been forever changed through the organization’s support, social services, and life-ready programs. However, while managing the operation, Hagans has also handled all federal, state and local grants as well as other revenue sources, seeing a 9% increase in revenue from $736,441 in 2019 to $991,169 in 2022. 

Cynthia Hetherington, Founder & CEO, The Hetherington Group 

Cynthia Hetherington is one of the foremost leaders in investigative due diligence, corporate intelligence and cyber investigations. 

Hetherington leads national and international investigations into corporate due diligence and fraud, personal asset recovery, and background checks. Applying her specialized knowledge of the financial, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications industries, her cyber investigations have recovered millions of dollars in high profile corruption cases. 

She shares her expertise in an increasingly data-intensive, cyber-focused world through publications, an online blog, leading the OSINT Academy as well as hosting the annual OSMOSIS Conference, which provides insights for cyber investigation professionals. 

A mentor to women and other underrepresented populations, Hetherington also shares her experiences and expertise as a keynote speaker and contributor at women-focused technology events and conferences. 

Joseph Mauti, President, M&M Construction 

Joseph Mauti’s commitment to excellence as well as his unwavering dedication to quality craftsmanship and client satisfaction have led M&M Construction to unparalleled growth and success in the construction industry. 

As president, Mauti has fostered a culture of collaboration and empowerment within his organization. He firmly believes in the potential of his team members and invests in their growth and development. He encourages open communication, creativity, and accountability, which has resulted in a highly motivated workforce. 

Mauti also actively engages in philanthropic endeavors, giving back to the community that has supported M&M Construction’s success. He is passionate about creating positive change and has fostered a culture of corporate social responsibility initiatives, including supporting veterans and local family support agencies and foodbanks.

Brian Varela, CEO & Co-Founder, Growing Seeds Learning Academy 

Brian Valera’s entrepreneurial spirit, proven track record, and consistent dedication to achieving business success make him a standout entrepreneur. 

Valera has a record of scaling businesses and executing successful turnarounds. While at Paycom, an HR software company, he was the No. 1 producer in the New Jersey market and executed the largest deal in company history. 

As a serial entrepreneur, he has founded, owned, and scaled numerous businesses, including six childcare centers, two marketing companies, and two medspas. His ability to not only launch, but also maintain and grow these businesses, even amid challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates his resilience, strategic foresight, and adaptable leadership style. 

His interest in investing in B2B spaces such as IT and cybersecurity firms, office services, and bookkeeping firms signals his dedication to seeking out new challenges. 

2023 AFE Members of the Year 

For company contributions to NJBIA and efforts to improve the state’s business climate. 

Skalli Events 

Skalli Events is a family-owned and operated audio-visual production company that has been a long-time partner and ambassador of NJBIA, providing membership referrals and being the sound and video behind many association events.  

From cutting-edge audio-visual technology to stunning lighting design, Skalli – which was founded in 1993 – brings together the elements needed to create unforgettable events. The Lodi-based company’s audio-visual services include: live in-person event production; hybrid & streaming events with multi-camera coverage, on screen graphics, and live Q&A sessions; and pre-recorded video production. 

Skalli serves a wide-range of markets and events, from galas and fundraisers to graduations, press conferences, broadcast production and Zoom/hybrid functions. The company is passionate about its work, and its dedication and attention to detail is what sets it apart from its competition. Trusted to handle events big and small, from networking meetups to multifaceted conventions, Skalli takes pride in creating a turnkey production experience for its clients. 


Founded in 1976, CGI is a global IT and business consulting firm with more than 400 locations worldwide. CGI delivers an end-to-end portfolio of capabilities, from strategic IT and business consulting systems integration to managed IT and business process services and intellectual property solutions. 

The company is a strong NJBIA partner that has provided the association with member referrals. This year, CGI Senior Vice President Mike Reagan joined the NJBIA Board of Trustees. In a previous article in New Jersey Business Magazine, Reagan commented that CGI’s character is a reflection of its culture. “Our vision and mission drive us to build a leading global IT and business consulting services company,” he said. 

CGI opened an 11,500-square-foot office in New Brunswick last year to meet growing client demand in the region and centralize operations in the state. The office includes collaborative space to foster mentorship programs, including work with STEM camps and the New Brunswick PTECH High School program. 

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center 

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center is an acute and long-term care hospital in Paramus. It is the largest hospital in the state and fourth largest publicly owned hospital in the nation. The 1,070-bed institution is also a clinical affiliate of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. Founded in 1916 as the Bergen County Isolation Hospital, Bergen New Bridge today provides comprehensive services, including acute and ambulatory care, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, long-term care, a 24/7 emergency department, surgical suites, physical rehabilitation, pharmacy, laboratory and radiologic services (including digital mammography). The medical center has satellite offices in Bergenfield, Englewood, and Paterson. 

Bergen New Bridge is a relatively new NJBIA member, but it didn’t wait to get involved in various activities. Hospital executives and staff members have attended the association’s Government Affairs Committee meetings, its Women Business Leaders Forum and other events, and has taken advantage of event partnership opportunities. 

Covenant House 

Covenant House is the largest, primarily privately funded charity in North and Central America providing immediate and long-term support for youths ages 12-24 experiencing homelessness and human trafficking. The organization, founded in New York City in the early 1970s, has since helped 1.5 million youths. 

Covenant House New Jersey served approximately 1,248 young people across its core programs and services in FY 2022 vs. 801 the prior year. Those services translated to 59,351 nights of housing. On average, 156 youths slept in a Covenant House NJ bed each night vs. 150 the prior year. The organization also provided services to 149 survivors of human trafficking. 

As a relatively new NJBIA member, Covenant House has been an integral part of the association’s Not-For-Profit leadership team and Council this past year. Through sharing its experience and resources, it has helped both corporate and non-profit organizations to succeed. 

2023 AFE Outstanding Employers 

For companies celebrating creative and forward-looking approaches to managing HR.

C3 Workplace 

Over the last 30 years, C3 Workplace has helped to start and develop thousands of companies that have created tens of thousands of jobs across the state. This Montclair-based company aims to help businesses successfully start and grow by providing workspace, business support services and educational services while connecting businesses with each other and showing them how to harness the power of collaboration with like-minded professionals. 

When President and Founder Donna Miller began C3 in 1994, co-working and shared office facilities were rare, but her innate entrepreneurial instincts allowed her to see the logic and opportunity of not only shared space, but also of shared services. When the business climate shifted and economic swings in the marketplace emerged, Miller responded by offering new services that have allowed C3 to stay relevant, competitive, and financially stable. 

C3’s expertise has extended beyond providing physical space for companies, and now includes services such as business support and educational opportunities. 

CW Solutions 

CW Solutions is a New Brunswick-based, woman-owned real estate services firm established in 2002, providing assistance for utilities and wireless telecommunications, infrastructure, offshore wind, and groundbreaking renewable energy projects throughout the US. The team of highly skilled professionals leverages local resources to provide specialized services for each client, which range from small businesses to Fortune 500 firms. 

CW Solutions specifically provides expertise in: property & right-of-way acquisition, leasing, title research, permitting, zoning, project management, nationwide governmental affairs, regulatory compliance, public works projects and more. 

Founders Stacie Curtis and Robert Weible played a key role in pushing for NJ Bill S-2989, streamlining the approval process for wireless providers who need to expand their coverage in New Jersey. 

CW Solutions has garnered recognition throughout the years for breaking into new industries in sectors in which women-owned businesses are the minority. The firm is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise, a Small Business Enterprise, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. 


CompoSecure Inc. is an award-winning leader in the design, development and manufacturing of multifactor authentication, payment and digital asset storage technology solutions. With more than 20 years of experience in material science and metal card innovations, CompoSecure is a trusted partner for governments, financial institutions, fintechs and retail, using proprietary production methods that meet the highest quality and security standards. 

Founded in 2000, CompoSecure has created the metal card market from scratch, building the industry to a growing trend that major financial institutions rely on. The company has established its place at the forefront of embedded payment technology. Since the creation of the first metal transaction card in 2003, CompoSecure has focused on developing secure and innovative proprietary products and offering professional services to a variety of clients. The company produces over 30 million cards a year, and according to ABI Research’s Metal Payment Card Market Trends report, CompoSecure has 80% of the metal card market.

2023 AFE Excellence in Disability Inclusion 

For companies focused on delivering equal opportunities to qualified people with disabilities. 

Spectrum Works 

Spectrum Works is a nonprofit social enterprise that, for the past 10 years, has been successfully providing paid internships, on-the-job training, job readiness education, and employment support services to young autistic adults by partnering with companies and implementing sustainable and scalable autism employment programs into their workplace. 

By training and educating autistic adults for meaningful employment, while also raising broader awareness that they can be valuable and productive employees, and educating companies on how to create more inclusive workplaces, Spectrum Works aims to increase integrated employment opportunities for autistic adults across New Jersey. 

Over the past 10 years, Spectrum Works has positively impacted the lives of more than 600 individuals through internships at partner companies, providing young adults on the autism spectrum with meaningful opportunities, fostering their independence and self-confidence and inspiring them to achieve gainful employment. Additionally, more than 130 students are set to participate in 2023 alone.

2023 AFE Community Service 

For companies committed to leadership in finding solutions to social or economic challenges. 

ABC Discount Appliances 

Over the past 75 years, community initiatives have always been a focus of Pennsauken-based ABC Discount Appliances. Whether it has been its long-standing commitment to youth baseball or Rotary International, the company is a huge believer in giving back. Other community investments include – but are not limited to – the Camden Catholic Drama Club, Pennsauken Merchantville FOP, Winslow High School Football Team, The BBB of NJ and various youth sports programs throughout Southern New Jersey. 

Since 1949, ABC Discount Appliance has been family owned. The pillars of what the business was founded on continue today with its commitment to the customer. This means providing the best appliances in the industry at a competitive price with superior customer service. 

Besides serving individual customers, ABC Discount Appliances also works with builders, developers, architects, designers and property managers. Some 75 years later, the company still makes sure it follows the same foundation that got it to where it is today. 

Home Helpers Home Care

Home Helpers Home Care in Monmouth County, has demonstrated exceptional care for its clients, most notably veterans. On Veterans Day, for example, workers visited all of its veterans and brought tokens of appreciation. 

The organization has also supported not-for-profits, including the Jake’s Got This Foundation and veterans’ groups like Bridging the Gap and the Association of the United States Army. Further, Home Helpers recently provided Bayshore Hospital with an ice cream truck for National Hospital Week, as well as volunteering for a variety of organizations. 

Home Helpers President Howard Stein also was active on National Home Care Advocacy Day, speaking to state representatives about the current issues in healthcare facing our aging populations and veterans. For its work in demonstrating outstanding community service, Home Helpers has received multiple awards for outstanding service including the franchise brand champion award, Rising Star award from Home Care Evolutions, Caring Star award and Best of Home Care Employer and Provider awards. 

Slalom Consulting 

Slalom is revered as one of the most impactful business and technology consulting companies in the US, but it also strives to positively impact its communities. The company’s hallmark program for employee engagement is its Partners for Good community group. Some notable community efforts by Slalom include professional workshops with the Association of Latino Professionals for America at Rutgers-Newark, where students are presented with business scenarios, and they present solutions to a Slalom panel. 

Slalom’s Women’s Leadership Network also supports several programs to develop female talent with EmpowHER, including an annual technology challenge. Over the last three years, Slalom has awarded $40,000 in scholarships to EmpowHER participants. 

Other recent community partnerships with Slalom include AAPI Montclair, Backpacks for Life, Boys and Girls Club of Newark, Clean Ocean Action, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Jersey Cares, Project Medishare, SEEDS Access, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, United Negro College Fund and William Paterson University. 

South Jersey Industries 

Through South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas, South Jersey Industries (SJI) provides energy to more than 725,000 homes and businesses across New Jersey. 

For the communities it serves, SJI strives to make STEM-related educational and professional opportunities accessible to local youth. Since 2021, SJI has partnered with the Mark Cuban Foundation to host Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bootcamps at its Atlantic City and Union headquarters. 

SJI’s utilities also work closely with local high schools, community colleges, and universities to help advance future generations of students as they pursue degrees in New Jersey. For example, Elizabethtown Gas funds the Union County College Foundation’s Fueling the Future Scholarship, which supports 10 full-time students each year pursuing a career in STEM. In addition, the South Jersey Chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, an employee resource group at SJI, grants scholarships to diverse high school seniors pursuing STEM-related programs at accredited colleges and universities.

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