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Loretta KaminskyReveal Caption

 Loretta Kaminsky (left) is an 83-year-old Zumba instructor.

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  • 2019-09-25
  • Meghan Finnerty

Small Business Development Center Spurs Local Entrepreneurship

The SBDC has been a lifeline for an 83-year-old who loves to reinvent herself.

Loretta Kaminsky is an 83-year-old Zumba instructor with a strong résumé.

Kaminsky started as a kindergarten teacher but left education to develop a successful custom chocolate company, which she later sold. Her next adventure was consulting for other small businesses. She left that, too — to take back her chocolate company.

Kaminsky sued for the name rights of the company, Lou-Retta’s Custom Chocolates Inc., and won. Now, as her products are stocked on shelves at Wegmans, she’s off teaching Zumba on cruises, at YMCAs, and at senior centers.

Throughout each new business venture in the past 25 years, Kaminsky leaned on the New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for guidance.

America's SBDC provides no-cost business counsel to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Experts help develop business plans, identify funding sources, and host workshops and seminars. The Brockport SBDC, directed by Jan Pisanczyn, recently moved into the Monroe Community College Downtown Campus and is sponsored by The College at Brockport.

When Kaminsky was starting out and running her chocolate craft out of her kitchen, she met Pisanczyn, who was then an SBDC business advisor.

When Pisanczyn offered to help, “I said absolutely,” Kaminsky recalled. When he asked her to bring her business plan to their first meeting, Kaminsky admitted she must’ve had a glazed look in her eyes, because she didn’t have one.

Kaminsky became one of Pisanczyn's first clients. Together, they worked to make her first business plan, and Lou-Retta’s eventually secured two grants from New York state for revamping.

“They literally tore my business apart and put it back together,” she said.

The SBDC calls their consultations “reality therapy,” as experts serve as sounding boards for clients. The center is operated by experienced staff members who have “been there, did it, done it” and can advise on research, markets, structure, management, logistics, and budgets for small businesses, according to Pisanczyn.

When Lou-Retta’s landed on the Valentine’s Day cover of USA Today in 1986, the feature prompted a call from Lancôme Cosmetics. The company asked if Kaminsky could make chocolates in the shape of lipstick — what would become her biggest order yet. So, of course, she had to call Pisanczyn.

“Calling Jan” for advice would continue for decades, like when a business deal with Walt Disney World started to form. Pisanczyn helped Kaminsky find a consultant who determined a way to package the item more quickly.

“When I would receive an unusually large order, I would call Jan and ask his advice, and we would sit and talk about the best way to proceed,” Kaminsky said. “I considered the SBDC as my lifeline, and without them, I would not have been so successful.”

“We work with people for as long as we’re doing something constructive,” Pisanczyn said.

Kaminsky became part of the NYSBDC herself as a board member for 25 years. She even took a stint on the national board. 

“I really discovered all these wonderful things about myself,” she said.

In her 70’s, she discovered her latest adventure — Zumba. Kaminsky teaches Zumba to seniors throughout the week and takes a few cruises each year, where she teaches people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I’ve had so many lives,” Kaminsky laughed. “Who would think that someone who started as a kindergarten teacher would be a Zumba instructor?”

Small Business Development Center

Since the launch of the Brockport-sponsored SBDC in 1987, current director Jan Pisanczyn and seven expert business advisors have helped more than 20,900 businesses invest more than $212 million in the local economy. Based on the Brockport main campus, six satellite offices serve clients in Genesee, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, and Wayne counties.

Local Locations

  • 101 Hartwell Hall, The College at Brockport
    350 New Campus Drive
    Brockport, NY 14420
  • Monroe Community College Downtown Campus
    321 State St – 6th floor, Suite 638
    Rochester, NY 14608

Hours of Operation

  • 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday

Contact Info

Last Updated 10/2/19

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