Vanessa Vioude tutu customer
Vanessa Vioude, owner of Vioude’s Designs Tutu business, with one of her happy customers at the YASbiz celebration and expo in December 2016. Vioude was awarded funding to start the business as a participant in annual Ability Beyond’s Entrepreneur Pitch Panel for young adults affected by Autism.

BETHEL: Ability Beyond will be sending what it descirbes as “a group of ambitious interns” to pitch their business ideas in a “Shark Tank”-style Entrepreneur Pitch Panel on October 27th in Bristol as part of their Explorations in Entrepreneurship curriculum.

Support for the program comes from Autism Speaks, a New York research and advocacy group.

“The creativity of these interns is astounding!” said Michelle Ouimette, Managing Director of Ability Beyond and Roses for Autism. “When answering critical questions like: What am I good at?  What do I like? What are my challenges and resources? some of them discover a passion that they want to turn into a money-making venture.”

According to Ability Beyond’s announcement, “21% of the youth with disabilities ages 16-25 who complete the Ability Beyond Transition Services or Explorations in Entrepreneurship programs are pursuing or are self-employed. Of the remaining participants, 51% are employed within 1 year and 29% are enrolled in post-secondary continuing education.”

“We, as a society, must do a better job of preparing the most vulnerable youth for independence and success in adulthood, and a better job of connecting them quickly with adult services that were designed for their benefit,” said Ouimette. “Transition Services is a groundbreaking solution to the unfortunate reality that students with disabilities continue to receive ineffective, often impractical, preparation for the real world and real jobs.”

The group of ten graduates who are presenting their business ideas at the Entrepreneur Pitch Panel on the 27th have prepared proposals that include: Online Comic Book Store, Therapeutic Putty, Meditation CD’s, and Flavored Seltzer.

Updates will be provided for previously funded businesses like Vioude’s Designs Tutu Business. The members of the panel include David Bishop from Mona Lisa Restaurant, and Brittany Bidmead from Streetsmart Ventures, as well as supporters from the Bristol Chamber of Commerce.



Abiout Ability Beyond | Since 2009, Ability Beyond has provided services for transition age youth, primarily individuals with developmental disabilities and autism, designed to teach them critical and transferable employment and social skills.  These programs consist of internship rotations at a variety of host businesses, classroom instruction, and community business exploration, with the goal of securing employment after successful program completion. For more information,


salestaximageonmoneyBy, Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

Connecticut’s top state senator said Wednesday he believes moderate Democrats are “growing increasingly comfortable” with a sales tax increase that could ease pressure to slash municipal aid and help break an impasse that has left the state without a budget.

“They’re growing increasingly comfortable recognizing it as an inevitability, I think,” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said of an increase in the 6.35 percent sales tax.

pavehawkBy: Ana Radelat

WASHINGTON:  A group representing small businesses is suing the Pentagon and Sikorsky for information about the defense contractor’s hiring of small and minority businesses as subcontractors.

The Sonoma, Calif.-based American Small Business League says the information it has sought from Sikorsky will show the Pentagon has for decades falsified the volume of subcontracts that have been awarded to small businesses.

The league’s lawsuit stems from it’s efforts to obtain information about Sikorsky’s participation in a Defense Department program aimed at increasing subcontracting opportunities for small businesses.

In April of 2014, the American Small Business League filed a freedom of information request for the annual report submitted by Sikorsky and about a dozen large defense contractors that participate in the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program. By law, federal agencies are obligated to award a portion – currently 23 percent – of their contracts to small businesses and those owned by women or other disadvantaged groups.

Sikorsky initially declined to provide the information, but eventually was forced to do so by a federal judge.

Despite being ordered to release an un-redacted copy of the requested documents, Sikorsky only supplied the court with a heavily redacted version and appealed the judge’s order to the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A trial date of Dec. 11 has been set for the case.

The redacted document blacked out all names and addresses of the helicopter makers’ subcontractors. Sikorsky projected spending more than $913 million on large subcontractors and $272 million on small businesses and those owned by women, veterans and minorities.

Sikorsky, purchased by Lockheed Martin in late 2015, said it could not divulge details of its subcontractors because that would put it at a competitive disadvantage with other defense companies.

“At Lockheed Martin our suppliers are integral partners in delivering our products and services to our customers,” said Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson. “Sikorsky is an active participant in the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program and has complied with all small business requirements under the Department of Defense’s guidelines.”

Jackson also said Sikorsky’s Comprehensive Small Business Plan “is competition sensitive” and was recognized as such by the appeals court.

“We will continue to work with the Department of Defense to ensure that our rights under FOIA are protected,” Jackson said.

The business league argues that  Sikorsky’s contracts with the government are “sole source” contracts and Sikorsky has no competitors for their Pentagon business.

Headed by small business advocate Lloyd Chapman, the American Small Business League is skeptical that the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program actually helps small business.

In a recent op-ed, Chapman said the CSPTP “was designed to eliminate all transparency for the Pentagon’s largest prime contractors.”

Chapman said the CSPTP also eliminated all penalties that defense contractors may face for non-compliance with federal small business contracting goals.

Witnesses at December’s trial include Janice Buffler, Department of Defense associate director of subcontracting policy; Andrew Driver, Sikorsky Aircraft senior manager of market analytics; Amy Johnson, Sikorsky director of supply chain; and Martha Crawford, Sikorsky supplier diversity manager.