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The Class of 2017

40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Owner and President, Vivid Hair Salon & Spa Inc.; Age 35

Basia Belz

Basia Belz

When asked what she does for a living, salon owner Basia Belz will tell you she’s a master color specialist and stylist. But this hairstylist is truly a cut above, modeling more of the Old Masters, using hair as her canvas.

“I love that, in just a few hours, I can miraculously transform someone, and help them see their inner beauty,” said Belz, adding that her salon specializes in hair coloring and hair extensions, and helping brides look their best. But it’s more than beauty that drives Belz. She goes to great lengths to make a difference in her community.

“I’ve volunteered since I was a child, and I love to give back,” she told BusinessWest, adding that helping cancer patients feel and look good is one of her top priorities. “My grandmother had cancer, and I’ve devoted a lot of my time to events and fund-raisers in her honor. I want to make her proud.”

Belz is a longtime supporter of the Rays of Hope Foundation, creating pink pieces (hair extensions) for a cure. She’s also earning certification in wig fitting and maintenance to help cancer patients when they lose their hair. Belz says she wants to make each client feel special and cared for.

She’s been in the business for more than 19 years, graduating from Dean Technical High School’s cosmetology program, and earning business degrees from Holyoke Community College and Western New England University. She started her own salon when she was just 23, and has grown her business from one full-time employee to an expanded, full-service salon with a team of 10.

With her business thriving, she’s become even more active in the community, raising thousands of dollars for various organizations through her Vivid Community Care Projects.

“I enjoy bringing people together for a great cause and great time,” said Belz. She’s hosted numerous fund-raisers, like ‘paint parties,’ and sponsored a girls softball team in Westfield. She’s partnered with Westfield State University at a mental-health fair and was back on campus April 9 for the Buzz Off for Cancer event, shaving heads in honor and support of children who have the disease.

“I want people to see the passion that I have, and show other stylists that they have so much potential,” said Belz. “I love what I do, and I’m grateful I have the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better.”

—Alta Stark

40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical & Administrative Sciences, Western New England University; Age 37

Daniel Kennedy

Daniel Kennedy

Professor Dan Kennedy is one of eight founding faculty members of Western New England University’s College of Pharmacy, a dream come true for a guy who’d always wanted to teach.

“I grew up in a family of teachers, and my mom was a principal,” he noted. “You might say it was pre-scripted.”

Before joining WNEU, he taught science at Emmanuel College while completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. When he got the chance to help build a program from the ground up, he moved west. “It was a great opportunity to not only take on roles that normally come later in a career, but also work with a diverse group of academics ranging from engineers to arts professors, which is something you don’t always experience.”

Kennedy said getting the program up and running was a professional high, but what means most to him is shaping the student experience.

“I’ve been amazed to see the growth and maturity of the students,” he said. “Seeing them develop is really rewarding.”

He also says it’s now rare to go into an area pharmacy and not run into a student or graduate, noting that “it demonstrates the impact the young program is having in the health field here.” The college is set to graduate its third class this spring.

Kennedy is the author of two patents and a third patent application. He’s also heavily involved with the American Assoc. of Colleges of Pharmacy, and serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.

He is the faculty advisor to the Pharmacy Student Governance Assoc., which organizes an annual Day of Service to introduce students to community service. To date, hundreds have participated, visiting area nursing homes, animal shelters, and food kitchens. He also coaches softball and finds ample time for his wife and three children.

Kennedy is also an active researcher, and he’s mentored or co-mentored many students, almost all of whom have been involved in his research projects. The graduating class of 2015 recognized him with its Unsung Hero Award for going above and beyond helping, teaching, and mentoring. He also received the student-named Better Than Chuck Norris Award for making difficult subjects seem easy.

“What I try to instill in all my classes is that knowing isn’t enough,” he said. “You have to put things together to form the big picture and understand what’s happening.”

 —Alta Stark

40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Assistant Vice President, Commercial Portfolio Loan Officer, Farmington Bank; Age 37

Candace Pereira

Candace Pereira

Candace Pereira maintains a true work-life balance while continually setting new goals. The single mother of Hailey, 8, has always enjoyed being busy, and worked her way up the stepping stones of the banking world.

She began work as a teller almost two decades ago and earned an associate’s degree from Springfield Technical Community College in 2001. But at age 25, her love for learning and desire to advance in her career led Pereira back to school, and she graduated from the UMass Isenberg School of Management in 2007.

Two and a half years ago, when mentor Mike Moriarty at United Bank moved to Farmington Bank, she moved with him. But a month after she started her new job, her brother, Bob Driscoll, was involved in a serious motorcycle accident.

He spent a month in intensive care, and when he was released, she moved him into her home. It required ongoing remodeling and adjustments, but they have always been close and share the same friends.

Pereira said Farmington Bank’s attitude of “family first” helped her to achieve a realistic work-life balance. She took over her brother’s finances and learned to structure her day so she can fit everything in that is meaningful.

That includes her role as board member and treasurer of the Gray House in Springfield. “They serve the working poor who don’t qualify for services,” she said of the organization, adding that she brings her daughter to help out at its food pantry so she learns the value of community service.

“It only takes a few people to make something happen,” she told BusinessWest. “Once you begin volunteering, it has a snowball effect because you see how much it does for others.”

Pereira is a member of the grant committee at the Farmington Bank Community Foundation and board member of the East Longmeadow Educational Endowment Fund. She is active in several chambers of commerce and young professional societies, where she has assisted with fund-raising.

She also has a number of professional certifications and enjoys helping business owners achieve their goals with the help of bank loans.

But she schedules everything down to the hour on her Outlook calendar to ensure she has time to spend with family.  “You need to be grateful for it,” she said, “because you may not get another chance.”

—Kathleen Mitchell

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