Home LifestyleCareer 5 Northern New Jersey Locals to Watch in April 2024

5 Northern New Jersey Locals to Watch in April 2024

by The Montclair Girl Team
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

A new month means another opportunity to highlight some of the incredible people who make Northern New Jersey a better place. As we settle into April, we’d like to introduce you to The Montclair Girl‘s first “Locals to Watch” roundup of the spring — complete with therapists, educators, crayon designers, and beyond, who are making big waves all around Northern New Jersey. Read in for five Northern New Jersey locals to watch in April 2024.

Eleise Richards | Founder + CEO of Experience The Legacy, Inc.

eleise richards

As an Irvington native and Howard University alumna, current Middlesex County resident Eleise Richards founded Experience The Legacy, Inc. in 2016 “to bring the historically black college tour experience directly to students, many of whom cannot afford or do not have access to the traditional chartered trips that travel down the east coast and throughout the south visiting these illustrious institutions,” per the website.

Through her work in public policy, managing political engagement, and community relations, Eleise and her organization help to provide information and resources about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to under-resourced communities. Additionally, Experience The Legacy’s HBCU College Fair bridges the opportunity gap for Black and Brown students, allowing high school students to network with current HBCU students and alumni, speak with financial advisors, view live exhibitions, and speak one-on-one with recruiters from an assortment of HBCUs.

Eleise told The Montclair Girl that she’s “inspired by the sense of community and the next generation of leaders”, and that her goal is “to enlighten and provide resources to under-resourced communities about HBCUs and preparing for college.”

Eleise’s favorite North Jersey businesses:Blended Flavors in Linden, Liberty State Park, Bradfords Barr in Maplewood, Trapart Gallery in Newark”

Keep up with Eleise and her work with Experience The Legacy here and here.

Read More: A List of Women-Owned Restaurants in Montclair + Bloomfield

Kara Kushnir | Founder of A Work of Heart Counseling

kara kushnir

Recognizing the importance of connection, especially for working moms, is what inspires Kara Kushnir — who is the founder of A Work of Heart Counseling. Described as a “haven for women and children” the practice provides in-person counseling services at its Allendale and Oradell offices and telehealth services for those in NJ, PA, FL, and SC. With a team that is predominantly female and comprised of mothers, Kara and her team “actively promote work-life balance, flexibility, and a family-friendly atmosphere.”

In her line of work, Kara has “not only weathered the challenges posed by the evolving landscape of her industry but has emerged as a trailblazer in envisioning innovative solutions to women’s leadership challenges”. When the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world, Kara faced the unprecedented task of transitioning her business to a virtual model overnight. Not only did she successfully navigate this transition, but she also expanded her team during these challenging times. By incorporating “innovative opportunities” into her business model and implementing telehealth services, Kara and her team have adapted to the changing times and have “facilitated increased accessibility and engagement for clients”. She told The Montclair Girl that she “believes in honoring every individual as a partner, a parent, and a person first, a philosophy that has become the cornerstone of her business.” Kara and her team also recently opened a second office, in which they “hope to get more programming available to local communities by teaming up with other resources.”

Kara’s influence in New Jersey goes beyond her work with A Work of Heart Counseling, as she holds positions in various professional organizations that value women’s health and leadership. She has raised over $8,000 for Postpartum Support International (PSI) in New Jersey, runs a free support group with the organization for moms with disabilities, and serves as the Education and Training Chair for PSI. Kara is also a past Policy Chair for the NJ Council, and is an Adjunct Professor in Graduate and Social Work at Montclair State University.

Learn more about Kara and her work with A Work of Heart Counseling here and here.

Kate Dawson | Interior Designer and Decorator + Founder of Decor Whore

kate dawson

Money does not buy happiness, but according to this New Jersey resident, living in a home you love can change your life. Kate Dawson is an actor/singer-turned-interior-designer. At the age of 44, with no “traditional” experience, Kate ventured to open her own design business called Decor Whore, through which she helps curate “kick-ass spaces” that don’t cost a fortune.

Ultimately, Kate’s goal is to make interior design more accessible, whether a client is living in a studio apartment or a sprawling ranch. Taking notes from her time on the stage, a session with Kate is like an HGTV program: she doesn’t allow clients in the room while she’s doing her thing.

Kate’s decor style is glittered and glamorous, but that’s just her story. To Kate, design is about an individual’s unique self-expression, and the material items that make it manifest: “You want a hot pink wall? PAINT IT!” she said to MG.

Business owners Kate looks up to: “The Owner of Perch, Amy Owens, the Owner of Parcel, Helen Birney (Cultivate Health), Roberta Loew (owner of “Have A Nice Clay”), and lots of artists.”

Keep up with Kate and her work here and here.



Susan Goldman | Founder of Cre8ive Crayonz

susan goldman

Four years since COVID-19, many of the pandemic-born businesses continue to thrive and color our lives. One Montville-based company, Cre8ive Crayonz, quite literally does just that.

Susan Goldman and her then-six-year-old daughter Jesse had themed craft weeks throughout 2020. On the crayon week, the duo read The Day the Crayons Quit and made their crayons by hand. Susan, who had recently just been furloughed from her job in fashion, drew up a plan: she would sell customized crayons.

Three-and-a-half years later, Cre8ive Crayonz is a thriving business selling crayon boxes of all different shapes, sizes, and varieties. Susan acts as the brand’s “Cre8ive in Chief,” Jesse her “Cre8ive Director.” Jesse helps to choose molds, color combinations, and gift sets. She pops the crayons out of the molds and also styles some product pictures.

Susan is most grateful that she gets to work alongside her daughter: “We are creating special memories together and that inspires me every day,” she shared with MG.

Susan’s favorite North Jersey businesses:Faubourg, Wood Stack Pizza + Kitchen, Rails Steakhouse, and Sunset Pub + Grill.”

Learn more about Susan and Cre8ive Crayonz here and here.

See More: 10 Hoboken + Jersey City Locals to Watch in April 2024

Dr. Wenimo Okoya | Founder of Healing Schools Project

Wenimo Okoya

Wenimo Okoya EdD, MPH, started her career as a classroom teacher in Newark, but her dedication to student and teacher equity brought her to NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Teachers College Columbia University; and Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, where she currently holds teaching positions.

Dr. Okoya’s work can be defined by a relentless pursuit to improve classroom conditions and dismantle the structural inequities that so often harm students and teachers alike. Her area of expertise lies in building teams that work with schools, organizations, and individuals to promote the adoption of anti-racist, healing-centered practices.

Over the past 10 years, she’s helped develop programs that assist schools in providing support for student health and well-being. In March 2021, during her fellowship at Blue Ridge Labs at the Robin Hood Foundation, Dr. Okoya launched the Healing Schools Project. Wielding her personal experiences, professional expertise, and academic background, she now leads the organization as it partners with schools and organizations across New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The organization helps schools implement anti-racist healing practices to help retain and care for educators.

Dr. Okoya shared with The Montclair Girl that her work “is inspired by my experience as a teacher in Newark and the stories of all the educators I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my career.” Her end goal seems lofty, but is simple at its core: “to ensure that when people show up to work, their whole humanity is considered and embraced.”

Wenimo’s favorite North Jersey businesses: “Eagle Rock Cafe (Montclair), Harper’s Cafe (West Orange), Muse Coffee (Lyndhurst), Zura Blooms Yoga (Bloomfield), Blue Steel Pizza (Bloomfield).”

Follow Wenimo and her journey with the Healing Schools Project here and here.

For potential inclusion in our next round-up, fill out this Google Form here (or send it to someone you want to see featured!).

read more people button

also appears in

0 comment