Uncovering hidden gems on Long Island


Members of the Long Island Gems would agree that one of the best ways to build a personal network is by joining professional organizations. Founded by five experienced, distinguished businesswomen, the L.I. Gems hopes to bring people together to share information, contacts and leads to advance people in their careers.

“Networking is the key to business,” said Valentina Janek, one of the L.I. Gems’ founding members. “We all advocate for each other, everybody cares about each other, and we want to keep people on Long Island. In order to do that, these types of organizations have to be supportive to each other.”

The thought process of developing this group started at the end of 2017, when founding members Linda Catalano and Jacqueline McDermott proposed the idea at a networking luncheon. The two later got in contact with Heidi Shaw, a resident of Merrick, who specializes in web-designing and social media marketing.

“At first, we really talked about connecting women who were in power, who would be able to help other women, and kind of be a support group,” said McDermott, who lives in West Hempstead.

Catalano, an associate broker at Island Advantage, and McDermott, the firm director of Talent Acquisition at Blue Ocean Wealth Solutions, said that they were too busy to get the group off the ground, but then they found Janek, who they both described as the missing piece.

“Valentina’s leadership in taking control of the situation and wanting to really help others helped to steer this group in the right direction,” McDermott said. “That’s what she brought to the table with her experience at the Long Island Breakfast Club.”

L.I. Gems is currently consulting with Marvin Soskil, founder of Brett Harrison Jewelry Brokers, who has worked in the jewelry business over 40 years. Soskil — who said that the most important goal for the group is to be a resource to businesspeople on Long Island — shared a jewelry item with the group, a sterling silver necklace, which will be raffled off this year.

As for the group’s goals moving forward, they hope to grow and network with more people on Long Island. Gems member Rosemarie Torla, of Seaford, who is the president of Altor Realty Group, said that community involvement will play a key role in the group’s success.

“What I’m really looking forward to is getting more involved in the community and learning more about other professionals in the community,” Torla said. “We just want to find more ways to add to the community.”

As the Herald went to press on Monday, Long Island Gems held its first launch meeting on June 26 at Piccolo Bussola in Mineola. The group is open to men and women, and those who are interested in learning more about the group can visit their website at www.longislandgems.com.