Women of Fairfield

Meet the women that make our town amazing

Article by Samantha Schoengold Beranbom

Photography by Abby Cole Photography

Originally published in Fairfield Lifestyle

There is no shortage of amazing women in Fairfield. We'd like to introduce you to a few. And although they all have taken different paths and lead very different lives, they have a common thread: Dynamic women who enrich our community.   

Beverly Balaz, President and CEO Fairfield Chamber of Commerce

Beverly knows all about supporting the community. She is an adviser, mentor, advocate and expert to new and existing businesses throughout Fairfield.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Danbury. I’m the youngest of 3 and the first to attend college.  I graduated from Western CT University, with a BS in Education. I spent the majority of my career in Educational Publishing, first at Grolier Educational Publishing. I literally started as a secretary and was ultimately promoted to one of the first female Vice Presidents in the company followed by many other leadership roles in the industry including President of Facts on File.  This was all at a time that was especially tough for women to advance and succeed.

Q: What is your community connection?

As President and CEO of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, it is my responsibility to help and advocate “Buy Local” for our members and the local business community. I am grateful for my success in corporate America, which taught me every aspect of the business world. I brought that knowledge to the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, and I am extremely proud of our achievements to date.  This is my 10th anniversary, and so much has been done during this time.  We have tripled our membership, expanded the BOD to 20 people, and provided a variety of tools and resources for our members to not only sustain their businesses, but grow and stay in Fairfield. Notably, we have established a wonderful partnership with the Town of Fairfield, so that together, we can provide the very best to the local business community, providing creative, consistent and unending support.

Q: Biggest lesson learned?

Throughout my career, I was lucky enough to have great colleagues and make wonderful friendships. I truly respect and regard these relationships that were built over the years, many of whom have become life-long friends.  My biggest lesson learned is that it takes a village of support, all types of people, to gain inspiration, knowledge and the conviction to confidently move forward. When I joined the Chamber 10 years ago, we immediately established a new slogan:  Building Relationships, Building Business.  I believe in that slogan, and that’s how it works throughout life.

Q: Any secrets or tips on how to juggle it all?

Women are fabulous multitaskers for sure, within every lifestyle! Juggle at your own pace, but don’t let yourself burn out – this can be achieved by paying attention to personal needs, family, friends, good health and what truly makes you happy.

Danielle Camoro, Business Owner, Camoro Salon

After a lustrous career making the Manhattan chic even chicer, Danielle brought her unparalleled talent to beautify the women in Fairfield with the opening of her refined boutique salon.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

I grew up in CT and moved to the city when I was 18 for beauty school. I worked at a few high end salons before landing at the infamous Marie Robinson salon, where I learned everything I know about hair. I have two beautiful boys and a great husband.

Q: What is your community connection?

A: My connection to Fairfield is my lovely sister! She’s the reason we moved here. You can find us at Sasco Beach. We love Fairfield and we’re so happy with our decision.

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment?

I would say my biggest accomplishment is somehow balancing work, being a wife, a mother, a friend and finding time for me — and making that somehow all work smoothly.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever received?

My husband always gives me the best advice. The two things that stick with me the most are, "If your chapter doesn’t change, no one will read your book." I also love, "Life is not a dress rehearsal!"

Q: Who inspires you?

My Dad is a huge inspiration to me starting, he started his own business in his 20s. My mentor, Marie Robinson is a big role model for me. My husband & my sister are also a consistent daily inspiration.

Gaelle Dudley, Founder and Creative Director of GLDESIGN

Gaelle’s coastal aesthetic, sunny disposition and optimistic mindset can not only be felt in the interiors she creates but is also reflected in her Instagram posts which are always authentic, uplifting and inspiring.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

I started my design adventure at a tech startup during the dot com boom of the early 2000’s and designed events around the globe for the international accounting firm, KPMG.

I also worked in commercial and residential design with some of Starwood Hotels’ most iconic brands, including St. Regis, W Hotels and Westin. I am currently the Founder and Creative Director of GLDESIGN, one of Fairfield County’s fastest growing design firms. My team and I weave beach living into every client’s home. I live in Fairfield with my family and we soak in all that the beach and beach living have to offer.

Q: Biggest lesson learned?

Wow this is a tough question!  I am learning daily and truly believe that my “failures” have made me more successful than some of my biggest brightest moments.  Biggest lesson? That life is fragile.  After being faced with a massive life changing health crisis, I realized then and there that I needed to be more grateful for my body, my present life and that I was the only one who could be my change maker.  Nobody else is in charge of your life.  Make the changes now because you only live once.  Don’t wait.

Q: Who inspires you?

I am inspired by a collective group of women.  My best friends, my mom and women that put themselves out there and aren’t afraid to just be. I am inspired by moments in time, not huge milestones… instead I gravitate toward the stuff that makes me feel inner happiness.  A person that makes me laugh in a certain way or an experience that makes my heart feel like it’s soaring.  I am the most inspired when I am humbled.

Q: Words to live by:

When you cease to dream, you cease to live.

Kelly Maffei, Co-Founder of Team Woofgang & Co.

Kelly is a long time Fairfield resident and the quintessential Supermom. Along with her co-founders, Kelly launched Woofgang in 2017. By merging the love of their kids with the love of their dogs by having them bake dog treats, and an important mission was born.

Tell me a little bit about yourself:

I have been a Fairfield Resident for close to 38 years.   I have been happily married to my husband David for the past 33+ years. We raised our 3 children, all who went to school here in Fairfield through high school.  They all make me proud and have made me a better person.

What is your community connection?

I helped start the non-profit, Team Woofgang, with 2 other amazing women, Kris Burbank and  Amy Stern, along with a legion of great special needs families.  For us moms, who were looking at our special young adults’ futures, we saw a great need as our young adults graduated from their state provided education. Since we launched, we have grown to over 70 Team Members and participants.  They all range in abilities and we work hard to make our curriculum accessible to all.  Our mission is to give vocational training to young adults with disabilities.  We recognize that they can be life-long learners, and have evolved to add our focus to include providing them with the social opportunities they crave. It is very important to note that we don’t charge participants to be a part of our Team. We rely heavily on grants, donations and fundraisers to stay in operation.

Biggest lesson learned?

It takes a village.  The support of our families and the community are invaluable.  The mothers and fathers of Team Woofgang are some of the most incredible humans I have ever met.  Our volunteers and board members have the most beautiful, giving hearts.   None of this is possible without their input.

Who or what inspires you?

My inspiration comes from these young adults and their families.  The Team Members, all have their own secret powers and they light up when you recognize their gifts.  The parents and guardians of these folks have perseverance and can-do attitudes that make you want to do more.  The volunteers and our shift leaders are selfless people who want to make this world a better place for this population and they give it their all.

Laura Incerto, Founder Women for Women

Laura is the ultimate connector. Before social media was a thing, Laura created an IRL platform for community and networking. She has uplifted and inspired many women all over town - all of whom consider her a great friend.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

I reside in one of the idyllic beach communities in Fairfield. I am blessed to work from my home as a sales and project management professional. I am a member of a very large family which keeps me very busy with family activities. I enjoy volunteering, and presently serve as Chair of the Human Services Commission for the Town of Fairfield. I love attending activities at my alma mater, Fairfield University, and other cultural and social activities in town including listening to live music and eating out at the abundant list of local restaurants. I also enjoy playing golf and going to the beach.

Q: What is your community connection?

I proudly founded a woman oriented social group in 2009 called Women for Women. Its focus is to connect all ages of women with one another in a relaxed and socially engaging environment.  I have successfully engaged many local businesses to host us on a monthly basis which benefits both parties. The businesses gain exposure and the members get to meet with one another and experience an enriching new or existing location. Women for Women is an opportunity for all of the women to meet, navigate and share. And I have had the amazing gift of making many new girlfriends.

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is my career and the creation of Women for Women. I’m most proud of my ability to balance a nourishing family life and a fulfilling professional career.

Q: Words to live by?

Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Najlaa Noonan, Fempreneur

Immediately upon meeting Naj, you start to feel your nervous system calming down, so it's no wonder she pivoted to become an intuitive healer.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

My family and I moved to Fairfield almost 5 years ago from the UK. I have two amazing girls and a wonderful husband.  I am the founder of two small businesses, Anxious Pup Club which I founded in 2022 and Luna Nur, which is my new baby, started this year. I would never in a million years thought I’d own my own business, never mind two. After 15 years of financial operations experience, I definitely have the business know-how, but it was the product offering I didn’t know I had. I have always been a very intuitive person. I am excellent at feeding from the energy in the room and reflecting it back in a supportive way. I have also been very interested in natural incense and botanicals, originating from my Moroccan heritage. Anxious Pup Club offers a gentle approach to support for your dogs, using reiki, massage, and gentle training techniques. Luna Nur allows me to release my creative side, handcrafting a selection of natural ingredients to make bespoke bukhoor (incense).

Q: What is your community connection?

Moving from the UK, one thing that I identified immediately was the strong sense of community here. Whether it's through the school support groups, as a Fairfield Center Stage family, joining one of the towns 5K events or volunteering as one of Al’s Angels - there is so much enrichment working with the community. Also, my personal refuge is within the healing community. I have had the support of so many amazing woman, showing that I can be my authentic self. My second home is the amazing Element50 store in town. The energy and support connected by the network of woman is elevating.

Q: What are you most proud of?

 I am most proud of who I am today. I have taken risks, made mistakes and keep on the endless task of growth and direction. Life changes and we have to evolve. I know my girls would have been proud of me if I had stayed in my corporate job but now I feel they will not only be proud but also inspired, motivated and impressed.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever received?

Even when other people do what you do, no one else does it like you. Be unapologetically you.

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