Two local entrepreneurs and a research specialist who have stepped beyond their primary careers to pursue side ventures will discuss their journeys to explore their personal interests and passions at an Entrepreneurial Arc panel discussion at Western Connecticut State University on Monday evening, March 2.

The forum will be take place in the Classroom Building on the university’s Westside campus. Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend.

Panelists include Alicia Ghio, co-owner, writer and production operations wrangler for Danbury-based RmediaA, who has a side gig as publisher of the food blog Local Food Rocks; Vickie Foy, clinical researcher at Unilever in Trumbull, who also teaches pottery at Village Center for the Arts in New Milford; and Kevin Danenberg, founder, president and solutions architect of Newtown-based Axesmith Data Solutions, who also is founder of the musical accessory manufacturer Area Flat Five.

Pauline Assenza, professor of Management and coordinator of the Entrepreneurial Arc program, observed that a recent survey by The Hartford found that nearly half of all workers in the United States take on work in addition to their primary job, while another study by Bankrate.com indicated that more than a quarter of those surveyed were more passionate about their “side hustle.”

Assenza, who directs the entrepreneurship and small business option in the Management Department, said she counsels students that they may test the waters for a possible new career without placing their financial security at risk by taking a full-time job while trying out a new venture on the side. She emphasized that persistence, passion and commitment to put in the time and energy needed to succeed in the side business are crucial to its success.

“Students also sometimes worry that their declared major might not produce a lucrative career, but it helps to realize that anything you learn can be applied in other ways,” Assenza said in a news release. “It just may take more investigation and willingness to try things out.”

Ghio, a psychology major who earned her bachelor’s degree at WCSU and master’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University, joined with her husband, Renato, in 1999 to found RmediA LLC, a full-service video design and production company that serves more than 50 clients in diverse areas including banking, autos, retail, food, arts, education, health care and nonprofits. She holds primary responsibilities for writing, budgeting, scheduling and management in video production, complementing her husband’s focus on shooting, editing and producing video works that seek to communicate clients’ messages effectively through sight and sound.

Ghio’s launch in 2008 of her blog, “Local Food Rocks,” has provided an online forum for sharing news, reviews and recipes inspired by foods grown, marketed and served in Danbury and the surrounding region. “I am a passionate home cook on a mission to inspire and encourage people to know where their food comes from, to know what’s in it, and to savor the flavors of fresh, real ingredients,” she observed. Her perspectives on local food have been featured in the Danbury newspaper Tribuna and on the WTNH-TV shows “CT Style” and “Good Morning Connecticut.” She also serves as board president of CityCenter Danbury, a local partnership dedicated to revitalization and development of the city’s downtown area.

More Information

Western Connecticut State University Classroom Building in Room 218, 43 Lake Ave. Ext., Danbury. Monday, March 2, 6:30 p.m. Free, public invited.

Foy has earned recognition during a career spanning more than 20 years at Unilever as a distinguished clinical researcher specializing in the fields of skin inflammation, allergic sensitization and influence of surfactants on skin health. She has co-authored 11 peer-reviewed studies conducted at the Unilever research and development facility investigating the efficacy of various skin treatments.

In recent years, the accomplished scientist has renewed her exploration of an interest in art through original works in stained glass, wood, cloth and especially clay. With her children grown, Foy began taking pottery classes with Sharon Kaufman at Village Center for the Arts, graduating to the role of instructor as her skills have grown. She specializes in the combination of working on the wheel with clay hand-building, the subject for her popular adult class at the center.

Danenberg has built a professional career in database and software solutions and a side business in music accessories that mirror his uncommon education as a jazz studies major and computer science minor at the University of Hartford. For the past 24 years, he has directed Axesmith Data Solutions in the development of customized database, data warehousing and business intelligence solutions. His firm has researched the needs of clients in industries from health care to energy management to gain a thorough understanding of their data collection and analysis needs, building individualized “line of business” applications to meet these requirements.

Drawing from his musical background as a tenor saxophonist who still plays jazz and wedding gigs with local bands, Danenberg founded Area Flat Five, a boutique designer and manufacturer of woodwind mouthpieces and other music accessories sold through the firm’s website. Inspired by internationally renowned saxophonist Norbert Stachel, the design for Area Flat Five’s “Stachelvarius Orca” mouthpiece seeks to combine beauty in its sleek whale-like form with technical excellence in performance. The company recently launched its first line featuring these work-of-art mouthpieces, hand crafted to provide superior projection and tone.

Co-sponsors include the Center for Entrepreneurship, Research, Innovation and Creativity (E.R.I.C.@THEGARAGE), the Ancell School of Business and the Macricostas Entrepreneurial Endowment, all at WCSU; the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce; and the Danbury Hackerspace.