IBA celebrates first luncheon, award

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The Independence Business Alliance hosted its first annual Business Luncheon this week, awarding a local gay business owner a grant to help grow his organization.

More than 130 people turned out Monday for the event at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, where the first-ever PNC Business Award was given to Agio Brand Solutions.

The $5,000 award is meant to encourage small-business growth.

Agio, headed by Michael Tolassi, is an advertising specialty agency founded four years ago to meet the needs of corporate, government and industrial customers.

Tolassi plans to use the funding to register with the federal government’s General Services Administration, a complex process for which he plans to hire a consultant who guarantees acceptance of his registration.

“With his registration, he will have access to millions of spending through the federal government,” said IBA president Bill Gehrman. “We thought that was a really interesting way for an investment that could open the door for Agio to this new market.”

Agio was selected among nine applicants, and at the luncheon Monday, IBA also recognized the two finalists, The Marketing Audit and Tactile Design Group.

Gehrman, who is leaving his post as president this summer and will be succeeded by newly elected Evan Urbania, said all of the entrants had innovative ideas.

“We really learned from the applicants about all of the different possible uses for the award,” he said. “We knew that $5,000 isn’t going to make or break a company, but it can provide a really great start. I’m really happy with the process from our end, as well as from the feedback we’ve gotten from the applicants and the committee.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].