UI, SCG Commemorate UN International Equal Pay Day at Two Women-Owned Bridgeport Small Businesses

Joining with the Women’s Business Development Council, Avangrid Networks CEO extends utilities’ support for women entrepreneurship and small businesses across service territory


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — September 19, 2023 — United Illuminating and Southern Connecticut Gas, subsidiaries of Avangrid (NYSE: AGR), yesterday visited two women-owned small businesses in Bridgeport to commemorate the United Nations International Equal Pay Day. The two businesses, Layne Lubrications and Fifth State Distillery, receive support from the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC), a nonprofit organization that provides resources to women-owned businesses in Connecticut and a partner organization to UI and SCG since 2022. Together, Avangrid Networks CEO Catherine Stempien, representatives from WBDC,  and members of the UI and SCG team visited the businesses to hear more about how Avangrid’s partnership with WBDC benefited local small businesses in the UI and SCG service territory.

“Visiting these Bridgeport-based small businesses and speaking with their leadership teams was truly inspiring,” said Catherine Stempien, CEO of Avangrid Networks. “We know from experience that Connecticut is not the easiest place to do business, but with their perseverance, hard work, and dedication, these women are making significant strides as they increase opportunity for themselves and for their communities. I am proud that we at Avangrid, and specifically UI and SCG, have partnered with them through the Women’s Business Development Council, and I look forward to seeing first-hand how they grow and expand their operations across our state.”

During the visits, representatives from Avangrid and WBDC first heard from Samantha Petitfrere, the President of Layne Lubrications. Founded in 2017 in Brideport, Layne Lubrications is a wholesale motor vehicle oil and lubricant distributor that distributes products across the northeastern United States, from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. Afterwards, Avangrid and WBDC visited visit Fifth State Distillery, the first spirits distillery in Fairfield County since the Prohibition Era. Owned by Bridget Schulten, Fifth State Distillery opened in 2015 and is a family-run flagship business: Bridget’s husband, Rob, is the co-founder and Distiller, and their son, Sam, is the Distillery Manager. Both Samantha and Bridget shared the challenges and opportunities of owning a business in Connecticut and the imperative of flexibility to manage evolving environments, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being not only a woman, but a Black woman, in a male-dominated industry allows me to show that we as women can do anything,” said Samantha Petitfrere, President of Layne Lubrications. “It’s not always easy to grow a small business, but with dedication, commitment, and a desire to always do better, we’ve come a long way since we opened in 2017. I’m thankful for the partnerships we have with companies in Connecticut and across the northeast, and I look forward to building new partnerships as we continue to expand.”

As women-owned businesses, Layne Lubrications and Fifth State Distillery have both received support from WBDC, which aims to promote economic empowerment for female entrepreneurs and their businesses across Connecticut. The tools and resources they provide include educational classes (with many offered online and in Spanish), grant support, one-on-one training and coaching, business advising, and much more. Because they develop personal relationships with the owners and their teams, they are able to tailor services directly to the businesses’ needs.

“The Women’s Business Development Council is so appreciative of its partnership with UI and SCG and the financial support the company provided,” said Fran Pastore, the Founder and CEO of WBDC.  “This funding helps WBDC provide critical technical assistance, one-on-one coaching, and training programs to women-owned businesses, thereby driving women’s economic prosperity across the state.”

International Equal Pay Day, celebrated annually on September 18, is an initiative of the United Nations that aims to ensure women are paid equally for work of equal value. Avangrid is committed to upholding the Sustainable Development Goals and initiatives of the United Nations in all its work.

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