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Updated: January 8, 2024 / 2024 Best of Business Awards

Best of Business 2024: Best Ownership

A man in a lab coat cleans a piece of machinery in an industrial building Photo | WBJ File Coghlin Cos. operations include Columbia Tech in Westborough and Cogmedix in West Boylston.

Best family-owned Business (tie): Coughlin Cos.

Coghlin Cos. is a Central Massachusetts institution founded way back in 1885 by engineer John P. Coghlin. Today, it’s a much different beast than it was even 30 years ago, when the fourth generation of the family began its turn running things.

Chris Coghlin, now the president and CEO, said back when he started in the early 1990s, the company had only about 10 employees and the work mostly involved making cables and cable assemblies. Gradually, that changed. Working with longstanding customers, the company began building more complex products.

“They allow you to try new things because they trust you, and then you begin to market those capabilities,” Coghlin said.

Today, Coghlin has close to 900 employees, operating out of 11 buildings. It’s made up of two divisions, Cogmedix, which focuses on the medical device industry, and Columbia Tech, which operates in sectors ranging from defense to water treatment. Customers generally come to the company with a prototype for a product, and Coghlin engineers and other experts turn it into something viable, addressing everything from aesthetics to developing a supply chain for its manufacture to ensure it’s compliant with all relevant regulations.

The business remains in the family, with Chris as CEO and his brother, Jim, as chief operating officer. They and the rest of the executive team put a lot of energy into keeping the company’s culture strong. Chris Coghlin describes how sometime eight years ago he was up at night thinking about how to make sure individuals felt seen and had their accomplishments celebrated.

“I felt we were getting too big, losing the family feel,” he said.

The answer the company came up with is the Cultural Pillar mentoring program. It recognizes a group of established employees with perks like a budget to take their teams out for lunch. In exchange, these pillars of the company each take on two mentees, helping them to make connections within the organization and gain the skills to move upward.

Coghlin has an active philanthropic and volunteer program. Over the course of 15 years, this program has built up Westborough-based DetecTogether, which focuses on educating the public about early detection of cancer. Members of the Coghlin family are part of the nonprofit’s leadership team. More broadly, the company invites employees to advocate for causes they care about. Each quarter, one of these organizations is chosen to receive financial support and get the opportunity to share its mission with the company’s workers.

For Chris Coglin, this helps create the kind of culture he wants the organization to have, one that goes back to his key motto: “Customers will never love your company until your employees love it first.”

- Story written by Livia Gershon

*denotes repeat winner

Best Family-owned Business (tie): Pagano Media

Photo | Courtesy of Pagano Media
Pagano Media in Worcester


Top executive: President Joe Pagano

Founded: 1981

Employees: 9

In 2023, Pagano won a W3 Web Design Award for its work on for Spencer manufacturing DIENES USA, which grew the company’s organic web traffic by 140%. Pagano, a boutique digital marketing agency, fuses design, digital technology, and data to spark growth for its customers.

Notable runner-up: Harvey's Farm & Garden Center

Best Woman-owned Business: PENTA Communications*

Photo | Courtesy of PENTA Communications
Deborah Penta receiving the key to the city from Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty.


Top executive: Founder & CEO Deborah Penta

Founded: 1989

Employees: 16

PENTA has been 100% woman-owned and operated since its founding in 1989 and has been recognized within the top 1% of all female-owner businesses nationwide. In its 35-year history, PENTA has contributed nearly $3 million to nonprofits throughout Worcester County and MetroWest.

Notable runners-up: Sullivan Benefits, Jade

Best Minority-owned Business: Jade*

Photo | Courtesy of Jade
Jade CEO Brittany Wong


Top executive: CEO Brittany Wong

Founded: 2021

Employees: 10

In 2023, Jade mastered a process for cannabis retail businesses, enabling it to expand to support businesses throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. In line with its growth, which included adding new employees, the company rebranded last year from its former name, Studio Jade.

Notable runners-up: Bri's Sweet Treats, UnicPro

Best Business Incubator: Venture X Marlborough*

Three people standing behind a counter
Photo | Courtesy of Venture X Marlborough
(From left) Venture X Marlborough's Cori Ketchi, Bryn Koskinen, and Ryan Gagne


Top executive: CEO Ryan Gagne

Founded: 2018

Employees: 4

In 2023, Venture X Marlborough completed an expansion of its space to now include a 900-square-foot, 24-person training and meeting room. The organization finished 2023 with an occupancy rate of more than 95%.

Notable runners-up: Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, EforAll

Best Office Cleaner: Mass Commercial Cleaning*

Photo | Courtesy of Mass Commercial Cleaning
All Mass Commercial Cleaning employees have opportunities to buy ownership in the company.

Sturbridge and Northampton

Top executives: Katerina Cai, president; Bill Hickman, general manager; Christine Thurman, office manager

Founded: 1989

Employees: 135

Every MCC employee owner is granted shares in the company. With their ownership in the company, each cleaner gets profit sharing through dividend distribution. The company grew its owner network in 2023 as demand for its project work and custodial cleaning grew. Those dividends totalled $28,000 to the network and grew the company shares 33%.

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