This is part of the “Innovate and Inspire” series covering National Small Business Week. “Innovate and Inspire” is sponsored by Chase Paymentech.
For the past 50 years, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has celebrated the nation’s entrepreneurs and small-business owners during its annual National Small Business Week, which kicks off today.
In addition to events, panels, and talks that happen around the U.S., the SBA names winners for Small Business Person of the Year from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. From this group of 53 outstanding entrepreneurs, one is chosen as the national winner on May 16.
The SBA, which provides American small-business owners with loans, federal contracts, and strategic counseling, selects the winners based on a handful of factors, including the business’ staying power, growth in number of employees, sales growth, innovation in the field, and contributions to the community. The SBA defines a small business as one that is independently owned and operated, organised for profit, and, depending on the industry, has a maximum staff of 100 to 1,500 employees and revenue of $US500,000 to $US20 million.
This year’s winners are creating jobs, driving innovation, and carving out niche markets. Take South Dakota’s Ryan McFarland, who created a safe bicycle alternative for young children that brought in $US10 million in sales last year, or the New Jersey-based family business Kiran Gill, an environmental firm that has grown revenue an average of 50% annually to $US13 million.
These entrepreneurs show that a smart strategy, a little luck, and a lot of hard work can still pay off.
Nix founded Proventix in 2007 and developed an automated hygiene-compliance system for healthcare facilities that tracks when workers perform a cleansing activity such as washing their hands. Independent studies have shown the system has increased the levels of hygiene in facilities that have adopted it and lowered the risk of spreading infection.
As CEO, Nix has grown the company from two employees and one client to 23 full-time employees and 42 clients in 11 states. He plans on doubling the number of employees in 2015.
The Baldiviezes have been operating businesses in Alaska since 1990. In 2010 they opened the Anchorage branch of the House of Bread bakery-and-cafe franchise based in California. After three years, they achieved gross sales of almost $US1 million.
'Our goal was to become part of the community,' John said. 'And I think that is something that we made happen with the support of our loyal customers.'
When Reed, an Army veteran, gave birth to her daughter in 1989, she left Vector Research and created her own company to have better work-life balance. MIRACORP started as a management-and-administrative-services consulting firm based out of her home. In 2008, she received SBA 8(a) certification, which assists financially disadvantaged small businesses.
As president and CEO, she has since guided MIRACORP to an 850% growth in revenues. It now has 122 employees with a presence in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and has worked with federal agencies like Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.
In 1989, Gueringer and Reesnes started Custom Aircraft Cabinets out of Gueringer's garage after they realised there was potential in the niche market of building custom aircraft cabinets. Over time, they built a list of clients in private, corporate, and federal aircraft companies around the world.
They used a loan to open a 146,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in 2012 and were publicly praised by Gov. Mike Beebe for their contributions to Arkansas. They have added over 150 jobs in the past two years and now have 290 employees.
Mauro Robles emigrated from Mexico, acquired U.S. citizenship, and created La Reina, a company that makes tortillas, in 1958. Today, all five of his children own it and its subsidiary, Anita's Mexican Food, with Ricardo as president, Jacqueline as secretary and GM, and Pablo as the vice president of operations running the company day to day.
The company now ships a wide variety of products to customers around the world, and its East Los Angeles factory produces at least 1.5 million tortillas each day. In 2012, Anita's took an SBA loan to dramatically expand its operations and in the past three years has grown revenue by over 100% and grown to 359 employees.
Erickson says she got the idea for Janska, a women's fashion label, when she was a lay minister for a Colorado Springs church. She met a woman whose deteriorating physical condition kept her from wearing her favourite old clothes.
Erickson wanted Janska to provide women like her with warm, comfortable jackets that also made them feel good. The company now produces a variety of women's clothing for a bigger audience, and its products are found in more than 900 specialty-gift and clothing boutiques and 10 catalogues in the U.S. and Canada.
Kothari, CEO of Express Kitchens, and Metha, COO, started their company in Hartford in 2002 as an expansion of Star Hardware Store, which they bought in 1989. Express Kitchens offers custom-made kitchens at more affordable prices than those offered by big chains like Home Depot and Lowe's.
By 2013, Kothari and Metha expanded to two operational facilities, seven retail stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and 85 employees, 40% of whom are from the struggling north section of Hartford. Express Kitchen's gross income is $US14 million, and its owners plan on exceeding $US18 million in revenue by 2015.
Young and Lannan founded BrightFields in Wilmington in 2003. The company is an environmental consulting firm that offers services like soil remediation and hazardous materials cleanup.
When the recession hit, Young and Lannan turned to the consulting nonprofit SCORE for advice, and were able to lower costs while expanding their client base. BrightFields has managed to consistently grow its sales since 2008.
Virtual Enterprise Architects offers architecture and IT services to private-sector clients and federal clients like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the FDA. In 2013, Inc. magazine ranked the company as the top IT services provider in D.C. and No. 15 in the top 100 best IT services providers in the country.
In 2012, D.C. mayor Vincent Grey recognised the company as a model HUBZone firm, a financially disadvantaged small business that has received aid from the SBA.
Varshovi immigrated to the U.S. when he was 18 and managed to put himself through college. Years later, after researching the harmful effects of commercial fertilizers, he decided to start an eco-friendly fertiliser company out of his garage in 1999. Today, he has a 25-acre manufacturing facility in Gainesville and is building a 23-acre facility in Lakeland.
As president of Green Technologies, Varshovi has increased sales to over $US2 million, largely due to exporting. His company employs many disadvantaged locals, and even employs homeless people from shelters to assist with larger orders.
Bernhard and Manley like to say that when they opened their pet-supply store in Savannah in 2007, they only sold an 89-cent can of Coke on their first day. TailsSpin eventually managed to grow a loyal following by supporting local pet rescues and charities and offering premium products.
They are working with local artists and entrepreneurs to develop a line of treats and toys. In 2013, they achieved sales of over $US2 million, a sevenfold increase from 2009.
Shieh grew up in Hawaii, studied in Wisconsin and his home state, and joined the Navy. After he completed his active service as a lieutenant commander at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, he decided to stay in the American territory to help increase the level of women's healthcare.
He opened Dr. Shieh's Clinic in 1999 and has grown a 700-square-foot office to a 4,000-square-foot one. It offers the highest standard of care for women in Guam. He has cared for more than 10,000 patients and has delivered more than 4,000 babies, including the Millennial Baby, the first baby born in the U.S. in the 21st century.
Erdman, president and CEO of PacRim, started his company in 1990 as a way to assist American companies with their marketing strategies for the Asian international traveller niche.
He has expanded his company with subsidiaries like PR Tech and PacRim Tokyo, which as a group generate millions in annual revenue. PacRim Marketing Group employs 46 marketing and PR professionals in North America and Asia.
IDAHO: Gary B. Multanen, Susan A. Multanen, Megan L. Multanen, and Jay M. Multanen, Best Bath Systems Inc.
Gary Multanen worked for Component Structures Inc. for nine years before he bought it with a group of investors in 1981. He and his wife Susan took sole ownership two years later.
Years later, when Gary was helping his ageing mother renovate her home, he realised there was a business opportunity in developing safe and accessible bath units for the elderly. In 1995, he and his wife reimagined the company as Best Bath Systems, and today he serves as CEO, his daughter Megan serves as general manager, and his son Jay serves as manager. In 2013, the company achieved $US20 million in sales.
As the daughter of parents with limited proficiency in English, Colón noticed a need for better language services as a hospital interpreter. She started Metaphrasis in Frankfort in 2007.
Today, Colón is president of the state government's highest-ranked Latina-owned company in Illinois, and Metaphrasis has rapidly grown to include 300 translators and over 100 interpreters who offer services in 180 languages to clients in the medical, legal, and educational fields. Her company brought in $US2.5 million in revenue in 2013.
Suth's father founded Hoosier Spring Company, a compression-spring manufacturer, out of his garage in 1954. Suth took over the company after his father died in 1990.
He was faced with the challenge of expanding the Hoosier Spring's client base beyond the automotive industry, and succeeded in landing aerospace and nuclear companies from around the world. Suth has grown the company to 88 employees and increased sales to almost $US13 million.
Connell is president and CEO of Air Control, a heating, venting, and air-conditioning company started by her father in 1956. She took over from her dad in the '80s and has grown ACI from $US1 million in revenues to over $US8 million.
Connell has expanded the product line into five major divisions run by 40 employees, and has acquired valuable contracts with several Air Force bases.
Harb came to the U.S. from Lebanon 14 years ago to put himself through college. After receiving his degree, he opened Ribbit Computers, a wireless-devices retailer and computer-services store, in Wichita in 2004.
He successfully took out several loans to grow Ribbit and formed a business division in 2011, when he increased gross sales to over $US4.6 million. Today, he has 55 employees across five locations in Wichita.
Cornett opened Bleed Blue in 2008 in Lexington. Its name pays respect to Lexington's University of Kentucky, the Big Blue Nation. Its client have included college basketball players now in the NBA, UFC fighters, and notable musicians like the Montgomery Gentry Band.
With the help of the Kentucky Small Business Development Center and an angel investor who is also a medical doctor, Cornett has increased revenue by 700% since its inception, and he says it is scheduled to surpass $US1 million in revenue this year. Bleed Blue now has 10 artists, two piercers, and four service employees.
While working construction projects for contractors, DuRousseau decided he'd become a part-time real-estate agent. When he realised he could both design and sell houses, he and his wife sold their home, moved in with his brother, and started saving to build a company.
He founded Keiland Construction in 2007 with a staff of two. When the real-estate bubble popped in 2008, he turned to the SBA to help get contracts with federal, state, and local government agencies. Today, Keiland has 24 employees and an average annual revenue growth of 450%.
Spear and Lindeman are a husband-and-wife team who opened Coffee By Design in Portland in 1994. Their gourmet brews were a hit, and Zagat ranked them one of the top 10 coolest independent coffee houses in the country.
Today, the company has four retail locations with a staff of 51, as well as a micro-roaster. They made their biggest leap in 2013 when they took out a $US2.5 million loan to build a roasting facility that has offices, a small retail area, and a brewing-training room for their wholesale customers. Coffee By Design has over 300 wholesale customers, 75% of which are in Maine, and brought in $US6 million in revenues in 2013.
In 1993, with no business experience, a mortgage, and $US60,000 in student-loan debt, Hau and her husband started Chesapeake Environmental Management, a consulting firm that helps clients with their environmental challenges.
As president and CEO, Hau took out several SBA loans to purchase equipment and renovate a historic building that now serves as the company's headquarters. Chesapeake Environmental Management has 55 employees and exceeded $US4 million in revenues in 2013.
Golden Cannoli is a second-generation-owned manufacturer of cannoli based in Chelsea. In 2013, the Brescianis, Bono, and Malloy took out a loan to purchase and build out a 25,000-square-foot facility for the manufacture, storage, and shipping of their Italian pastries.
The new facility marked a milestone for the company, which has gone from being a local favourite to appearing across the country and in Canada. It increased its staff from 12 people in 2012 to 41 this year, and grew revenue by 38% in 2013.
When Nevins and his wife moved from Chicago to Jackson, Michigan, his wife developed seasonal affective disorder. Her depression went away when they replaced their fluorescent lightbulbs with full-spectrum lighting, and the drastic improvement inspired them.
He started Full Spectrum Solutions in 1997 and steadily transitioned from focusing on developing healthy lighting systems for homes to creating systems for commercial and industrial applications. As CEO, Nevins has turned Full Spectrum Solutions into the leading manufacturer of therapeutic lighting products and a leader in energy-efficient commercial lighting.
Warzecha started Netgain in Saint Cloud in 2000 as a provider of healthcare-information technology. Today it specialises in secure, cloud-based management systems.
Warzecha had an opportunity to prove his business savvy when, in 2011, Netgain's services froze for a day for all of its clients, resulting in patients being sent home and healthcare facilities losing money. Instead of pretending business went on as usual after the glitch was addressed, Warzecha hired three account managers, established a client-advisory group, and made the customer-input-based NetPromoter score the primary indicator of how his company was doing.
As president of Netgain, Warzecha took the company from $US345,000 in revenues and seven employees in 2000 to $US3.3 million in revenues and 95 employees in 2013. It has 200 clients in 35 states.
Patel started Fusion Hospitality in Tupelo in 2010 as a way to manage the hotel properties he had been acquiring since 2003.
Today, Fusion Hospitality develops, owns, and manages 18 hotels across the country, many of them in northeast Mississippi. He's overseeing construction of three new hotels in that area and planning three more.
In 1987, Goes immigrated to the U.S. from Rio de Janeiro to pursue a doctorate degree in electrical engineering. He started Infinite Energy Construction, an electrical-contracting firm, in Kansas City in 1996.
The 9/11 tragedy was a severe blow to his business, when federal contracts outside the D.C. metro area were scarce. As president and CEO, he cut costs, laid off workers, and sacrificed his paycheck for 18 months to keep his business alive.
Things turned around in 2009 when he joined the SBA's 8(a) business-development program and was able to secure a $US40 million contract at Whiteman Air Force Base. Revenue increased from $US5.4 million in 2010 to $US14.9 million in 2012. Today, Infinite Energy Construction has 40 employees.
After working as an architect in Chicago, W. Randall Hafer returned to his hometown of Billings in 1999 to open High Plains Architects with his wife, Janna.
The Hafers have expanded to nine employees and increased gross sales from $US40,000 in 1999 to $US650,000 today. They have developed more than 12 major projects, including the first building in Montana to receive a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
In 1975, Garwood became a partner in his wife's family farm business, in operation since 1868. He bought out the company in 1999, and today the Dakota City property, Cardinal Farms, has over 1,200 acres of crops and cleans animal waste for Tyson Inc. As president and CEO, Garwood decided last year to add a fresh fish production facility.
Cardinal Farms has eight employees and brought in $US985,000 in revenue in 2013. The entrance into the fish market is expected to require two more employees and to increase revenue by $US1.4 million, according to Garwood's son, Scott, who serves as VP and COO.
The Lopiccolos started the digital-marketing agency Noble Studios in 2003, and eventually recruited Thomas as a partner. Despite not having a single investor, the partners grew the company from a home-based operation to a large office space in downtown Reno.
Noble Studios has 38 employees and is growing. It has an expanding client list, which includes Ford, Verizon, and Paramount Pictures. Revenue increased from $US900,000 in 2009 to $US2.7 million in 2012.
Since joining his father-in-law's family business as president in 2006, Licata has taken Blake's All Natural Foods' prepared home-style meals from a New England favourite to national recognition.
Products are now sold in 46 states, and sales grew from $US1.4 million in revenue 2006 to an expected $US8.7 million in 2014. This growth, helped by SBA loans, added 42 employees for a total of 54.
Gill says she never expected to take over her father's environmental consulting firm based in Robbinsville, but that's exactly what she did when she bought it from him in 2003.
Under her leadership as president, PARS Environmental has grown from six employees and annual revenues of $US500,000 to 50 employees with annual sales of $US13 million. Her vision for PARS successfully shifted its focus to developing new technologies and increasing the variety of its consulting services, resulting in 50% revenue growth for the past nine years.
Herbst's parents started Marron and Associates, an environmental consulting service, out of their garage in the late '80s. She began to work for them in 1993 as marketing director and became president and CEO in 2002 when her mother retired from the company.
Under Herbst, her family's company has grown to 20 employees, and its sales volume increased from $US1.2 million in 2010 to $US2 million in 2013. The growth is directly the result of a new business plan Herbst enacted in 2011 with knowledge gained from the Emerging Leaders Initiative and the SBA's advisors.
Allen took over as president of Z-Axis after its founder retired in 2006 as the Phelps-based electronics manufacturer failed to keep up with emerging technologies.
In five years, Allen put the company back in the game by repurposing its assets and staff, leading development of a new product, and entering the contract manufacturing market. Z-Axis has 75 full-time-equivalent employees and plans on adding 10 more over three years.
Kratz, a former Marine, opened the Triangle Rock Club indoor climbing gym in Morrisville in 2012. His friend Graybeal, a former mortgage banker, went from client to managing partner in 2012.
TRC's focus on staff training and customer experience has allowed it to grow quickly, from 21 employees and $US330,000 in revenue in 2010 to 50 employees and over $US1.5 million in revenue in 2013. Last year, Kratz and Graybeal closed on a construction loan that they are using to add a new building with 17,000 square feet of climbing terrain to supplement their existing 9,000-square-foot facility.
Spectrum Aeromed was a struggling air-ambulance medical-interiors manufacturer that faced bankruptcy after 16 years in business. Atchison acquired Spectrum Aeromed in 2007 and after several months moved it from rural Minnesota to North Dakota to use a state-of-the-art facility at the Fargo airport and take advantage of the state's workforce.
Since the first full year with Atchison serving as CEO and owner, the company has added nine full-time and five part-time employees for a total of 26 full-time employees and seven part-time employees. Revenue increased from $US3 million in 2009 to $US9.5 million in 2012.
As chairwoman and president of Westerville-based Oxford Consulting Group, Kerr has led the IT consulting firm's operation and growth strategy since cofounding it in 1998.
In 2004, she sold a portion of her business to QAD Inc., a large enterprise software and services company, for $US800,000 and 40,000 shares of restricted stock. Oxford Consulting Group nearly doubled its revenue from 2009 to 2012, going from $US9.3 million to $US18.5 million.
Mocha took over as CEO of his father's company in 1984 after his father died. APSCO is based in Tulsa and manufactures control systems for the trucking industry.
The company saw slow but steady growth through the '80s and '90s as it successfully adapted to technology trends, but fell into a downturn after the recession hit. To rebound, Mocha hired a strategic planner to redefine APSCO's goals and plan of action.
The consulting helped tremendously, and company sales triples to $US9.7 million by the end of the year. APSCO now has 58 employees and exceeded $US10 million in sales last year.
The husband-and-wife team started making candles under the name Pacifica in Portland in 1997.
Their recognition quickly grew, and by 2008 they were bringing in $US12 million in revenue for their vegan candles, perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. But that same year, a change in distribution channels put the company in danger, and the Taylors had to reposition the brand.
In 2011, they took out a few loans and are now scheduled to bring in over $US24 million in revenue this year. They have managed to expand their staff each year since 2010 and now have 110 employees.
A former U.S. Navy-trained nuclear power-plant operator, Cherock took out three SBA Patriot Express loans for veterans to start AE Works, an architecture and engineering consulting firm, out of his basement in 1993.
Today, it is headquartered in Pittsburgh's bustling East End. As president, Cherock gained valuable contracts in the past few years and rapidly grew revenue from $US400,000 in 2009 to $US3.2 million in 2012.
Torres-Ojeda established Productos La Finca, a food manufacturing company, in San Germán in 1995. As president, he has since led the development of over 100 products under several brand names, including the flagship brand Maga.
The company has been quickly expanding since 2010, and Maga products are now sold in stores in several states and the East Caribbean. It generated $US2.2 in revenue in 2012.
Mattiello started Pranzi out of a small storefront in 1997 in Seekonk, Massachusetts, before moving her catering business to Providence. She has worked as chef, event planner, delivery person, and creative director to build her company to what it is today: a premier wedding and corporate-party planner with three locations, 45 full-time employees, and over 100 part-time employees.
Pranzi continues to grow, and sales have increased by almost 20% over each of the last three years.
When Ogburn discovered in 2008 that South Carolina's businesses lacked recycling options, she wrote up a business plan for Tomato Palms recycling services. Ogburn has managed to keep the Irmo-based company debt-free while increasing sales annually.
Today, Tomato Palms has six full-time employees and 121 clients across four countries, and has recycled over 1.4 million pounds of waste.
In 2007, McFarland created an alternative to traditional tricycles and bicycles that he found to be too unsafe for his 2-year-old boy. The resulting Strider bike was free of gears and pedals, and allowed his son to develop his balance while using his feet to propel himself on a bike-scooter hybrid. McFarland decided to start selling the toys as Strider Sports.
With the help of two SBA loans and a product line for 18-month-olds to 13-year-olds, McFarland brought Strider Sports to $US10 million in sales last year, having sold over 695,000 products. In February, Strider moved to a 26,000-square-foot facility in Rapid Springs and now has 32 employees.
Solomon and his wife were in a difficult financial situation when he decided to start Tevet, a manufacturer and refurbisher of testing and measuring equipment, in 2003 out of his basement. He took out an SBA Patriot Express loan and worked hard to build clients in the telecommunications industry.
Business picked up when he found a more profitable market in the defence contracting business across all branches of the military and leading private contractors, and as president and CEO, Solomon built his team, hiring several fellow veterans.
He grew Tevet from $US9.5 million in revenue in 2009 to $US65.3 million in 2012, and today has employees across six states and its headquarters in Greeneville.
After serving over 20 years in the Army, Hudson founded Genesis Concepts, a management consulting firm, in San Antonio in 2002.
As CEO, Hudson grew his business' reputation by offering reliable advisory, strategic, and program management services to government agencies. Today, Genesis Concepts has 70 employees, and 70% of them are veterans.
Sharma started Global Consulting International (GCI), an IT consulting firm, with two employees and a single contract out of his Salt Lake City home in 2005. He entered the SBA 8(a) business development program in 2007 and was able to secure valuable government contracts.
In 2012, GIC was named Patriotic Employer of the Year by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defence organisation. As president and CEO, Sharma brought his company to $US12 million in revenue in 2012, a threefold increase from 2007.
In 2002, Neiblum, who had his own electrical engineering company, persuaded his old friend Cherry, who worked in the beer-brewing business, to combine his business acumen with Cherry's beer knowledge and open a brewery. They secured an SBA loan, some used brewing equipment, and set to work establishing Switchback Brewing Company in Burlington.
As their brand grew in popularity, they were able to acquire a 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art brewing facility and grew to a team of 16 in 2013. Today, Switchback's acclaimed beers can be found in Vermont, upstate New York, New Hampshire, and Maine.
An Army training accident severely damaged Knight's eyes, forcing him to retire from the military. In the search for another way to serve his country, he contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs and learned over 100 national cemeteries were in need of assistance. In 2005, he created Knight Solutions in Leesburg with the help of a Patriot Express loan.
As president and CEO, he employed mostly veterans for his company, which provides renovation, operation, and facility maintenance of national cemeteries across the country.
Knight Solutions brought in $US16.3 million in revenue in 2013, a spike of 1,400% in three years.
In 2004, Schule founded Cobalt Enterprises, a manufacturer of parts for the aerospace, defence, commercial, and medical sectors, with his brother.
As president, Schule used several SBA loans to expand production, finance a second facility, and support international trade. Clark started with the company in 2011 and serves as vice president, offering a career's worth of business acumen.
Last year, Cobalt Enterprises brought in around $US10 million in revenue, a 26-fold increase from 2004. It now employs 80 people and is the largest private staffer in Granite Falls.
When Allman created PracticeLink.com in 1994, online physician recruitment was in its infancy stage. In the past 20 years, Allman has grown PracticeLink into the most widely used resource of its kind, and is used by recruiters in more than 5,000 healthcare facilities across the country.
The Hinton-based company now employs 29 people. His other business, MountainPlex Properties, employs 26 people and has built a market, inn, conference center, townhouses, theatre, and radio station.
In 1946, Jagemann's grandfather founded the Manitowoc-based Jagemann Stamping Co., a global leader in manufacturing metal stampings for the automotive, consumer, industrial, and defence markets.
Jagemann, president, and Hardt, CEO, breathed new life into the company when in 2012 they used the Temporary 504 Refinance program to refinance the company's debt and restructured its balance sheet. It allowed them to enlarge their facility, expand their auto parts division, and hire 100 skilled workers over two years.
Merrill founded her contracting company, Merrill Inc., as a side project in 1991, keeping her day job to pay the bills. For 15 years, the company grew slowly, but in the past eight years its growth has exploded.
In 2007, Merrill earned her Class A Contractors Licence and devoted herself full-time to her business, taking advantage of several SBA loans. Securing contracts for national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone massively grew her business.
As president, Merrill grew revenue from $US1.8 million in 2007 to $US13.8 million in 2013. She employed 42 contractors last year, and has a year-round workforce of 26 people.
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