Seven Finalists Selected for 2012 Small Business of the Year Award
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Seven regional finalists for the 2012 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club®, were selected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The national winner, to be announced on May 22 during America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C., will receive a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Chamber.
“These small businesses are each a shining example of the power of free enterprise and the opportunities it can create for America’s doers and dreamers,” said Thomas J. Donohue, U.S. Chamber president and CEO. “They are driving growth and creating jobs in their own communities and contributing to the strength of America’s economy. Our economic recovery will be fueled by these small businesses and their dedicated workers. Today we congratulate them on this achievement and encourage them to continue pursuing the American Dream.”
The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award pays tribute to businesses that excel in the areas of staff training and motivation, community involvement, customer service, and strategy. One finalist from each of the seven regions was selected out of the 75 Blue Ribbon Award winners.
"Small businesses are often described as the pulse or backbone of our country, and we admire the drive and initiative that it takes for their owners to be successful," said Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam's Club. "Fifty years ago, Walmart Stores, Inc. was founded as a small business, facing many of the same challenges and opportunities then that these businesses face today. We join them in celebrating this honor and the spirit of entrepreneurship that makes these businesses successful."
The 2012 finalists, listed by region, are:
- Eastern: BoConcept New York is an urban furniture company known for offering sleek styles at affordable prices. In 2002, Shaokao Cheng and his wife Niki invested all their savings and opened their first franchise. They now own eight stores, with five in New York City. In just six years, BoConcept New York has become the fastest growing and most successful BoConcept franchise in the world, with a gross revenue of their business increasing from approximately $100,000 a month to as high as $1.5 million a month. They host an average of fifty events a year through various community programs, including a Lance Armstrong Live Strong Charity event.
- Great Lakes: CETRA Language Solutions in Elkins Park, PA, offers translation and interpretation services to corporate and government clients in nearly 100 languages. After coming to the United States as a political refugee from Czechoslovakia, Jiri Stejskal began receiving free lance work as a Czech translator. Stejskal incorporated CETRA in 1997 and quickly began expanding. CETRA’s unique employee benefits included thanking staff for reaching goals company goals with trips for the entire staff and their families. Committed to serving their community, CETRA financially supports local and national organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative, and Translators Without Borders.
- Midwest: Heritage Homes was founded in 1995 in Fargo, ND. CEO Daryl Braham and President Tyrone Leslie took ownership in 2000, and grew the company from building three homes during 1995 to well over fifty homes in 2011. Under Braham and Leslie’s leadership, Heritage Homes has become an award-winning company, distinguished within the homebuilder’s industry. Heritage Homes is an active corporate citizen, offering goods and services to ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Fargo-Moorhead Home Builders Association, Habitat for Humanity, local churches, and numerous other organizations.
- Northwest: Lakeland Feed and Supply is a full-line feed manufacturer, fertilizer blender, and supplier of agriculture goods and services. Lakeland’s owner, Mike Pflieger, bought the company based in Hamilton, MT, in 2000. Since then, Lakelands profits increased by 1,200% and grew from 10 into 40 full-time employees with benefits and profit sharing. Lakeland’s inventive marketing strategies have employees distributing products throughout the area on horse and buggy and running petting zoos at the company’s annual Customer Appreciation Day.
- Southeastern: Virginia Eye Consultants (VEC) in Norfolk, VA, provides world class specialty eye care by leaders in innovation and education using state of the art technology. Under the leadership of CEO Karen J. Spencer, staff has increased from 75 to 110 people, formed an all-female management team, and brought new physicians into the practice. VEC occupies a 34,000 square foot state of the art facility to provide “big city” access to world class care in their region. They offer numerous employee incentives including their own Biggest Loser competition and a star performers program.
- Southwest & South Central: Renfro Foods is a family run co-packing, manufacturing, and foodservices business, also known for its salsas and relishes sold under the Mrs. Renfro’s food label. Founded by George Renfro in 1940 and now run by second and third-generation Renfros in Fort Worth, TX, the business is known for its exceptional employee practices, including access to a loan program, education allowance, 401(k) plan with 3% matching, and free salsa, among other benefits. Renfro Foods is a long-standing civic leader, donating time and money to local, state, and national organizations. They raised over $80,000 in the past five years to support breast cancer research through their annual Pink Label Campaign.
- Western: Ski Butlers is a full service ski and snowboard rental delivery service with nationally recognized customer service. Founded in 2004 by then-college student Bryn Carey, the company has grown to 80 employees serving more than 30 ski resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia, Canada. Ski Butlers’ unique community service policy, which requires all employees to volunteer at least one day a month with pay, has increased its visibility in its local communities, created strong camaraderie among staff, and fosters an exceptional corporate culture.