SBA Announces National Small Business Person of the Year
BY Matt Quinn
May 24, 2004 -- Sheree W. Mitchell, owner of the aptly-named Growing Room, Inc., was named the 2004 National Small Business Person of the Year at the Small Business Administration (SBA) Expo in Orlando, Fla. last week. Her Columbus, Georgia-based company cares for more than 850 children, employs over 170 people and will generate nearly $5 million in revenue this year.
"It's not always getting into what's hot, or what's new and technologically innovative," said Hector V. Barreto, administrator of the SBA. "Sometimes it's recognizing a niche that isn't being served."
Now operating five facilities, Mitchell, a registered nurse, opened her first center in 1989 with the aid of an SBA-backed loan. After adding 20 employees during the next two years, she decided it was time to expand. In 1992, she built a $400,000 addition and added 12 more employees to the payroll.
A second facility, employing another 32 people, was opened in 1996. In 1999, Mitchell was awarded a contract to build an on-site childcare center for Columbus Regional Healthcare Systems. Three years later, AFLAC commissioned Growing Room to open two on-site centers at its Columbus headquarters.
Mitchell was selected from a pool of the 50 state Small Business Persons of the Year as well as those from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
First runner-up was Larry O'Toole, president and founder of Gentle Giant Moving Co., Inc., of Somerville, Mass. The company hires athletes from local universities as movers. Started with a borrowed truck and a $17 newspaper ad, the company now boasts $16 million a year in revenue and employs 185 people.
MATT QUINN contributes to the Wall Street Journal's corporate finance blog. He has also written extensively about banking and corporate finance for publications including Inc., American Banker, and Financial Week. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.