Some of the most impressive parts of National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C., are the awards ceremonies for some amazing entrepreneurs. And it's not just the ceremonies that impress: it's the attendees.
On Monday, Ohio's Victoria Tifft, who was inspirited by her battle with malaria while serving in the Peace Corps to start a research firm that helps fight infectious diseases, was named the 2012 Small Business Person of the Year.
That's a great honor. But there were 51 other nominees–state winners and those from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. And when you peel back the curtain you'll see a heck of a lot of other great entrepreneurial stories.
No, they might not have won the whole thing. But here, in alphabetical order by state, are 10 of the best of the rest–the most interesting winners we found in the SBA's state-by-state list of Small Business People of the Year. They're great entrepreneurs with some great stories.
1. Jack White Jr., President, Home Brew Mart, San Diego, California.
White opened Home Brew Mart in San Diego in 1992 and teamed up with Yuseff Cherney to launch Ballast Point Brewing in 1996. One $1.2 million SBA-guaranteed loan later, Ballast Point now brews 50 million barrels each year and counts 1,000 customers including restaurants, bars, convenience stores and grocery chains.
2. Eliseo Valenzuela, Cheryl Valenzuela, and Joseph Wolfe, First State Manufacturing, Milford, Delaware.
The dream began in a garage in 1998. Now, First State Manufacturing, a Delaware upholstery manufacturer, is a certified in the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Business Development Program. The company employs 50 technicians and brought in $4.5 million in 2010 (up from $2.2 million in 2007).
3. Laura Darnall and Lois Judy, Candy Craft Creations, Garden City, Georgia.
Darnall and Judy formed Candy Craft Creations in a backyard shed in 2008, manufacturing and distributing "Fondarific," a new type of fondant (the impossibly smooth frosting layer used by chefs and bakers to create the icing on cake). In four years, Candy Craft Creations has gone from two owner/employees to 30 employees and from zero sales to over $2.5 million in 2011.
4. Timothy Whicker, Electric Plus, Danville, Indiana.
Whicker left his day job to start his own company, Electric Plus, in 2006. Back then, he had two electricians and an office staff of one; now he has 109 total employees and $15 million in annual revenue.
5. Janet Amirault, Software Consortium, Columbia, Maryland.
In 2005, Janet Amirault suffered a stroke that left her with a vocabulary of fewer than 100 words, and unable to read, write, or drive. Eventually she made a full recovery, and she led Software Consortium to long-term success, with more than 60 employees and annual revenues of more than $12 million.
6. Paula White, 600lb. Gorillas, Duxbury, Massachusetts.
White and her husband Chris sell all-natural, frozen, ready-to-bake desserts in supermarkets and club stores. Starting with four SBA loans totaling $578,700, revenues have grown from $75,000 in 1999 year to $7 million annually. While the company employs just two people directly, their contract relationships with their co-packer has resulted in increased shifts and additional work for more than 20 people.
7. Nancy Munoz, Leah Munoz and Rachel Drenk, SVI dba Specialty Vechicles, Henderson, Nevada.
A family owned, women-owned business, Specialty Vehicles makes specialty trolleys, trams, mini-trams and buses, along with options for alternative fuel sources and zero-emission battery powered vehicles with solar panels. Net worth and employment rolls have steadily increased, and Specialty Vehicles recently secured an SBA 504 loan to purchase an industrial building to expand Specialty Vehicles' manufacturing and distribution operations.
8. Marjorie Perry, MZM Construction, Newark, New Jersey.
Perry bought her company from its previous owners in 1992, and has thrived as a woman entrepreneur in an industry dominated by men. Her general contracting work includes clients like the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Delta Airlines, Port Authority of NY/NJ, and Verizon, Continental Airlines, and Marriott. Her company also helped build the new Meadowlands Stadium for the New York Giants.
9. Oscar Wong, Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina.
After selling his engineering business and retiring to the mountains of western North Carolina, Oscar Wong opened Highland Brewing Company in 1994 with three employees in a 4,000 square-foot leased space in the basement of a tavern. With the help of two SBA-backed loans, his business grew to more than 20,000 barrels of beer annually, and employs 22 people.
10. Karen Woodbury, Woodbury Technologies, Clearfield, Utah.
Woodbury Technologies is a woman-owned, 8(a) certified, small disadvantaged business that provides medical services including nurses, doctors, and medical technicians, information technology and help desk support, aerospace engineering and program management services. The company is now the sixth largest woman-owned company in Utah, and it supports the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Defense Information Systems in 10 states. It has almost 200 employees and $16 million in annual revenues.