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Showcasing those that dare to start, sustain and succeed, the Gwinnett Chamber held its Small Business Awards on October 23 at the Infinite Energy Forum. Presented by Purchasing Alliance Solutions, 11 category recipients were recognized that exhibit best business practices and embody the entrepreneurial spirit.
“At the Gwinnett Chamber, we believe small business is big business,” said Nick Masino, President & CEO, Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett. “We understand that entrepreneurs are the engines of our economy and we are excited to celebrate their contributions.”
The category winners are as follows:
Advocate Award – University of Georgia Small Business Development Center – Gwinnett Office
This organization’s mission is to enhance the economic well-being of Gwinnett by providing a wide range of services for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. Educational courses, technical tools and one-on-one consulting aid in small businesses starting and sustaining over time. Statewide, it has assisted with the startup of nearly 1,800 businesses, which equates to more than 13,000 jobs. On the local front, the Gwinnett Office has served more than 1,000 clients in the past five years. The survey results from those same clients indicate that they would recommend their services 99%.
Community Contributor Award – Care4All Children Services
Dedicated to strengthening families, one home at a time, Care4All Children Services recruits, trains and recommends families to foster children in their homes. As a Therapeutic Foster Care Agency, it requires more training for parents initially and on-going, including crisis management and emergency response. It also provides more support for children and caregivers. This approach leads to a more positive outcome and reduces incidences of trauma.
Culture Creator Award – Rock Paper Scissors
Rock Paper Scissors, a boutique marketing firm, promotes lifelong learning and provides team members with the tools they need to thrive. Each employee is plugged into opportunities for personal growth, whether that’s joining the next Gwinnett Young Professionals class, picking up a Google Academy program, or just reading a great book. Each week, they meet for TED Tuesday, where they use the TED model of technology, education, and design to further sharpen their skills and talk about new ideas. Twice a month, they hold a Creative Generators Meeting where they hone in on the creative process. From field trips like a Chick-fil-A behind the scenes tour to a Leadercast conference, this employer is intentional about the development of its team.
Emerging Entrepreneur Award – Naveed Tharwani, Gwinnett Drugs
“Some people do it for the money, some for the freedom,” but for Naveed Tharwani it is for the challenge. Every day brings a new challenge and a new mountain to climb. This never-ending feeling makes operating his own business not a choice but a standard. Tharwani owns Gwinnett Drugs, a pharmacy that provides services that your typical model would not. Innovation is paramount and they exude that by providing onsite pharmacist care at a patient’s doctor’s office for example. They also provide bedside delivery to hospitals.
Launch Award – Refresh Chiropractic
This new business is not only surviving but is thriving. However, it hasn’t been without a little grit and determination. Dr. Rebecca Sarlea opened her chiropractic office without support from family, without a loan from a bank, only with hard work and a small savings account. Within only five months of being open, she is already breaking even on her overhead. Being a young doctor also has its set of unique challenges, one of which is that patients can have a lack of confidence with care. Being the eternal optimist, she takes it in stride and wins them over by being knowledgeable about their condition, taking the time to answer all their questions and continuing to maintain her professionalism.
Minority-Owned Small Business Award – CIC Floors
As immigrants with eclectic backgrounds, Clara and Cesar Olguin bring an especially unique approach to their flooring business, focusing on craftsmanship, quality and service. One is a soprano singer and music teacher, with a law degree from her native Dominican Republic. After serving in the military in Mexico, the other came to the United States to help family members already living here and decided to stay after meeting his wife. While working as floor installers for more than 14 years, this husband and wife team decided to open their own business. Today, they have owned their own flooring business for more than 15 years.
Small Business of the Year: 0-5 Employees – Team Ryan Automotive Service & Repair
Team Ryan Automotive Service & Repair offers a positive environment where technicians can thrive as respected contributors. It is their belief that customers and employees alike should be treated with dignity. In their experience, happy employees make happy customers. Unfortunately, the auto repair industry has a bad reputation for being dishonest and selling unnecessary work to unknowing customers. This organization is steadfast in being upfront and honest every step of the way and their approach is working. In addition to being decent people by way of integrity, they are also environmentally responsible. Their efforts are setting a new benchmark in the industry and they have recently been featured in two trade magazines, Ratchet & Wrench and Shop Owners.
Small Business of the Year: 6-24 Employees – E2E Resources
When a person faces major life events, they need to rely on plans, programs and relationships to help them cope emotionally and manage financially. That’s what E2E Resources does—protects and prepares their clients during times of change. Like many small businesses, this organization began in the owner’s home. Raymer Sale had been in the metro Atlanta area for about two years working as a VP for a national insurance company when he decided to become an entrepreneur. He knew hardly anyone in the business community, but through best business practices, word of mouth and, of course, building connections through the Gwinnett Chamber for the past 25 years, this company has earned longstanding success.
Small Business of the Year: 25+ Employees – Office Creations
Established in 2001, Office Creations began with the vision of creating office environments with an innovative approach. Small business is the backbone of Gwinnett County and this organization illustrates the economic impact that the industry has. Founded in Gwinnett County, it now employs nearly 55 professionals that contribute to the economic climate of our community. This certified woman-owned business has been awarded the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Top 20 Dealer Award” on multiple occasions.
Support System Award – Business RadioX – Gwinnett
Amplifying the voice of business, Business RadioX – Gwinnett shares unscripted conversations and creates relationship building moments. In pursuit of its mission, this organization has interviewed more than 2,500 local business leaders for FREE. It prides itself on providing a platform to the underserved markets, such as: women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. The enhanced exposure creates an opportunity that helps small businesses get clients, give them a chance in the marketplace, and allows them to tell their story.
Founder Award – Dr. Bill Russell
Like many in the industry, Dr. Bill Russell never planned on a career in commercial landscape, it just sort of happened. After completing a PhD in Agricultural Chemistry, he spent 10 years as Regional Pesticide Research Director. One of his key clients was legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, who was very instrumental in encouraging him to begin his own business. He began with two vehicles and 10 employees 32 years ago. During his storied history, his business has sustained steady growth while enduring multiple recessions, water restrictions, escalating fuel and material costs, and catastrophic entry labor shortages. Despite these adversities, success has been achieved by focusing on the three R’s: reputation, relationships and revenue. His business motto is that success comes often to those who move from challenge to challenge with undiminished enthusiasm.