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SBA Honors Arizona's Entrepreneurs and Small Business Champions

Thursday, April 17, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gabe Salcido
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PRESS OFFICE - Arizona District Office Contact: Stephen Hart 520-269-9497
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Release Number: 0414

PHOENIX, AZ - In celebration of Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration is honoring Arizona entrepreneurs and small business champions for their contributions to the economy. Over 97 percent of the businesses in the state are small businesses and have proven, year after year, to be the greatest sources of the innovation, jobs and growth needed to fuel Arizona's dynamic economy.

"Each year the SBA has the honor of spotlighting Arizona winners of our Small Business Week awards in a ceremony that recognizes and celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and community activism that has long characterized the small business community of our great state," said Robert J. Blaney, the District Director of the SBA in Arizona. "These men and women are the risk takers, the innovators and the employers that power our economy and daily serve our communities in business and as local leaders."

The awards will be presented during the Arizona Small Business Association's (ASBA) annual awards luncheon on Wednesday, May 7 at the Scottsdale Princess Resort and Conference Center. Event information is available from ASBA at 602-306-4000 or

National Small Business Week will be celebrated from May 12 to 16.

The 2014 SBA Small Business Week Arizona winners are:

2014 Arizona Small Business Person of the Year
Cynthia Miracle Reed - President and CEO, MIRACORP in Mesa.

Ms. Reed's is a story too rarely celebrated these days. A veteran, Cynthia completed her service in 1989 and took a job with Vector Research where she applied her military experience to a variety of projects including financial analysis, budgeting and configuration management for system software development for various Department of Defense offices.

The birth of her daughter in 1998 compelled Cynthia to pursue a better work-life balance. Her know-how became the foundation of MIRACORP, a small consulting firm started in 1999 in a bedroom converted into an office. Cynthia's one-person consulting business today occupies a 6000 square foot company-owned office building and boasts 122 employees.

With a presence in Washington DC, Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, California, and Washington State, and a record of serving federal agencies including the Departments of Energy, Air Force and Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, you might say Cynthia is a master of the art of market penetration.

In 2008, Cynthia received 8(a) approval and has since has guided MIRACORP to an 850 percent growth in revenues. SBA's 8(a) program is designed to help socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses compete for federal contracts.

Offering management, general and medical administrative services, MIRACORP offers customers a myriad of services including: accounting and finances, personnel support, environmental compliance, warehouse management, medical records management, education and training, competitive analysis, market analysis and strategic planning, to name a few.

Cynthia's story is more than that of a mom growing a home business into a $7 million company with a nationwide presence. It is also one of a veteran who built upon her training, adapted her experience to the private sector and put her stamp on a company that pursues excellence in service and corporate citizenship.

2014 Arizona Small Business Exporter of the Year

James Ratcliff - Chairman and CEO of Rowpar Pharmaceuticals in Scottsdale.

Rowpar Pharmaceuticals operated by Dr. James Ratcliff, manufactures toothpastes, oral rinses and oral sprays. Not only do these products strengthen teeth and freshen breath, they also decrease visits to the dentist.

For most of us the name Rowpar is likely unknown. However, the name of its products are widely known. In the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand they sell under the CloSYS brand. Consumers in England use them under the Ultradex brand. In India they sell under the Freshclor name, while in Asia and the Middle East the brand is Dentist's Choice.

Clearly, the title of Exporter of the Year easily fits Rowpar. That wasn't always the case. As with most businesses it started small. Founded in 1991, its path to success has been the result of innovation, hard work, demanding research and dedicated persistence. Today, Rowpar holds twenty national and international patents and its products make the world a brighter and healthier place.

2014 Minority Small Business Champion of the Year

Vanessa Gleich - Director, American Indian Chamber Educational Fund Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) in Chandler.

Working out of a quiet office in Chandler, Arizona, Ms. Gleich draws upon her 20 years of federal procurement experience to help Native American-owned companies sell to the government. As program manager for the American Indian PTAC, she also helps over 100 non-native companies a year.

Vanessa, an enrolled member of the Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) tribe, has been on the job since 2009. There are 92 PTACs across the country but only six specialize in helping American Indian owned companies. The Chandler based American Indian Chamber, along with its partners in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona serve over 120 tribes in those states.

Federal contracting requires companies to navigate a maze of processes and requirements. For small companies unfamiliar with steps, the challenges can seem overwhelming. A helping hand from one who knows the way can make all the difference. For many Native American companies, Vanessa is the go-to person. They know that she and her team share a passion for helping businesses decode federal procurement regulations.

2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Jeffrey Kunowski, Founder and CEO of Illumin8 Outdoor Media, LLC in Phoenix.

Mr. Kunowski is the kind of guy you might have sat next to in high school. Jeff is the one whose good grades made him a college scholarship winner and eventually a Rodel Scholar . While studying for his undergraduate degree at ASU, Jeff participated in 12 separate internship programs. Among them were opportunities with the Phoenix Suns, the US Attorney's Office, Clear Channel Outdoor/Ellman Co., and Karl Eller Design.

He incorporated those experiences and his natural drive. In his spare time, between his studies, Jeff started Illumin8 Outdoor Media.

Illumin8 Outdoor Media manufactures and sells LED signs made of bright, efficient LED light panels that can be used virtually anywhere. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, can be wall mounted or attached to portable/rechargeable platforms, and are ideal for high traffic areas to guide pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

In 2010, Jeff and Illumin8 caught the attention of ASU leadership and he became the recipient of a prestigious ASU Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative grant. By 2012, Jeff had partnered with Douglas Moss, former President of the Phoenix Coyotes, who has helped take Illumin8 to the next level.

Illumin8's notable clients include: Anheuser Busch, The MGM Grand, Panasonic North America, the Phoenix Suns, US Airways Center, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and others.

Last year, Kunowski and Moss formed MK Solutions Group, a provider of innovative technology solutions for sports and entertainment venues. MK Solutions current partners include: Panasonic North America, goCharge, TS Sports, Illumin8, and Faucet Impressions. MK Solutions Group is now the primary sales force for Illumin8's innovative LED products.

2014 Arizona Financial Services Champion of the Year
Mr. Stephen Haggard, President and CEO, Metro Phoenix Bank in Phoenix

Haggard has a successful and comprehensive commercial banking background, and has been involved in the executive management of several Phoenix area commercial banks including Arizona Bank & Trust, Mesa Bank, and Rocky Mountain Bank.

Most recently he helped Metro Phoenix expand its SBA lending, which over the past three years invested $68 million in Arizona small businesses.SBA loans are designed with terms that benefit small businesses as they start and grow.

Stephen Haggard also brings the invaluable experience of having been on the other side of the banking table. Early in his career he was employed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Division of Supervision, where he served as a bank examiner in Kansas City Regional
Office of the FDIC. There he participated in numerous safety and soundness, compliance, trust and electronic data processing (EDP) examinations and was awarded the title of Commissioned Bank Examiner in 1993.

2014 Arizona Small Business Development Center of Excellence
Ellen Kirton, Director of the MAC Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Tucson.

In 2013, under the leadership of center director Ellen Kirton, the MAC SBDC provided over 1500 hours of counseling, created 242 new jobs, helped 27 new businesses to start, assisted businesses in increasing sales by $7.3 million and helped area small businesses raise $7.5 million in new capital.

Ellen's experience offers business clients a truly unique combination of a 35-year career in the banking industry and as owner of an on-line human relations business that continues to grow by leaps and bounds year after year. As a result, she provides them with up-to-the-moment, personal and practical insights.

A person with seemingly endless energy, Ellen practices what she preachers to her clients and continues a life-long commitment to community involvement. She is a board member and past President of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), serves on the advisory council of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and sits on the Catalina Council of Boy Scouts.

SBDCs are located throughout the state and across the country. The centers, serve thousands of clients annually, offering business training programs and free one-on-one confidential counseling.

2014 Boots-to-Business Champions of the Year

Over the past year men and women from across Arizona have quietly volunteered their time to help transitioning service men and women understand the ins and outs of starting a small business. These volunteers receive little recognition, except among their peers, and are simply content knowing that perhaps they've made a difference in the futures of those who have served our nation.

The national Boots-to-Business program provides a two-day seminar for transitioning service personnel who will soon separate from the service and face the challenges of working in the civilian world. Attendees learn to assess their personal aptitude for running a small business and receive an overview of the fundamentals of business including: market research, finance, budgets, collateral, business plans and what to expect when seeking funds from a bank or investor.

Classes convene regularly at Luke Air Force Base, Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Fort Huachuca, and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma.The 2014 Boosts-to-Business Champions award will be presented to almost 40 volunteers in recognition of their commitment, made freely, happily and very much out of the public eye, to our returning service members. Among them are accountants, bankers, lawyers, insurance brokers, SCORE and SBDC business counselors, federal contracting experts, and other military veterans who have started their own business and share their successes and failures.

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For more information about all of the SBA's programs for small businesses, visit the SBA's extensive Web site at SBA News Release

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