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SBA Honors Arizona's Entrepreneurs and Small Business Champions

Thursday, April 11, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rhette Baughman
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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 Award presentations will be made at the Arizona Small Business Association’s (ASBA) 20th Annual Enterprise Business Awards Luncheon on May 16 at the Phoenician Hotel, 6000 East Camelback Road in Scottsdale. Event information is available from ASBA at 602-306-4000 or

National Small Business Week will be celebrated at events across the country from June 17 to 21.

The 2013 Arizona’s winners are:

2013 Arizona Small Business Person of the Year

John Stoncipher, President and CEO of Guidance Aviation in Prescott is the 2013 Small Business Person of the Year.

Some entrepreneurs get their inspiration late in life, others like John Stoncipher know from youth what they want and pursue it with life-long persistence and passion.

As a young boy growing up in Pasadena, California, John’s future was forged as he watched police helicopters fly overhead. By eighteen, John was certified to fly. By nineteen, with an instructor’s certificate in hand, he was teaching others the intricacies of helicopter flight.

Guidance Aviation was founded in 1998 and took residence at Prescott’s Municipal Airport. From there, John’s dream of a creating a first rate, high altitude flight school literally took off. The company’s progression is a testament to success. Characterized by innovation and growth the school soon won FAA approvals, created alliances with the Yavapai Sheriff’s Office, won approval from the US Department of Veterans Affairs to train veterans and received accreditation with Embry-Riddle University. Yavapai College has partnered with Guidance Aviation and offers an Associate of Applied Science Professional Helicopter Pilot Degree Program.

Today Guidance Aviation has a staff of 55, nine operating aircraft and a waiting list of students ready to take flight into their futures.

2013 Arizona Small Business Exporter of the Year

Tattoo Manufacturing (TM) in Tucson, run by CEO Stephen L. Tooker, is the Small Business Exporter of the Year. TM manufactures products that emulate an art form that dates back to the early age of man. As the largest manufacturer of temporary tattoos in the world, holding 90% of the market share in North America and 65% of the global market, they sell product in 80 countries.

What is the world market for temporary tattoos? Perhaps the best way to get a hint of the demand is to look at TM’s daily production. With 100 employees the company prints over 7 million temporary tattoos a day. TM’s other products include books of tattoos known as Tattooles, custom calendars and scratch-n-win cards.

Safety is always a factor and the company uses non-toxic, hypoallergenic and FDA certified colorants to create products that exceed US and international regulatory requirements.

TM’s clients include the domestic and international divisions of Budweiser, Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds, Toyota, Ford, GM, GE, HBO, Kraft, Kellogg’s, Mattel and the US Government to name a few. Its products are found around the world in countries including Japan, India Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Peru.

2013 Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year

This year’s Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business is Sierra Seed Company of Nogales. Started in 1989 by the late Rodney Hallman, Sierra Seed has since become a multimillion-dollar distributor of vegetable seeds to large commercial growers in Mexico. Sabrina Hallman joined the family business in 2007 when her father became ill.

An educator for 27 years, the learning curve was steep for Sabrina, but by attending courses at Purdue, the University of California-Davis, and the University of Arizona she developed an understanding of the industry that would help her lead the company to exponential growth. By 2011, her efforts produced revenues topping $10 million. With the recent opening of a new greenhouse in Mexico, growth will continue.

The appetite for quality seeds in robust in Mexico and abroad. Vegetables grown from the family company’s seeds make their way back north and are sold in grocery stores from Nogales to Canada. That produce is part of the more than $2 billion or between 4 and 5 billion pounds of produce that is shipped from Mexico to the United States and Canada through Nogales annually.

2013 Arizona Minority Small Business Champion of the Year

This year’s Minority Small Business Champion is Jo Anne Arvizu of Raytheon Missile Systems. Jo Anne is Raytheon’s Supplier Diversity Manager in its Missile Systems division. Daily, she provides guidance and support to division efforts to enhance the utilization of Small Business, Small Disadvantaged Business, Women Owned Small Business, Veteran and Service Disabled Owned Small Business in compliance with federal requirements.

As an active participant in the local small business community, Jo Anne serves with many organizations aimed at promoting small business growth. She is the chair of the Minority and Small Business Alliance of Southern Arizona, board member of the Grand Canyon Minority Supplier Development Council, corporate member of the National Association of Women Business Owners and resource council member of the National Center for American Indian Economic Development Center.

A 33-year veteran of Raytheon, her role and experience allows her to offer invaluable guidance to interests inside and outside the company alike. She provides advocacy and counseling assistance for all small firms interested in doing business with Raytheon, offering insight on the Raytheon procurement system. Internally, she routinely assists in developing strategies to increase small business participation while aiding in the search for companies that can offer the technical knowledge, quality workmanship and material goods Raytheon requires.

2013 Arizona Women in Business Champion of the Year

This year’s Women in Business Champion is Lydia Duron Kari, Vice President and Branch Manager of BMO Harris Bank.

Lydia, who has been in banking since 1988, was appointed to the Regional Diversity and Inclusion Council of M&I Bank (a precursor to BMO Harris) to help increase diversity within the bank’s own workplace and assist fellow employees expand their outreach efforts within the diverse local community.

She has been an active board member of the Microbusiness Advancement Center (MAC) a non-profit that hosts the SBA’s Tucson Women’s Business Center and the MAC Small Business Development Center.

Her efforts to help women business owners don’t stop when the door closes at work. Lydia is well known for volunteering with business focused organizations including the Small Business Development Center, the Minority and Small Business Alliance of Southern Arizona and the Boots to Business program for returning veterans. She routinely organizes workshops and is often found with microphone in hand covering the fundamentals of business or offering an insider’s view of what to expect when seeking funding from a bank.

Lydia recently helped charter a new women’s focused group called Women Impacting New Entrepreneurs Inc. The group supports and inspires women entrepreneurs with scholarships and grants that enable them to further their education, leadership skills and opportunities to succeed.

2013 Arizona Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year

This year’s Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year is Melissa Lange, founder and president of the Southwest Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s mission is to improve business and economic opportunities for veterans throughout the Southwest. Melissa also owns the KTR Group, an executive recruiting firm, and has applied the lessons learned there to the challenges veterans face in finding a job or starting a business.

A Navy veteran and proud Army mom, Melissa has a passion for helping fellow veterans. The Chamber is currently promoting pending legislation that will help veteran owned businesses better compete for state contracts, provide expeditious notification of public job announcements to veterans and create a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans.

In 2012, Melissa was appointed co-chair of the Phoenix Military Veterans Commission by Mayor Greg Stanton. Not surprisingly, Melissa is also an active board member with a number of Veterans organizations including the American Legion, Veterans First, the Go Vets Foundation, the Veterans Medical Leadership Council, Unified Arizona Veterans, WAVES National, Women of the Sea Services and the Association of the US Navy.

2013 Arizona Financial Services Champion of the Year

This year’s Financial Services Champion isJeff Mizukami, Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer with Horizon Community Bank (HCB) in Lake Havasu City. Jeff has been with HCB since December 2010 as head of the SBA Lending Division.

For the past 15 years of his 25 year banking career, Jeff has specialized in government guaranteed lending programs such as those offered by the Small Business Administration and U.S Department of Agriculture. Typical client industries include professionals, hospitality, industrial, manufacturing and retail businesses.

2013 Arizona Small Business Development Center of Excellence

The Cochise College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Sierra Vista is this year’s Center of Excellence Award recipient for its record of success, innovation and economic impact. In 2012, under the leadership of center director Mark Schmitt, the Cochise College SBDC helped create 166 new jobs, helped retain 73 existing jobs, assisted 51 new businesses to start, assisted businesses to increase sales by $4.9 million and helped small businesses raise $4.3 million in new capital.

Characteristic of many SBDC directors, Mark is an entrepreneur having owned and operated a variety of businesses including a JC Penney Catalogue Desk, a Southwest gift store, a shipping and packaging store, a carpet cleaning business, money services business, collection agency, tuxedo rental store, TV/VCR repair shop and a paging and Internet service business. With this diverse business background Mark brings hands on experience to his job.

Arizona’s SBDC Network is a partnership between Maricopa Community College and the SBA. The service centers, located throughout the state, serve thousands of clients annually through business training programs and free, one-on-one confidential counseling by counselors who use their real-life business ownership and management experience to offer practical and relevant advice.

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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

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