By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
With 1,200 employees working in small businesses in the community, Kristi Ray views National Small Business Week as an important time to recognize entrepreneurs in Henry County.
Five small business finalists were selected by a judging panel for ribbon cuttings throughout Small Business Week from April 30 to May 4. The week will culminate in a Small Business of the Year Luncheon at the Union Block Building where the Small Business of the Year will be revealed.
While the finalists all have their eye on the prize, they also are just honored to be selected. Lisa Goody, of Wilson Distributor Services, said that she and her husband Jason were ?definitely shocked? at the nomination.
?We are just very humbled to be nominated by the community,? Goody said. ?We were just overwhelmed of course too. Jason and I just like to work hard and take care of our clients and customers. (This nomination) shows we have a valuable business to the community.? Other nominees are Wiley Construction, L.J. Roth Restoration, BP/Pep Stop/Godfather?s Pizza, and Brown?s Shoe Fit Co.
This is the second year the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance has held an organized Small Business Week. For small businesses to participate, they were nominated for the title of Small Business of the Year either by themselves, employees or customers. Ray, Executive Vice President of the Chamber, said they receive 20 to 30 applications a year from small businesses. An anonymous judging panel selected from outside of Mt. Pleasant took a look at the applicants and chose the top five.
?I don?t ever want (the judges) to be local,? Ray said. ?They just know them too well.?
Ray came up with the idea of a ribbon cutting for each finalist when she worked at the chamber in Columbia, Mo. She said that if you go into a chamber in the first week of May, they will all look alike ? hosting seminars on teambuilding, marketing and entrepreneurship. But why hear from a speaker, when customers and businesses could hear from each other?
?Why are we trying to get people to learn from someone who comes in and teaches a session on team building? Why don?t we actually hear from the finalists?? Ray said one of her colleagues in Columbia asked her one year.
Ray now teases that colleague that his idea traveled across state lines to create Mt. Pleasant?s Small Business Week. Although the week will culminate with a winner, Ray said that the point of the week is to celebrate five very successful companies in Mt. Pleasant and recognize them for being successful at running a business.
That?s why once the judges chose the five finalists, they followed up by asking: Why did you get into this business and how? Tell us about your community involvement. Tell us what sets you apart from other businesses.
While some chambers tie their winners to the growth of a company, Ray said in Mt. Pleasant, they don?t want to tie the competition to growth or revenue. Here, she wants to highlight the businesses that are dedicated to their community.
?They will have that opportunity at each of these ribbon cuttings to talk about their business, and (the ribbon cuttings) are so rewarding because what you see is people talk about the passion they have for their business. It?s just overwhelming,? Ray said.
Small Business Week will kick off at one of Mt. Pleasant?s newest businesses: Sanity Coffee House at 104 S. Iris St., on Monday, April 30, from 8 to 9 a.m. While Sanity isn?t in the running for Small Business of the Year, Ray said that she wanted to take the opportunity to bring them new customers and recognize that it?s hard to open a new business and immediately be successful.
?Those people who have been awarded have put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears,? Ray said.
The first ribbon cutting will be Tuesday, May 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Wiley Construction at 1605 E. Monroe St. For Ted Wiley, just being a finalist is a big deal. Although Wiley Construction has been around ?a long time,? Wiley said they never seek recognition for what they do. Rather, small businesses in the community are the hub of Mt. Pleasant.
?They?re the lifeline of America,? Wiley said. ?It?s great we recognize and celebrate small businesses in our community. Obviously big business and industry is important to our community as well, but small businesses provide what?s necessary for day to day living in a community such as ours.?
The second ribbon cutting is at L.J. Roth Restoration Services at 112 S. Main St. in Olds from 4 to 5 p.m. Adam McLaughlin said that as a small business, they try to be as supportive of the area schools and the Chambers whenever they can.
L.J. Roth is honored to be selected as a finalist among their peers. McLaughlin said that as a more personal business ? the business of repairing damaged residential property ? their services are emergency-driven, and their response time is vital to helping their customers get their lives back on track.
?(Our employees) are dedicated to customer satisfaction and our service is unmatched in our profession,? McLaughlin said. ?We try to take a caring approach when we go into these disasters and make it as easy as possible during this transition.?
The third ribbon cutting is at BP/Pep Stop/Godfather?s Pizza on Wednesday, May 2, from 2 to 3 p.m. followed by Alive After Five at Quality Equipment/Lampline at 1000 W. Washington St. from 5 to 7 p.m. On Thursday, May 3, Wilson Distributor Services? ribbon cutting will be at 105 N. McCoy from 4 to 5 p.m. Goody is honored by the nomination and believes that it shows they are a valuable business to the community. Goody thanked her staff for the nomination, saying that they?ve helped them in the business.
Not only was Wilson Distributor Services nominated, but they are celebrating their 25th anniversary of being in business. The milestone and the nomination is a double celebration for the business, with Goody saying it?s gone by in a blink of an eye.
While Brown?s Shoe Fit Co. was also a finalist for the title of Small Business of the Year, they will be hosting their ribbon cutting at another time as they are currently under construction.
Small Business Week will culminate on Friday, May 4, with a Small Business of the Year luncheon at the Union Block Building from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservation is required. There is a fee for the luncheon.
Ray said that while the winner will take home an award and will be recognized as the Small Business of the Year throughout the year, the luncheon is a celebration of each finalist. ?These are five very successful companies,? Ray said. ?Any of those five could be small business of the year, so we just wanted to highlight all of them.?
?Everyone who was nominated was a great addition to Mt. Pleasant and kudos to them too, because without them we?re not a community,? Goody said. ?We?re strong-nit and people buy from people when you?re in a relationship with them.?