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First Coast celebrates small business

Small business owners celebrated the accomplishments of four of their own at the 17th Annual Small Business Week sbalogoCelebration at the University of North Florida, April 30. A sold-out crowd of approximately 350 applauded the accomplishments of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s winners, and listened to the inspiring message of keynote speaker Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, a 27-year-old entrepreneur who has revolutionized waste management through a concept called upcycling.

The event was co-sponsored by the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and First Coast Worksource Development, with support from American Enterprise Bank of Florida and the Jacksonville Business Journal.

The four individuals recognized for their leadership in small business were Mary Tappouni, president of Breaking Ground Contracting Company (Small Business Person of the Year); Manish Kothari, CEO of Prism Lighting Services (Small Business Exporter of the Year), LLC; Andrew Harold, president of A. Harold and Associates, LLC (SBA Entrepreneurial Success Award); and Kim E. Knapp, president of Dental Temps of Northeast Florida, Inc. (Women in Business Champion of the Year).

• Small Business Person of the Year. Mary Tappouni is president of Breaking Ground Contracting, construction

Mary Tappouni

Mary Tappouni

 business that focuses on sustainable “green” commercial construction. Her business has also branched off into consulting and education. Her 11-year-old company currently has 11 employees, and has averaged 56% growth each year since 2004.

• Small Business Exporter of the Year. Manish Kothari is CEO of Prism Lighting Services,

Manish Kothari

Manish Kothari

which manufactures, markets, and sells the internationally patented Prism Inflatable Light. His company imports raw materials from three different countries and manufactures the lighting systems in Jacksonville. Since 2004, it has established dealers in 22 different countries.

• SBA Entrepreneurial Success Award. Andrew Harold is president of A. Harold and Associates, a venture he began in 2005 during the Jacksonville Super Bowl. His company is actually Andrew Harolda graduate of the small-business definition, since it has grown to 37 employees, with revenues of $3.5 million annually. It provides technology, education, engineering, training, and management services for both the public and private sector throughout the country and abroad. Harold received the SBA Entrepreneurial Success Award.

• Women in Business Champion of the Year. Kim E. Knapp, president of Dental Temps of Northeast Florida,

Kim E. Knapp

Kim E. Knapp

formed her business in 2002 and has helped dental offices throughout Duval, Clay, St. Johns, and Nassau counties. In addition to growing her business, she is an advocate of helping other women who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journal.

In addition to the four individuals who were honored, the top lenders of fiscal year 2008 in the U. S. small Business Administration’s North Florida District were also recognized. The top five lenders of 7(a) loans were Banco Popular, Bank of America, Compass Bank, SunTrust Bank, Regions Bank, and First Coast Community Bank.



Criteria for winning an award

The four individuals honored at the Small Business Week celebration earned their awards by meeting or exceeding criteria for each of the categories:

• Small Business Person of the Year. This is an individual who owns or bears principal responsibility for operating a business defined as “small” under SBA size standards. The award goes to a person who has proved his or her staying power, shown growth in number of employees, and experienced an increase in sales. The winner also exhibits a good financial performance, innovativeness or product or service, the capability to respond to adversity, and contributes to the community.

• Small Business Exporter of the Year. This person owns and operates a small business engaged in exporting and has experienced an increase in sales or growth of employment due to exporting. He or she shows creative overseas marketing strategies and encourages other small businesses to export.

• Women in Business Champion of the Year. This is an individual who has fulfilled a commitment to the advancement of women’s business ownership. She is active in supporting legislation designed to help small businesses and has shown efforts in increasing business and financial opportunities for women.

• SBA Entrepreneurial Success Award. This person owns and operates a business initially launched as a small business according to SBA size standards and has subsequently grown into a large business. He or she must have received SBA assistance to help the business grow.

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