The time has come again for the U.S. Small Business Administration to collect nominations for the 2024 National Small Business Week Awards. The NSBW Awards recognize the outstanding achievements, triumphs, contributions, and resilience of SBA-assisted small businesses that help to drive the American economy. As you may remember, last year SBA’s West Virginia District Office celebrated National Small Business Week in Fairmont, WV on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 with a luncheon awards ceremony for five small businesses.
Here is a little information about our 2023 WV Small Business Week Winners:
- 2023 SBA WV Small Business Person of the Year – Anthony and Heather Wheeler, Owners – Paris Signs (Huntington, WV)
Paris Signs is a sign company dedicated to offering creative solutions to customers, located in Huntington, WV. Anthony and Heather Wheeler are co-owners of the business that has seen consistent growth since inception. The business was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, and an ice storm simultaneously damaging their facility and delivery vehicles. SBA’s COVID-19 EIDL relief program and SBDC counseling services helped the business through this tough time. In 2022, they saw a 50% increase in sales and have grown to 31 employees. They are bursting at the seams and recently purchased an additional location.
- 2023 SBA WV Small Business Exporter of the Year & SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional Winner – Douglas Kreinik – Kreinik Manufacturing Co., Inc (Parkersburg, WV)
Kreinik Manufacturing, located in Parkersburg, WV, is a family-owned manufacturer of silk and metallic threads for needle workers, crafters, scrapbookers, quilters, fiber artists, fly fishermen, and even fashion houses and costume designers. The business was started by Doug’s parents in their home in 1970. Doug joined the business in 1983 and the business moved to the current facility. Kreinik utilized a variety of SBA products and services, including: the Emerging Leaders Program (now T.H.R.I.V.E.), STEP grant, SBDC counseling, and most recently the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program loan. The pandemic assistance he received helped him to stay in business during the difficult time. Working with a skeleton crew, Doug was able to modify his machines to produce elastic for masks, including an order for 10,000 yards for the National Guard.
- 2023 SBA WV Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year – Anne and Joe Perella – A & J Sewing Studio LLC (Morgantown, WV)
A&J Sewing Studio is a family-owned, independent sewing, quilting and embroidery machine dealership and service center, owned by Anne and Joe Perella, in Morgantown, WV. The shop also sells fabric, thread, patterns, Horn of America furniture, and conducts sewing classes. Anne and Joe both served our country; Anne for 27 years retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel, LTC; and Joe for 28 years retiring at the rank of LTC. The duo came prepared with a lot of skills they learned in the military, but they needed assistance getting started. Anne attended a Business Fundamentals course offered by SBA’s resource partner, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center. After attending the course, Anne connected with SBDC small business coach, Sharon Stratton. Stratton assisted Anne with forming an LLC and financial projection. Those financial projections led Anne to an SBA Express Loan with MVB. Because of Anne’s continued relationship with her coach, she quickly received information and the Paycheck Protection Program and was able to receive two loans to keep her employees paid during the pandemic.
- 2023 SBA WV Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year – Angie Cowger – Custard Stand Chili / The Custard Stand (Webster Springs, WV)
The Custard Stand Chili, located in Webster Springs, WV, makes the families personal recipe of Custard Stand Hot Dog Chili and Custard Stand Chili Soup. You may recognize them from, their pitch on Shark Tank in 2016. While the business didn’t receive an offer, they did receive a boost in sales and growth in the business. Angie Cowger, better known as the Chili Queen, has a long-standing relationship with the SBA and utilized programs and services offered by the SBA to guide her through this stage. The services she utilized include:
- 7a loan-guarantee program
- Counseling with the WV Small Business Development Center
- Contracting Counseling with the SBA WV District Office
- Emerging Leaders Program Participant (now THRIVE)
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
- COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL)
When the pandemic hit the business encountered many obstacles. Due to just completing the THRIVE program, Cowger was ready to hit the ground running to keep her business operational and streamline processes. First, they received the PPP and was able to keep all their employees, who were more like family, paid. They also received the COVID EIDL to manage the increase costs. One major change was outsourcing their manufacturing to be able to maintain their price and be able to produce their product quicker. In 2023, Cowger received the SBA WV Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year award. At the time of the celebration the business had products in 3,500 stores, in more than 25 states. Since receiving the award, the business has added 300 more stores to their portfolio.
If you are interested in nominating yourself or a small business owner in your area for the 2024 National Small Business Week awards, you can download related forms, criteria, and guidelines, by visiting sba.gov/nsbw. All nominations must be submitted electronically by 4 p.m. ET on December 7, 2023. The awards will be presented during the NSBW Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., from April 28-29, 2024 and district level awards presented locally during the same week.