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Small business success stories

SBA, President Obama pledge support for entrepreneurs during Small Business Month

Martin Desmarais
Small business success stories
(l-r) Michael Chege and Raphael Bibiu, founders of Ace Medical Services Inc., a home health care agency, and winners of the “Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year” award. (Photo: Photo courtesy of SBA)

May is national small business month, headlined by the government’s National Small Business Week from May 4-8, and this year there is plenty to celebrate. Locally, the small business celebrations highlight top success stories and services in place to help companies continue to grow.

The government — spearheaded by the U.S. Small Business Administration — has celebrated National Small Business Week since 1963. Over the years, it has evolved into a country-wide slate of events and awards honoring successful enterprise. Each state has a Small Business Person of the Year and the SBA selects a national winner on May 8 in Washington. Other national events are scheduled for Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio and New York.

As the SBA Administrator points out, small businesses created nearly 2 million of the roughly 3 million private-sector jobs added in 2014, and 7 of the 11 million jobs during the recent economic recovery.

Presidential support

President Barack Obama has been a strong supporter of the efforts and kicks off Small Business Week with an overview of the field. He also has repeatedly pledged to continue to help small business grow and succeed, especially via access to credit and investments in infrastructure.

“America’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy. More than that, our small businesses represent what is best about America — that with hard work and ingenuity, anyone — no matter their background — can build a better future for themselves and their families,” he said in a prior statement. “During National Small Business Week, we renew our commitment to helping our businesses hire more workers, sell more products and continue to grow the foundation of our American economy.

The government’s National Small Business Week theme is “Dream Big. Start Small.” And this is a message that other small business supporters want to propagate as well.

At Eastern Bank, the top small business lender in the Massachusetts with almost 700 loans for $38 million in 2014, small business month is a big deal. For the bank’s leaders it is a time to celebrate the small businesses that make the Boston-based financial institution what it is today — a New England stalwart with $9.8 billion in assets and more than 100 branches serving communities in eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

From TV commercials to a social media blitz to networking luncheons to small business workshops, Eastern Bank rolls it all out.

Last year, the bank pledged to have 100 events throughout small business month and hit a total of 112. This year, the bank is targeting the goal of 100 events again.

Author: Photo courtesy of Eastern BankEastern Bank Senior Vice President Charles Smith

According to Eastern Bank Senior Vice President Charles Smith, all of the bank’s 100 branches will have something to offer local small businesses.

“We want to be a financial institution that not only helps our customers but also helps support our community,” said Smith. “We put our money where our mouth is and we put a lot of our weight beyond our efforts.”

Eastern Bank’s big small business month event is a Small Business Accelerator Forum to be held on May 5 at Whittier Street Health Center in Boston. Targeting small businesses in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury, the event will address topics such as access to capital, health care options and supplier diversity.

Local events

In Massachusetts, the district office of the SBA is geared up for its busiest slate of events all year, ready to showcase an impressive bunch of the state’s small business stars, including a big award celebration on May 4 featuring an address by Gov. Charlie Baker.

SBA plans at least one event in every district in the state on every day of National Small Business Week. Many of these events bring out politicians in support of local small business, but they also highlight organizations such as the Center for Women in Enterprise, Score and the South Eastern Economic Development Corporation that work closely with small businesses.

“People are really excited about small business week,” said Robert Nelson, director of the SBA’s Massachusetts District Office.

Massachusetts does really have a lot to celebrate in that it is the country’s leader in “low-dollar loans” — or loans for less than $150,000. The state also leads the way in loans to business owners from underserved communities. According to Nelson, loans to African-American business owners in the state are up 67 percent, with rises in loans to Latinos and Asians as well, and overall loans to small businesses are up 20 percent over last year.

Dorchester’s Todd Snopkowski, owner and founder of Snapchef, is the headline winner as the 2015 Massachusetts SBA “Small Business Person of the Year.”

Snapchef provides culinary staff with temporary or permanent placement to food service companies in New England. Snopkowski started the company in 2002 and has expanded the company from a 300-square-foot office to a facility of over 7,000 square feet in South Boston, with a new culinary training center as well. The company has 250 Snapchef employees who service institutional and corporate food service clients such as Sodexo, Compass, Unidine, Nexdine, Café Services and Harvard University.

“Todd Snopkowski and Snapchef exemplify perfectly what this very significant SBA award is intended to recognize,” said Nelson. “The business is not only rapidly growing and creating a significant number of jobs, but Todd has also touched the lives of so many over the history of the business due to his passion for the business and the community.”

Ace Medical Services Inc., a home health care agency started by Kenyan immigrants Michael Chege and Raphael Bibiu, is the “Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year.” The Worcester-based company, which was started in 2007, employs 120 people and generated $3.6 million revenues.

The state SBA office is honoring almost a dozen other small businesses with other awards ranging from “Woman Owned Business of the Year Award” to “Small Business Exporter of the Year.”

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