Six small business owners across Washington state have been recognized for their business acumen and growth strategies by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Noting that 99 percent of businesses in the Pacific Northwest are considered small – generally defined by the SBA as fewer than 1,500 employees – SBA Regional Administrator Jeremy Field emphasized innovation, job creation and community leadership as key components of winning businesses. The 30 million small businesses across the country employ almost 59 million workers, more than one-third of the country’s labor force.
The Washington winners are:
- Small Business Person of the Year: Ross Black, founder and CEO of Simple Box Storage in Lynden. Black started the business, which rents and sells shipping containers, while in high school. It now has eight locations across Washington, Idaho and Oregon and employs 26.
- Exporter of the Year: Coleen Quisenberry, president, Flexhibit. The company designs and manufactures science center exhibits and portable STEM cars for discovery centers, children’s museums and schools. The Spokane Valley-based company recently expanded internationally, and 45 percent of sales now come from exports.
- 8(a) Graduate of the Year: Mike Russell Sr., president of Woodinville-based Vulcan Products Company, which specializes in full-service metal fabrication, precision machining and metrology inspection, which is the science of measurement. The 8(a) program is a government contracting certification for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or organizations. VPC has grown from 15 employees and $1 million in annual revenue to a multi-million-dollar business with 38 workers.
- Veteran-Owned Business of the Year: Scott Howe, managing member, Quantum Health and Yoga Lounge, based in Burlington. Howe founded the business, which offers a variety of workout classes including yoga and barre, an apparel shop and a juice smoothie bar, following his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. Howe was diagnosed with a health condition which affected his mobility and ability to work and found that nutrition and low-impact exercise made him healthier. Quantum now employs two-full-time and 20 contract employees.
- Rising Startup of the Year: Lee and Emily Fergestrom, Fortuity Cellars. The Fergestroms founded the boutique winery and used e-commerce to grow the business, signing up more than 100 wine club members and generating $100,000 in revenue just nine months after launch without a retail location. They are now building a permanent facility and are expanding into the event venue business.
- Small Business Champion of the Year: Jacquie Gallaway, owner and CEO, Mend Institute. Gallaway founded the Seattle-based feminist mental health organization 10 years ago. Mend offers low-cost therapy that specializes in mental health issues that affect cis-women, trans and non-binary clients. The company has supported more than 75 women to launch their therapy businesses in Seattle and will launch 15 more women-owned businesses by the end of 2019.
A celebration honoring local SBA winners from Washington and the SBA Seattle District – which serves Washington state and northern Idaho – will be held May 8. National Small Business Week was created in 1959.