SBA Honors the Best in Small Business

National Small Business Week culminates in an award ceremony for the country's top small businesses.
Executive Producer, The Applegate Group Inc., The Applegate Group Inc.
May 22, 2012

A former Peace Corps volunteer who became an infectious disease biologist won the nation’s top small-business honor from the U.S. Small Business Administration during National Small Business Week. Victoria Tifft, president and CEO of Clinical Research Management, based in Hinckley, Ohio, started her business in 1992 with a handful of people. She now employs 330 and the company has annual revenues in excess of $40 million.

The company, which provides clinical trial services for drugs and devices, works with government agencies including the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well as companies and organizations in Africa, South and Central America, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout the Asia Pacific.

Only in America

Tifft, who contracted malaria three times while working in West Africa, said when she returned to the U.S.  she vowed to spend the rest of her life working to find better treatments for devastating diseases.

“I was thinking that if the bite of a mosquito could bring me to my knees, only in America could I make such a comeback,” Tifft said after accepting her award from SBA Administrator Karen Mills.

She thanked Mills and the SBA for “making a difference to the citizens of America and across the world.”

Michael Cote, founder of Look’s Gourmet Food, based in Whiting, Maine, was the SBA’s second runner-up for Small Business Person of the Year. Darrin Swanson, president of Kit Master’s, a maker of after-market automotive parts in Perham, Minn.,  was named the first-runner up.

Other Events

The award ceremony was part of a slew of events including a town hall meeting, networking sessions and a keynote address by Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, the high-tech sportswear giant. He spoke about how in 1996, his company posted only $17,000 in sales. Now, publicly-traded 2012 projected income is $1.8 billion. He said the company received a $250,000 SBA-guaranteed loan, and a few years later, in 2005, netted $120 million from an initial public offering. The company now employs 4,900.

“Optimism is a free stimulus for everyone in this room,” said Plank.

Many of the state winners were visiting the nation's capital for the first time. Charles Fuqua, owner of Four Seasons Landscaping, a 20-employee company based in Pascagoula, Miss., said he was “floored” when he heard he won the statewide competition. He said his best advice is to listen to your customers and employees.

Pictured: Small-business Honor Recipient Victoria Tifft.

Photo credit: Jane Applegate