The Hampton Roads Chamber 2018 Small Business of the Year is SimIS, Inc. of Portsmouth. “What the city of Portsmouth has done for me, I can’t repay, but what I can do is create hundreds of jobs in modeling and simulation in Portsmouth,” said Dr. Johnny Garcia, CEO and founder of SimIS. He also urged his fellow nominees and the business leaders in the room to consider diversification in their hiring practices. “My organization works with underserved youth, because I was an underserved youth working on a cotton field in Texas at age eleven. I implore you, the leaders of Hampton Roads to help women and minority owned businesses and to take care of our veterans.”
The individual city winners were announced mid-April. Chesapeake Small Business of the Year is MiCar. Judges were impressed with how well maintained the facility was and admired how it is a family business.
O’Connor Brewing Company is the Norfolk city winner. The judges recognized that they have shown solid and consistent growth year over year.
Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe was present as the award for the Portsmouth city winner went to SimIS. The Judges commented on SimIS, Inc.’s positive impact on the city of Portsmouth and how they are putting the city on the map with groundbreaking technology.
Suffolk Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett presented the Suffolk Small Business of the Year, The Catering Place, their award. Judges were impressed with the company’s generosity to the community. Founder Corey Duncan said, “All of our success rests on the performance of our dedicated staff. They’re the backbone of this business.”
i-FLY is 2018 Virginia Beach Small Business of the Year. Judges said they scored high in community advocacy and commented how they went well above in finding unique ways to give back to community especially helping military units and veterans train. i-FLY Virginia Beach CEO, Bob Pizzini said, “Being a member of the Chamber has meant so much to our growth. This started as a concept with the Chamber’s SBDC program and now we are here.”
Congressman Bobby Scott provided opening remarks, “Small businesses are an undeniable contributor to the economy. In Virginia, 99.5% of businesses are small businesses employing 1.5 million Virginians. Small businesses are inextricably linked to our region’s community and economy.
As is tradition, prior year’s winners were represented throughout the ceremony with. Charlie Hackworth, of Chesapeake’s Hackworth Printing and individual city winner for 2017 provided the Invocation, Martin Joseph 2013 Small Business of the Year winner was the emcee for the event and Christina Sims of Beach Pet Hospital, the 2017 Hampton Roads Small Business of the Year Award Winner, had the honor of presenting this year’s regional winner.
Southern Bank and Trust company was the presenting sponsor for the event. Their Executive Vice President, Taylor Harrell remarked on the Chamber’s 30 plus year history of supporting small businesses. “Small business is the engine of our region’s economy and they do so much to improve the quality of life in our region. We recognize the ambition, sacrifice and accomplishment of these honorees.”
This year’s judging committee chair was Susan Long-Molnar, Founder and President of Managing Communications Consulting. The judging panel included Caron Crouse, Market Managing Partner with Dixon Hughes Goodman; Darian Fisher, Banking Officer with our Presenting Sponsor Southern Bank; Dr. Stephen Lanivich, Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Old Dominion University; Chris Shelton, 2017 Norfolk Small Business of the Year winner; and Shepelle Watkins White of Virginia Natural Gas.
The judge’s votes were coupled with online votes to determine three Top to Watch winners. These companies have not been in business a full three years so are not yet eligible to apply for Small Business of the Year. The three companies who scored highest are Commune, Suffolk Executive Offices, and Wasserhund Brewing Company. These businesses have shown exemplary performance in their beginning years in operation.
The G&W Leadership Award was presented to Chris Stuart. He is vice president of Top Guard Security. He has served the community in various ways including Hampton City Council and as chair of the Norfolk Division of the Hampton Roads Chamber. Stuart said, “When you frequent small local businesses you are the stakeholders in that business and you help families pay their mortgage, send a little girl to dance lessons or a little boy to baseball practice.”
The Entrepreneur Award was presented to Lisa DeNoia, co-founder of 1701 Virginia Beach Co-working space.1701's mission is to foster a collaborative community environment where entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses and professionals can connect, grow, and thrive in Virginia Beach.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Executive Director Jim Carroll provided an update on his program. “Propel is a singularly unique and outstanding business growth program. It couples education with technical assistance from the SBDC and then partners the participants with a local successful entrepreneur or business owner for a two-year mentorship program,” Carroll said. He also recognized the recent cohorts in the audience who completed the program.
This celebratory event is a chance for the Hampton Roads Chamber to see their vision of being an Inspiring Ignitor, Powerful Economic Partner and Impactful Advocate embodied in the small business community. This is the heart of the Hampton Roads Chamber’s core mission. The Chamber and the Small Business Development Center work to promote and support small businesses and the opportunity to celebrate the success and achievement of our region’s small businesses is a point of pride.