Ahead of National Small Business Week May 5 to 11, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced its 2019 award recipients. Eleven Minnesota small businesses and supportive entities are being recognized for state-specific honors, with Christine Lantinen, owner of candy company Maud Borup, taking a top honor: Small Business Person of the Year.
“With so many incredible small businesses in Minnesota, being selected for this award is truly humbling,” Lantinen says.
The Small Business Person of the Year is chosen based on growth in sales or unit volume and in number of employees, as well as financial strength, innovativeness of the product or service, and evidence of community contributions. Additionally, the individual’s business must have been aided by the SBA in some way.
Lantinen’s relationship with the SBA began with her securing three SBA-backed loans. Lantinen purchased Maud Borup—a St. Paul-based candy shop founded before women even had the right to vote—in 2005. She immediately turned the company’s attention toward selling food gifts wholesale to specialty and mass retailers, including Whole Foods and Target, growing Maud Borup beyond the storefront.
The SBA loans—plus her participation in the SBA’s Emerging Leaders accelerator program in 2011—allowed her to expand on that growth, in part by purchasing a manufacturing facility in rural Minnesota. The facility houses Eco Eggs, a sustainability-focused division of the company that manufactures the first-ever compostable Easter eggs. The company now has more than 100 employees, a substantial gain from the five people it started with. And of the current workforce, 96 percent are women.
“The SBA was pivotal in helping Maud Borup gain momentum when I first bought the brand,” Lantinen says. “The SBA-backed loans helped build the infrastructure that laid the foundation for our exponential growth.”
Lantinen’s community contributions include: serving as a Girl Scout Troop Leader; being active in the annual St. Jude’s Hospital fundraising events; supporting Blair’s Tree of Hope, the Sanneh Foundation, and other cause-based efforts; and advocating for environmental issues. She’s also won the Environmental Champion Award for Maud Borup’s sustainability efforts.
“The SBA is committed to helping small businesses succeed and we’re excited to have been a part of Christine’s journey,” says Nancy J. Libersky, director of the SBA’s Minnesota District Office. “We are proud to honor her as the 2019 Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year.”
Similar to the Small Business Person of the Year, winners in other categories are chosen based on success, and economic and community contributions.
“With more than 500,000 small businesses in Minnesota,” says Libersky, “we are excited to [celebrate] the efforts of a few of the best and brightest.”
The other categories for Minnesota SBA awards, and the respective winners are:
Exporter of the Year
Revis Stephenson III, Stone Arch Commodities & Ag Transfer, Minneapolis and Chicago
Family-Owned Small Business of the Year
Niles Deneen, Deneen Pottery, St. Paul
Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year
Anissa Keyes, Arubah Emotional Health Services, P.A., North Minneapolis
SBDC Excellence & Innovation Center of the Year
Southwest SBDC, Marshall
Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year
Bill Lyon, SCORE-Minnesota District
Woman-Owned Business of the Year
Darcy Johnson, Conger Meat Market LLC, Conger and Albert Lea
Women Small Business Champion of the Year
Teresa Thomas, Minneapolis
Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Brandon Poliszuk, Social Butterfly LLC, Mankato
Additionally, two Minnesota businesses were recognized for honors in categories specific to the entire SBA Great Lakes region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Minneapolis-based WomenVenture was named the Women’s Business Center of Excellence of the Year for Minnesota and the Great Lakes Region, while Eden Prairie-based research and development and engineering company Architecture Technology Corporation was named Great Lakes Region Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year.
WomenVenture was selected for its work training and counseling women entrepreneurs, with a focus on cultural and economic diversity. The more than 40-year-old center uses SBA programs to help women attain economic self-sufficiency through starting their own businesses. In the past financial year, WomenVenture helped 1,066 women access nearly $770,000 in financing—helping over 200 businesses start or expand and creating or retaining over 900 jobs.
Architecture Technology Corporation was nominated for recognition by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., for providing the military with unique wireless networking.
“As an SBA partner, WomenVenture has gone to great lengths to amplify the SBA mission with a wide variety of resources for area entrepreneurs,” says SBA Great Lakes regional administrator Rob Scott, “and Architecture Technology Corporation’s outstanding performance in servicing one of our nation’s military bases serves as an ideal example for other businesses looking to grow and expand through government contracting.”
All 11 of this year’s Minnesota SBA award recipients will be honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on May 10 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park.
The event is open to public registration until May 7.