MN Paintball Co. Owner Wins SBA Entrepreneur Award

Matthew Ames, who founded MN Pro Paintball when he was still in high school and has since grown its annual sales to more than $1 million, was named the Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Matthew Ames, president and CEO of Burnsville-based MN Pro Paintball, Inc., was recently named the Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Each year, the agency gives the award to a business owner who is 30 or younger, and whose company has been successful based on sales and profits, has created new jobs, uses innovative or creative business methods, and has the potential for long-term success and growth.

According to the SBA, Ames founded MN Pro Paintball in 2002, when he was still in high school. The company operates a 200-acre outdoor paintball park in Lakeville, retail stores in Burnsville and Minnetonka that offer paintball supplies, and an online store. The company, which started as a one-man operation, now has eight full-time employees, plus as many as 50 part-time employees during its peak season. Its sales have grown about 15 percent during each of the past three years and surpassed $1 million in 2011, Ames told Twin Cities Business.

Michael Ryan, director of the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas, nominated Ames for the award. Ames attended a two-year entrepreneurship program at the university after high school.

“[Ames] has shown remarkable tenacity for his willingness to meet people and do the market development that is necessary for this business,” St. Thomas Professor Rich Rexelsen, who was Ames' mentor and academic advisor, said in a statement.

Ames, who was born with a heart defect, has contributed more than $50,000 to the cardiac unit at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota through an annual charity paintball event. The hospital is gearing up for its fourth event next month.