Florida SBDC Network Clients, Nominees Win SBA Small Business Week Awards

Florida SBDC Network Headquarters (Pensacola, Fla.) – The Florida SBDC Network, the state’s principal provider of business assistance, is pleased to announce that its small business clients and nominees have won awards for their outstanding performance, advocacy, and economic contributions from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of National Small Business Week.

National Small Business Week will be held April 29 – May 5, with national events planned in Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina.

As part of National Small Business Week, the SBA annually recognizes small business owners, entrepreneurs, and advocates from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Clients and nominees of the Florida SBDC Network recognized as national, regional, state, and district-level award winners are:

Small Business Exporter of the Year

National, Region IV, State of Florida, and South Florida District Winner

Serenity Gardner, COO, and Jason Gardner, Vice President of Marketing – SeaDek, Rockledge

Client of the Florida SBDC at University of Central Florida (UCF)

North Florida District Winner

Carlton Smith, COO – Heavy Equipment Resources of Florida, Jacksonville

Client of the Florida SBDC at University of North Florida (UNF)

Small Business Person of the Year

State of Florida and North Florida District Winner

Michael Zaffaroni, Owner – Liberty Landscape Supply, Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach

Client of the Florida SBDC at UNF

South Florida District Winner

Anais Badia, Chief Medical Officer and Owner – Florida Skin Center, Fort Myers

Client of the Florida SBDC at Florida Gulf Coast University

Minority-Owned Small Business Person of the Year

State of Florida and South Florida District Winner

Brian Butler, President and CEO – Vistra Communications, Tampa

Client of the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida

North Florida District Winner

Morris Jarmon, Sr., President – Island Air Express, LLC, Panama City

Client of the Florida SBDC at University of West Florida (UWF)

Veteran-Owned Small Business Person of the Year

State of Florida and North Florida District Winner

Barbara Kent, Owner – Buy-Gones, Fernandina Beach

Client of the Florida SBDC at UNF

Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year

State of Florida and North Florida District Winner

Heather Bennett, Owner – Paisley Grace Designs, Yulee

Client of the Florida SBDC at UNF

Young Entrepreneur Small Business Person of the Year

State of Florida and South Florida District Winner

Luisa Santos, Founder – Lulu’s Nitrogen Ice Cream, Miami

Client of the Florida SBDC at Florida International University (FIU)

Small Business Advocate of the Year

State of Florida and South Florida District Winner

Orlando Espinosa, Co-founder – Emineo Media, Miami

Nominated by the Florida SBDC at FIU

North Florida District Winner

Bernard Dandridge, SBA/USDA Loan Specialist – Florida Capital Bank, Jacksonville

Nominated by the Florida SBDC at UNF

Community Partner of the Year

State of Florida and South Florida District Winner

Miami Bayside Foundation, Miami

Nominated by the Florida SBDC at FIU

North Florida District Winner

Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA)

Accepting on behalf of JTA: Ken Middleton, Sr. Manager, Diversity and Equity Program

Nominated by the Florida SBDC at UNF

“We couldn’t be more proud to recognize the accomplishments of our extraordinary clients and advocates,” said Michael W. Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network. “The National Small Business Week Awards are one of the most prestigious in the country. We are honored to have so many of our clients and advocates recognized for their contributions to their local and state economy.”

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of the country’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Zaffaroni, a client of the Florida SBDC at UNF, will join Small Business Person of the Year award winners from all 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for a special ceremony in D.C. April 29-30, where he will be honored individually and will be in the running for the 2018 National Small Business Person of the Year. Serenity and Jason Gardner, clients of the Florida SBDC at UCF, will also travel to D.C., where they will be honored as the National Exporter of the Year.

The Florida SBDC Network will join the national celebration to honor winners and showcase the role Florida’s more than 2.4 million small businesses play in the state’s economy by hosting a number of events during the week:

  • The Florida SBDC at Indian River State College will host its 5th Annual Small Business & Entrepreneurship Conference at the Kight Center for Emerging Technologies in Fort Pierce on May 1.
  • The Florida SBDC at FGCU will host its 7th Annual Distinguished Entrepreneur of Southwest Florida Event at the Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs on May 3.
  • The Florida SBDC at UNF will honor Jacksonville-area winners at its 26th Annual Small Business Week Event May 4 at the UNF Herbert University Center.
  • The Florida SBDC at USF will honor Tampa-area winners at its 31st Annual Government Small Business Conference May 4 at the Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore.
  • The Florida SBDC at Florida A&M University will host a series of events May 7-11, culminating with an awards luncheon on Friday.
  • The Florida SBDC at UCF will honor Orlando-area winners at its 2018 Small Business Awards Luncheon and awards ceremony on May 15 at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando.

To learn more about National Small Business Week, please visit www.sba.gov/nsbw.

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