Florida SBDC Network Headquarters (Pensacola, Fla.) – The Florida SBDC Network, the state’s principal provider of business assistance, recently announced the recipients of its annual staff awards celebration.
The awards, which were presented virtually August 24 as part of a special ceremony, are the highest recognition bestowed by the network to staff members, partners and volunteers.
“We are pleased to recognize this year’s winners for their outstanding work to help our state’s small businesses grow and succeed,” said Greg Britton, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network. “We are particularly proud of our team’s tireless efforts to help small businesses continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to their efforts over the last year and a half, countless small businesses were able to pivot and keep their doors open.”
The Florida SBDC Region of the Year Award was presented to the Florida SBDC at Florida Atlantic University for exceeding performance goals, including helping clients access capital, secure government contracts, generate sales revenue and for service quality.
The Florida State Star Award was presented to Roberto Castellón, a consultant with the Florida SBDC at Florida International University, for outstanding performance and client satisfaction. In 2020, he helped small businesses secure more than $26 million in capital, making him the number one consultant in the state in terms of loans awarded. The State Star award, the highest accolade achievable by SBDC employees, recognizes extraordinary performers who have made strong contributions to their state network.
The Florida Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Jessica Ali, a program coordinator with the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida. Jessica was presented the award for her above-and-beyond efforts in her region.
The Florida Rising Star Award was presented to Taylor Kennedy, a consultant with the Florida SBDC at the University of North Florida. The award, which honors employees under the age of 35 with less than five years of service with the network, was presented to Kennedy for his leadership and dedication to serving clients in Northeast Florida.
The Florida Team Spirit of the Year Award was presented to all network staff for their efforts to help small businesses recover from COVID-19. Since March of last year, the network has helped small businesses secure more than $210 million in state and federal disaster assistance, including the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program. In 2020, the network delivered more than 162,500 hours of consulting to more than 24,000 small businesses - resulting in more than 23,000 jobs created and retained and an estimated GRP impact on our state’s economy of more than $3.9 billion.
The Florida Game Changer of the Year Award was presented in recognition of the Florida SBDC at FIU’s Impact Collection Process. Spearheaded by Jesus Padilla, the award was presented in recognition of the region’s efforts to improve and enhance the region’s impact collection process.
The network awarded the Florida Student Project of the Year Award to the Florida SBDC at the University of South Florida and the Florida SBDC at the University of West Florida in recognition of their work with eSmart Recycling and Lazy Days Beach Service, respectively. Under the guidance of the Florida SBDC at USF, a University of Tampa MBA team performed industry research and an analysis to help the company improve financial and marketing efforts. An undergraduate social media marketing class, under the guidance of the Florida SBDC at UWF, helped Lazy Days Beach Service develop a marketing strategy to increase brand awareness, rentals, and apparel sales for the company.
The Florida Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Mimi Hull, president and psychologist of Hull & Associates. Nominated by the Florida SBDC at UCF, Dr. Hull has worked with the region since 2005 as a member of the region’s Advisory Board Council. She has donated over 140 hours of pro-bono consulting services to small business owners across the Central Florida region.
The network awarded the Florida Resource Partner of the Year Award to the Florida Chamber Foundation, UWF Haas Center, and CareerSource Florida for their partnership with the network on the COVID Small Business Impact Survey project, a two-part study to explore the long-term impacts, challenges and needs of small businesses following COVID-19. To read the study, visit www.FloridaSBDC.org/covid.
Regional and Service Year Awardees
As part of the awards, the network also recognized exemplary employees and partners for making significant contributions to their respective SBDC regions and for achieving service year milestones.
As part of these awards, the network presented Eileen Rodriguez, former regional director of the Florida SBDC at USF with the Jerry Cartwright Lifetime Achievement Award. Eileen retired this summer after 24 years of dedicated service with the network.