Jacksonville, FL --- Lauren Little, Multi-franchise Owner, Edible Arrangements was recently awarded the 2013 District and State Veteran Owned Small Business of the year. Edible Arrangements is a creator of handcrafted fruit arrangements and gourmet chocolate dipped fruit. Little opened her first franchise in 2007 in the Avondale area of Jacksonville through the assistance of an SBA backed loan.
In 2009, Little purchased an existing franchise in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville. Combined her franchises are generating nearly $1 million in annual revenue, and have created 4 full-time and 16 part-time jobs for the local economy.
In order to grow her business, Little initially networked at local events and meetings. She also worked closely with two SBA resource partners, including the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center (JWBC) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida, for technical assistance and training. For more information on the JWBC please visit www.JaxWBC.com. For more information on the SBDC, please visit www.floridasbdc.com.
As a former U.S. Marine, Little gained perspective on running a business and focusing on service as a core value. Little consistently donates excess fruit to the Clara White Mission, a local non-profit that provides shelter, meals, and training for those in need. In addition to donating food, Little also employs members of the Mission’s culinary arts program to assist her businesses during peak volume seasons.
Additionally, Little also donates orange slices along the running routes at various running events such as the March River Run, Marty 5K, and the Marine Corps 1/2 Marathon and Patriotic 5K. She donates school supplies for teachers at Eugene Butler Middle School, and also donates proceeds from the sale of the Breast Cancer Awareness arrangements to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Lauren Little has also won several other awards, including the 2010 Women in Business Franchisee of the year, the 2011 Small Business Leader for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and the 2011 Jacksonville Business Journal Diversity award.
For more information on the Edible Arrangements Company, visit www.ediblearrangements.com. Lauren Little may be contacted at (904) 262-6632 or (904) 384-5217.
Orlando, FL --- Andre Uribe, Co-Founder and vice president of Business Development for Power Grid Engineering, LLC (PGE), has been named the 2013 North Florida District Small Business Person of the Year. Uribe’s company has seen tremendous success, growing their electrical engineering firm from a small three person startup to a multi-million dollar corporation with nearly 100 employees in just six years.
Uribe attributes the company’s success to the firm’s commitment to quality assurance. Six years ago, PGE was founded on a vision to transform the way electrical engineering consultants provide service to utility clients throughout the industry when Uribe, along with his co-founders Michael Wright and Glenn Durie, identified an opportunity to improve an industry wide problem related to a lack of quality assurance standards.
Prior to PGE, the trio worked as electrical engineers in the area of Protection & Control for one of nation’s largest investor owned utilities where they witnessed firsthand the lack of consistency and quality among consultants. The three saw this as an opportunity to serve as a leader in bringing quality standards to the industry and created a model that would focus on quality assurance, and aim at serving investor owned utility (IOU) clients.
Their model has proven to be quite successful. PGE reported more than $11 million in revenues in Fiscal Year 2012, and serves several Fortune 250 IOU‘s. The firm’s growth has been led by Uribe who is responsible for identifying new service lines, opening new offices and expanding the company’s geographic reach.
Uribe also analyzes industry trends and federal regulations to help identify new opportunities. In 2012, Uribe advised the firm to explore “smart grid” projects created as a result of federal regulators urging utilities to make technological advancements to aging electrical grids. As a result, PGE was awarded their first five million dollar contract for a yearlong smart grid project.
The firm also recognizes that the level of growth they have achieved would not have been possible without proper business planning. When the company was first founded, Uribe and his partners worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Central Florida to put systems in place to help them achieve their business goals. Uribe says “taking advantage of the SBC’s free business counseling in our early days was a wise decision that likely helped us avoid many pitfalls we may have otherwise faced.”
In addition to creating a profitable and fast growing business, the three partners have incorporated internal policies that aim to give back to the community and industry. Last year, beyond the firm’s philanthropic community efforts, Uribe created an incentive program for employees to volunteer their time towards charitable efforts. This incentive allows employees paid time each month to serve their community during regularly scheduled business hours. As a result of this program, PGE employees logged more than 235 hours in 2012.
PGE is also committed to “training the next generation,” and has partnered with local colleges to establish internship and co-op programs. Uribe has taken the leading role in developing a program that gives students an opportunity to apply their academic theories and education to real life projects. The firm also partners with local middle schools and high schools with engineering educational tracks to encourage students to consider careers in electrical engineering.
Prior to Uribe’s successful career as an engineer, he served four years in the United States Navy as a Communications Specialist. Upon his four year completion of active service, Uribe enrolled at the University of Central Florida where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 2004.
For more information about Power Grid Engineering, LLC (PGE), please visit www.powergridengineering.com or call (321) 244-0170.
For more information about the SBDC, please visit www.floridasbdc.org.
Fort Walton Beach, FL --- Margarita Howard is the Founder and President/CEO of HX5, LLC, a U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) and HUBzone certified company. HX5 provides professional research and development, engineering, and information technology services to U.S. Defense agencies.
Ms. Howard launched HX5, LLC in 2004 after a 20-year career in executive management positions throughout various organizations that supported the Defense industry. She also used the experience she gained in the U.S. Air Force to develop critical skills such as leadership and discipline to grow her business. Ms. Howard established HX5 with the knowledge of the value of SBA business development programs and pursuing federal contracting opportunities.
In late 2007 and early 2008, HX5 was certified both as an 8(a) and Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) firm. The 8(a) Business Development Program is an important resource for small businesses seeking business-development assistance. Named for Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act, this program was created to help small and disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. For more information on 8(a) certification, please visit http://www.sba.gov/content/8a-business-development-0. The HUBZone program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. For more information on HUBZone certification, please visit http://www.sba.gov/hubzone/.
Shortly after obtaining its 8(a) certification, HX5 received its first 8(a) government contract award, a $3.5 million contract to provide research and development support services to the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, MS, the Army Corps of Engineers’ premier R&D organization. Within weeks of the 8(a) award, HX5 faced limited credit and lending options as a result of the economic recession happening at the time. The Company was in need of credit to sustain its operations. Despite the challenging environment, Ms. Howard was able to leverage an SBA guaranteed Patriot Express loan in the amount of $350,000 to ensure sufficient working capital was in place for HX5. The company has since repaid the loan. More information about SBA lending programs may be obtained through http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants.
Ms. Howard recently stated “SBA Staff at the Jacksonville District Office and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Offices in Pensacola, FL have provided immeasurable support in many ways. They helped us understand and successfully navigate the myriad small business laws and regulations, which minimized missteps and reduced our business costs. They clearly explained small business issues, so we understood the concepts behind the whole process. And they showed us how small business programs such as Small Business, Small Disadvantaged Business, Woman Owned Business, Veteran-Owned Business, and HUBZone initiatives are administered, which helped us maximize our participation. In short, they helped us succeed.”
HX5 entered into the 8(a) business development program with 3 fulltime employees, 4 part time employees, and $400,000 in projected annual revenue. The Company currently employs 180+ employees across 35 states, and ended the 2012 Fiscal Year with $24 million in revenue.
Ms. Howard has been recognized for her job creation achievements by the U.S. Small Business Administration through the SBA 100 list, which lauds small business owners across the Country who have created over 100 jobs after receiving SBA assistance. Additionally, Ms. Howard was the 2012 North Florida District and Region IV Minority Small Business Person of the Year.
In addition to her time dedicated to growing her business, Ms. Howard is also committed to the community through associations such as the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Associations, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, The Ronald McDonald House, the Mobile Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, and to her local church. Ms. Howard has also served as a Board Member in the Business Leadership Network for Persons with Disabilities. Most recently, Ms. Howard supported the American Cancer Society (ACS) Rack Pack Relay for Life Program, with HX5 being the premiere corporate sponsor of the ACS Wall of Hope.
For more information about HX5, LLC, please visit www.hxfive.com or call (850) 362-6551.