Vision. Responsibility. Inspiration. Integrity. Success. Individually, these words can be applied to any number of different things and people. Once in a great while, however, a person comes along that incorporates all these ideals not only into their own way of life, but into their business’ way of life, and its employees and their way of life too. Such is the case with Cheryl Snead, President and CEO of Banneker Industries Inc. Cheryl took over a small machine shop with a leaky roof in Lincoln, Rhode Island in 1991, and has since transformed it into a supply chain management power, now headquartered in North Smithfield, R.I., with facilities in 5 states.
Snead, the first African-American woman Mechanical Engineering graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, entered in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program and went to work obtaining government contracts that were sole-sourced to companies that were certified minority and woman-owned. For five years, Snead and Banneker pressed forward, until Snead’s vision saw the new path that Banneker would take: Supply Chain Management. Snead realized that one of Banneker’s great strengths was not just machining pieces of metal into finished products, but also managing the required materials through the entire process of manufacturing. She saw that they would be able to do the same thing for numerous other commodities as well and that this would in turn give Banneker a leg up as it added value to its customers. A strong relationship with Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems got the ball rolling for Snead and her company and spearheaded their move into the uncharted waters of Supply Chain Management.
One of the many attributes that stands out about Cheryl Snead is her ability to inspire those around her. Constantly reaffirming her belief in her employees is something that makes Banneker Industries such an attractive place to work. Employees marvel about how positive the work environment is there each and every day. Snead’s leadership by example helps drive Banneker forward and towards achieving its goal set forth in its mission statement: “Team Banneker is committed to understanding and exceeding the needs and expectations of all our Customers by working together to drive business excellence.” She believes, and her employees all agree that Banneker is not about just one person, no matter who that person may be. It is about the Customer. Each employee is responsible to the Customers, and Banneker preaches integrity in all that they do. “We do what we say and say what we do,” is at the core of Banneker’s way of doing business and it is obvious that it resonates with its customers.
Vision. Responsibility. Inspiration. Integrity. Success. It is clear that all of these terms apply to Cheryl Snead and Banneker Industries. Her vision to take Banneker from its humble beginnings to a leading Supply Chain Management company, and her ability to lead and inspire those around her pushed her business forward to overwhelming success. Her employees mirror the ideals of the past winner of the SBA Rhode Island Minority Small Business Person of the Year in their work and have taken the foundation that Snead laid for Banneker. Together they built the wildly successful, people driven business it is today. Starting small in Lincoln, it didn’t take long for Snead’s team to gain regional and national recognition for their efforts. Snead was also awarded the SBA New England Women in Business Advocate of the Year, and in 2008, Banneker was named the SBA National Subcontractor of the Year. Is this the manifestation of Snead’s vision of what Banneker Industries would be? In many cases, yes. However, as Snead will quickly point out, they are never done growing as a business and making themselves better.
While Snead and Banneker’s work will never be done, it is clear that her keeping to core values from Day One, is the driving force behind Banneker’s success. Her want to have her company mirror the innovation, legacy and inspiration of its namesake has driven her and her business, and will continue to do so them in future.
A sacred bird in ancient times, the mythical Phoenix, reborn from its ashes as the story goes, has stood for centuries as a symbol of great strength and resiliency.
Since 1998 the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has given its Phoenix Award, a national recognition, to a small business owner who’s displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of a community.
James Silvestri, a Rhode Island small business owner, is this year’s recipient, and was presented the 2011 Phoenix Award last month, during the SBA’s National Small Business Week celebration in Washington, D.C.
In March 2010, Silvestri’s auto parts store on Canal Street in Westerly suffered major losses after 17 inches of rain flooded his business, but he rebuilt the store while helping his community recover.
When the record rains came and the nearby Pawcatuck River overflowed its banks, Silvestri, a Westerly volunteer firefighter, put his community first as he worked with the town’s first responders to help others in need. He pumped water from residents’ cellars, functioned as a department liaison for the town’s emergency management operations center, and assisted the public in any way he could.
Meanwhile, back at the family business, the flood eventually did its worst, rising to six feet above street level, reaching two feet high in the main sales area, flooding James’ entire inventory in the basement floor below. It was devastating, a complete loss.
Silvestri also was in shock to learn that his insurance policy did not cover the estimated $300,000 in flood losses. It would be an expensive undertaking, a tall order getting back to normal and reopening.
Fortunately, with the assistance of an SBA disaster loan, James was able to move to higher ground on Granite Street in Westerly. Others stepped in to help. His supplier, NAPA Connecticut, lent him 40 volunteers from as far away as upstate New York to help set up the new store. Many loyal customers paid accounts forward to assist in covering operating costs. At his place of worship, the Dunn’s Corners Community Church Presbyterian, congregants even provided lunch during the move-in process.
Within 12 days from the flood, Westerly Auto Parts not just reopened, but James was able to save 30 jobs and hire ten more employees. The entire experience is fitting of the Phoenix Award.
SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills said, “The Phoenix Award is an acknowledgement of a business owner’s heroic efforts and recognition of the contributions they make to the economic recovery of their communities. James Silvestri displayed tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the aftermath of the flood, and he exemplifies the spirit one must have to rebound after a disaster like this.”
All About Home Care strives to ensure quality of life for elderly residents on Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island by providing seniors the opportunity to remain living at home with the assistance of AAHC’s knowledgeable, reliable and compassionate professionals. Companion care is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services range from driving clients to doctors’ appointments to preparing meals; helping with light housekeeping to accompanying a client to a wedding.
When Kathleen Devlin started her business in 2003, she was the sole employee working out of a small home office. Devlin attended Rhode Island Small Business Development Center (RISBDC) seminars on marketing and writing business plans. She became a Certified Geriatric Care Manager (one of seven in RI). She also added a Certified Companion Aide (CCA) program, developed to provide caregivers with specific skills necessary to handle daily challenges.
The counseling she received from the RISBDC led to an SBA-guaranteed loan from Sovereign Bank to purchase the office equipment and supplies she needed to launch All About Home Care.
By 2009, Devlin had a successful, growing company. She had clients who were with her from AAHC’s inception in 2003. In these clients, Kathleen saw a need for nursing care. To offer in-home medical care, she would need to go through an arduous, demanding process to receive a Home Nursing Care Provider License from the Rhode Island Department of Health. Kathleen saw this as an opportunity to realistically double the size of her business by offering a much needed service.
In August 2009, she enrolled in RISBDC’s Professionals Available To Help (PATH) program. A team of volunteer advisers with expertise in various disciplines question, analyze, challenge and offer recommendations, advice and guidance.
Through PATH assistance, Devlin was made to realize she needed a human resources manager; and needed to physically move her office to a space double the size in order to accommodate a training facility. Today, Kathleen’s company is housed in a 2,100 square foot office and has 68 full- and part-time employees.
RISBDC also paired Devlin with a team of Salve Regina University business students who offered a comprehensive evaluation along with insightful recommendations.
Kathy admits she wouldn’t have been positioned for such growth without the Small Business Development Center’s PATH program.
The company continues to enjoy consistent and significant growth. Despite the economic downturn, AAHC experienced a 35 percent growth in revenue in 2010.
Kathleen believes in sharing her success with the community. She supports a number of community programs and local organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association of Rhode Island; Newport County Child and Family Services; Visiting Nurse Services of Newport and Bristol Counties; Save the Bay; and the American Cancer Society.
Devlin also served on the Ambassadors Committee of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce; and on the committee to develop the Resource Directory of Services for Newport County Elders and Their Families. She is a member of the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care and National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.
For her demonstrated success and potential for continued growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is honored to name Kathleen S. Devlin the 2011 Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year.