Deneen Pottery is SBA’s Minnesota Family Owned Small Business for 2019

St. Paul business produces high quality souvenirs for U.S. businesses, parks, more
Release Date: 
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Release Number: 

MINNEAPOLIS – The U.S. Small Business Administration has named Deneen Pottery the 2019 Minnesota Family Owned Small Business of the Year. The Deneen family will be honored at the state’s Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on May 10 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

“Deneen Pottery is an exciting example of how a small business passing to the next generation can be great for the family and the community they work in,” said Nancy Libersky, district director for the SBA in Minnesota. “This award celebrates the love of family and the good things their efforts bring to our small business community and beyond.”

Niles Deneen, son of founders Peter and Mary Deneen, has been the company’s president since 2012, after starting in an entry-level position nearly 20-years earlier, and is responsible for all major operational, administrative, marketing and staffing decisions. Niles graduated from the 2018 SBA Emerging Leaders Program, of which he said, “The experiences gained from the class have been profound. We have initiated date specific initiatives, our leadership team is reviewing monthly financial reports, and our sales are up 10% over last year! We have also hired on 4 new people in the four months since graduation. The help from the SBA has been just incredible!”

Niles loves working alongside his wife, parents and seven dozen dedicated employees traveling coast to coast (and even overseas) spreading the word about their proud, homegrown St. Paul, Minnesota-based company.

If you are looking for a family business leader that cares about his employees, community and the environment then it would be hard to pass up on Niles Deneen,” explained nominator Lisa Huber, University of Minnesota Alumni Association. “Niles is part champion, part cheerleader, and all-around positive force for good.”

Deneen Pottery was established in St. Paul, Minn., in 1972 by Peter and Mary. Initially operating out of a two-car garage, today it occupies over 50,000-square-foot facility and employs over 80 skilled craftspeople who produce about 2,800 mugs every day. Each piece is hand-thrown on a potter’s wheel, touched by over 24 pairs of hands, and customized with a Glaze-Engraved™ medallion. Deneen Pottery mugs can be found businesses big and small, from the U.S. Capitol to Pearl Harbor and over 400 restaurants and coffee shops, many [42 of the 61] national parks, state parks, as well as numerous monuments, and historic sites throughout all 50 states

Adding to Deneen Pottery’s success are management practices within its multicultural production environment. The company has embraced that many of its Hmong employees do not speak English as a strength. Its middle management group, Tus Pabs (Hmong for “helper”), brings together English- and non-English-speaking leads and managers through the help of staff interpreters to draw on and learn from cross-cultural experiences, tackle management challenges, and embrace opportunities.

The SBA Minnesota District Office, along with the SCORE Association and the Minnesota State Small Business Development Center, will honor all the 2019 Minnesota-based winners at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on May 10, 2019, at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park, Minn. Registration is open for the event until May 7 at


About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit

National Small Business Week is dedicated to honoring small business owners and their champions across the nation. It has been celebrated annually and proclaimed by each President for more than 50 years. Along with recognizing the hard working and deserving small business owners, the SBA also recognizes the lenders, resource partners, and spouses and families who provide support for small businesses. For more information on Small Business Week, visit