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Minnesota Small Business Week Winners Named

Ten Chosen for Business Success and Community Involvement
Release Date: 
Friday, March 18, 2016
Release Number: 
Sarah Swenty, 612-370-2316

MINNEAPOLIS – Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Minnesota District Office announced this year’s state winners of National Small Business Week.  Held annually to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from across the nation, this year’s theme is “Dream Big, Start Small,” and will be held from May 1-7, 2016.

“Every day we work with new and existing small businesses across the state.  Once a year we take time out to celebrate the best of the best,” said Nancy J. Libersky, District Director, SBA’s Minnesota District Office. “These ten business owners demonstrate the drive to succeed coupled with the determination to help others that we see in so many Minnesotans.” 

The SBA, along with the SCORE Association and the Small Business Development Center, will honor the winners listed below at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 4, 2016, at the Doubletree in Saint Louis Park, Minn.  Registration is open for the event until April 29 at


Exporter of the Year

David Q. Ma and Amy X. Li, president and vice president of Kingnote LLC., were co-chosen as the Exporter of the Year. Kingnote is a Saint Paul based exporter of used copiers to Southeast Asia. Due to the determination of its owners and use of the SBA Export Working Capital program, Kingnote has increased revenues by 246% since 2009.  The company has been in business for nearly eight years and has 10 employees.

By developing close relationships with buyers and banks in Asia, Kingnote LLC has not only been able to expand its sales to that region but also mitigate its non-payment risks. This has led to a healthy return on investments.  Going forward, they are working with another potential exporter of women’s fashion products and building a partnership with Asian entrepreneurs to build an online store for Minnesota-made products.


Family-Owned Small Business of the Year

Independent Packing Services Inc., in Crystal, Minn., was chosen as the Family-Owned Small Business of the Year.  Founded 39 years ago by president Joseph Wallace’s parents, the company provides packaging and crating services in Minnesota, with major clients throughout the country. Joseph Wallace has presided over the company during a five-year 35% revenue growth period, including expansion into a facility 100% larger than previously occupied. Andrea Burns, Wallace’s sister, is currently the General Manager overseeing Sales / Customer Service, and Design. The senior family members, Prince and Sandy Wallace, serve in an ongoing consulting relationship around the strategic direction of the business.

Independent Packing Services Inc. was nominated by Meda and received SBA assistance from the Small Business Development Center.


Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year

Immanuel Dental, Inc. in Farmington has been named Minnesota’s Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year.  Linden Dungy, CEO, founded the company in 2005 and quickly outgrew the space he had leased.  Growing the business in the recession, Dungy constructed a new office and increased sales by 22% in the first year in the expanded location. Employing eight and donating thousands in free dental services annually, in addition to various other contributions to church, school and events, Immanuel Dental is a proven asset to its community.

Nominated by the 504 Corporation in Rochester, Minn., Immanuel Dental has benefited from SBA loan products, including a loan in 2012 to construct a new dental facility and purchase equipment.


Minority Small Business Champion of the Year

Uri Camarena has been named Minnesota’s Minority Small Business Champion of the Year. As a business consultant for Meda in Minneapolis, Mr. Camarena has been able to use his vast corporate experience to help other entrepreneurs with their businesses.


A native from Mexico, Camerena came to the Twin Cities after graduating high school in Guadalajara, Mexico. Retired after 30 years with UPS corporate, Camarena has advocated for minority entrepreneurs for almost nine years. Services offered include legal, legislative, immigration and employment policies. Financially, Camarena has helped clients access funding and grants that the clients could have a difficult or no opportunity of obtaining.

Camerena’s community involvement goes far beyond his job responsibilities.  He is a member of the Latino Economic Development Center’s credit committee, co-founder of the VocalEssence program Cantare!, which is designed to bring the talents of Mexican music composers directly into Minnesota classrooms and much more. 


SBDC Excellence and Innovation Center of the Year

For its efforts to help 19 new businesses add nearly $13 million to the economy in the southeastern part of Minnesota, the Southeast Small Business Development Center at the Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester, Minn., was chosen as Minnesota’s SBDC Excellence and Innovation Center of the Year. 

Each year the Small Business Development Center in Rochester provides approximately 3,000 consulting hours to more than 300 companies in eleven counties.  Helping small business grow in their area, they help them with SBA loan products, local incentive programs, micro-loans and investor groups. 


Small Business Person of the Year

Gloria Freeman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Minneapolis-based Olu’s Home, Inc. and Olu’s Center, was chosen as Minnesota’s Small Business Person of the Year.

Founded in 1999, Olu’s Home provides residential and in-home services to the elderly and persons with developmental disabilities and mental illness. The company operates nine group homes and has over 100 employees in the Minneapolis area. The newest venture began last year when Freeman opened the intergenerational care center, Olu's Center, which provides a day program for children and seniors where they can interact with each other.

While developing her business, Freeman received SBA loans and participated in the SBA Emerging Leaders Program, an intensive, MBA-level training program for executives of high-potential, small businesses in America's under-served cities.


Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year

Azule Staffing in Eagan has been named as the Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year for Minnesota.  Nominated by the MN Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Owner Michael Wolbrink, is a former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger with a proven commitment to the veteran community. 

Founded in 2012, Azule Staffing’s primary mission is to put veterans to work in lucrative, rewarding vocations outside of the military.  In addition to helping his fellow veterans find jobs, he offers job coaching, mentoring, resume refinement and more.

Wolbrink received significant assistance from SBA’s partner PTAC, including mentoring, Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business certification and more.


Veterans Small Business Champion of the Year

Patricia Dotter, Veterans Small Business Champion of Year, has gone above and beyond to increase business opportunities for veterans in Minnesota. Through her position at the MN Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Dotter has helped veteran-owned small businesses to learn about upcoming contracting opportunities, respond to solicitations and market their business to the government.

To get more businesses certified as Veteran-Owned, Dotter co-founded the Veteran Verification Clinic (which recently received national recognition) to help veterans qualify for government and private business contracts.  In the past year, Pat has assisted 55 veteran and service disabled veteran-owned companies. Those businesses have gone on to report nearly $12 million in government contracts.


Women-Owned Small Business of the Year

The Coffee Hag in Mankato has been named the Women-Owned Small Business of the Year in Minnesota.  Owner Jennifer Melby-Kelley has worked to ensure that the business remains profitable while it focuses on promoting diversity, inclusivity and community.  A popular destination for coffee lovers, the Coffee Hag is one of the area’s only venues to enjoy live music in an all-ages, alcohol-free, environment.

A strong advocate for women and minority businesses, Melby-Kelley leads by example, participating in women’s entrepreneurship panels and leadership programs, speaking engagements and mentoring.  She offers a great example to other business owners of what mixing vision, dedication, talent and genuine caring can do to improve their chances of success.

Nominated by the South Central Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Melby-Kelley has received a SBA loan and business counseling from the SBDC including help with business operations, cash flow management, business valuation, financial/capital management and Quickbooks.


Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Andrew Peralta, owner of Thief River Falls Dairy Queen, is Minnesota’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.  The 26 year old has been in business owner since age 13 when he and a friend started A&P Lawn Service to earn money after school and on weekends. He began working at the Dairy Queen when he was 15, working his way up to general manager in 2013.  Under his management, the business went above the $1 million sales mark for the first time ever in 2015.

Peralta currently employs 35 full and part time workers and has a goal of owning several more Dairy Queens in Northern Minnesota. His other entrepreneurial successes include buying, fixing and reselling houses for a profit, which helped him raise the capital to be able to purchase the Dairy Queen last year.

Andrew Peralta was nominated by the Northwest Small Business Development Center at the UMD Center for Economic Development, from which he received assistance putting together business plans and obtaining local bank financing.


Minnesota Small Business Week Awards Program will be held on May 4, 2016, at the Doubletree in Saint Louis Park, Minn.  Registration is open for the event until April 29 at

For more information on Small Business Week, please visit


The Small Business Administration was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The Minnesota District Office provides SBA programs and services to the state of Minnesota. Working with our resource partners across the state, we help businesses start, grow and achieve success. For more information on our programs and services, visit