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Paula Trenda, owner of Curly Girlz Candy, is the 2020 Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year

Release Date: 
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Release Number: 
Sarah Swenty, 202-431-7587,

MINNEAPOLIS – The U.S. Small Business Administration has named Paula Trenda, owner of Curly Girlz Candy Inc., as Minnesota’s Small Business Person of the Year for 2020. This award makes her eligible for being named National Small Business Person of the Year during National Small Business Week, which is taking place the third week of September this year.

“Minnesota’s small business community is over 500,000 strong and Paula Trenda provides an inspiring example of how entrepreneurs here are making a difference locally as they position their products to meet needs on a national scale,” said SBA’s Minnesota District Director Brian McDonald. 

Based in Owatonna, Minn., Curly Girlz Candy specializes in sugar-free, handmade, gourmet chocolates featuring local and fair-trade ingredients in many of its products. The company houses a production facility and a small retail location, which sells online, in-store and to local retailers. It also has begun exporting to Canada.

Paula Trenda, CEO and founder of Curly Girlz Candy Inc., took a childhood inspiration and moved it to the next level. As a young adult, Trenda started making homemade candy with the guidance from her elder neighbor. What began as a hobby, turned into a career, when in 2003, Trenda became a chocolatier through an online program at the Ecolechocolate School in British Columbia, Canada.

Trenda began to broaden her word-of-mouth clientele through selling gift boxes of candies and launched an online storefront in 2011 to meet high holiday demand. In August 2014, Trenda resigned from her full-time employment and opened her first retail space in Medford, Minn. In 2017, Curly Girlz moved into downtown Owatonna, Minn., which is now its brick and mortar home base.

In 2014, Curly Girlz Candy received an SBA-backed microloan through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, which also provided Trenda with ongoing technical assistance through the life of the loan. Trenda participated in Smart Start and Accelerate Your Business Training, a combined 12 months of training and coaching, one-on-one business consultations, and continues to participate in a monthly Food Peer Group for small businesses in the food industry.

Thanks in part to a growing business network and support from the Initiative Foundation, Trenda’s company hit a high with Curly Girlz Candy products featured in a Keto Krate subscription box service and as an official Super Bowl vendor. This winter the company plans to launch its proprietary sweetener blend to the general public, as well as a new candy product. 

Trenda is active in her local community, giving back through community organization tours and working with high school and 4-H students to learn options for employment and entrepreneurship in the food manufacturing arena. Additionally, through Curly Girlz Candy, she provides donations and packages for local community auctions/events such as St. Mary’s School, Young Life, United Way and more.

National Small Business Week 2020 is taking place the third week of September with a national three-day virtual event Sept. 22-24. The conference will feature numerous educational panels providing retooling and innovative practices for entrepreneurs as our nation’s small businesses look to pivot and recover toward a stronger economy. It also will recognize the national award winners, including the naming of this year’s National Small Business Person of the Year. For registration and additional information on National Small Business Week, visit




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 and grow their businesses. It delivers services to people through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit