Remarks in Announcing the National Small Business Person of the Year (Excerpts)

Speech Date: 
Friday, May 20, 2011
Speech Location: 
Washington, DC
As Prepared For: 
Karen Mills, SBA Administrator

Congratulations to all of our state winners. Let’s give everyone another round of applause.

It’s now my honor to introduce the top three.

First, the second runner-up.

For decades, an old dilapidated stone building stood empty. It caught the eye of a college student who knew that some way, somehow, that building would be in her future.

After graduating with a degree in business, she worked for 10 years in banking… but then she changed direction and followed her passion by getting a degree in culinary arts.

In 1999, she got an SBA loan and bought that building that she saw so many years ago. She opened an Italian restaurant.

Since then, she has continued to grow and expand her business, and she now employs 35 people.

Ladies and gentlemen, our second runner up from Spearfish, South Dakota is Leigh Kamstra, the Chef and Owner of Roma’s Ristorante.

In 1993, our first runner-up took a risk. She negotiated a lease with the owner of building in exchange for stock in her future business. And she and her husband sold their own home to raise seed money.

They got the equipment and materials they needed to launch, and she marketed the company aggressively in order to attract $200,000 from investors.

Her vision was simple: consistent, quality beer and a loyal customer base.

Their commitment paid off, and now they have beer tasting classes, brewery tours, and – most importantly – 50 full-time employees.

Today, they’re the number one micro-brewery in sales volume in the state of Wisconsin.

Please help me congratulate the founder and President of New Glarus Brewing Company – Deborah Carey.

And now, the National Small Business Person of the Year.

I can’t help but see just how strongly this story relates to our theme of “empowering entrepreneurs.”

Our national winner of the year started his business in the basement of his home with just five employees.

He took his experience working at a medical equipment provider, and turned it into a new vision: to bring advanced medical care to underserved areas both in the U.S. and around the world.

In the 1990s, he began manufacturing high-tech mobile healthcare units for the military, for commercial use, and for humanitarian efforts.

Along the way, he got a few SBA loans.

Today, his business offers over 20 commercial products, including mobile pharmacies, mobile labs, mobile CT scans, mobile intensive care centers, and more.

In 2008, net profits were just $9,385. In 2010, they’re $1.68 million and he has 54 employees.

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me recognize the National Small Business Person of the Year for 2011: Rick Cochran, the President and CEO of Mobile Medical International Corporation in Vermont.

This is the last time I’ll be speaking to all of you because I’ve asked Deputy Administrator Johns to emcee tonight’s Champions awards.

So I’ll close with a quote. A couple months ago, we rolled out an effort called Startup America at the White House.

It involves a $2 billion fund to support underserved, emerging, and early-stage firms… a new Mentor Corps to help high-growth entrepreneurs… and an effort to reduce regulatory barriers.

What I remember most from that day was when a young entrepreneur named Jennifer came up to the microphone.

She said something that resonated with me – and I’m sure it resonates with you:

“We entrepreneurs are a strange breed. We work around the clock and then sleep on the floor if need be. And when we do sleep, we dream about our startups. Clearly, we do not do this for the money – too often most of us work for little or no pay. Why do we do it? Think of us as sled dogs – born to run with new ideas. We don’t wait around for someone to create a job for us. We are job creators. It is passionate work. […] It is productive work. […] And it is deeply connected work. This is the kind of work this country needs. We are entrepreneurs. We are sled dogs. Support us. Connect us. Finance us. Make it easier for us to do what we do. Let us run. I promise, we will pull America forward.”

Today, the SBA and this entire Administration is working harder than ever to support you, to connect you, and to make sure you have the tools you need to grow. You’re the sled dogs pulling us all forward. Congratulations to all of you and thank you for doing what you do best: creating jobs and winning the future.