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SBA Officials Visit Eastern Pennsylvania 2019 Family-Owned Small Business Award Winner

Advisory Date: 
Friday, May 10, 2019
Advisory Number: 
Robert Goza | (610) 382-3084
Chester, Pa. firm American Wood Design, Inc. presented with award May 14

Chester, Pa.– The U.S. Small Business Administration officially recognizes its Eastern Pennsylvania Family-Owned Small Business of the Year, American Wood Design, Inc., May 14 at noon. Media are invited to attend.

WHO:  John Fleming, Acting Director, U.S. SBA Eastern Pennsylvania District

Donald Poligone, Business Consultant, PA Department of Community and Economic Development        

Lenin Agudo, Director, Widener University Small Business Development Center

Michael Gilhool, Sr., President, American Wood Design, Inc.

Michael Gilhool, Jr., Vice President, American Wood Design, Inc.;

James Gilhool, Project Engineer, American Wood Design, Inc.

Jo Ann Gilhool, Office Administrator, American Wood Design, Inc.

Invited: Local, state and federal officials

WHAT: American Wood Design, Inc. is Eastern Pennsylvania Family-Owned Small Business of the Year; media are invited to tour the business and will have opportunities for interviews and photos

WHEN: May 14 at noon

WHERE: 201 Fulton St., Chester, PA

“It’s a privilege to recognize the achievements of leading Pennsylvania family-owned small businesses like American Wood Design,” said John Fleming, Acting U.S. SBA Eastern Pennsylvania Director. “Small, family-owned businesses owners like the Gilhools are where the rubber meets the road, helping drive our nation’s economy.  SBA and our lending and resource partners, like Widener University Small Business Development Center, are proud to play a role in helping them start and succeed.” 

“It is a pleasure to nominate the Gilhool family for the Family-Owned Small Business of the Year Award,” said Lenin Agudo, Director, Widener University Small Business Development Center. “Through vision, determination and a lot of work, family-owned business leaders like the Gilhools know how to do business right – by focusing on the next generation, not just the next quarter. They have created wealth due to their strong entrepreneurial activity across time and generations.”

American Wood Design, Inc. is a family owned and operated commercial cabinetry business started in 1996 by Michael Gilhool Sr. The business manufactures custom cabinetry for nurses' stations, store fixtures, bars, medical cabinetry, counter tops, wine cases, institutional and university office fit outs. They also provide servicing for repairs and new work for local banks and the Philadelphia International Airport and works for architects, general contractors, other millwork shops, and private entities.

In the past 23 years, the Gilhool family business has created jobs and improved economic opportunities for families in the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. In this spirit, they relocated to Chester, Pa. to expand their operations. Among the top 5 most impoverished cities in Pennsylvania, with more than 40 percent of Chester’s residents are at or below poverty level. Deciding to locate in Chester was not a simple decision, but after weighing potentially greater challenges and risks, American Wood Design Inc. under the Gilhool’s leadership, has “insisted, persisted and is succeeding.”

In early 2016, the Gilhool family requested consulting services at Widener University SBDC regarding expanding and relocating their light manufacturing facility. In a 5,200 sq. ft. space generating $1.5 million in sales and employing 12 employees, the space limited their production capability and ability to increase sales. The SBDC helped the company determine the financial feasibility of expansion, physical feasibility for operations, and overall post-expansion business sustainability. Determining that in order to grow the firm required upgraded facilities, new software, machinery, equipment and clients to continue to process quality work, on time, at competitive prices and gain market share with lower pricing through efficiency.

A SBA-guaranteed 7(a) loan structured by 44 Business Capital financed the purchase of a 16,500 sq. ft. building, renovations and restructure existing debt and a SBA Express Line of Credit for working capital facilitated the move and subsequent growth of American Wood Design Inc. The City of Chester approved a $250K Enterprise Loan to spur economic development that enabled the firm to acquire machinery and equipment. As a result of the move and shared leadership in 2018, American Wood Design, Inc. employed 23 people and sold $3.8 million dollars of custom-made cabinetry, a significant increase in sales compared to the prior year.

“It’s great to be named SBA’s Family-Owned Small Business of the Year,” Sr., President, American Wood Design, Inc. “We’re honored that Widener SBDC nominated us and that SBA chose us. The support from SBA, the SBDC, our lender and the City of Chester helped us plan, expand, purchase and renovate our current building in Chester.”

The Gilhool family has long been an important champion of the community they live and work in. They have a long-standing relationship with the Delaware County Technical High School to support their graduates with jobs, internships, and apprenticeships. They donated custom-made cabinetry and desks for the local high school and community center in addition to supporting fundraisers and contributing to the football team and Post Prom event. A member of the Chichester Business Association, they have donated furniture and distributed Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets in support of the community.

SBA’s Eastern Pennsylvania Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award winner is selected annually from among nominees located across Pennsylvania’s eastern 40 counties. These events are local observances of the annual Presidentially-designated National Small Business Week. National Small Business Week recognizes the small business community’s contribution to the American economy. Learn more about National Small Business Week at


To request interviews or photos, contact Robert Goza, SBA’s Public Information Officer in the Eastern Pennsylvania District Office, at or 610-382-3084.

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