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SBA announces 2020 Illinois small business winners

Release Date: 
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

CHICAGO — The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois District Office has named Molly Meyer, owner of Chicago’s Omni Ecosystems, the 2020 Illinois Small Business Person of the Year.

Each year, the SBA honors small businesses and small business advocates across the country who are creating 21st-century jobs, driving innovation, and increasing America’s global competitiveness. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza has recognized Meyer alongside the other 2020 Small Business Persons of the Year winners from throughout the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

“What an honor it is for me to recognize the National Small Business Week state and territorial winners from across the nation whose exceptional hard work has created and built successful small businesses,” said Carranza.  “These women and men not only realized their dreams of entrepreneurship but have also been tremendous job creators, helping to expand our economy. They represent the 30 million American small businesses – our nation’s innovators and risk-takers.”

With hands-on construction experience gained working as a carpenter and green roof installer in Germany, Meyer founded Omni in 2009 and leads with an eye toward innovation and efficiency. For example, the team at Omni invented a new type of soil with a higher capacity for stormwater management, which allows them to build lighter green roof systems that require less structural capacity. Omni's projects include the O'Hare Terminal 2 Concourse, Harvard Business School, Chicago's Wild Mile, McDonald's corporate headquarters, Lincoln Yards, and the Indianapolis Pacers training facility, among many others.

Most recently, assistance from the SBA has set Omni up for future growth in a new home. After having outgrown three headquarters, the company will transition from renter to property owner in a 50,000 square foot building on Chicago’s South Side – a move they are financing with an SBA-guaranteed 504 loan. Extensive renovations will meet the company’s needs for office and research space, as well as showcase their diverse products and services on an enormous roof.

“The SBA 504 loan increased our access to capital, without which our project was not feasible,” Meyer said. “A small business that controls its physical assets controls its destiny. The SBA loan gives Omni the opportunity to expand our proven vision in otherwise impossible ways.”

Advice from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Greater Southwest Development Corp. has helped Meyer make strategic business decisions and access a grant from Chicago’s Small Business Improvement Fund.

“Molly started with no office, no funding and no staff,” said Andrew Fogaty, director of the Illinois SBDC at Greater Southwest Development Corp. “What she had was belief in an idea that would make the world a better place. Through sheer determination, hard work and persistence she has made that idea a reality and created 30 jobs in the process!”

In addition to the Small Business Person of the Year, the Illinois District Office is recognizing several other small business success stories:

  • Kimberly Moore, owner of Chicago firm KDM Engineering, was named Illinois Rising Star Small Business.
  • Memoire Budimbu Mabizu and Lisette Mbaki, Congolese immigrants who own the Best of Africa’s Food Store in Urbana, were named Illinois Family-Owned Small Business of the Year.
  • Lawrence Chester, owner of Highland Park-based CFO Simplified, which provides financial advice to other business owners, was named Illinois Small Business Encore Entrepreneur.

About the 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 www.sba.gov.