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Success Stories

From Humble Beginnings   Delaware's 2012 Small Business Persons of the Year

From Humble Beginnings…

Delaware’s 2012 SBA Small Business Person of the Year

First State Manufacturing owners Eli Valenzuela, Sher Valenzuela, and Ashley Wolfe have been selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Delaware Small Business Persons of the Year. This is the story of the genesis and growth of their business.

It began in 1998 with a man, a woman, a sewing machine, and a dream in a Milford, Delaware garage. A humble beginning that today has become First State Manufacturing (FSM), a thriving business employing more than 40 technicians working in a new 66,000 sq. ft. facility funded by a $650,000 Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan.

As an Army communications technician, Eli Valenzuela took a correspondence course on upholstery while serving with the Second Armored Division in Germany. Little did he know that the course would lead to a... Read More

Delaware’s Minority Small Business Person of the Year

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Delaware District Office has named Newark business owner Srini Lokula, CEO of RAM TECH SYSTEMS, INC.  as Delaware’s Minority Small Business Owner of the Year.

The award will be presented at a luncheon on October 6, 2011, at 12:00 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel – The Belle, 1612 North DuPont Highway in New Castle. The presentation will be conducted in conjunction with the Mega BizFest event, a business conference for veteran, women, and minority owned businesses.

“The SBA is honored to recognize RAM TECH’s small business success,” said Jayne Armstrong, district director of SBA’s Delaware District Office. “We are especially excited to see one of SBA’s 8(a) firms take their business to the next level.”

Moving from India in 1990 Lokula honed his computer automation skills, and launched RAM TECH in 1996 with an initial focus on that discipline. The firm soon... Read More

Soffritto Italian Grill Cooks Up Business Success

Stefania Panza knows food. As well she should. Food and restaurants have long been a big part of her life. She first learned about food and the restaurants as a small child in Italy by observing her parents run their trattoria.  Formal training as a chef (and architect) followed. Panza then paid her dues and learned the business from the ground up by acting in a variety of positions at a Delaware restaurant. Eventually she became manager and part owner of the business.

Not yet fulfilled, Panza began planning her own facility with her own special flair. She found an appropriate site near Newark, Delaware, but it needed a great deal of expensive renovation to become the Italian-styled restaurant she envisioned. She found assistance at the Small Business Administration’s Delaware District office. District Director Jayne Armstrong helped Panza negotiate the complexities of financing a restaurant. Together they worked out a... Read More

Iron Hill Continues Expansion

Home beer brewers take heart. It is possible to turn your passion for the world’s oldest and most popular alcoholic beverage into a successful business.  But it is not easy. Just ask someone who has actually done it.

In the early 1990s, Kevin Finn and his soccer buddy Mark Edelson would spend their Sunday afternoons watching football and fermenting home brew kits. Finn recalls that their first attempt, ‘Dog Blaster’ was “a really dark, nasty beer” and eventually was consumed by his dog Shredder.  But with perseverance soon Finn and Edelson were creating libations worthy of entry into competition. In 1993 they won their first of many awards. Now, the hobby was fermenting in a different way. We began to kick around “this crazy dream” of opening a brewpub restaurant.  Coincidentally, the country was in the midst of a microbrewery and brewpub boom.

As they evaluated their plan they realized that a key piece of the puzzle was missing... Read More